New Iberia

HSUS Investigation: Chimpanzee and primate abuse at New Iberia Research Center (2009)

On March 4, 2009, the ABC News television show Nightline revealed evidence gathered by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) during an undercover investigation at the publicly-funded New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, the United States’ largest primate testing laboratory. [1]

At the time, more than 6,000 primates were housed at this lab, which is part of the University of Louisiana. According to Nightline, New Iberia’s research “includes contract work for pharmaceutical companies and hepatitis studies. The lab receives millions in public funding but limited public scrutiny.”

HSUS President Wayne Pacelle told the Associated Press that “an undercover HSUS investigator secretly videotaped those and other scenes over nine months in 2008 while working as a lab assistant,” and that HSUS found 338 violations of federal law and policy. HSUS sent the U.S. Department of Agriculture a 108-page complaint detailing the alleged violations at the New Iberia lab. [2] 

HSUS provided Nightline with video that showed many apparent instances of outright cruelty and mistreatment, including an infant monkey being struck by a lab employee, a restrained monkey being stuck across his teeth with a pipe, and chimpanzees on perches being shot with sedation guns, after which they crash to the floor. 

Nightline showed a particularly disturbing video segment that the HSUS investigator described: "This is a baby [monkey] who is completely alert, completely awake, completely aware of his surroundings, and he's getting a substance forced down his throat. He is screaming, and he was very terrified throughout this and you can hear the screams of the other babies and mothers in the background because the mothers were in there too." [3]

Dr. Martin Stephens of HSUS told Nightline: “The spinning around in the cages, the biting of open wounds, self-mutilation, those are indicators of frustration, neurosis and even psychosis.”

Since this video was made, the National Institutes of Health announced in June 2013 the retirement of almost all federally owned chimpanzees from research. Approximately 310 chimpanzees will be moved from laboratories to sanctuaries, a process anticipated to take several years.  An estimated 440 chimpanzees continue to be available for research by private laboratories, unaffected by the NIH policy. [4]

Also in June 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing captive chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act, which would sharply reduce the use of any chimpanzee in biomedical research.  [5] The outcome on that proposal is still pending. 

You can watch video clips of the HSUS New Iberia investigation here: 

[1]  ABC News, “Ex-Employees Claim 'Horrific' Treatment of Primates at Lab,” March 4, 2009,

[2]  Daily News,  “Chimpanzees lead 'wretched existence' at Louisiana's New Iberia Research Laboratory, says group,” March 5, 2009,

[3]  ABC News, “Humane Society Investigation: Undercover,” March 3, 2009, 

[4]  Gorman, James, “U.S. to Begin Retiring Most Research Chimps,” The New York Times, June 26, 2013,

[5] Gorman, James, “U.S. Proposes Wildlife Protection for Captive Chimps,” The New York Times, June 11, 2013,