The Plan for Progress: Nonhuman Primates in Research

As we complete our 90th year of victories on behalf of animals, NAVS is looking toward the future of humane, human-relevant science. To that end, we are undertaking an ambitious, multi-faceted action plan aimed at dramatically furthering our mission to end the exploitation of animals used in science. NAVS’ Plan for Progress addresses three issues central to our mission: nonhuman primates in research, dogs in research and classroom dissection. This week we will examine nonhuman primates.

The scientific community no longer uses chimpanzees in research. This represents a huge victory—both for the chimpanzees as well as for the animal protection movement. A prime driver in achieving this result was the concerted effort of many factions, including NAVS and fellow animal advocates, scientists, and other experts whose voices changed the minds of those who had once been committed to using chimpanzees. However, in the years since that victory, NAVS has observed a troubling trend: as the use of chimpanzees has wound down, the use of other nonhuman primates has skyrocketed. In 2018, the most recent year for which records are available, nearly 71,000 macaques, baboons, marmosets and other primates were used. That same year, more than 35,000 additional primates were bred and held “in reserve” to be used later. Today, nonhuman primates account for close to 10% of all Animal Welfare Act-covered animals used in science. And among the research community, there is increasing interest in finding new ways and new rationales to use even more primates. To address this, NAVS is developing a new framework through
which the scientific community—and the public at large—can explore the ethical ramifications of nonhuman primate research—a necessary first step toward our goal of reversing the trend toward increased use of nonhuman primates with an eye toward eventually achieving for all nonhuman primates the results currently enjoyed by chimpanzees.

Our Plan for Progress is ambitious, and our goals are lofty. But they are in the service of what is right—for humans and for animals. And together we are moving forward. Poll after poll shows that an increasing number of Americans disapprove of animal testing. Because of you, we are changing hearts and minds. And we are building a world where animals are respected and protected from cruel and unnecessary scientific experiments.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Animal Action.