Seven monkey infants were accidentally poisoned and died in one of the largest primate research centers in the United States, revealed internal documents released to the Guardian.
Young macaques died after their mothers were stained with dyes at the University of California Davis Davis Primate Research Laboratory.
Once reunited with their children, macaque females inadvertently transferred the dye, which turned out to be toxic to them. Seven of the infants, less than a few weeks old – including one just a day old – died later.
UC Davis reported the incidents to the federal authorities in April 2018, with additional details provided in a letter sent a year later. In the latter document, UC Davis told the Federal Bureau of Laboratory Animal Welfare that two of the infants had "generalized weakness and respiratory distress", with dye on the lips and tongue.
Both infants had "severe edema and swelling of the larynx and tongue" and died despite emergency treatment. The other deceased children were "found dead or euthanized upon arrival at the hospital". All seven had some amount of dye on their fur, skin, or around the mouth, which probably triggered a life-threatening allergic reaction.
In response, the Office of Laboratories and Animal Welfare told UC Davis that infants under the age of six months should not be dyed and that their mothers and babies should be separated for longer so to minimize the transfer of marks. The correspondence was published under freedom of information laws.
The tragedy is the latest blow to the primate research operation at UC Davis, one of the country's largest. The university reported about 4,200 primates, mostly rhesus macaques, which it retains for research on HIV / AIDS, Zika virus and other infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, reproductive health, disease Alzheimer's and aging.
In 2016, it emerged that UC Davis was one of nine federally funded research centers under investigation for primate abuse. In March of the same year, a primate fractured both legs after escaping through an unsecured door of the establishment. Another primate was subsequently injured as a result of a similar incident.
UC Davis has been the target of animal rights activists for these incidents, as well as for a 2005 episode where seven monkeys died from apparent heat exposure. The US Department of Agriculture subsequently fined the university $ 4,815.
The last deaths show that "seven rhesus monkeys aged 1 to 19 days were forcibly removed from their mothers, were subjected to a physical examination, were tattooed, were the object of a blood, were marked with an irritant dye, and then put back on their anesthetized and insensitive mothers, "said John Gluck, former academic researcher and primate.
"How could UC Davis not consider that this extremely stressful experience would not put these children at risk? Negligence is the word I would like to use. "
The New England Anti-Vivisection Society, which hopes that UC Davis and other facilities will reduce the number of primates used for research purposes, has announced to the USDA that it is asking that the company should University be fined $ 70,000 for the death of a monkey.
"We are in 2019 and we can no longer deny the science that non-human primates are suffering and suffering as we do," said Mike Ryan, the group's government affairs manager.
"Invasive and deadly experiments on captive primates that are mistreated in cages throughout their lives must stop."
The US government has limited primate research in recent years. The National Institutes of Health announced in 2015 that it will no longer fund biomedical research on chimpanzees. In the face of strong public opposition to primate testing, some institutions, such as Harvard, ended their programs and sent their monkeys and apes to sanctuaries.
In the United States, primate testing is still far from over. According to figures released last year, nearly 76,000 nonhuman primates were in captivity for research purposes. Supporters of primate testing argue that it is essential to discover new treatments for diseases that affect humans.
"We strive to take the best possible care of the animals entrusted to us," said a spokesman for UC Davis, who added that many captive primates are kept in extended family groups, undergo regular medical examinations and can live up to 38 years old. double the expected life in nature.
UC Davis usually uses dyes to identify each primate, but following the death of his child, "the center staff changed its procedures to no longer color the monkeys for less than six months and take other steps to minimize the transfer of dye, "said the spokesman.