An animal rights group has filed a federal complaint against Harvard Medical School after learning that a monkey died of strangulation at a research facility this summer.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed an official complaint against the school on Nov. 30, saying it failed “to handle animals as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma” and did not list “any primates used in projects causing unrelieved pain/distress” in annual reports to the US Department of Agriculture.
The complaint included a Harvard Medical School report, filed with the National Institutes of Health, that described how the monkey died.
“The macaque had strangled herself on her hanging surrogate cover, which was being used for enrichment,” the report stated. “The macaque had ripped a hole in the surrogate cover and stuck her head through it.”
In response, all hanging surrogates and large cloths were removed from the cages. Lab, animal care, and veterinary staff are “re-evaluating all aspects of the surrogate enrichment program,” the report stated.
The complaint accused the school of violating the Animal Welfare Act.
“Since this project involves socially isolating primates, preventing them from even seeing human or primate faces, it is highly likely that this project [caused] these animals to experience unrelieved distress,” the complaint stated.
Primate research is helping to eradicate diseases such as AIDS and Parkinson’s disease, Harvard Medical School said in a statement.
“We will continue to work to ensure that the important research will further medical breakthroughs, while being conducted in an ethical manner,” the school said.
Nathan Herschler, who directs the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, said Harvard “has proven time and again that they are incapable of appropriately providing care for captive primates.”
Last month, animal rights advocates, including a Harvard Law School program, sued the US Department of Agriculture, alleging that the agency failed to ensure adequate living conditions for primates, including rhesus macaques, baboons, and marmosets.
“We are bringing this case to compel the USDA to put in place clear, enforceable laws that will ease the burden of suffering on non-human primates, some of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom,” said Brett Richey, a Harvard Law School student who helped file the lawsuit on behalf of the school’s new Animal Law & Policy Clinic. “These animals deserve our protection.”