Protestors seek end to monkey research at UMass 

  • Sheryl Becker, a member of Western Mass Animal Rights Advocates, protests the use of animals, especially marmosets, for research in labs at UMass at the university in Amherst, Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Tyler Beraldi, a UMass student, talks with Sheryl Becker, a member of Western Mass Animal Rights Advocates, during a protest of the use of marmosets in lab research at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Crysania Dangoor, a member of UMass students for Animal Liberation, at a protest aiming to make others aware and stop the use of animals, especially marmosets, for research in labs at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • UMass students and member of Western Mass Animal Rights Advocates, at a protest aiming to make others aware and stop the use of animals, especially Marmosets, for research in labs at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • University of Massachusetts student Wyatt Mitchell, left, talks with Sheryl Becker, a member of Western Mass Animal Rights Advocates, during a protest Wednesday over the use of marmosets in lab research at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/9/2022 7:49:34 PM
Modified: 2/9/2022 7:47:52 PM

AMHERST — Inside a building at the University of Massachusetts, laboratory experiments on marmoset monkeys are continuing, despite occasional protests by animal rights organizations that have targeted this work.

While the use of primates has been at the center of discussions, a recently formed student group is promoting the well-being of all animals, such as those exhibited on campus as part of an exotic animal show or the horses used to pull a carriage during the recent Fire & Ice: A Winter Celebration that welcomed students back to school.

“We’re looking at how UMass can improve more broadly,” said senior Jacey Woods, of Woburn, and member of UMass Students for Animal Liberation. “We want to make sure animals are taken care of when they are brought to campus, and that there is just treatment for all animals.”

Woods was among a handful of students joining community members from the Western Massachusetts Animal Rights Advocates in a protest Wednesday afternoon outside the Student Union, holding signs with phrases like “End Animal Labs” and “UMass: Stop Torturing Marmosets,” and handing out literature to educate about practices on campus that they oppose.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals last spring launched a campaign to end the research on the monkeys, which has been defended by the administration as important for addressing issues of aging in humans, and is in compliance with the extensive federal requirements for animal welfare.

Woods said the student group, which fights for the rights of all nonhuman animals, also promotes accountability and research in humane and ethical ways, and to show other students that problematic practices can end, noting the group is connected with other students in the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy that covers a range of issues, such as food insecurity and student loan debt.

“Students need to be aware that they have the power to make change,” Woods said.

Organizers of the protest want UMass students to have more knowledge of what is happening, especially that marmosets were injured in labs, and one died from burns in 2015.

“We’re really appalled that such needless cruelty is going on on this campus, and it’s been going on for years,” said Sheryl Becker, an Agawam resident and president of the organization.

The studies, she said, focus on menopause, and the various means of testing involve implanting electrodes in brains and making incisions in their necks, and using heated gloves to simulate menopause.

“The monkeys are suffering immensely,” Becker said.

She also contends that, because the research depends on grants, such as from the National Institutes of Health, administrators have looked the other way when bad things happen. “When a monkey suffered and died there, nothing was done,” Becker said.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewksi issued a statement on behalf of Umass asserting that medical advances, based on animal research, improves and saves lives of people and animals.

“UMass Amherst has a commitment to care for laboratory animals that involves the highest ethical standards and rigorous attention and adherence to all applicable federal and state laws and guidelines,” Blaguszewski said.

“UMass Amherst conducts research using animals to examine a wide range of health concerns. Animals are used in research when no better options exist. Animal research at UMass Amherst happens in a variety of fields of study, including veterinary science, agricultural science and different medical research fields.”

Tiffany Davignon of Conway said she wants to live near a flagship campus that better represents the community’s values. “I want to be a voice for them and hope awareness will bring change to these needless practices,” Davignon said, adding that the experiments don’t help women or understand menopause, but do win research grants.

“It’s about money, not menopause or the marmosets,” Davignon said.

“The research is way outdated,” said Wendy Hollis of Agawam.

Becker said her organization has taken actions elsewhere, including annually at the Eastern States Exposition, where objections are made to having animals on display, and at a store in Springfield that she calls a puppy mill. The organization also successfully ended a lab at Baystate Medical Center that used live pigs.

“I’m just hoping they’ll change their minds,” said Crysania Dangoor, a UMass sophomore from Michigan. “I think UMass can do better than this, and I don’t think this sort of experimentation is justifiable.”

“As a progressive college with an emphasis on social justice, we can and should do better,” Dangoor said.

Wyatt Mitchell, a sophomore chemistry major, dropped by the protest to learn more about the advocates’ claims and appreciates that their peaceful display allowed students to talk about the science and get more clarity about the experiments. “Openness of scientific research is very important,” Mitchell said.

Another student seeking more information agreed. “It is good to have some openness toward the scientific research and other endeavors of that sort,” said freshman Matthew Sawyer, an Earth science major.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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