Monday, August 26, 2002

There are unfortunately more than two facilities using chimpanzees for biomedical research. See Lab Prisoners. Contrary to the facility's assertions, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees fail in their oversight duties by typically rubber-stamping any and all experiments, no matter how frivolous or painful. IACUCs merely provide a facade behind which researchers hide from public concerns about their misuse of sentient beings.

PRIMATE RESEARCH AT EMORY UNIVERSITY

Animal testing dogs Yerkes research center
By ERIC SUNDQUIST Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

In terms of animal suffering and death in the United States, food production far outdistances animal experimentation, the former claiming billions of animals annually, and the latter tens of millions. Food production, with its increasingly intensive methods that confine animals in unnatural, tight quarters, is lightly regulated, while vivisection, which has arguably become more humane in recent decades, is subject to review by Institutional Care and Use Committees, U.S. Public Health Service rules and the National Institutes of Health.

Still, research and testing on animals remains a top issue with animal protectionists. Painful testing has been used for relatively trivial purposes, such as development of cosmetics; vivisection sometimes involves inflicting long-lasting pain and deprivation on primates and other intelligent, social animals; and, while human use of animal for food is a prehistoric practice, modern animal experimentation is new and subject to questions about its necessity.

These factors all come to bear on the Yerkes Regional Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta. Many labs, including Yerkes, experiment on rats, but Yerkes is one of just two American facilities doing medical research on great apes.

In his books advocating legal rights for some animals, law professor Steven M. Wise cites the case of Jerom, "a chimpanzee whom biomedical researchers imprisoned for life inside a small, dim, often chilly cell that lay within a large windowless grey concrete box at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Without mercy, and from the time he was a baby, they repeatedly infected Jerom with HIV viruses. After a hellish decade, he died. In a February 2000 speech in Boston's Faneuil Hall, constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe said, 'Clearly, Jerom was enslaved.'"

Yerkes now acknowledges that the experiments on Jerom did not advance the cause of finding a vaccine for AIDS.

Animal protectionists in Atlanta frequently target Yerkes for campaigns, operating an ongoing Web site at emorylies.com. Before incoming director Stuart Zola had moved into his home last year, someone distributed fliers among his new neighbors showing a monkey in restraints, screaming as a human hand appears to peel back its scalp. Says anti-Yerkes campaigner Jean Barnes, "We're going to close that place one way or another. We're going to close Yerkes."...

Stuart Zola, the aforementioned director of the facility, is a neuroscientist who went to Emory from the University of California at San Diego. Despite being targeted by flier-wielding activists, he argues that animal researchers must stay in the public eye, explaining their methods and the benefits of their work. Here is an edited account of a July conversation:

...Q. If something causes suffering or is an invasive procedure with an ape or another primate, is that different than a mouse or a dog? Do you distinguish by species?

A. The requirements and the review of a research protocol, whether it is for a rodent or for a dog or for a monkey or for whatever it is, is essentially the same. Now is there some possibility of speciesism here, in the sense that the great apes are somehow treated differently? We are more sensitive to the kind of work that goes on in champanzees in many ways, but in terms of the review process, I think that review process -- the IACUC level -- that process is the same....

...Q. People don't test, say, household chemicals on primates, do they?

A. That's not our program here at Yerkes, but I would say it may not necessarily be a good idea to separate those things out. Because that kind of research and testing is also relevant. It's going to be important for you to know that when your kids get under the sink in your house, that the stuff they take and swallow is not going to kill them. So there's some merit to even that kind of work....