Federal Lab Kills Cage Full of Monkeys, Fails to Report It

Frances Chrzan, May 27, 2021

Thanks to our generous supporters we created the best tool of transparency in the animal rights movement—the Animal Research Laboratory Overview (ARLO). Through trial and error, and hundreds of hours of person power, we’ve started to piece together what life inside labs is really like. To do this, we request tens of thousands of records through public records requests.

Records we obtained from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) showed an abhorrent example of staff neglect and cover up.

At NIAID, staff let a cage of monkeys in their care die due to staff negligence and then worked to cover the situation up and pretend it never happened.

In order to understand why labs can neglect animals and get away with it, a brief overview of how your tax dollars are spent on oversight at labs is necessary.

Animal experiments conducted by NIAID are overseen by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (NIH–OLAW). OLAW’s purpose is to ensure that certain labs are in compliance with the Public Health Service Policy (PHS Policy), especially as it pertains to animal welfare. These labs must report to OLAW when something unexpected happens to an animal. This documentation is available only by filing open-records requests.

On its face, it seems like a good system. But what happens if labs choose to not report the noncompliance with OLAW as they’re supposed to?

The short answer: nothing. If they refuse to report an issue to OLAW, it’s nearly guaranteed that OLAW will never know about the problem. That’s not good enough for us. We value transparency and we value telling you everything we can about the tormenting of animals in labs.

That’s how we found out that NIAID failed to report an issue of noncompliance to OLAW.

Each lab has an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), an internal oversight body. The IACUC is responsible for protocol review and approval, looking into problems, inspections, and scheduled meetings to discuss animal experiments. Meeting minutes are taken, and we obtain them through public records laws.

The minutes for the IACUC’s May 2020 meeting briefly discuss an incident of multiple monkey deaths. The lab staff left “retired” monkeys in a cage over a weekend. They failed to give the monkeys enough food and water to survive the whole weekend. When they returned the following week, they found that the entire cage of monkeys died. They likely died of dehydration over a weekend while lab staff enjoyed their time off.

A situation as serious as an entire cage of dead monkeys is something that should be reported to OLAW. But NIAID didn’t report it. The only reason we know about it is because we combed through the record of the IACUC meeting.

This is unacceptable. Labs are insulated from the public and transparency is something they pretend to promote but fail to practice. They wanted to hide these terrible, avoidable deaths. And what’s even more upsetting is that these monkeys were “retired.” They weren’t being bred anymore and were left in a cage to starve and dehydrate rather than be released to a sanctuary for a life of peace.

We notified OLAW about this situation and we asked OLAW to take punitive action against NIAID for failing to report this noncompliance under the PHS Policy. These monkeys suffered inside a lab and died because of humans not giving them appropriate care. We will not let NIAID bury this story. We will not let these monkeys die without some sort of repercussion.

Don’t let them hide the truth.

Join us in reporting this incident to OLAW and requesting an investigation.

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