SAEN executive director Michael Budkie announced the organization’s complaints against the University at a press conference held Thursday morning in Trenton. The Ohio-based group cited several incidents of animal cruelty at University labs dating back to 2003.
The group’s statement, which includes graphic photos of animals purportedly used for neuroscience research at the University, includes claims that the primates kept for research were deprived of water and food for up to 24 hours. In addition, the statement described an incident where marmosets were scalded to death as the cage was sent through a high-temperature case wash without transferring the marmosets.
The report also discusses incidences of lack of monitoring of the animals, which resulted in the primates’ death from malnutrition and illnesses. This is “common knowledge” and common practice, the report said.
The group added in its statement that many of the biggest problems at the University have gone unreported.
“In some instances the administration of Princeton itself may well be unaware of some of these incidents. This indicates a serious tendency to withhold information regarding violations of the Animal Welfare Act from federal regulatory agencies,” Budkie said in an email.
According to the statement, which the group says was prepared by a former employee of the University, the lab staff not only delayed proper care of sick primates, but also fabricated logbooks, “filling in and correcting as needed.”
“The treatment of animals at this facility illustrates attitudes of carelessness and negligence that must be punished so that meaningful changes can be made,” Budkie explained.
Though the whistleblower has known of the alleged mistreatment since 2003, it was not until this year that he came forward with his claims.
Budkie contributed the delay to the culture of the science world.
“The atmosphere within research facilities does not encourage whistleblowers to come forward. In most instances they are afraid of reprisals, such as loss of employment,” he explained.
The University was cited for six violations involving its treatment of lab animals this year and 11 violations in 2010. Recently, the University received a warning from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, noting that further violations of the Animal Welfare Act will result in a fine of $3,750 each.
Following the warning, University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said that the University is taking steps to improve animal testing procedures.
It has not been reported whether the USDA will investigate claims made by the group against the University.
SAEN is a nonprofit organization that reports on violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Over the years, it has reported allegations of violations in animal-based research at other universities and national lab facilities, including Michigan State University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, UCLA, Yale, MIT, Harvard, The Salk Institute and others.
SAEN claims that its reports uncovering incidents of animal cruelty at these labs have led to significant changes in animal rights.
For example, abusive primate experiments in University of Toledo labs were terminated subsequent to a news conference by SAEN, according to the organization’s website.
It is unclear, however, whether this change happened in response to SAEN’s reports or if it was a result of the USDA report and routine investigation.
Mbugua could not be reached for comment.