Oregon National Primate Research Center

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) is an animal testing and laboratory primate breeding facility. ONPRC is part of the National Primate Research Center System (NPRC) of eight regional centers that test and breed primates for laboratories.


The center breeds primates for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and other facilities. According to its website, they have "developed models in the monkeys we study that allow us to ask key questions about aging, metabolic diseases like diabetes, reproductive enhancement". [1]

ONPRC opened in 1962 as the first of eight NPRCs, in an attempt to narrow the gap between U.S. and Soviet space programs. It merged with OHSU in 1998, becoming eligible for approximately 30 million dollars a year in state funds. Its population of predominantly rhesus macaques are so cognitively advanced, that with minimal training they can beat a 9 year old at computer games. In addition to the centers, scores of American universities use primates in research and most are notoriously secretive. [2] According to critics, ONPRC has produced no significant benefits to human health in over forty years, billions of tax dollars and countless animals used and killed in experiments. In spite of this and other criticism, the center is under a twenty year expansion. [3]


Inefficacy & criticism of primate "models"

Judy Cameron studies "Maternal Deprivation and Psychological Development" by separating infants from their mothers at different ages and circumstances. (Similar to the first 50 years of maternal deprivation studies on monkeys, conducted by Harry Harlow) which resulted in serious psychological animal suffering. (See also Inside Monkey Labs video). Kevin Grove studies "Maternal Obesity and Childhood Body Weight", although the negative effects of maternal obesity on children have already been established in human clinical studies. He recently began work on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded project inducing obesity and diabetes in female monkeys, to study effects on off-spring. According to an undercover investigator, the diet consists of water, oil, lard, beef tallow and butter. The project began in July 2007 and is scheduled to run through 2011. In 2007, Grove received $750,000 from the NIH. [4]

Michael Axthelm and Scott Wong study AIDS/HIV in primates. Even after 25 years of failed animal testing using non-human primates as models, ONPRC continues to infect monkeys with AIDS like diseases, causing acute weight loss, major organ failure, breathing problems, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and neurological disorders. [5]

The European Union (EU) has long considered a ban on the use of wild-caught primates and great apes. It has been widely accepted that the chimpanzee model for HIV was a failure as infected chimpanzees do not develop AIDS. [6] As scientists began steering away from the chimpanzee model, they turned their attention to monkeys. However, after years of pursuit and tens of millions of dollars, the failures of the monkey models are increasingly evident as well; with AIDS patient advocacy groups calling for an end to funding this type of research. Over 85 vaccines have failed human clinical trials, with some actually increasing the likely hood of HIV infection. [7], [8] On September 8, 2010, the EU voted in favor of a ban on the use of great apes, as part of drastically tightened rules to scale back the number of animals used in scientific research. [9] See also AIDS industry.

Miles Novy studies infection and preterm labor in pregnant rhesus monkeys. He implants chronic dwelling catheters in both mothers and fetuses in order to record vitals and contractions. He then uses the catheters to inject various bacteria into the mother’s womb to induce infections. The monkeys are kept tethered in vests for months to protect the equipment while in excruciating pain from bladder and internal infections. In other experiments, infant monkeys are taken from their mothers to induce trauma, so researchers can study their neurotic behavior. [10], [11]

Nicotine & alcohol studies on pregnant & infant primates

Kathy Grant studies "Maternal Nicotine Consumption and Fetal Lung Development" by starving monkeys in order to get them to "voluntarily" consume alcohol. She then observes their "drinking behavior" and kills them to coduct necropsies. In one of her more recent studies simply reiterated what is already known about the effects of alcohol on humans. The effects on alcohol on a monkeys liver "compare well with the changes observed in liver function in human alcohol abusing subjects." [12]

Eliot Spindel injects pregnant monkeys with nicotine and gives one group high doses of vitamin C (to prove that pregnant women can smoke if they take vitamin C). He then removes their fetuses by C-section and performs invasive "lung function" tests on babies, after which they are killed to conduct necropsies. [13] Pregnant monkeys are subjected to multiple surgeries to implant nicotine pumps in their backs. Subsequent surgeries change the pumps up to five times during their pregnancies. Infants are cut out of their wombs at various stages of development in order to dissect their lungs. [14] Dr. Spindel has conducted nicotine studies [15] on rhesus monkeys since 1978. See also Eliot Spindel.

