A watchdog group demands a federal probe of the UW Primate Center.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now — SAEN — claims the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center is among the top nationally-known labs to torture animals, a direct violation of federal law. The group's Executive Director Michael Budkie wants the National Institutes of Health to stop funding universities which participate in violations of the Animal Welfare Act .
"It does not seem right to us that laboratories who are continually violating federal law should have an ongoing access to federal funds. If they break the law they should not get the funding."
Eric Sandgren with the UW Research Lab says the NIH already has the power to limit or eliminate such funds.
"In fact they already have mechanisms in place to reduce or take back funding if it is not in compliance with the animal care requirements. So, that's an issue that's already been taken care of."
Budkie has contacted the USDA in the past, but says that agency is almost powerless to do anything other than issue fines for violations, which he says are considered by the universities to be nothing more than a cost of doing business. Budkie is now demanding that the Inspector General of the U-S Health Department investigate and audit the National Primate Research Center System. Budkie says the amount of money going into the area of animal research is "just insane."
"This kind of funding should be redirected into clinical research that helps human beings that actually have real disease conditions now, as opposed to doing nothing more than essentially making people that do animal research wealthy."
Sandgren says the nature of biomedical research is very diverse. He says currently, many studies involve animals, many involve cells and culture dishes, and many make use of humans.
"What we, at the scientific community, have found is that we learn the most when we apply a combination of those. What Mr. Budkie would advocate is cutting out completely one of those and that will tremendously limit the amount that we can learn."
Budkie says federal funding from primate research at the UW has risen by 219% in just eight years, which is disproportionate to the increase in its primate population, at just 24%. Budkie wonders whether that money is "making the researchers wealthy." Sandgren says when they get extra money it goes, in part, to safeguards for human and animal health, and for providing animals with a more positive and enriching environment.