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

Articles and Reports

The Primate Experimentation Scandal:
An Investigative Report

How many primates are experimented on?

The most basic question about primate experimentation that needs to be addressed is how many primates are used in experimentation. The most basic answer is that we really donít know with any degree of reliability. This requires an explanation.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulates animal experimentation on the federal level. The AWA is enforced by the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). One part of the AWA requires all research facilities to report their animal use in experimentation to the USDA/APHIS on an annual basis. APHIS then compiles these individual facility reports together into a larger national report, called the Animal Welfare Enforcement Report (AWER).

Do all of the laboratories that use animals report their usage? An examination of the AWERs, which the USDA has compiled, reveals that most facilities do report. However, the AWER has never (since 1985) contained statistics from all active research laboratories. The total of non-reporting facilities has varied (during the last five years) from 22 to 128 (out of approximately 1200 active laboratories). This problem of non-reporting makes national statistics incomplete, at best. In the primate experimentation area such non-reporting could be significant.

The total of primates used in experimentation published by the USDA for fiscal 2000 is 57,518. This is a very large total. However, it could be drastically inaccurate. According to the AWER for 2000, 22 laboratories did not report their animal use in time to be included in the report, or did not report at all. This does not seem to be an overly large percentage. But, with respect to primate experimentation, it could be a very significant number.

Primate experimentation is largely centered in a few laboratories, such as the eight regional primate research centers. It is not uncommon for one laboratory to report primate experimentation numbers in the thousands. If one laboratory (such as a primate center) utilizes over 3500 primates, and statistics from one, two, or three of these facilities are not included in the report, then any statistics based on these totals would be substantially inaccurate.

A few examples of information from the reports of specific laboratories will illustrate this situation. The fiscal 2000 reports are not yet accessible, but the fiscal 1998 reports are available. What do the 1998 reports tell us? At one point it was possible to obtain 1998 animal use reports on the USDA/APHIS website. The 1998 reports for several labs were obtained, examined, and cross-referenced with other documents.

The 1998 AWER lists laboratories in the state of Connecticut as using 190 primates. And if we compare the reports (formerly) posted on the USDA/APHIS website for Connecticut the totals seem to jibe. However, are the reports themselves accurate?

One of the largest research facilities in the state of Connecticut is at Yale University in New Haven. It seems that the folks at Yale are somewhat numerically challenged. The report forms filed by Yale staff with the USDA for fiscal 1998 are very confusing. The report lists 32 primates as experimented on and 71 as being held for use in breeding, conditioning, etc. The exceptions to standard care section of the report lists 22 different primates as being deprived of water during experimentation. This section also lists 65 macaque monkeys as being deprived of food during experimentation. This means that either the primates were being deprived of both food and water during experimentation, or at least 87 primates were experimented on. Even if only 62 primates were experimented on (which means that 22 of these 65 were deprived of both food and water), that is still significantly different from the 32 primates that are listed as being experimented on. Also, the total for primates listed on Yaleís USDA report is 103 (32 + 71).

This is very confusing; especially since a USDA inspection report for Yale dated 7/14 & 15/98 lists 198 non-human primates as being on the premises of Yale. What was done with those other 95 primates that are not accounted for?

Additionally, the numbers for animals held for breeding or conditioning are not included in the experimentation total. The Connecticut total for primates in this category is 182. 190 are listed as being experimented on in Connecticut. But, the actual total for primates in labs in Connecticut for 1998 is 372, not 190. But then, maybe we need to add those other 95 primates that Yale conveniently forgot. That brings our total for Connecticut to 467 primates actually in labs in 1998. The true total is more than twice that listed by the USDA Animal Welfare Enforcement Report for 1998.

Now, if we examine the numbers for the state of Louisiana a similar phenomenon is repeated. The numbers match up for primates that are experimented on (7,935), but another 5,763 are listed for breeding purposes. That makes the real total for Louisiana 13,698. That is an inaccuracy of about 42%.

Are there any other examples of inaccuracy? Unfortunately there are many. During fiscal 1998 Harvard Medical School reported experiments using 293 primates and holding 43 on hand for breeding purposes. This is a very interesting report in light of the fact that the Harvard Medical School is the recipient of the NIH grant that funds the New England Regional Primate Research Center (NERPRC). This facility typically has well over 1,000 primates on hand at any one time. The annual progress report filed by Harvard/NERPRC with the NIH lists a research colony of 887 and a breeding colony of 674 for a total of 1,561. This is a discrepancy of over 1,200 primates.

In the three instances discussed above the USDA numbers omitted 7,265 primates, or over 46%. If this same level of error is applied to the total for primate usage, a total is reached (for fiscal 2000) of 106, 515 primates currently imprisoned in labs across the United States.

The bottom line is that we really donít know how many primates are used in experimentation every year, or how many primates are held captive in labs as breeding stock. The USDA/APHIS reporting system is too flawed, and the laboratories seem to be either inaccurate or dishonest. The only thing that can be said for certain is that the numbers promulgated by the USDA/APHIS ignore thousands of primates.

It is difficult to discern trends from the numbers promulgated by the USDA due to their inherent inaccuracies. Therefore we have used information from the CRISP system of the National Institutes of Health as a basis for developing some inkling as to the general direction that primate experimentation is moving in. When the grant listings for projects involving the primary primate species utilized in experimentation (macaque monkeys, baboons, squirrel monkeys, and chimpanzees) the obvious trend is that primate experimentation is increasing. In fiscal 1992 858 NIH funded projects utilized the four primate species we have discussed as being used most commonly. In fiscal 2001 1361 projects utilized the same four species. This change represents an increase of 58% in a ten-year period (see table below for specifics).


Species Fiscal 1992 Fiscal 2001 %Increase
Macaque Monkey 647 1009 56
Baboon 100 186 86
Squirrel Monkey 72 103 43
Chimpanzee 39 61 56
TOTAL 858 1359 58

USDA reported total for 200057,518



YALE = 95
HARVARD = 1225

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