Animal cruelty investigations & welfare violations

Employee whistle blowing: 1998 to 2000

Matt Rossell: Inside Monkey Labs. - 1998 - 2000

After witnessing substandard conditions during his employment at ONPRC, Matt Rossell began taking notes, photographs and videos of housing, experiments and effects on monkeys. According to Mr. Rossell, his original intent was to seek internal changes. [16] He worked as an animal care technician at the center for over two years, from 1998 to 2000:

"What I saw broke my heart every day. I witnessed baby monkeys distressed and diseased, living in their own filth and adult monkeys gone mad, attacking and biting their own bodies."

According to Mr. Rossell, the center employed only two care takers for 1,500 animals (predominately highly intelligent and social rhesus macaques). Carelessly conducted experiments were carried out by poorly trained technicians performing assembly-line style research at a break neck pace. Infants were prematurely weaned (often causing illness) and placed in small isolation cages, where they cried out for their mothers. Industry experts agree that isolation during infancy is linked to psychosis and self-mutilation in later life, yet most monkeys are never paired. Almost all research monkeys live alone in cramped, barren 4.3 cubic foot cages. The only break in their daily isolation is fear as they are manipulated for studies or having their cages hosed down while still inside (an animal welfare violation). The center has a constant influx of new, unskilled employees who receive little or no training. In 1999, it had a 100% turnover in employees. A weekend supevisor informed him that, "If you want to get trained around here you're going to have to do it yourself."

Rhesus macaques' native climates are the dry savannas of India and China. However, hundreds of these monkeys are warehoused outdoors in crude, corrugated metal enclosures for low cost breeding in harsh, Portland winter rains. Exposure leaves them wet, muddy, stressed and vulnerable to infections. The investigator witnessed epidemic outbreaks of painful shigella and listeriosis. Hundreds of monkeys became ill and dozens of infants were still born. One epidemic raged for months after management insisted that four sick monkeys be placed with healthy monkeys, to make room for a shipment of monkeys from China. After his repeated attempts to address substandard conditions, the employee made an anonymous complaint to Oregon's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector, Dr. Isis Johnson-Brown. Normally, USDA inspections were highly orchestrated tours which took place once or twice a year.[17] Although the USDA cleared the center, Dr. Johnson-Brown charged that they worked against her efforts. She also charged that her willingness to uphold the law led to her being "retrained" several times by higher ups. According to her statements during a Portland news conference in August of 2000:

"ORPRC has over a thousand monkeys locked individually in small cages. Such isolation is a known cause of neurosis and often psychosis. Photographic documentation reveals that these problems at ORPRC are so severe that the animals chew holes in their own arms, spin incessantly, drink their urine, gouge their own eyes, and attack themselves in various ways." [18]

The Shively Report

In September of 2000, Dr. Carol Shively, professor of pathology and psychology at Wake Forest University Medical School, was hired by ONPRC to assess the psychological well-being of its monkeys. Her report is one of the few known instances of a primate researcher engaging in unsparing, documented criticism of colleagues. In December of 2000, the Willamette Weekly learned of her report and requested a copy under the Oregon open records law. After repeated requests to OHSU attorney Janet Billups, the report was released on March 7, 2001. Shortly after, the center (which received 90% of its funding from federal agencies), blocked access to its facilities and officials. OHSU president and board members refused to comment or return calls, as did Lesley Hallick, OHSU's provost and vice president of research. The NIH, which funds the center, also refused to comment.

According to her report, the center produces "behaviorally aberrant monkeys" and is "out-of-touch with advances in primate handling and care". Among other things, it faults electro-ejaculation, a procedure used to gather sperm from monkeys being studied for reproductive biology (a specialty of ONPRC). The sperm is collected as often as once a week from each of a dozen monkeys who are chosen for their genetic line. The rhesus monkey is strapped into a chair and metal bands are wrapped around his penis. Electrodes are attached to the bands and shocks are given to make him ejaculate. The animal is not anesthetized. The report recommended that this procedure be "terminated immediately." According to Dr. Shively:

"It traumatizes the animal. That represents an insult to the animal that resulted in behavioral problems like an animal chewing on itself. I've been around primate centers for almost 20 years and seen a lot, but I was shaken and upset."

