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Thursday, March 5, 2009

USDA Sec Vows Accountability for Animal Abusers

The Humane Society of the United States has accused UL’s New Iberia Research Center of physical and psychological abuse of animals at the facility.

The allegations came after a nine-month undercover investigation by the HSUS, the findings of which were released on Wednesday.

“The major issue for us is the psychological depravation and torment these animals are enduring,” HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a conference call. “These animals were in isolated or barren cages, not handled well, not given stimulation, and subjected to procedures and sedation methods that were demonstrably inhumane.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement on the matter Wednesday afternoon:

"In light of the video evidence presented today, I am ordering a thorough investigation of animal welfare practices at New Iberia Research Center. If the allegations prove to be true, the American public can expect the perpetrators to be held fully accountable. I take the protection of animals very seriously, and will do my utmost to fully enforce the Animal Welfare Act."

UL System President Randy Moffett released the following statement on Wednesday:

“The University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center is a well-respected facility that conducts important medical research. The center frequently undergoes stringent internal and external review of its animal care practices, maintains compliance with all national regulatory agencies, and recently received praise from an external review committee for the care and use of its nonhuman primates.

The University has a no tolerance policy of animal abuse and strict reporting guidelines to ensure the safety of its animals. Consistent with this, any employee who witnesses instances of abuse and fails to report such findings through the appropriate channels is as guilty as those who commit such abuses.

UL Lafayette takes their responsibility to care for animals housed at the New Iberia Research Center very seriously and will follow-up on these allegations with appropriate corrective action.”

UL Lafayette officials released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“The American public continues to advocate and financially support medical research aimed at finding cures for diseases and illnesses that are detrimental to their quality of life. The New Iberia Research Center plays a vital role in research that advances the nation’s public health.

Endless debate has ensued as to the best approach to conduct this research, but little debate has questioned the need. Biomedical research is a stringently regulated field and the New Iberia Research Center maintains professional standards that meet and surpass these regulations.

The videos posted online today by ABC Nightline and the Humane Society and obtained in an undercover manner at the New Iberia Research Center are part of a larger campaign by the Humane Society to ban the use of chimpanzees in research. Nothing in the videos alter the fact that the New Iberia Research Center is in compliance with all federal standards and guidelines regarding the care and use of animals, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.

The New Iberia Research Center has made and continues to make numerous contributions to public health improvements for the prevention and treatment of diseases such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, mumps, measles, chicken pox and prion diseases (mad cow disease). In addition, advances are being made in the development of antiviral compounds, therapeutic proteins, gene therapy, and in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

We take very seriously our responsibility to care for the animals housed at the center and to carry out biomedical research according to federal rules and regulations. We are driven by high standards and ethics and believe the videos distort acceptable standard procedures and incorrectly imply mistreatment of nonhuman primates at the New Iberia Research Center. We take seriously our mission to conduct research that plays a critical role in protecting the health of the nation.”

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