Wednesday night, Nightline airs a story of a Humane Society undercover videographer, showing "horrific" videos of primates at the UL New Iberia Research Center. The very next morning, the Humane Society announces that three Congressman are re-introducing a bill to abolish critical medical research. Is the Humane Society fabricating a story to further its political agenda?

To view the Nightline story, click here

To read the announcement of the federal bill re-introduction the next morning, click here.

To read UL's response to the story, click here.

A few disclaimers. I am a licensed physician who practiced emergency medicine for almost 20 years.  I am also a published researcher in animal behavior.  With that, no one at UL urged me to write this story, and in fact, I couldn't get my phone calls returned from anyone there.

Now, for a few clarifications.

One: Forget the monkeys and apes you see in the media. Grown primates are not cute, they are not cuddly. They are very, very dangerous animals. They are, pound for pound, several times stronger than we are, and they have very long, very dangerous teeth. Witness the recent near-fatal mauling of a woman by a grown chimpanzee.

Adult primates are often vicious, and they are highly intelligent.  They will fake sleep and injury, in order to ambush handlers.  In the wild, primates often fight bloody fights over dominance-- for the males, sometimes to the death-- and they will approach their human handlers with the same ruthlessness.

Two: Not surprisingly, with that immense strength, primates are also much, much tougher than we are physically.  While they are sailing great distances through trees, they not only take tremendous falls by accident, they will intentionally slam their bodies onto the ground from considerable heights, just for play.

Three: Facilities like the NIRC are not theme parks, they are not animal preserves. They are designed to be as humane as possible, but their mission is to provide humanity with essential medical research to safeguard us all.

Four: Every vaccine that protects our children, every drug that saves human lives, every internal device that allows people to continue living, must first be tested on the animals closest to us:  monkeys and apes.  If primates were not available, then that dangerous testing would have to be carried out on humans.  It is unfortunate that animals must be caged and used as subjects in important clinical research, but it is vastly preferable to any alternative.

Five:  These primates are worth a lot of money. Some of them can cost over $10K apiece to acquire, and thereafter they require many thousands of dollars each year to maintain. If, as the Nightline piece claims, the NIRC is only "about the money... [the] big bucks," then researchers have a vested interest interest in keeping these animals healthy and safe.

Six: The NIRC, and all centers like it, follow strict guidelines, and are subject to constant review and inspection.  The guidelines are designed to protect the animals, to protect the handlers, and-- very important-- to protect the license of the facility.  For all of these reasons, the NIRC works assiduously to prevent any violation of those guidelines.

When considering the Nightline videos, remember those points. The videos presented by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seem to portray a facility run amok. That makes no sense in the context of all of the preceding.

Now, let's look at what the Humane Society and Nightline actually have presented in their exposé. They had an undercover agent in NIRC for nine months, for most of 2008.  From that extended period, Nightline & the HSUS show us eight brief clips.

Consider that:  more than 6,000 non-human primates; 230 employees; an undercover camera for 9 months... and eight 15-second clips.  That's not a large number.  If animal abuse were a real problem at the NIRC, we would have expected many more clips.

And frankly we would have expected to see much worse.  Let's look at the clips, one by one.

1) A sedated primate lying on a counter with several other "unsupervised" sedated primates, slips to the ground.

UL admits that this should not happen.  They also point out that the person responsible for that animal, was the videographer herself.  But let's look at it on face value.

First, the primates aren't unsupervised, there are several people in the room. "Supervised" doesn't mean that a pair of eyeballs are on the subject at all times.  That doesn't even happen in the best ICUs.

Second, remember that these animals are extremely tough.

Third-- and I hate to admit this-- I've seen the same thing happen in emergency rooms, operating rooms, post-op recovery rooms, patient rooms-- and very frequently in nursing homes.  Patients slip off of beds, gurneys, examination tables, and surgery tables.  It doesn't very happen often, but it happens.  Likewise, veterinarians sedate our pets and work with them on flat surfaces all the time, and yes, occasionally they slip off.

It's unfortunate, but if you deal with thousands of animals-- or people-- every day, it will occasionally happen.

2) Someone walks through a hall of cages, appearing to randomly shoot primates with sedation darts. After that we see one or two animals fall to the ground.  As each hits, we hear a loud metallic "bang."

First, the images are not continuous, and are apparently spliced together from several clips.  Why aren't we shown the clips in the order in which the events unfolded?

Second, sedation darts are used in every zoo and wild animal preserve in the world.  It is a standard, well-accepted protocol for handling large, dangerous animals.  Also, review item Two above.  These animals take much greater falls all the time, just to amuse themselves.

These are trained animal handlers, following protocols designed for animal safety, and more importantly, handler safety

3) A primate is struck three times in the teeth with a pole.

The University explained that this is a standard procedure, when an animal must be tubed in one way or the other.  No great force is delivered, and the person doing it has 18 years experience.

4) A tiny primate tries to bite a handler, and the handler hits it in the head with a rubber bar.

Notice again, these clips are edited.  We don't see the animal biting the handler.  We also don't see the handler picking up the rubber bar.  But we do see the handler putting the rubber bar down and picking up a nursing bottle.