PETA renews campaign against monkey research at UMass

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst campus GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2021 5:37:07 PM

AMHERST — An animal rights organization is continuing its campaign to end research on marmoset monkeys at the University of Massachusetts.

This week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced that it would be taking a series of steps, including running print advertisements that depict the laboratory animals at UMass and use phrases such as “U Mass Murderers” and “UMass: Ignorance isn’t bliss.” PETA also plans to file federal complaints and engage in protests, according to media manager Tasgola Bruner.

The campaign follows a letter that Katherine V. Roe, a senior research associate for PETA in Norfolk, Va., sent Feb. 1 to Robert Manning, chairman of the UMass board of trustees. Roe wrote that three of PETA’s staff scientists had met in July with Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Dr. Mike Malone, and a UMass patron, to discuss ways in which the university could modernize its biomedical research program, reduce its use of animals in experimentation, and improve overall animal welfare at the university.

“Despite initial interest and enthusiasm from the chancellor and vice chancellor, Dr. Subbaswamy recently informed us that UMass would not be addressing any of our concerns or implementing any of our suggested changes,” Roe wrote.

Among the recommendations from PETA were eliminating the use of nonhuman primates, modernizing tick-borne disease research, implementing higher animal welfare standards and oversight, and establishing a center for non-animal research alternatives.

In a statement on behalf of the university, spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said the research work done at UMass meets federal standards.

“UMass Amherst research involving animals is fully in compliance with the extensive federal requirements for animal welfare and receives careful independent review by sponsoring agencies according to current scientific understanding and standards,” Blaguszewski said. “Our facilities and programs are reviewed and inspected regularly, including by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and any unintentional impacts on animal welfare are reported and resolved to the satisfaction of federal regulators.”

The UMass research is also vital for helping promote the health and well-being of people, especially as they get older, he said. “Researchers emphasize that work with non-human primates is particularly important in addressing issues where there are no other viable approaches.”

“In particular, researchers believe work with marmosets is very important in addressing issues of aging,” Blaguszewski said. “For example, it is expected that by the middle of this century more than 100 million people worldwide will have a debilitating neurodegenerative disease and research with marmosets is key to understanding the mechanisms for the disease and for normal functioning.”

The university settled a lawsuit with PETA last summer related to a public records dispute over video footage showing caged monkeys being studied by a UMass researcher. UMass was eventually ordered by the state to release the footage, some of which shows monkeys with bare patches in their fur, pacing in small cages and grabbing at the top and sides of these cages.

Roe calls the university’s research labs “an archaic monkey torture chamber.”

“Choosing to harm animals rather than challenging the status quo is a kick in the face to modern science,” Roe said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




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