The use of primates in experimentation is an extremely controversial issue. Some scientists claim that primate experimentation is crucial to medical advancement.1 Others claim that the use of primates has not contributed to advances in the diseases that are currently killing humans (i.e. heart disease, cancer, HIV, etc.) 2 While humans are more closely related to primates than to other species, primates may still be too dissimilar to be suitable subjects in studies of human diseases.
Many people also have significant ethical concerns regarding the use of primates in experimentation. The confinement of primates in laboratories has significant consequences due to their social nature. If primates are psychologically similar to human beings in their ability to suffer, then the use of primates in potentially painful/stressful projects should raise serious moral questions.
However, with the expansion of certain fields of investigation, experimentation on primates is likely to increase in coming years. Expansion of the Primate Center system is currently underway with concurrent increases in funding.
Therefore, this is a particularly relevant time to be placing primate experimentation in general, and the larger primate labs in particular, under closer scrutiny.
This report will utilize recently obtained information to discuss the number of primates in laboratories, as well as the overall trend currently seen in primate experimentation. This report will also discuss the amount of funding given to primate experimentation on the national level. While the funding issue is being discussed, the closely related area of experimental duplication (and the potential waste of federal funding) will also be examined.
This document will also examine the conditions primates are subjected to within laboratories. While it is currently difficult to discuss the situation within all laboratories, certain specific labs will be examined regarding the way that primates are treated.
In summary, this report will provide invaluable information regarding the number of primates within labs, the types of experiments performed on primates, the number of projects using primates, the funding of primate experimentation on the national level, and the conditions within labs that use primates.
Expert Panel’s Recommendations for the Regional Primate Research Centers Program, January 18, 2001, Office of Science Policy and Public Liaison
Is Primate –Modeled Research Crucial, C. Ray Greek, in Pathways to Progress, available at http://www.curedisease.com/Pathways/PathwaysFall03.pdf
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