Harvard Said to Mistreat Its Monkeys
Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) claims that Harvard’s New England Primate Research Center (NEPRC) forced primates forced to endure social isolation and unnecessary pain.
Don L. Gibbons, an HMS spokesperson, strongly denied the allegations, which were leveled against NEPRC in a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“They’re perpetrating misinformation,” Gibbons said of SAEN. “The entire report they issued was based by using facts selectively out of a USDA inspection report.”
The accusations came on Oct. 24, the day before SAEN’s “National Primate Liberation Week” began with protests at NEPRC and in Harvard Square.
Kyle M. Hall, a Harvard Divinity School (HDS) student and president of HDS Students for Animal Justice, said that he participated in the Square protests because of his inherent opposition to animal experimentation.
“We believe that all sentient beings—that would include primates—should be free from exploitation...which could include experimentation,” Hall said. “We want to hold [researchers] accountable for their actions.”
Holly B. Anderson ’06, president of the College’s People for Animal Welfare (PAW), said that PAW did not endorse the protests.
“There are demonstrations that I do know go on, but I haven’t seen that they have any good reason for them,” Anderson said.
In direct opposition to SAEN’s claims, Anderson said Harvard should be commended for its treatment of research primates.
“From what I’ve seen, [Harvard] takes extraordinarily careful measures to treat the animals as well as they can,” she said.
Michael A. Budkie, the executive director of SAEN, said that NEPRC is unwilling to confront its research subjects’ suffering.
“They’re saying they can’t do these experiments on humans because they’re too painful and stressful, but they’re saying they’re not painful and stressful for the primates,” Michael A. Budkie said. “Which is it?”
Budkie also accused NEPRC and a University of Wisconsin research facility of not reporting these experiments as potentially painful.
“These laboratories are not disclosing these experiments properly,” Budkie wrote.
Gibbons said, however, that Harvard’s success in random federal inspections disproves Budkie’s accusations.
“We have an incredibly good track record in all of our USDA inspections,” Gibbons said. “We have three different groups that can inspect us without notice.”
Gibbons also said that the accusation of social isolation is inconsistent.
“By [SAEN’s] own literature, they don’t like primates to be isolated, and when you cage them together they get roughhoused,” Gibbons said.
But in captivity, according to Gibbons, primates are treated well and receive regular veterinary care.
“Every scratch gets reported,” he said.