Workers at a Nevada research lab were checking on a primate room when they came across a ghastly sight: Thirty dead monkeys were essentially cooked alive after someone left the heater on. Two others were near death and had to be euthanized.
At a lab run by the same company, a monkey died last year after it was sent through a washer while still in its cage. The temperatures were so scalding the monkey never had a chance.
The two cases have led to calls for greater oversight and enforcement of the animal research industry after an alarmingly high number of deaths in recent years.
Critics say fines for violations at animal research labs are so puny that they do nothing to deter violations. The lab where the monkeys died in Nevada was fined a mere $14,000 for the two incidents, according to records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"The penalties have given them virtually no motivation whatsoever to cease violating the law," said Michael Budkie, the executive director of the Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now. "If they are literally killing animals through negligence, something is wrong with the system."
The group asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month for an independent investigation into animal deaths at research labs.
Agriculture Department records show there were 97 negligent animal deaths at research facilities nationwide over the last two years, a figure that does not include lab mice and rats.
One of the biggest violators was Charles River Laboratories, where the 33 monkeys died at facilities in Reno in 2008 and Sparks in 2009.
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