Scientist Edward Taub, convicted this week of violating Maryland animal cruelty laws in the treatment of some of his laboratory monkeys, says he will fight to continue his research and ensure the survival of his Silver Spring laboratory.
The 50-year-old physiological psychologist, who for the past 11 years headed his own laboratory at the Institute for Behavioral Research, now is a research scientist with no research projects and no research funds. He has not been cowed by that dilemma.
"I am not complaining, regretting my past or looking with trepidation at the future," Taub said this week. "I am looking at today and trying to deal with situations as best as I can.
"It won't be over my dead body that they'll close this laboratory, but it will be very close to that," he vowed after he was convicted and paid about $3,000 for failure to provide veterinary care to six research animals.
After his loss in the first legal round of a case that has drawn national attention, Taub's most immediate problems center on the return of his research monkeys and his effort to win back a research grant that was suspended by the National Institutes of Health.
His scientific endeavors were thrown into chaos last Sept. 11, when Montgomery County police, in an unprecedented move, raided his laboratory, seizing 17 research monkeys. The raid was spurred by allegations of animal mistreatment taken to police by Alex Pacheco, a 23-year-old animal rights advocate who infiltated the laboratory as a volunteer.
Since then, Taub's $220,000 research grant has been suspended and his monkeys, after a tug-of-war battle between the scientist and animal advocates, have been housed at an NIH holding facility in Poolesville.
Taub, who maintains his innocence, said he will appeal the conviction.Meanwhile, he said, he will work for the return of the 16 monkeys still remaining in Poolesville. One of the monkeys died last month after being attacked by another monkey.
Taub's attorney, Edgar Brenner, said there should be no problem in gaining the return of the monkeys involved in 11 cruelty charges that were dropped, and that he hoped to work out an agreement with county prosecutors on the return of the others. However, both the prosecutor and lawyers representing the animal welfare advocates have asserted that they will fight in court to prevent their return.
Taub used the animals in research that he said has "demonstrable benefit" in the treatment of stroke victims and others who suffer damage to their central nervous system or spinal cords.
Taub needs money, along with his research animals, to continue his work. He said he is appealing his NIH suspension to higher authorities at the agency. Meanwhile, he said he has been forced to let four part-time employes go and has not taken any salary for himself since Oct. 1 at the laboratory, which is one of five divisions at IBR.
Taub said the laboratory had two major funding sources -- the NIH grant and a private foundation grant that recently lapsed. Because he has been spending "14 hours a day" defending himself, Taub said he has not yet been able to reapply for his private grant, but soon will do so.
He acknowledged that lack of funds could eventually force the closing of the lab, but insisted that no matter what happens he will continue with his work.