The Primate Freedom Project recently released internal documents it obtained through an open records request about an experiment at the University of Wisconsin that led to a number of primate deaths and, ultimately, the suspension of the researcher.
Ei Terasawa, a professor or pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, received approval to do experiments involving primates to study how the animals’ brains developed during menopause.
But Terasawa’s experiment was plagued by a number of problems. In one case, a monkey died because an attendant left a laboratory for lunch during an experiment. That was just one of at least four times when animals involved in experiments were left unattended when the protocols of the experiment required that someone be present at all times.
Other monkeys involved in the research were given drugs that had not been approved by the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. In other cases, monkeys were given the correct drugs but at dosage levels that had not been approved.
According to the Associated Press, Terasawa was barred from working with animals for two years and the experiment in question was stopped. Eric Sandgren, chairman of the university’s IACUC, told the Associated Press,
It’s one of the most severe actions that the committee has ever taken.
Which seems, frankly, a mild punishment. If dereliction of duty and ignoring experimental protocols that leads to the unnecessary deaths of experimental animals garners only a two year suspension, what would a researcher have to do to be handed a more severe penalty?
Even more disturbing is that although Terasawa was suspended in 2004, her suspension and the circumstances surrounding it were never made public. The Primate Freedom Project’s distribution of the university’s internal documents on the case were the first opportunity that the public had to learn of this mess.
Not going public in 2004 about the suspension was beyond stupid. How can researchers expect to be taken seriously when they talk about their commitment to the welfare of the animals they use if they cannot even be open and honest about a case like this? Why in the world did the University of Wisconsin put itself in the position where Rick Bogle was the first person to talk to reporters and the public about the suspension of a research that happened last year?
The following University of Wisconsin internal documents are available regarding this case:
- Minutes of University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School Animal Care Committee – May 12, 2003
- Research Animal Resources Letter to University of Wisconsin ACUC – July 10, 2003
- University of Wisconsin Report on Terasawa Research
- Response by Dr. Terasawa
U. of Wis. Records Show High Monkey Deaths. Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press, August 16, 2005.
UW monkey deaths during experiments raise questions. Aaron Nathans, The Capital Times, August 16, 2005.