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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 22 January 2002 Issue

Primates used In Experiments "Outrageous"

By Michael Budkie

The use of primates in experimentation is a very ephemeral issue, which seems to escape your grasp just when you think that you have finally captured it.  This issue seems to expand while you hold it, becoming larger and more monstrous at every turn.  The means of inflicting suffering on primates are so many and varied, so extreme as to be unimaginable.  Just when you think that you have seen the worst, something still more heinous rears its ugly head.

I have used 60,000 as an approximation of the number of primates experimented on annually in the U.S.  This previous estimate was based on USDA statistics, which did not include primates held in laboratory breeding colonies.  This article will discuss several of these colonies, namely those associated with the Regional Primate Research Centers.

The previous estimate that I had utilized, 60,000 a year, was only for primates actually used in experimentation in the U.S.  When the number is increased to include all primates in labs or breeding colonies associated with labs the number becomes substantially larger.  While accuracy in this area is difficult, a safe approximation would likely put 80,000 - 100,000 primates in laboratory cages in the U.S.

While these 80,000 - 100,000 primates are scattered throughout many facilities in the U.S., the eight regional primate research centers imprison a large percentage of the victims.  The eight regional primate research centers are simultaneously some of the largest and most expensive laboratories vivisecting primates in the U.S.

The primate centers are funded through these entities: the University of Washington, Seattle; the University of California, Davis; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Emory University; Harvard University; the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research; Oregon Health Sciences University; and Tulane University.


The eight primate centers (these statistics are based on progress reports filed with the NIH by each facility) collectively imprisoned 25,094 primates in 1999.  3000 of these primates died (1367 during experimentation, 1633 of "natural" causes).

During 1999, 3463 primates were born at these labs.  However, many of the primates born at these facilities do not live.  One example would be the colony at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  During 1999 there were 203 births at the UW.  16 of these were stillbirths.  44 more primates died while very young.  This works out to an infant mortality rate of 30%.

While this seems high, it is not the worst.  At Harvard/New England Regional Primate Research Center (NERPRC), 223 primates were born during 1999.  However, the facility lists doing necropsies (post-mortem reports) on 125 neonatal animals.  That works out to an infant mortality rate of 56%.   The California Regional Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis had 572 births in 1999.  However there were at least 131 deaths of young animals.  This is an infant mortality rate of 22.9%.

Overall death rates at the primate centers vary significantly from facility to facility.  However, the research colony at the Yerkes Primate Center (affiliated with Emory University) has the highest non-experimental death rate - at 300.  14.5% of the animals in this colony died of non-experimental causes.  In the breeding colony at Yerkes 75 primates died of non-experimental causes.  In total 375 primates died of disease, trauma, and similar causes at Yerkes.  We must begin to wonder about the animal care, or the lack thereof, at Yerkes.  Other facilities with high non-experimental death rates include the breeding colonies at the University of Washington (10.6%), Harvard/NERPRC (9.1%), and the research colony at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (8.6%).

The primates at these facilities suffer from conditions like pneumonia, enteritis, encephalitis, hepatitis, and many other pathological conditions.


Every year the eight primate center laboratories receive $245,378,191 in federal grants from the National Institutes of Health  (the branch of the NIH which funds the primate centers is the National Center for Research Resources - NCRR).  Every day the NIH spends $672,269 on the primate centers.  Another $29,821,670 comes from other sources, both private and governmental.  This makes a grand total of $275,199,861 in funding from all sources.  On the average each primate center receives $34,399,982 per year.  Or, for the purpose of imprisoning and torturing these 25,094 primates, the federal government spends $10,966 per animal per year.

The big winner in this game of primate slaughter for fun & profit is the University of Washington, Seattle - with a grand total of $82,539,354 coming into the university as a result of primate experimentation.  The Delta center at Tulane comes in second, receiving $41,129,021.  Yerkes comes in third receiving $33,940,932.  Amounts for the other labs are: Harvard $27,050,262, U.C. Davis 27,162,490, Oregon Health Sciences $25,968,017, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research $19,170,198 and the University of Wisconsin comes in last with $17,439,587.  However, at last report the University of Wisconsin was building more laboratory space.

The experimentation carried out at these laboratories has many variations.  In general it falls into these categories: primate breeding, infectious diseases, neurology, and psychology.  Each of the primate centers has different focuses, but they have many things in common as well.

