Thursday, July 31, 2014
Last updated: 3 days ago

UBC experiment cleared of animal cruelty allegations

David Elop/The Ubyssey

An investigation into the deaths of four monkeys used in UBC animal research has found no evidence of animal cruelty.

“We’re clearly very pleased with being vindicated,” said Helen Burt, UBC associated VP research. “There is no evidence whatsoever to support the allegations.”

The review was conducted between March 5 and 14 by the Canadian Council for Animal Care (CCAC). In a 2011 study, four of 18 macaque monkeys suffered what UBC described as an adverse reaction to MPTP, a chemical used to induce symptoms of Parkinsonism in monkeys. They had needed to be euthanized after their symptoms accelerated. At the time, STOP UBC Animal Research (STOP) said the deaths weren’t an accident, but a result of “unnecessary, cruel and shocking” research.

But the CCAC’s investigation didn’t find evidence that the macaque deaths were preventable. “Regrettably, a small number [of monkeys] react very badly to the drug,” read the letter, written by CCAC executive director Clément Gauthier. “It is not possible to predict which animals are susceptible to even a very small dose.”

STOP spokesperson Anne Birthistle criticized CCAC’s decision. “We always hoped that they would see the cruelty before them but…they obviously don’t see the harm.”

The letter said that an inspector’s research included talking to the chair of UBC’s Animal Care Committee (ACC), the researcher, and the clinical veterinarians who cared for the macaques and reported that the study conformed to the approved research protocol under CCAC standards.

Birthistle wanted to know whether there was representative for animals on the ACC approving the process. The ACC features representation from the public, but is not required to include animal rights advocates. UBC was ordered by the province to provide information on committee members as a part of Freedom of Information requests in February.

“They say that it’s nothing untoward, but to us we’d like to see proof,” Birthistle said. “We would like to see the protocols…posted online so the public can have the input and it’s not kept from them.”

Burt, however, said the university is doing its best to be open to the public. “Clearly [STOP] has an agenda. We’ve been quite forthcoming with information in recent months about animal research at UBC and we’ve engaged in public dialogues,” she said.

“You have to realize that this is not a normal process for the CCAC to be carrying out this kind of investigation based on some serious accusations.

“This is a new thing for us.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article implied that the experiment to the monkeys caused severe pain. Though the CCAC does have guidelines for experiments that involve severe pain, there is no evidence that the study in question fell into that category. The Ubyssey regrets the error. 

CCAC Inquiry Report 15March12 Letter to STOP