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May 26, 2023
Researchers want more primate experiments, animal studies halted, and loving chimps
Report Concludes More Funding Needed for Primate Breeding
A report on the need for primates in research, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), claims that more funding and resources are necessary to advance biomedical investigation and discovery in the U.S. Published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine at the request of Congress, “Nonhuman Primate Models in Biomedical Research: State of the Science and Future Needs” arrives at several conclusions supporting “decisive action and a national commitment to a comprehensive plan for nonhuman primate (NHP) availability.” The plan would largely focus on primate breeding to circumvent stronger restrictions on importing and transporting primates and to facilitate an increase in NIH-funded primate experiments.
The report perpetuates claims of a shortage of primates for use in biomedical research, without examining whether the demand from researchers is justified. The numbers are already huge: nearly 110,000 primates, mostly macaques, were housed in labs in 2022, a number that has been increasing since 2019, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NIH already invested more than $30 million to expand its current breeding programs in 2021 and it will take many more millions of taxpayer dollars to execute the report’s described plan.
The report also fails to address the intense suffering of primates in experiments—and breeding programs, since mother-baby separation is the norm in such programs, but also deeply damaging. Additionally, it does not discuss challenges to the scientific validity of primate models in biomedical research.
However, the report does acknowledge the potential of alternative methods, stating that “continued development and validation of new approach methodologies…is critically important to support further advances in biomedical research” and “may reduce the need for nonhuman primate…models in the future.”
NIH has yet to respond to the report. We urge the agency to reject the report’s conclusions that assume increased primate research will better protect the health of Americans and instead develop a plan to increase the development, validation, and use of non-animal methods.
In South America, Colombian officials suspended studies at a malaria lab funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and seized more than 100 owl monkeys and 180 mice, following reports of alleged mistreatment of animals. Researchers at the lab, which is part of the Caucaseco Scientific Research Consortium, are also accused of falsifying ethics approvals. This alarming incident reflects concerns made by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which reported on the NIH’s lack of oversight to protect animal welfare at foreign labs.
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A National of Institutes of Health-funded experiment that involved shocking rats on their feet while they were being given cocaine has been halted, according to the University of South Carolina. An anonymous complaint revealed that electric shocks were given for longer periods of time than permitted by protocols approved by the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The university stopped the experiment following an investigation that included “opinions from external subject matter experts,” but has not said if the study will be discontinued permanently.
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Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
For the Love of Chimpanzees
If you want to learn more about chimpanzees, their personalities, and behaviors, we suggest checking out Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (CSNW) on social media. They do an awesome job highlighting each of the chimps in their care so you can get to know their favorite things (Foxie loves troll dolls, while Jamie prefers cowboy boots), personality quirks (Cy loves looking at magazines that feature humans, not other animals), and their sanctuary milestones (Lucky’s first time venturing outside to go climbing). As you get to know them, they’ll start to feel like your friends!
CSNW is a longtime recipient of AAVS grants and one of our favorite sanctuaries that we support. We love that they share the lives of the chimps with us and all that sanctuary brings. However, inevitably life comes full circle, and we learn of sad news, too, such as the recent death of Jody, one of the first chimps to call CSNW home. Before coming to the sanctuary, Jody was used in hepatitis vaccine research and as a breeder. On her passing, CSNW commented, “Jody embraced all that the sanctuary offered, and we are so glad we, through your support, were able to provide her with a new life.”
While Jody will be missed, the remaining 15 chimps and their caretakers have many more adventures, milestones, and happy times to experience. And we wish them all the best!