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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

UC Davis wins primate research lawsuit filed by PETA

The Superior Court of California for Yolo County ruled in favor of UC Davis in January


By ISABELLA KRZESNIAK campus@theaggie.org


In January, the Superior Court of California for Yolo County ruled in favor of UC Davis in a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), according to a UC Davis press release issued on April 11. PETA requested the release of video documentation of primate research at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) pursuant to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) in January 2019 and said that the requested footage should be available to the public. 

PETA argued that the university’s refusal to release the footage is not protected by the CPRA.

“The university withheld all but four of those videographic records, asserting what we feel is a nonexistent researcher’s privilege that is referenced nowhere in the public records law,” said Caitlin Hawks, an attorney for PETA. “We don’t think that the exemptions that it raised were applicable in this circumstance.”

Some states have exemptions in public records legislation in order to protect researchers, according to Karen Bales, a UC Davis primate researcher. Given that California law lacks these, the issue surrounding researcher’s privilege needed to be adjudicated, according to Bales.

“The court very clearly ruled in our favor,” Bales said.

The press release follows a lawsuit filed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in February 2022, which requests that the university publicize primate research documentation that the CNPRC conducted with Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink. 

“We’ve seen a pattern of inadequate veterinary care for their monkeys exposed by the Physicians Committee before Neuralink was involved and after,” said Amy Meyer, the manager of primate experimentation campaigns at PETA. “There’s certainly some overlap there in terms of how UC Davis is clearly afraid of the public seeing what’s happening inside their labs.”

PETA originally filed a similar lawsuit pursuant to CPRA in November 2017 after reviewing published papers detailing primate experimentation at the CNPRC. In response, the university released several video records in May 2018. According to the lawsuit, PETA found it “highly unlikely” that UC Davis provided the organization with all the records they sought. As a result, PETA submitted another CPRA request in 2018.

“Any information that we obtain through the public records act is a tool by which we can make the public aware that UC Davis has consumed hundreds of millions of dollars and produced almost nothing to benefit taxpayers,” Hawks said.

The CNPRC failed to comply with the Animal Welfare Act on at least 24 occasions, the lawsuit allleges.

According to Meyer, 95% of novel drugs deemed successful in preclinical experiments using animals fail in human studies, citing the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“This claim is deliberately ignoring the large majority of human treatments that originated in animal research,” Bales said. “Pretty much every available human treatment, as well as every veterinary treatment, originated in animal research.”

PETA has proposed alternatives to animal experimentation in its Research Modernization Deal. Among these are sophisticated computer simulations and microchips which contain human tissue. 

“[It’s] being shown that [these alternatives] are more accurate than crude and lethal animal experiments,” Meyer said. “It’s just a matter of time before we start seeing these replacements.”

The CNPRC is one of the seven national primate research centers funded by the NIH that PETA wants to shut down.

According to Bales, however, primate research can be greatly impactful. 

“The motivation behind keeping […] primate research centers open is that they are all conducting potentially life-saving research,” Bales said.

To Meyer, the experiments are abuses that would bring animal cruelty charges if they took place outside the laboratory.

“There’s no such thing as an illegal experiment on animals in the United States, and it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is or how cruel it is,” Meyer said.


Written by: Isabella Krzesniak — campus@theaggie.org



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