Primate Experimentation in the US:
The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know

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Primate Experimentation in the US: The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T.
513-575-5517 saen@saenonline.org  

Executive Summary

While exact numerical comparisons regarding the number of primates in laboratories are difficult due to reporting inconsistencies, it is clear that a very high number of primates are currently imprisoned within U.S. laboratories. For fiscal 2002 the USDA reports the use of 52,275 primates in experimentation for the entire U.S. The USDA also reports that U.S. labs held 43,676 primates for breeding or conditioning. This places 95,951 primates within U.S. laboratories. The trend in laboratory populations of primates is increasing dramatically, having risen 42% in the last five years.

Funding for primate experimentation appears to be at an all time high with the National Institutes of Health currently directing over $950 million into primate experimentation. The overall estimate for federal spending on primate experimentation (including spending by the NIH, DOD, USDA, EPA, NSF, SBIR) is $1.1 billion. The number of primate grants funded by the National Institutes of Health has risen 54.6% in the last ten years.

Government documents reveal a pattern of Animal Welfare Act violations within major primate laboratories across the United States. Primates appear to be dying of dehydration and literally wasting away within many large laboratories. Environmental enhancement appears to be another area of consistent violations of the Animal Welfare Act by laboratories across the U.S. Internal government documents also reveal that as many as 35% of all primates within laboratories experience some level of social isolation. USDA inspection reports and other documents indicate that many facilities still maintain large numbers of primates in social isolation. The cages of many primates are utterly barren, lacking even a simple perch.

Health care records from several research facilities, as well as USDA inspection reports, indicate that primates within many research facilities are suffering from severe levels of stress. Self-injurious behavior ranging from over-grooming to the destruction of extremities occurs regularly. Other psychologically pathological behavior (stress pacing, saluting, etc.) by primates is not uncommon. This stress has led to high levels of gastro-intestinal tract disease and high infant mortality rates in laboratory primates.

Many violations of federal regulations for primate care occur regularly within US labs. At least three major primate labs are the subjects of governmental regulatory action as this report is being written.

Redundant research is the norm with 188 separate experiments examining neural information processing in macaque monkeys. Many other areas of experimentation are highly duplicative, including addiction experimentation and behavioral testing.

This report makes recommendations which will lead to the elimination of redundant experimentation, accurate reporting of experimentation by laboratories, and additional public oversight regarding the escalating use of primates within U.S. laboratories.

Statistical Highlights:

1. 95,951 primates confined in labs, 42% increase over the last 5 years

2. $1.1 billion spent on primate experimentation by Federal Agencies (NIH, NSF, USDA, EPA, DOD, SBIR)

3. 54.6% increase in the number of NIH grants for primate experimentation for the last 10 years

4. Funding of the Primate Research Center System has increased by 182% in the last 5 years

Go on to:  How Many Primates Are in Labs??
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