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PETA continues to push for closure of Washington National Primate Research Center

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PETA sues UW over primate center, animal oversight records

PETA protesters demonstrate at the UW Thursday, January 14, 2021.

Editor's note: Titles of sources and quotes used in this article have been updated to correct previous inaccuracies.

The nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is pushing for the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC) to close after alleged mistreatment of animals and withholding of records. PETA has opened a lawsuit against WaNPRC to acquire records through the Washington Public Records Act. 

"I resigned over their animal use failures and to be a leader in the way we provide animal oversight," Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, a former UW research assistant professor associated with the anthropology department, who left her position at WaNPRC, said.

WaNPRC made headlines in early 2021 when PETA filed a lawsuit asking them to turn over public records. 

At the front of the conflict is Jones-Engel, who has spent decades in the field. In 2019, Jones-Engel accepted a senior position at PETA and has been fighting WaNPRC and animal testing since. 

"The UW strives to limit the use of animals in research as much as possible," Tina Mankowski, health sciences senior director and associate vice president for medical affairs, said. 

PETA has pushed to stop animal testing since 1980, though many medical treatments have been found through animal testing.

"Arguably, every major medical discovery of the last and current century has depended upon animal research," Dr. Michelle Basso, WaNPRC director and professor with UW School of Medicine, departments of biological structure and physiology and biophysics, said. 

WaNPRC continues to use primate testing, which has led to several medical advances.

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"WaNPRC’s work in gene therapy and regenerative medicine has helped with diseases such as heart disease, infectious disease such as HIV, etc.," Dr. Basso said.

WaNPRC came under fire, however, for its treatment of primates, including instances where primates consumed water contaminated by perchlorate and became ill with Valley Fever. 

"UW brought in [diseased animals to Arizona facilities] and didn't even report it during a global pandemic," Jones-Engel said.

WaNPRC claimed they made an administrative error by not reporting the outbreak of Valley Fever but said they have fixed the problem. Additionally, WaNPRC said it is working to ensure the health and safety of its primates, despite reports from outlets like 12news. 

"Primates are bred to be specific pathogen-free," Dr. Basso said, adding that WaNPRC receives oversight from UW Environmental Health & Safety to "ensure the safety of the people working with animals."

Some organizations have discussed alternatives for animal testing, including Frontiers for Young Minds, which has proposed the use of human tissue or blood samples.

"It's a matter of redirecting the resources away from primates,” Jones-Engel said. “You can use 3D-printed tissue, artificial intelligence, and many other options." 

As of now, WaNPRC plans to continue its biomedical research on improved therapies and medical care. In contrast, PETA will continue to protest against WaNPRC’s treatment of animals as it pushes for the research center’s closure. 

Reach contributing writer Gillian McMahon at Twitter: @itsgillianm

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(4) comments


I was born with a health condition, so I know that people with disabilities don’t automatically support animal experiments. We're not cruel and selfish. We know that the only way to help humans is to stop wasting time and resources on animal experiments.


I hope PETA is successful and this abusive facility is shuttered.


Not only does experimenting on animals cause massive suffering, it’s delaying cures for human diseases. The NIH itself admits that 95% of drugs that pass animal tests fail or cause harm in human trials, because experiments on animals cannot accurately predict how drugs will affect humans. Instead of tormenting animals in scientifically dubious experiments, we should embrace advanced non-animal, human-relevant testing methods such as “organ-on-a-chip” technology, cell-based tests and tissue models, sophisticated computer modeling and QSAR techniques, and others. These methods hold real hope of cures and treatments.


Can you please give a research paper or something?

I found this one that happens to support your position -

but there may be a refutation out there. How effective is organ-on-a-chip for clinical trials? For what disease? It would be more useful to find a paper that specifically pertains to alternatives to monkey testing. since that is what PETA is protesting here. Unless they want all animal research gone? Or just the NPRC?

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