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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Articles and Reports

The Reality of Primate Experimentation in the United States:
Lies, Greed, and Insanity

By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T.

Experimentation Performed on Non-human Primates: What Happens to them?

The perception which is held by the American Public of animal experimentation in general and primate experimentation in particular is of an area of scientific inquiry that is well-regulated and thoroughly examined during lengthy approval processes. The underlying assumptions of this perception would be that due to substantial regulation the animals (primates) used in this area must be well cared for and thoroughly investigated. One of the results of this kind of structure for the management of animal experimentation should be that the basic needs of the animals that are regulated in this manner are met.

Most people would agree that the basic needs of most animals would include adequate access to food, water, freedom of movement, and an adequate environment to allow the expression of the behaviors which are basic to the nature of the animal in question. Non-human primates, like all other species of animals, need adequate access to food and water and an environment that allows them to behave in a way that is natural to them. The complicated psychological nature of non-human primates has even led to regulations requiring provisions for environmental enhancement to support their ability to behave in complicated ways which stimulate them in such a way as to prevent the level of boredom that can lead to psychological abnormality.

The first area to examine is whether primates routinely receive the basic necessities. In other words, do they receive sufficient food and/or water? The Animal Welfare Act requires that animals receive food and water: Section 3.82(a) Feeding: The died must be appropriate for the species and meet its normal daily nutritional requirements; Section 3.83 Watering: Potable water must be provided in sufficient quantity to every non-human primates housed at the facility. If potable water is not continually available to the non-human primates, it must be offered to them as often as necessary to ensure their health and well-being, but no less than twice daily for at least one hour each time, unless otherwise required by the attending veterinarian, or as required by the research proposal approved by the Committee at research facilities. (The full text of the Animal Welfare Act is available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/publications_and_reports.shtml ). Are the provisions of this act followed and are there exceptions which are allowed?

Like many general regulations, the regulations providing for adequate food and water have exceptions. For example, Section 2.38(f)(2)(ii) Handling: Deprivation of food or water shall not be used to train, work or otherwise handle animals; Provided, however: That the short-term withholding of food or water from animals, when specified in an IACUC-approved activity that includes a description of monitoring procedures, is allowed by these regulations. What does this mean? What is considered short-term?

First, it must be noted that legitimate reasons for withholding of food and/or water from animals do exist, and that in some instances this is standard practice in veterinary and even human medicine. The most obvious example is in the period just before the performance of surgery. In this situation food and/or water are withheld to avoid vomiting during surgery and the potential aspiration of regurgitated food and/or water – this kind of food/water deprivation is not what will be discussed in this report. Additionally, some illnesses require the withholding of food and/or water during treatment to avoid excessive vomiting, again this is not the kind of food/water deprivation that will be discussed in this report. Regarding the training of animals to perform behaviors, the use of food as reward is not uncommon. Many private individuals use treats to encourage specific behaviors when training dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Special rewards can be effective means of re-enforcement when training animals to do simple behaviors which are not unpleasant for the animal. This use of food/water as reward is not what we are discussing. This type of reward focuses on additional special items, not limiting access to basic foodstuffs or liquids.

The handling regulation listed above, while sounding innocuous has had extreme implications for non-human primates used in certain areas of experimentation. Many times researchers want primates to perform complicated behaviors which are either unpleasant to them (climbing into restraint chairs) and/or unnatural to them (tracking visual stimuli across video screens). The result of this situation is that the

primates must have a very strong motivation to perform these behaviors, and perform them consistently. Simple motivations of food and water rewards are apparently not sufficient. Apparently only severe hunger or thirst are sufficient motivations to coerce the monkeys into performing the desired behaviors in these protocols. Clearly these are very unnatural behaviors (i.e. tracking visual stimuli across a video screen) which are totally foreign to these monkeys when in their natural environment. So, effective motivations for these behaviors must be extreme. The result is that, on days when they are to participate in these behavioral experiments, these animals are often totally denied access to water (or less commonly food) except when they are performing the experimental paradigms. In reality, the behavioral parts of these projects when the primates have access to water or food varies from 2 – 8 hours. This leaves the monkeys deprived of water for periods varying between 22 and 16 hours per day, often five days per week. They are given free access to water only on non-experimental days (mainly weekends) or at the end of the experimental session. Examples of these protocols are available at: http://www.all-creatures.org/saen/grants-gov.html

The nature of these experiments is highly invasive and requires extremely unnatural behaviors for primates like rhesus macaque monkeys, the most common experimental subjects of these procedures. It must be noted that according to the National Institutes of Health CRISP system, other species of primates including squirrel monkeys, marmosets, and aotus monkeys are used in this general type of protocol.

