The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has denied two requests from Emory University to remove animal safety citations from federal inspection reports of the Emory-affiliated Yerkes National Primate Research Center laboratories, according to a March 21 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) press release. 

Documents recently obtained by PETA show that the USDA cited Emory on Sept. 6, 2017 for failing to provide three monkeys with adequate veterinary care. The report found one monkey 95% bald, another with reddened skin and hair loss — which PETA called “signs of psychological distress”— and one that had a large open wound on her leg. 

The University appealed the inspection report on Sept. 29, 2017, stating that the monkey who experienced alopecia was pregnant, and alopecia was common for pregnant macaques. The University also said that the monkey with dry, reddened skin was seen by a veterinarian who had determined she did not need additional treatment. 

The USDA rescinded the citations until PETA appealed the decision on Jan. 5 this year. USDA Director of Animal Welfare Operations Robert Gibbens then notified PETA on Jan. 18 that the USDA would reinstate the citation regarding the monkey with the wound on her leg.  

Additionally, in a Sept. 20, 2021 report, USDA inspectors cited Emory after a spiny mouse weanling was found dead in a cage, likely due to being smashed between a cage feeder and the wall. Emory appealed the decision on Oct. 27, 2021, stating that “a single adverse event…does not constitute a noncompliance [of the Animal Welfare Act].” 

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center’s Main Center in Atlanta hosts approximately 1,000 nonhuman primates as well as 7,500 rodents, and a Field Station in Lawrenceville, GA, houses approx. 2,500 nonhuman primates. (Natalie Sandlow/Staff).

However, the USDA notified Emory that it had rejected the appeal on Dec. 3, 2021, writing that “injury or escape of an animal related to the structure and security of an animal’s primary conclusion is considered a non-compliance under the Animal Welfare Act.” 

PETA Vice President of Laboratory Investigations Cases Alka Chadna wrote in a March 21 email to the Wheel that the University is attempting to “cover up” harming animals and violating federal regulations.

“The university is happy to rake in millions in public funding, but then wants to avoid the required transparency and public accountability that come with it,” Chadna wrote.

Laura Diamond, Assistant Vice President of Communications and Marketing at Emory, wrote in a March 22 statement to the Wheel that Emory’s research was inappropriately targeted by PETA.

“PETA’s recent misrepresentation of the facts surrounding our care of an animal with a leg wound is one example of PETA’s unsubstantiated statements,” she wrote.  “As for all Emory’s animals, this animal received timely, appropriate veterinary care by the university’s veterinarians and specially trained animal resources personnel.”

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News Editor | Eva Roytburg (she/her, 23Ox) is from Glencoe, Illinois, majoring in philosophy, politics and law. Outside of the Wheel, Roytburg is an avid writer of short fiction stories. In her free time, you can find her way too deep in a niche section of Wikipedia.