People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a public records lawsuit against UC Davis, demanding that the university provide video footage pertaining to its research on monkeys.
The suit, filed in Yolo County Superior Court, alleges that UC Davis withheld records after PETA made its first request on Nov. 6, 2017 and seeks a court order requiring the school to provide all requested records, except any the court deems lawful to withhold.
In court documents, PETA said a “central tenet” of its mission is to expose neglect and abuse of animals used in experimentation. In a blog post on its website, the group said its review of papers published by Davis researchers led it to believe monkeys, especially infants, were being mistreated.
The allegation of animal mistreatment at the UC Davis California National Primate Research Center was disputed Friday by UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell.
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“We conduct animal research because it benefits human health, we conduct it humanely, and it’s heavily regulated by state and federal law,” he said.
In the public records request, PETA asked UC Davis for “all videographic records related to experiments carried out” by four UC Davis researchers involved in monkey research, as well as any studies funded by several National Institutes of Health grants, from 2012 to the present.
UC Davis sent PETA just over 17 minutes of footage on May 14, 2018, from two studies. PETA’s request for two other studies was rejected on grounds that privilege protects the researcher’s ability to conduct experiments without interference.
UC Davis also said in the emailed response to PETA that ongoing research, which has not yet been published, is exempt from Public Records Act disclosures.
Fell, the UCD spokesman, said the school’s response was appropriate.
“When we sent the public records to PETA back in May, we explained why some were released and some were declined,” Fell said. He said that research becomes public when it’s completed and published.
PETA said in the lawsuit that the records are of public interest for several reasons: UC Davis is one of seven large primate laboratories funded by the NIH to perform biomedical experiments on monkeys; UC Davis has approximately 4,500 monkeys for research and breeding; and, since 2013, UC Davis has been cited for “failing to comply” with the Animal Welfare Act by the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) “at least 24 times.”
PETA listed nine of these citations in the lawsuit. In two instances, monkeys died improperly, according to the filing. In two others, a rabbit died due to “staff negligence” and a guinea pig died after being dropped 5 feet, court documents show.
PETA alleges in the lawsuit that UC Davis’ response was inadequate. PETA said that the university’s argument that the research is ongoing and unpublished was untrue, because “a number of experiments” which were funded by the NIH and referenced or used the video footage being requested were already published in scientific journals.