A routine inspection carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture resulted in Princeton University being cited with over a dozen violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The violations specifically focused on the treatment of 15 rhesus monkeys and 10 marmosets who are confined in Princeton labs.
The June 23, 2010 inspection of Princeton’s animal labs revealed that experimenters have deviated from procedures that were approved by animal oversight committees, that they failed to demonstrate that experiments being performed were not redundant, and that visible signs of pain in animals were not being adequately documented.
Other violations provide even greater insight into the lives of the primates confined in Princeton’s laboratories. Experimenters have withheld water resulting in pain and distress from “unrelieved thirst.” Monkeys have had holes drilled into their skulls and were then given inadequate pain relief following the gruesome procedure. In other cases, animals were subject to multiple surgeries in which recording chambers were implanted into their bodies.
University spokeswoman Emily Aronson was quoted in The Daily Princetonian as saying that “the issue was documentation” and insisting that the monkeys were actually treated quite well. An unnamed animal experimenter defended the University by pointing out that the experiments do not result in death.
Apparently the Ivy League school sets the bar fairly low for itself.
To put Aronson’s comments into context it is important to note
that almost all violations of the Animal Welfare Act can be described as matters of “documentation” and University spokespeople routinely dismiss violations as being “procedural” in nature or merely matters of “paperwork.” This is because the Animal Welfare Act provides shockingly little protection for animals in laboratories. In fact, there is not a single action which cannot be done to an animal in a laboratory provided that the requisite “paperwork” is in order. Animals can and are burned, poisoned, mutilated, beheaded, addicted to dangerous drugs, and killed in a variety of ways. Rats and mice are specifically excluded from the Animal Welfare Act which means that the law does not even apply to upwards of 95 percent of animals in laboratories.
It is rarely violations of the Animal Welfare Act that represent the most serious threat to the well-being of animals in laboratories. Generally, the exploitation of animals is entirely legal. Instead of reprimands or citations it more often leads to promotions, publications, and pay raises. It is therefore insufficient for laboratories to merely comply with the law—something which Princeton has proven unable to do—rather they need to shut down.
But lest I be charged with being unfair, I should note that The Daily Princetonian reports that monkeys, like many human prisoners, do have access to television.