OHSU conceded only that the procedure caused "momentary pain and distress". So, the newspaper filed another public-records request for the records of 13 monkeys regularly subjected to this procedure. The records revealed a total of 49 instances of reported "self-injurious behavior", including monkeys who bit themselves and banged their heads against their cages. One monkey bit his genitals and another drank his own urine. In a meeting between Dr. Shively and ONPRC's associate director, Micheal Conn:

"He said he'd never seen the procedure but that he'd heard that the monkeys found it pleasurable."

A previous USDA inspection that year had found two monkeys with thermal burns on their penises. However, the no action was taken except to "encourage" (the center) "to consider doing it another way". ONPRC also lags behind modern practices in primate housing. The majority of primates used for studies are housed in isolation in single cages. According to Dr. Shively, there is no scientific reason for this. Again, the newspaper filed a public records request which revealed 236 of reported self injuries; predominately between 1998 and 2000. Five monkeys had bitten themselves so severely that fingers were amputated. Two monkeys had double amputations. Three monkeys were being administered anti-depressants and Naltrexone, a drug commonly prescribed to heroin addicts. [19], [20]


Between 1991 and 2000, Jaws, a 21 year old Rhesus monkey, underwent penile electro-ejaculation 241 times, not including multiple attempts in the same session (the procedure is done until the animal ejaculates). This method was discovered through human torture techniques. "Donor monkeys" are often fitted with aluminum collars so that technicians can handle them without being injured. Although Jaws had been through this procedure many times, he can be heard screeching in protest. (See also Inside Monkey Labs video). According to Martin Stevens of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS):

"It sounds like some nightmare out of Planet of the Apes. There's got to be a better way."

In at least one instance, a monkey providing "quality sperm", remained a donor in spite of being a danger to himself and technicians. In November of 1999, staff veterinarian Dr. Steven Kelley wrote to Dr. Gwen Maginnis requesting the removal of a monkey from the "electro-ejaculation pool" after he attacked technicians. He was kept in the pool for 3 more months and 9 more procedures. [21]

Employee whistle blowing: 2001

Two years after a Mr. Rossell went public with conditions inside the center, another former employee made similar charges in a written report. Tom Larimer was a Gulf War veteran who had been employed by several zoos working with exotic animals, prior to being hired by ONPRC in November of 2001. His two months of employment prompted him to submit a detailed critique of animal care to the center's officials. According to his report, ONPRC had "the most insensitive animal handling practices I have witnessed in any organization I have worked." He did praise the center's veterinary care. However, like Mr. Rossell, he criticized the center for forcing technicians to work so fast that they were unable to tend to psychological needs of primates (according to federal animal care requirements). He also accused some technicians of manhandling monkeys:

"I was told by one of the technicians 'training' me to 'just pull the shit out of that leg... you ain't gonna hurt that monkey."

According to Mr. Larimaer, a trainer guided his hands onto a monkey's leg with such force that the joint between the pelvis and femur popped. Some technicians also yelled at nervous, fearful monkeys. [22]

2003-4 audit: animal research dependent funding & high death/ injury rates

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN) is a national research watchdog organization. In 2001 SAEN filed the largest official complaint in history with the USDA, uncovering laboratory abuses at dozens of well known universities and research facilities. [23] According to SAEN, OHSU ranks third for federal research grants and number one for primate injuries. Over 60% of OHSU's NIH research funds are for animal research, making it more financially dependent on animal research than any U.S. lab. Internal documents revealed high rates for fatalities, severe traumatic injuries, self mutilation and psychological abnormalities within the primate center. In the 2003-2004 reporting year, 1,601 traumatic injuries requiring medical treatment were recorded; which officials attributed to "inter-primate contact". Over 15% (180) of OHSU's indoor-housed primates were psychologically abnormal. 441 primates died between 2003 and 2004; while the ONPRC brought in over $146 million in funding to the university. According to Micheal A. Budkie, executive director of SAEN:

"Virtually all OHSU primate research is scientifically meaningless, because it is performed on primates that are so psychologically abnormal that their levels of stress would severely alter their physiology. The only truly meaningful way to study primates is in their natural environment." [24]

Undercover investigation: 2007

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On November 13th, 2007, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) went public with results of a four-month undercover investigation that documented sick animals being denied adequate care and pain relief. Dr. Shively's report had recommended enrichment, “immediate” co-housing, “immediate” termination of social deprivation experiments on monkeys under three, termination of single housing for infants and termination of electro-ejaculation. (Former) director Susan Smith, trivialized the report to an Oregon newspaper and continued with business as usual. Monkeys still lived alone in tiny cages, frantically pacing and self-mutilating. The investigator also observed monkeys running in terror from employees who manhandled and shoved them into transport boxes. Cages were still cleaned with high pressures hoses with monkeys inside. The investigator was informed that they still used electro-ejaculation. [25]

