Last month, we shared with you a disturbing trend—that experimentation on nonhuman primates (NHPs) is on the rise. The number of nonhuman primates used in research has increased by more than 30% in just the last few years, and their use is now at an all-time high.
Meanwhile, important conversations about the ethical issues associated with this research and its scientific necessity are lacking.
NAVS recently contacted National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins to express our concern and to ask the NIH to provide more specific incentives and/or funding priorities to encourage scientists to develop more sophisticated, human-relevant models to replace animal use.
Last week, we received a disappointing reply from Dr. Carrie Wolinetz from the NIH Office of Science Policy. She stated that “the rise in the use of certain NHPs is not surprising and represents both the state of the science and the importance of NHPs in research.”
Dr. Wolinetz’s reference to “the state of the science” reinforces of the largest hurdles we face in our goal of ending the use of animals in science: Moving away from animal models cannot happen without viable, human-relevant alternatives to take their place. That’s why NAVS places a high priority on providing grants to researchers through the International Foundation of Ethical Research (IFER), which will spur the development of these essential alternatives.
In her response to NAVS, Dr. Wolinetz also referenced the 2016 workshop held at the request of Congress, which asked the NIH to address the bioethics of nonhuman primate research, as evidence of the NIH’s attention to the ethical issues surrounding such research. Unfortunately, during that workshop, a serious conversation about ethics did not take place, as not one of the presentations at the day-long workshop was allotted to a bioethicist.
However, one important thing that Dr. Wolinetz did mention was that she would take our information into consideration to determine whether there is a need for renewed examination of this matter—which there is.
And that is where we need your help.
Please contact Dr. Wolinetz (email address: firstname.lastname@example.org) to let her know, in your own words, that you are not supportive of your taxpayer dollars being used to fund experiments on nonhuman primates. Primates are thinking, feeling creatures who display emotions like humans—they should not be used as disposable research tools in the laboratory. Just because nonhuman primates can be used for research does not mean that they should. The scientific community needs to refocus its efforts on developing more human-based models to increase the chances of improving human health and well-being.
Let Dr. Wolinetz know that clear criteria regarding the use of nonhuman primates in research need to be established. Researchers are making claims about the “necessity” of nonhuman primate research without sufficient scientific and ethical justification. When such criteria were established for chimpanzees, this ultimately led to the animals no longer being used in biomedical research.
We appreciate your assistance with this urgent matter.