Cannibalism, high death rates plague U. Wisconsin primates

MBy Derek Montgomery
Badger Herald
University of Wisconsin

mADISON, Wis. (U-WIRE) – The monkeys are among us. Hidden between the Kohl Center and Camp Randall lies an inconspicuous series of buildings. There are no large signs or flashing lights. If one gets close enough to the building, the words “Wisconsin Primate Research Center” can be seen on the building’s side. However, these monkeys are in serious trouble.

According to a report by Michael A. Budkie, the University of Wisconsin Primate Research Center is “losing research subjects in alarming numbers, including infant mortality rates of up to 30 percent.”

One in five infant monkey deaths are attributed to cannibalism.

Further, Budkie’s report, “Forty Years of Fraud: The Regional Primate Research Center System,” claims four decades of research and billions of dollars in spending have failed to deliver any substantial discoveries benefitting human health.

The Wisconsin Center has laid claim to paving the way for breakthroughs in culturing embryonic stem cells in humans in 1999. The center’s Web site said the 1999 discovery “brings us closer to the possibility that researchers may someday be able to genetically engineer embryonic stem cells for transplanting in diseased human tissues.”

But Rick Fogle, founder for the Primate Freedom Project, said any claim from the Wisconsin Primate Research Center is likely to be a lie.

“Madison has such a long dismal history of not being forthcoming with the public,” Fogle said. “The history of lies is unprecedented. Any claim is likely to be an out-and-out lie.”

Fogle noted a situation years ago in which researchers at the center took monkeys from Vilas Zoo, experimented on them and sometimes sold them to other research centers. The university and Dane County got involved, and eventually the monkeys were sent to another institution. The university was in an apparent breach of contract with the Vilas Zoo when they performed harmful research on the monkeys.

Fogle said the research coming out of the Wisconsin Primate Research Center is baseless. He attributes this to researcher’s lack of knowledge of the marmoset monkey and an incorrect diet.

“The marmoset death rate at Madison and other research centers is exceptionally high,” Fogle said. “The truth is (scientists) know less about marmosets than they do humans. It basically nulls the results of any experiment,” he said.

Employees of the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center have quit, citing inhumane living conditions for the primates. One of those individuals is Matt Rossell, who talked about one monkey named Erik, a Capuchin, who lived alone in a 2-by-2 cage for 33 years.

Proponents of primate research in the Madison area said a monkey named Azalea displayed the value of a research center like the one in Madison, Wis.

The monkey was born with a condition similar to Down’s syndrome in humans. Azalea could not perform normal monkey activities, and her primate peers came to her assistance by grooming and aiding in everyday activities. It revealed an intense intimacy in primate family relationships.

“Every scientist on campus cares about the welfare of animals, or their research wouldn’t be legitimate,” Mark Cook, chairman of the Animal Care and Use Protocol Review Committee, said. “There is a huge, redundant layer of groups and committees making sure people are complying with protocol.”