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PETA Sues Health Agencies Over Alleged Withholding of Primate Experimentation Records

The sign outside the Washington, D.C. building of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Washington D.C., USA - February 29, 2020: Sign of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) at its headquarters building in Washington, D.C. USA.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Inc. (PETA) is suing a trio of government health agencies over claims that the agencies violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) through allegedly failing to timely respond to the plaintiff’s requests for information on the government’s funding of animal experimentation.

PETA’s Thursday filing against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) seeks to recover records from seven FOIA requests it made beginning in January 2020, the last one in October 2020. The submissions requested various documents and communications connected to purportedly “inhumane” experiments involving animals, particularly nonhuman primates.

“Over the past thirty years, Defendants NIH and NIMH have funded numerous experiments, and authorized or approved federal employees to conduct experiments, that cause irreparable damage and significant pain and distress to non-human primates,” the complaint claimed. “These experiments involve highly invasive brain surgeries that systematically destroy portions of primates’ brains to determine what impacts these brain surgeries have on primates’ behavior and cognition.”

PETA utilized the FOIA avenue for obtaining information in order to educate the public about “expenditures of public resources,” according to the complaint. These purported expenditures in particular — those related to studying primates’ brains — have equaled at least $50 million, PETA claimed.

The plaintiff argued that the defendants’ failure to produce the requested records “within the timeframes the FOIA mandates” constitutes a constructive denial of the requests, claiming that withholding the records without providing an estimated timeframe of processing violates FOIA.

“Plaintiff is being irreparably harmed by reason of Defendants’ FOIA violations, and Plaintiff will continue to be irreparably harmed unless Defendants are compelled to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law,” PETA claimed, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order that the defendants must “immediately” produce the nonexempt requested records and monetary relief.

Eubanks & Associates PLLC and PETA’s internal counsel represent the plaintiff.

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