UMass Shuts Down Talks With PETA on Animal Welfare in Labs

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University of Massachusetts–Amherst (UMass) Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy has abruptly shut down good-faith negotiations with PETA that were aimed at reducing the number of animals used in experiments and modernizing the school’s research program. We need your help to urge him to continue these important talks.

photo of monkey in cage

In July, three of PETA’s staff scientists met with Subbaswamy and Dr. Mike Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement, to discuss commonsense measures that UMass could take to improve animal welfare and bring its research methods into the 21st century. The meeting followed our news release about a UMass experimenter’s disturbing experiments on animals and was brokered by one of the school’s top donors. The discussion was amicable, and Subbaswamy showed interest in our numerous recommendations. Continued discussion was assured.

But then he slammed the door. Subbaswamy recently told PETA that UMass would not address any of our concerns nor implement any of our suggested changes because tenured professors didn’t want to. And just like that—as though he has no authority at his own university—he walked away.

PETA has asked him to reconsider, but we’ve received only silence in return.

Our initial suggestions included eliminating the school’s use of monkeys in experiments, implementing higher animal welfare standards and oversight, and establishing a center for non-animal research alternatives, as well as other recommendations for specific research areas already underway at UMass.

These are commonsense ideas. If implemented, they would place the school in the vanguard of U.S. research facilities and allow UMass to focus on both compassion and human-relevant research—an enviable position for a university with such a dismal record of animal welfare violations. This is a fact not lost on the several UMass alumni and donors who have contacted PETA to express their concerns about the school’s violations and its continued use of primates.

photo of monkey in cage

In just the last few years, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have found that the university caused the death of a marmoset after severely burning him while he was recovering from a vasectomy, that an attending veterinarian was unaware of potential health or behavior problems with animals, and that a marmoset was injured during recapture after the animal had escaped.

UMass knows it sorely needs reform, as evidenced by the court case that PETA recently won against it, forcing it to release hours of video recordings documenting horrendous psychological experiments on monkeys that the school tried to keep hidden from the public. The experimenter connected with the experiments, Melinda Novak, retired suddenly—just after PETA released the disturbing footage.

Given these facts, it is inconceivable that UMass should choose to resist change. Please take a minute to urge Subbaswamy to accept our invitation and reopen discussions.

Kumble R.
University of Massachusetts–Amherst
University of Massachusetts- Amherst

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