Primate Rescue Center

In Research

Background
PhotoExact numbers are difficult to come by, but reliable counts reveal that there are more than 100,000 nonhuman primates in U.S. laboratories, whether for breeding or experimentation. Those apes and monkeys kept for the latter are subjected to everything from psychological deprivation to repeated surgeries and other invasive procedures. Although the federal Animal Welfare Act proscribes standards designed to insure that research animals are treated humanely, the law actually only provides for bare-minimum standards. And as numerous undercover investigations have revealed, pharmaceutical companies, universities, and even government laboratories often ignore those requirements, subjecting animals to cruel conditions and needless suffering.

Issues

  • Although polls in developed nations show that the public objects to the use of nonhuman primates as medical research subjects, the number of primates used in research has gradually increased over the last decade.
  • Primates are used in experiments related to everything from drug abuse and neuroscience to new-vaccine research, cross-species organ transplants, and such infectious diseases as Lyme disease and the Ebola virus. All such experiments subject the animals to untold stress and suffering.
  • Because of their genetic similarity to humans, chimpanzees have been used extensively in HIV/AIDS research—a decision that has raised ethical concerns, as some animals have been subjected to decades of confinement and invasive research. What’s more, recent scientific assessments have concluded that there is no justification for using chimps in HIV/AIDS research, as the virus affects chimps and humans differently and the chimps’ reactions to vaccines do not accurately predict responses in humans.
  • The advent of new computer modeling and other technological innovations have, in many instances, rendered testing on animals unnecessary.
  • Some animals are confined to small laboratory cages, in sterile environments, for decades, even though they’re never used for testing.
  • The Animal Welfare Act, which is designed, in part, to protect primates and other animals used in research, offers just bare-minimum standards of care. And annual inspection reports reveal that many of those licensed by the USDA to conduct research on primates are in frequent violation of even those paltry standards.
  • When research grants are not renewed or drug companies shift their research focus, primates are often transferred to pet-trade brokers who operate bogus sanctuaries. These animals, who may have been subjected to infectious diseases, could end up in the auction ring or be used as breeders.

Bottom Line
From computer simulations to ethical studies with humans as volunteers, there are many viable alternative to subjecting nonhuman primates to laboratory testing.

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