By Kristin Trent
DAVIS, CA – A national watchdog report sent to federal regulators reveals the University of California, Davis (UCD) admitted its laboratory staff illegally “cooked” a primate to death by heating exposure for more than two hours—killing the animal and breaking federal law.
And federal records indicate this was not the first time UCD broke federal law, the Vanguard has learned.
UCD’s internal report recounts how a monkey was left in a transport van with a forced air heater blowing 130-degree air directly onto the caged animal for over an hour and was euthanized after it was found in a comatose state.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), a national watchdog nonprofit whose mission is to end animal experimentation through investigation, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, urging a full federal investigation.
The university’s Primate Center has broken federal law and USDA guidelines in the past, according to records, incurring a fine of $4,815 in Aug. 2004 for the death of seven primates and a citation for 19 primate deaths in 2009 and 2010.
In addition, the primate deaths in 2004 involved a similar “mechanical failure that resulted in the overheating of the room in which the animals were housed,” according to the UCD report.
The watchdog organization alleges the university’s Primate Center violated regulations for proper animal handling and this is not their first time. The University’s Primate Lab has previously violated USDA regulations and received an official warning in 2022.
A USDA report released that same year discloses the facility subjected roughly two of three (62 percent) of primates actively used for experimentation to research methods involving pain or distress to animals, with accompanying use of anesthetic, analgesic, or tranquilizing drugs.
In light of the repeated misconduct, SAEN is urging USDA to rule the primate’s death as both a repeat and critical violation of their regulations to increase involvement of federal regulators.
The organization has also written a letter to UCD Chancellor Gary S. May, urging that all employees involved in the most recent primate death be subject to dismissal.
Michael A. Budkie, the co-founder of SAEN, remarked in light of the recent investigation into the University’s Primate Lab:
“The California Primate Research Center at UCD has existed for decades. I am utterly amazed that after dealing with monkeys for decades, which most certainly included transporting those animals across the large UCD campus dozens if not hundreds of times, that proper procedures to ensure the safety of these animals still do not exist,” said Budkie.
Budkie added, “The heater which spewed out 130-degree air was turned on at least by 8:15. The staff claims that the monkey was observed between 8:45 and 9:00 and “appeared not to be in distress.” I do not find this statement to be credible.
“If I was in an enclosed space and was subjected to 130 degree forced air for at least 1/2 – 3/4 of an hour I am quite certain I would be in distress. I am confident that this monkey would at the very least have been panting severely. Failure to notice the monkey’s real condition at this time led to the death of this animal.”
He continued, remarking, “The incompetence of UCD staff is clear and uncontroverted. Who in their right mind would think it would be acceptable to blow 130-degree air on a primate in an enclosed area for as much as 2 1/4 hours? Anyone so utterly oblivious to the actual welfare of these monkeys should never be permitted to work with them again.”
“If after experimenting on and housing thousands (of) primates for decades, UC Davis staff is still unable to even transport these animals without killing them—why should we believe they can do science?” Budkie charged.