II. Primate Statistics
One of the most basic questions which must be answered
when dealing with the use of primates in experimentation is "How many?"
In other words, how many primates are used in laboratories every year?
For fiscal 2001 the USDA reported this number to be
approximately 49,000. However, since this report was originally posted
to the website of the USDA it has been proven to be erroneous.
Communications with the USDA have proven that this total was inaccurate
due to late reporting, and data entry errors. In a previously issued
report (The Reporting of Animal Experimentation in the U.S.:
Errors, Lies, and Contradictions available at
this author has documented discrepancies within government documentation
which substantiate an error in this 2001 total as high as 12,880
primates, or 26%.
This (previous) report also documents substantial
reporting errors by the primate centers themselves. One example will
suffice. During fiscal 1998 the New England Primate Center (NEPRC)
reported use (breeding and experimental) of over 1800 primates. However,
for this same year Harvard, the facility that is the recipient of the
grant that funds the NEPRC, reported only 330 primates used (breeding
and conditioning) to the USDA.
It appears that the agency (USDA) charged with
enforcing the AWA as it pertains to primates (and all other animals) may
not even be able to correctly count the animals it is charged to
protect. Additionally, the facilities, which are required by law to
report to this agency, appear to be prone to filing false, or at least
inaccurate reports with the USDA, and this misreporting seems to have no
The most recent statistics available from the USDA,
those published for 2002 indicate a much higher number of animals in
laboratories. These statistics, which are themselves incomplete (due to
several facilities having not filed reports with the USDA), indicate
that 52,279 primates are experimented on in the U.S., and another 43,676
are kept in laboratories for breeding and conditioning purposes. This
puts the current U.S. laboratory primate population at 95,955. This
figure almost doubles the statistics publicized by the USDA for 2001.
While this number is closer to the truth, it may still be conservative.
In statements made to media, officials (i.e. Dr. Jerry
Robinson) with the Primate Research Center system of the NIH have said
that 2000 primates are used in NIH funded AIDS research, and that this
number exceeds the primate production capacity of the primate center
system by 200 (implying that the primate center system can only produce
1800 rhesus monkeys per year). This is grossly inaccurate.
Progress reports filed by the eight Primate Research
Centers for fiscal 2000 show that the Centers had live births totaling
2487 new macaque monkeys.
The fiscal 2000 progress reports filed by the Primate
Centers also disclose some other disturbing contradictions. These
contradictions are related to the number of animals dying at the Primate
Centers. Information on primate deaths shows up in two separate areas of
these reports. The colony statistics sections of these reports disclose
overall primate numbers. They reveal starting populations, births,
experimental deaths, transfers, deaths, and final populations. Then in
the operational sections of the reports the facilities discuss the work
of the pathology departments of each Primate Center. These pathology
departments perform necropsy reports on the primates that die at the
Primate Centers. In many cases the pathology departments are reporting
the performance of necropsies on more primates than are reported as
dying. These contradictions exist within the progress reports
One example should serve to explain the numbers below.
For Fiscal 2000 the Yerkes Primate Center reported 428 primate deaths in
the colony statistics portion of the progress report. The pathology
department section of the same report disclosed the necropsy of 463
primates, with 2 having been done for primates from outside sources.
This leaves 461 necropsies done on Yerkes primates. This is a
discrepancy of 33 primate deaths.