One issue that is relevant to all of the primate centers is duplication of experimentation.  To address this issue it is necessary to look at experimentation in several areas.  The areas of experimentation that we will examine are: drug addiction, and visual/brain mapping.

These brands of research are not unique to the primate centers.  The CRISP system shows 60 separate grants which involve both cocaine and macaque monkeys.  Many of these grants are funded at the primate centers.  Addiction experimentation is currently underway at Harvard, Emory, and the University of Washington in Seattle.  While the UW has not made addiction a major area of study, both Yerkes and the New England Regional Primate Research Center (affiliated with Harvard) perform many addiction experiments on primates.  Each facility has several grants in this area, with numerous sub-projects.  However, it is also important to note that facilities such as the University of Michigan, the Medical College of Virginia, Johns Hopkins, the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and several other labs also study addiction in primates.

The area of vision experimentation is also riddled with duplication.  The NIH currently funds almost identical vision experiments at over 30 laboratories across the U.S. receiving over 50 separate grants from the NIH totaling over $13,000,000 annually (See the table below).  And several of these labs are at the Regional Primate Research Centers, namely -- the UW Seattle, Yerkes, Harvard, and Tulane.

Other areas of potential duplication include psychological research (experiments such as maternal deprivation - and many variants of this kind of experiment), reproductive research, HIV, etc.   If an experiment can be done on primates it usually is, and repeatedly.

How do we impact this issue??  First, we MUST raise public awareness.  Most people do not know the sheer number of primates imprisoned in the primate centers, or the mountains of money that are wasted in these labs.  The information in this article should prepare us for discussing this issue intelligently.  Your legislators should know that you question the expenditure of over $250,000,000 on eight primate labs that cannot accurately claim to have cured anything.

Contact your senators and legislators asking them to request a General Accounting Office audit of the primate centers with regard to issues of duplication and waste.  Issues of animal care should also be addressed, with regard to high death rates at Emory/Yerkes, and excessively high infant mortality rates at Harvard/NERPRC.

Please contact your elected representatives to request that they take action on this issue immediately.

Primate Vision Experiments in the United States, Fiscal Year 2000 Funded by the National Institutes of Health*

State -             University -                                     Researcher - Grant Age (in years)

Alabama         U of Alabama, Birmingham              Timothy Gawne - 4
                      U of Alabama, Birmingham              Paul Gamlin - 12
                      U of Alabama, Birmingham              Allan Dobbins - 2

California         Smith Kettelwell Institute                  Stephen Heinen - 4
                       Smith Kettelwell Institute                  Edward Keller - 15
                       University of  California, Davis         Kenneth Britten - 7
                       California institute of Technology      Richard Anderson - 13
                       California institute of Technology      John Allman - 4
                       University of California, LA              Madeleine Schlag-Rey - 21
                       Stanford                                          Jennifer Raymond - 2

Connecticut      University of Connecticut                  David Waitzman - 8
                        Yale                                                Charles Bruce - 16

Georgia            Emory                                              Garrett Alexander - 2
                       Emory                                              Michael Mustari - 16

Indiana            Indiana University/Purdue                   David Suzuki - 9

Massachusetts  Harvard                                            Richard Born - 5
                        Harvard                                           Peter Schiller - 30
                        Harvard                                            John Assad - 3
                        MIT                                                Earl Miller - 5

Maryland          Johns Hopkins                                   Steven Hsiao - 5
                        Johns Hopkins                                    Rudiger Von Der Heydt - 22
                        Johns Hopkins                                    Michael Steinmetz - 5

North Carolina   Wake Forest University                      Terrence Stanford - 2

Pennsylvania      University of Pittsburgh                       Carol Colby - 3
                          University of Pennsylvania                  Gary Aston-Jones - 5

Rhode Island      Brown University                               John Donoghue - 12

Tennessee         Vanderbilt                                            John Kaas - 26
                         Vanderbilt                                            Jeffrey Schall - 5

Texas               University of Texas, Galveston             Christine Livingston - 4
                         Baylor                                                Davis Sparks - 28

Virginia            Virginia Commonwealth University         Stephen Goldberg - 5

Washington      University of Washington, Seattle          Chris Kaneko - 13
                        University of Washington, Seattle         Michael Shadlen - 5
                        University of Washington, Seattle         Albert Fuchs - 30

*This table is not all inclusive.  Many more grants exist in this area of experimentation, especially at government agencies outside the National Institutes of Health -- such as the National Science Foundation.

Return to Animals in Print 22 Jan 2002 Issue

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