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SHAME HAS NO HOME THERE: After ignoring outrageous welfare violations, NIH defunds Colombian research facility that abused monkeys

After the allegations of animal abuse came to light, the Colombian government immediately launched an investigation that led to the swift shutdown of the facility. For the NIH to keep funding the lab many months after the investigation, while the animals were being held under horrific conditions, is shameful.

PHIE JACOBS: A malaria research facility in Colombia that came under scrutiny early this year after allegations it mistreated monkey test subjects can no longer receive funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the agency has decided… On June 29, the NIH removed the Caucaseco Scientific Research Center, which had a nearly $600,000 grant ending this year, from its list of approved animal facilities. The action means the center, which is run by Colombian couple Myriam Arévalo-Herrera and Sócrates Herrera, is not eligible for further NIH support.

The practices of the center in Cali first came to the attention of Colombian authorities in January, following an investigation by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Government officials closed the facility in March. A few weeks earlier, officials had seized more than 100 owl monkeys from the premises, and the attorney general announced a criminal investigation into the organization’s activities. According to PETA, the rescued animals had been confined to rusted, feces-encrusted cages, with multiple monkeys suffering from missing eyes, infections, and other injuries…

The husband-and-wife team that runs the facility has received $17.6 million in funding from NIH since 2003. Sócrates Herrera is listed as the principal investigator on a grant worth $582,000 this year… In April, two members of Congress urged NIH to publicly comment on whether it would continue using U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund the center, which also had a 2022 grant to Herrera for $319,000 that was up for renewal.

The controversy coincided with a March report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office calling into question the agency’s oversight of animal care at foreign facilities receiving NIH funding. The report noted that NIH regularly failed to conduct foreign site visits, often relying on a facility’s word that it was complying with agency rules for animal welfare…

For Magnolia Martinez, who led the original PETA investigation, waiting until 6 months after the allegations of animal abuse came to light is too little too late. “PETA contacted both NIH and Colombian authorities back in December,” Martinez says, noting that the Colombian government immediately launched an investigation that led to the swift shutdown of the facility. The comparatively slow response by NIH, she says, is “bad news for animals and [for] valid science”. SOURCE…


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