In some circles bio-medical research on primates is a nice way to say animal torture. Two baboons held captive and experimented on in a lab in Texas fought back this week and attacked workers seriously injuring one who need hospitalized for his wounds.
An animal caretaker at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research Center in San Antonio was rushed to University hospital after being attacked by two baboons Monday while cleaning the cages of these primates that are used to confine baboons used for scientific research and eventually put to death.
When the worker saw that two of the baboons had escaped from the holding area he rushed to a safety containment area designed for such an incident, but before he could lock the door, one of the baboons pushed it open.
Both of the baboons then charged the worker, who fell to the ground, where he was repeatedly bitten and scratched. A second worker came to help and and he also suffered bruises, scrapes and cuts from the baboons who were finally captured and returned to their cages as other workers came to their rescue, said spokesperson Joe Carney
A full grown baboon pictured in their natural habitat
Carney said everyone followed proper procedures, adding that this is an extremely unusual incident. "We are reviewing the safety and standard operating procedures and looking for ways that this can't happen again."
Is this an isolated innocent we asked? Do animals held in captivity often fight back? That depends on who you ask.
The recent escape incident at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research is not isolated and was not unanticipated. Inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in both May 2009 and February 2010 cited the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research for failing to provide animals with structurally sound enclosures to prevent them from escaping
Ian Smith, Research Associate in PETA's Laboratory Investigations Division has submitted a complaint in response to a recent incident at the Southwest Foundation to the United States Department of Agriculture. Smith said " This incident appears to have resulted from violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and implementing regulations including failure to ensure that personnel are qualified to perform their duties, and failure to adequately supervise employees and failure to ensure that primary enclosures contain the nonhuman primates securely.
A primate undergoing experimentation at Covance in Vienna Virginia who were fined for violations of the Animal Welfare Act following a PETA investigation that exposed the horrors and cruelty.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are asking for a full investigation into this incident and any underlying issues and are asking for swift and decisive action if non-compliance to the Animal Welfare Act is found.
In May 2009, the USDA cited SFBR for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act after an inspector found significant problems in the structural integrity of the primate facilities that could result in animal escape or injury.
And then again in February 2010, a USDA inspection found that a rhesus monkey escaped his enclosure and gained access to an outdoor area when temperatures were below freezing and could not get back in. The monkey was found near death the next morning and was euthanized. The USDA inspection reports outlining these incidents are available in this PDF.When asked their position on the Biomedical Research facility? Justin Goodman, Associate Director of the PETA Laboratory Investigations Department replied,
The Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research condemns thousands of intelligent, sensitive primates, including baboons, monkeys and chimpanzees, to lives full of terror, loneliness, pain and misery in lab environments that violate all of their natural sensibilities and literally drive them insane.
The animals imprisoned at SFBR are forced to endure invasive, painful and deadly experiments and are treated as pieces of laboratory equipment that are disposed of when they're no longer of use. Its no surprise that these wild animals take any chance they can get to escape from their captors and resist the abuse that is inflicted upon them.
Animal rights activists around the world want science to cease experimenting on animals including primates like this one found in laboratories across the country.
Government documents seem to verify PETA's concern and allegations as this USDA record and report show that in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, SFBR reported confining and experimenting on 4,380 primates, 125 guinea pigs and 2,596 opossums. Some of these experiments entail infecting primates and guinea pigs with illnesses and diseases and not providing them with any pain relief as they suffer in agony and die.
How many more people need to be put at risk like the men seriously injured this week when the baboons followed their natural extinct and fought back to preserve their own lives? Should primates and other animals continue to suffer cruel and unusual experimentation in laboratories around the world? Or be kept as pets who eventually will become aggressive and attack without warning?
Researchers who study these animals by going to their homelands and watching them in their natural habitats—rather than observing them in unnatural laboratory settings—understand that baboons are highly intelligent, curious, and social animals. They live in complex groups of 10 to 200 and depend on each other for companionship, affection, and survival.
A baby baboon safely rests on his mothers back as she forages for food for both of them.
Young baboons love to play, and they show a joy in living. They spend carefree days swinging from vines, playing games of chase, and wrestling and tumbling with their friends. Female baboons remain in the group into which they were born, among their relatives, throughout their entire lives. Their social lives are centered on the network of family in which they live.
In many ways they are just like humans. In one way they aren't, baboon's wouldn't cruelly imprison humans.
When they are used as research tools in labs and are denied all that is natural to them, something humans wouldn't do to each other, aggressive behaviour is going to present itself in many ways. Baboons and other primates are crammed into barren metal cages and these naturally social beings then suffer unbearable loneliness and fear as they witness the horrors around them. And if a given an opportunity to attempt to find freedom they will fight back, and they will lose when they're put to death under the guise of science.
Read more on the The Hidden Life of Baboons.