How wide spread is something like water deprivation? Research facilities are required to file form 7023, Annual Report of Research Facility forms with the USDA. The forms include a requirement for disclosure of exceptions to standard care. Examples of this information may include things like food or water deprivation (called “regulation’). Facilities which have disclosed limiting the access of primates to water during 2007 include: Yale, the University of Chicago, University of Alabama, Pennsylvania State University, Harvard, Catholic Healthcare (AZ), Brown University, University of California (Berkeley), and the Salk Institute. During 2006 Stanford, the Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, University of Connecticut, University of Miami, MIT, University of Minnesota, and the University of Texas (Austin) disclosed depriving primates of water. Grant applications obtained from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health reveal that Stanford, University of California (Davis), Johns Hopkins, Harvard, MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Wake Forest, Washington University and the University of Houston “restrict” primates’ access to water (this is water deprivation). Emory, Columbia, Oregon Health Sciences University and the University of Washington limit primates’ access to food (this is food deprivation). USDA inspection reports discussed in a subsequent section of this report reveal that many more laboratories severely limit primates’ access to water and/or food.

In addition to experiencing water and/or food deprivation, these neurological protocols require the monitoring of the activity of individual neurons in the brain. The preferred methodology for monitoring these individual cells is to literally hard wire into them using microelectrodes. This procedure requires that the skull of the primate be opened (holes are drilled in the skull) and recording cylinders are attached over the holes through which the microelectrodes are fed. These microelectrodes are attached to the skulls with metal screws. One other consequence of this type of experimental paradigm is that the head of the primate must be held in place. This both forces the animal to look at the visual stimuli as it is presented on the video screen, and it also prevents the microelectrodes from being dislodged by movements of the head. The immobilization of the head is accomplished by attaching a restraining bar to the skull, again with metallic screws, and during the procedure when the primate is confined in a sitting position in the restraint chair, the restraining bar is literally bolted to the chair.

This type of protocol is very widespread. Utilization of the NIH CRISP system provides access to a listing of 75 grants funded during 2006 by the National Eye Institute related to vision which use macaque monkeys. When the search is broadened by eliminating the relationship to a specific branch of the funding agency and thereby removing the focus on a specific area of neurological research, a similar search reveals that macaque monkeys are used in 160 protocols of this nature and squirrel monkeys, marmosets, and aotus monkeys comprise another 20 projects – totaling 180 separate examples of this basic experimental paradigm.

Other common areas of experimentation involving non-human primates are drug addiction, infectious diseases, etc. Of these, possibly the most common is addiction research which is exemplified by projects underway at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), the University of Minnesota, Johns Hopkins University, and the Medical College of Virginia. These protocols expose non-human primates to addictive drugs like cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, ecstasy, etc.

These projects have two basic paradigms. One paradigm confines the animals, usually either rhesus monkeys or squirrel monkeys to restraint chairs. They are trained to self-administer addictive substances (again using either food reward or liquid reward) such as pcp, Heroine, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, etc. In some instances the primates later undergo precipitated withdrawal which can lead to abdominal discomfort, ataxia, tremors, vomiting, etc. Not unlike symptoms in humans. Another paradigm keeps the primate confined to their cages while wearing Teflon “jackets” which are connected to a spring arm through which the addictive drugs are delivered. In these projects primates are used in testing that compares the addictive nature of one drug to another.

Many other uses of primates in experimentation exist including infectious disease research, genetic research, etc. However, these paradigms vary substantially and have different effects on primates based on the exact protocols involved.

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