USDA investigation

As a result of an October 2008 complaint by PETA, the USDA conducted an investigation which cited ONPRC for three Animal Welfare Act violations; including trauma, stress, harm, discomfort and failure to "adequately monitor and provide veterinary care". They also issued an "Official Warning for Violations of Federal Regulations" for civil or criminal penalties in the case future violations. [26]

Non-reporting of pain & distress

In April of 2008, representatives from In Defense of Animals (IDA), protested the main campus of OHSU, as part of World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week. See also Humane Movement. Concerns included under-reporting of pain and distress, in tests conducted without analgesics or pain relief at ONPRC. Research facilities are required to submit a bi-annual report to the USDA; for numbers of animals by species and three categories of pain and distress (for the approximately 5% of animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act). See also U.S. Department of Agriculture, section 3. However, according to OHSU’s last available report from 2006, laboratory primates "have had no problems with pain and distress". According to Northwest Outreach Coordinator for IDA, Matt Rossell:

“They’re not telling the truth. Of the more than 4,000 monkeys OHSU has, they’re reporting zero with pain and distress. It’s not possible.”

Mr. Rossell is best known for his undercover investigation as an employee of ONPRC. According to Rossell, the center conducts research which requires water or food deprivation, heavy restraints and induction of diseases such as malaria or immunodeficiency viruses; all of which "induce pain and distress". OHSU spokesman Jim Newman, denied that the center conducted "any procedure that causes untreated pain. If any procedure causes pain, the primate will be treated.” [27]

Ten Worst Laboratories

OHSU is listed on PETA's ten worst laboratories according to worst violations of the Animal Welfare Act; [28] largest numbers of animals killed; most painful and invasive experiments and least willing to make improvements. [29]

Vivisection "debate"

See also animal testing, section 6.

Other information

Facility information, progress & USDA-APHIS reports

This facility performed animal experiments involving pain or distress but no analgesics, anesthetics or pain relievers were administered. For links to copies of this facility's USDA-Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) reports, other information and links, see also Facility Reports & Information: Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR.[30]

USDA AWA reports

As of May 26, 2009, the USDA began posting all inspection reports for animal breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers, research facilities and animal carriers by state. See also USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports.

Public relations

ONPRC's press officer Jim Newman, sits on the board of directors for Americans for Medical Progress (AMP). AMP's board of directors consists of senior executives and other representatives employed by the pharmaceutical and vivisection industries. Board members represent multinational, billion dollar corporations as well as universities and institutions receiving government grants for vivisection. [31]

AMP runs media campaigns targeting animal rights, welfare and health advocacy groups. See also Americans for Medical Progress.


In 2006, ONPRC received $150,166,699 in federal funds. [32] See also NIH & U.S. Government's War on Animals, section 5.

Massive state funds awarded in spite of ballot defeat

In November of 2000, Oregon ballot measure 89, [33] which would have awarded OHSU up to ten million dollars in tobacco settlement money, was defeated. So, legislators took the liberty to award over 20 times that amount. In spite of the defeat of a ballot for 10 million, Oregon Senate Bill 832 which became law on August 8th, 2001, awarded OHSU approximately 200 million dollars. [34] The May 2002 passage of measures 10 and 11 awarded OHSU even more power and funds. The objective of Measure 10 was to allow private gain from tax funded research. Measure 11 changed the Oregon constitution by directing the treasury to issue bonds for $200 million dollars for the "Oregon Opportunity Plan"; created to expand OHSU's bio-tech industry. The total cost to Oregon over 20 years is approximately $316 million dollars.[35]


  • Nancy Haigwood, Ph.D., Director
  • Diana Gordon, Public Information Officer
  • Jim Newman, press office
  • Dana Morris, PMP, Executive Coordinator
  • Richard Doughty, Associate Director of Administration
  • Jane Rosato, Manager, Human Resources
  • C.J. Doane, D.V.M., Associate Director, Division of Animal Resources
  • Charles Roberts, Ph.D., Associate Director for Research
  • P. Michael Conn, Ph.D., Director, Office of Research Advocacy


