Animal rights activists protest primate abuse at UC Davis Research Center

Animal rights activists are speaking out against animal abuse and negligence at the UC Davis California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) and are trying to pressure the institution into closing.

On Feb. 5, UC Davis Primates Deserve Better, an animal rights advocacy group founded in 2014, held its third protest at the Memorial Union.

According to Lindsay Rubin, founder of Primates Deserve Better and Davis resident, the community-based group focuses on bringing awareness and attention to the mistreatment of animals that occurs in the Primate Research Center, located on County Road 98 and Hutchinson Drive.

The participants in the demonstration, which lasted about 20 minutes, held signs and passed out flyers with information about UC Davis CNPRC’s alleged animal rights violations and citations.

Three of the group members sat on the ground wearing signs that read “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” and assumed a position with respect to the action on the signs.

“Our main goal doing this demonstration on campus is to allow students to know what is going on and give them the option to join us with the demonstrations,” Rubin said.

The UC Davis CNPRC is an Organized Research Unit of UC Davis and is part of the National Primate Research Centers Program.

According to its website, the research center houses 5,000 pregnant, infant and adult rhesus macaques and titi monkeys and conducts various scientific experiments with the primates bred on-site.

The research center has announced medical and psychological discoveries and attributes them to the research on animals conducted at the institute. These medical discoveries include the development of an anti-HIV drug, Truvada, and the discovery of a link between an infant’s temperament and asthma.

In a statement released on the UC Davis CNPRC’s website, the research institution claims to be a leader in quality animal care and is continually making advancements in the care and well-being of the primates.

The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare has recognized its animal care program, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts regular, rigorous inspections in order to enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act.

According to Andy Fell, associate director for science and research communications at the research center, researchers and staff were unaware of this particular protest; however, the staff does understand that animal rights activists often leaflet on the Quad.

“Research with animals benefits human health,” Fell said. “Animal research is strictly regulated by federal law, and UC Davis follows the NIH guidelines for care of laboratory animals.”

He added that UC Davis is accredited by AAALAC International — the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, USDA cited the primate lab in 2005, as well as in 2009 and 2010, for negligence and animal abuse, such as exposing infant primates to extreme heat conditions that lead to their deaths.

“There are tons of animal abuse and negligence citations from the USDA in response to primates found dead and an infant primate strangled in 2012 with a rope toy,” Rubin said.

The animal rights group said they believe that many students and community members are unaware of how citizen tax dollars are being used to fund studies.

“90 million of our federal tax dollars are spent at the UC Davis primate lab annually,” Rubin said.

According to Rubin, new technological advances make outdated and archaic methods of research obsolete.

“There are new technological advances that make these kind of barbaric painful tests outdated and unnecessary,” she said.

The Harvard Medical School primate research center will be closing down in 2015 because of violations of the Animal Welfare Act and financial insecurities. Although many primate research centers are closing, the UC Davis CNPRC announced plans last year to expand the institute with a new smoke inhalation facility.

“They were talking about these new machines that are glass boxes that they put the primates in and pump smoke into to test the effect of cigarette smoke when we already know about the effects of cigarettes,” Rubin said. “It’s outrageous.”

The facility is estimated to cost $14 million.

The activists of the UC Davis Primates Deserve Better hope to ultimately see closure of the primate research center in Davis.

“I think UC Davis students and the community in Davis [are] largely unaware of the primate center,” said Davis community member and protester Avital Van Leeuwen. “I think most people, not just vegans and animal rights activists, would be against this facility if they only knew about it. That’s why our primary goal at the moment is to raise awareness.”

Photo by Anna De Benedictis