R. Reese Fuller

Nightline probes UL's NIRC

by R. Reese Fuller

Last night Nightline aired a segment about UL Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center. The report relied heavily on video obtained by the Humane Society of the United States in a nine-month undercover investigation of the facility.

According to Nightline, the NIRC has received $18 million in federal funds from the National Institutes of Health since 2000, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is now investigating NIRC's animal welfare practices. The Humane Society has also issued this 11-page summary, noting that its investigator only worked with 20 chimpanzees, only 6 percent of the the 300 animals housed there.

The HSUS has filed a 108-page complaint with the USDA that alleges 338 possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The HSUS also alleges there is "rampant breeding of chimpanzees at NIRC," despite a 1995 moratorium on breeding, and that 200 chimps have been born at NIRC since then.

Yesterday, UL Lafayette issued a statement about the Nightline segment before it aired, which read in part:

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.

Today, federal lawmakers are scheduled to introduce the Great Ape Protection Act "to phase out invasive research and testing on approximately 1,000 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories. The bill would also retire about 500 federally owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories to permanent sanctuary." And in Baton Rouge today, HSUS officials urged Gov. Bobby Jindal to retire 26 elderly chimps from the NIRC to a permanent sanctuary.