The Plight of Oregon Primate Center Monkeys
from No Compromise Issue 18

By Matt Rossell and Leslie Hemstreet

Abuse Exposed

The Oregon Regional Primate Research Center (ORPRC) at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) has been taking a well-deserved beating in the media during the past year as a result of two whistleblowers, a primate technician and a USDA inspector, coming forward at an In Defense of Animals press conference in August 2000.

Painful evidence of animal cruelty includes video footage of ORPRC’s electro-ejaculation procedure, in which technicians electrocute the penises of fully conscious male monkeys to obtain semen samples.

Other video, taken secretly, depicts monkeys driven mad by isolation and maternal deprivation, attacking their own bodies and inflicting serious injuries.

More than a dozen abnormal behaviors result from housing monkeys alone in cages little more than two feet by two feet for their entire lives. Bored and lonely, monkeys in labs pull their hair out, smear and eat their feces, and circle and pace neurotically awaiting the next experimental procedure.

USDA in Collusion

Dr. Isis Johnson Brown, Oregon’s former USDA inspector, quit in frustration because her superiors refused to support her efforts to uphold the Animal Welfare Act. She stated:

“The USDA inspection system is comprised of a ‘good old boy’ network that blatantly defies federal laws that, even if they were enforced, are too ineffectual to protect the animals. More than once, I was instructed by a supervisor to make a personal list of violations of the law, cut that list in half, and then cut that list in half again before writing up my inspection reports. My willingness to uphold the law during my site visits at the Primate Center led to me being ‘re-trained’ several times by higher-ups in the USDA. I recognize the system is not set up to protect the animals but instead the financial interests of the research labs.”

Criticism From Within

ORPRC administers inhumane care by any standards—including those of primate researcher Carol Shively, who was hired by the OHSU to review their programs at ORPRC. Shively called electro-ejaculation “inhumane” and criticized the lack of social housing—more than 1,200 monkeys are housed in isolation. Dr. Shivley stated:

“The consensus of the scientific community is that these monkeys are dependent upon their social relationships for their physical and psychological well-being.”

She also stated that depriving primates of social housing causes pathological behavior such as pacing, self-aggression, and hair plucking to the point of nudity.

That’s what happens to socially evolved animals when they are singly housed. These behaviors are entirely preventable by providing social housing.

“Model Institution”

So what does the Oregon Primate Center have to say in its defense? OHSU Provost Leslie Hallick calls their Primate Center a “model” for the industry. If Oregon is a “model,” what does that say for the other seven Regional Primate Research Centers—and all the other primate labs? Maybe that the Oregon Primate Center demonstrates the standard neglect and inhumane treatment found nationwide.

Capuchins Freed!

Through local campaigns and with the help of criticism from local media, we were able to free 22 capuchin monkeys. They were released to zoos where they are breathing fresh air, getting produce, feeling the sun, and, best of all, living together in groups for the first time in more than 20 years.

Call to Action

Through coordinated grassroots action and a coalition of national advocacy groups, we can look to the day when these horrific experiments are put to an end and all of the animals are retired to sanctuaries. Here’s some things you can do.

• If you would like to start a similar campaign in your area or want to use information and images from this campaign, please contact Matt Rossell or Leslie Hemstreet at

• You can also write your representative (House of Representatives, Washington DC 20515) and senators (Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510) to request a congressional investigation into the ethical practices of all eight federally funded primate centers nationwide.

• Overseas members should contact the US Ambassador at the US Embassy in the capital city of their country of residence.

Please tell them that the whole world is becoming aware of the waste of US taxpayer dollars and the suffering of wonderful animals at the Oregon Primate Center! Let them know that you think the public deserves access to all information about what’s going on inside Oregon’s publicly funded Primate Center, and that additional oversight is necessary to improve conditions internally and eliminate ludicrous and redundant research.