  • Susan Smith, Ph.D., former Director [37]
  • Dr. Mark A. Richardson, Dean, President & Board Chair, OHSU[38]
  • Dr. Peter Kohler, former president, OHSU[39]


Oregon National Primate Research Center
Oregon Health & Science University
505 NW 185th Avenue
Beaverton, OR 97006-3448

Phone: 503-645-1141

Web address: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/research/centers-institutes/onprc/

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch articles


  1. About ONPRC, Oregon National Primate Research Center, accessed October 2009
  2. Phillip Dawdy Monkey in the Middle, Willamette Weekly, February 2001
  3. No Cures in 40 Years: Shut Down the OHSU/Oregon Primate Center, Coalition to Abolish Animal Testing, accessed September 2009
  4. 2007 state-by-state funding, Oregon, NIH, Office of Extramural Research, 2007
  5. ONPRC: Torturing Monkeys or Conducting Science? Here Are the Facts, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed November 2009
  6. (Bailey, 2008; Nath, Schumann and Boyer, 2000, and others)
  7. Dr. Jarrod Bailey An assessment of the role of chimpanzees in AIDS vaccine research. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, 36(4):, 2008
  8. An Introduction to Primate Issues: The Value of Primate Research is Challenged, Humane Society of the United States, accessed November 2009
  9. Great apes protected as EU restricts animal testing, Agence France-Presse, September 8, 2010
  10. Faculty Spotlight: Miles Novy, MD, OHSU, December 2008
  11. Oregon Health & Science University, Ten Worst Laboratories, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  12. Ivester PL and others. Ethanol self-administration and alterations in the livers of the cynomolgus monkey, Macaca fascicularis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 31(1):144-55., 2007
  13. Oregon Health & Science University, 10 Worst Laboratories, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  14. Help End Nicotine Experiments on Monkeys at OSHU: This is Thimble, In Defense of Animals, accessed September 2009
  15. Scientific Discovery: Eliot R. Spindel, Tobacco.org, March 2003
  16. Phillip Dawdy Shock the Monkey, Willamette Weekly, January 2001
  17. Matt Rossell Stories From the Inside: Statement of Matt Rossell Oregon Health Sciences University, In Defense of Animals Undercover TV, August 2000
  18. Former USDA Animal Care Inspector Exposes Agency's Disregard for Law, IDA News Release, August 2000
  19. Phillip Dawdy, Annie Hundley Monkey in the Middle, Willamette Weekly, February 2001
  20. Carol A. Shively, PhD The Psychology and Well Being of Laboratory Primates at Oregon National Regional Primate Research Center, September 2000
  21. Phillip Dawdy Shock the Monkey, Willamette Weekly, January 2001
  22. Phillip Dawdy More Monkey Business, Willamette Weekly, July 2002
  23. Stop Animal Exploitation Now SAEN, Wiserearth, accessed November 2008
  24. Hundreds Injured at Oregon Lab: Documents Reveal Rampant Cruelty, The Defender, Vol. 4, No. 2 - Spring 2006
  25. Justin Goodman PETA States Opinions on Primate Research in Oregon, Salem News, November 2007
  26. Investigation of ONPRC Reveals Horrifying Abuse of Monkeys Used in Useless Experiments, PETA.org, accessed November 2009
  27. Jason Howd World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week Begins at OHSU, Willamette Weekly, April 2008
  28. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 2009
  29. Oregon Health & Science University, 10 Worst Laboratories, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  30. Facility Reports and Information, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, accessed October 2009
  31. Board of Directors, Americans for Medical Progress, accessed January 2011
  32. National Primate Research Center System: Eight Year Primate Center Funding and Population Trends, SAEN, 1999-2006
  33. Oregon Ballot Measure 89, Explanatory Statement, 2000
  34. Tobacco Settlement To Be Wasted by OHSU: Oregon Legislators Decide No Means Yes, Coalition to Abolish Animal Testing, accessed September 2009
  35. SB832: $200 Million Dollar Heist...one way or another, White Coat Welfare, accessed September 2009
  36. Contact, ONPRC, accessed October 2009
  37. Susan Smith, ONPRC, accessed October 2009
  38. Dean's Biography, OHSU, accessed October, 2009
  39. Retiring OHSU President Dr. Peter Kohler Receives Honorary Degree, OHSU, 2008
  40. Contact, ONPRC, accessed October 2009

External articles

External resources