It’s Time to Re-Prioritize our Research Investments

Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) or Indian Monkey in forest sitting on tree.

A few months ago, NAVS alerted you to a disturbing effort being made by the animal research community to increase nonhuman primate research for vaccine development.

As you may recall, researchers were describing a supposed “shortage” in monkeys that were available for experimentation due to the increased demand for nonhuman primates during the COVID-19 pandemic and the drop in supply of monkeys from China during this time. The proposed solution involved creating a large government “stockpile” of monkeys to be used for research.

As you know, NAVS strongly opposes the use of nonhuman primates—and all animals—in scientific research. Not only is animal experimentation a cruel practice, it can also produce misleading results that sidetrack meaningful scientific progress.

That is why NAVS assembled a coalition of like-minded groups and individuals that urged the Biden administration not to proceed with plans to increase the availability and use of nonhuman primates for experimentation. Supporters like you have joined this effort, and to date have sent more than 1,000 letters to the Biden administration in opposition to this shortsighted plan.

According to a recent article in Nature, the National Institutes of Health has already invested approximately $29 million over the past two years in U.S. National Primate Research Centers, to build outdoor enclosures and improve existing housing for the animals. It is anticipated that the NIH will spend an additional $7.5 million by the fall.

In addition, in its budget request for 2022, the Biden administration has proposed increasing funding for National Primate Research Centers by 27%, which would give the centers an additional $30 million. We are actively monitoring this situation and will keep you posted on whether this additional funding is approved by Congress.

Rather than continue to invest in nonhuman primate research, the Biden administration should instead be having conversations about why 68,257 nonhuman primates were used for research in the U.S. in 2019 (the last year for which animal use statistics are available) and why an additional 40,269 nonhuman primates were held by a facility but not used in any research that year—and how that could possibly constitute a “shortage” of animals.

The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be viewed as an excuse by the animal research community to get away with more animal experiments. Instead, it should serve as an important opportunity to move away from traditional animal experiments and toward the use of human-relevant tools.

Reallocating money set aside for the expansion of nonhuman primate research for the development of human relevant models is a better solution that will protect the lives of animals involved in research and will help improve the discovery and testing of treatments for human patients, too.

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Source: Subbaraman, N. “The US is boosting funding for research monkeys in the wake of COVID,” Nature, July 15, 2021.