Emerging Concerns about Nonhuman Primate Experimentation

NAVS opposes the use of nonhuman primates—and all animals—in scientific research, for both ethical and scientific reasons. Not only is animal experimentation a cruel practice, but it can also produce misleading results which sidetrack meaningful scientific progress.

Despite the known limitations of animal experimentation, we’ve noticed some concerning trends specifically regarding the use of nonhuman primates in research. The most recent statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) revealed that 75,825 nonhuman primates were used for research, testing, teaching or experimentation in 2017. This marks the highest use in nonhuman primates in the United States since reporting began in 1973. Of note, the use of nonhuman primates increased by 31% since 2014. 

What is even more worrisome is that there is a push by some in the scientific community to use even more of these animals. Just within the past month, two workshops have been held specifically to discuss nonhuman primate research. A workshop entitled “Transgenic and Chimeric Neuroscience Research: Exploring the Scientific Opportunities Afforded by New Nonhuman Primate Models” discussed limitations of rodent models and advocated for increased use of nonhuman primates in neuroscience research. A separate two-day workshop entitled “Care, Use and Welfare of Marmosets as Animal Models for Gene Editing-based Biomedical Research” promoted increased use of marmosets, nonhuman primates who are smaller and who mature more quickly than larger monkeys like macaques.

John Levine, Director of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, compared the increased demand for marmosets to “a 10-alarm fire that’s about to be set,” in a recent article in Science. The article also indicated that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “plans to launch funding to expand marmoset research” as a result.

In the meantime, there has even been a push by those with a vested interest in animal research to make it easier to transport nonhuman primates and other animals for the purposes of experimentation. Currently, the vast majority of airlines refuse to accept research-bound animals for transport, but researchers are trying to change this.

These activities have made it very apparent that the research community is eager to use more nonhuman primates. Given the cognitive abilities of these—and all animals—as well as their capacity to suffer in lab experiments, NAVS is working hard to reverse this troubling trend.

In addition to encouraging our supporters to contact the Department of Transportation to oppose requiring airlines to transport animals destined for research, we have reached out to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins to share our concerns. We want to work with the NIH to ensure that the welfare of nonhuman primates is a top priority, as is developing alternatives that will replace their use in research.

The issue of nonhuman primate-based research is one that is, unfortunately, going to grow in importance and urgency. We will keep you posted on developments in this area as they occur. We will also provide opportunities for you to help bring attention to this troubling trend, and to effect positive change by making your voices heard in support of the animals.

This entry was posted in News and tagged on November 5, 2018.
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