A group of animal rights activists from the Alliance for Animals Primate Freedom Project commemorated the 10th anniversary of the deaths of 150 monkeys at Henry Vilas Zoo Saturday.
The monkeys lived in the zoo’s monkey house but functioned as research animals for the UW-Madison’s Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.
The monkeys died in 1998 after a whistle-blower revealed UW researchers were subjecting them to suffering in their experiments, often selling them to labs around the country afterward. The National Institutes of Health responded by terminating funding for the monkeys’ care and for related research programs and then-dean Virginia Henshaw told reporters the university would need to relocate the monkeys immediately.
A refuge in San Antonio offered to donate $30,000 for transportation and care of the monkeys, but the university deemed the location inadequate and sent the monkeys to Tulane University.
Instead of allowing the monkeys to remain in their family groups, Tulane researchers separated the monkeys into quarantine, a form of solitary confinement. The researchers allegedly subjected the animals to scientific testing, which resulted in their deaths.
According to the Alliance for Animals, on three seperate occasions the university promised in writing to spare the monkeys from harmful experiments.
Primate Freedom Project Leader Rick Bogle said he believes the National Institutes of Health worked with the university to sell the animals, thereby avoiding responsibility for the deaths.
Bogle’s wife Lynn Pauley said the memorial helped remember the monkeys’ deaths and the animal rights cause.
“I think it’s really important that we stand here, as bearing witness, even if no one else were here,” Pauley said.
WNPRC director Dr. Joseph Kemnitz said in a statement the former colony benefited researchers at the time, but the university decided to withdraw the program because of funding decreases, building problems and inbreeding concerns. He called the university’s comments at the time of the transfer “ill-advised.”
The WNPRC receives full accreditation from the American Association for the Accreditation of Animal Care International, and regular review from several other federal and state-level agencies.