Record number of monkeys being used in U.S. research

Science | AAAS | 11/2/2018 | Staff
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The number of monkeys used in U.S. biomedical research reached an all-time high last year, according to data released in late September by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The uptick (see graph below)—to nearly 76,000 nonhuman primates in 2017—appears to reflect growing demand from scientists who believe nonhuman primates are more useful than other animals, such as mice or dogs, for testing drugs and studying diseases that also strike humans.

Numbers - Animals - Data - Jay - Rappaport

“I think the numbers are trending up because these animals give us better data. … We need them more than ever,” says Jay Rappaport, director of the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana, which houses about 5000 monkeys. The increase also comes amidst a surge in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which supports much of the nonhuman primate research in the United States.

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The figures have surprised and disappointed groups seeking to reduce the use of lab animals. The biomedical community has said it is committed to reducing the use of research animals by finding replacements and using these animals more selectively, says Thomas Hartung, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing in Baltimore, Maryland. But the new numbers suggest “people are just blindly running toward the monkey model without critically evaluating how valuable it really is.”

Nonhuman - Primate - Research - Scrutiny - Harvard

Nonhuman primate research has faced intensifying scrutiny. Harvard University closed its national primate research center—one of only eight in the country—in 2015, after a federal investigation into the deaths of four of its animals. That same year, NIH ended its support of all invasive chimpanzee studies, citing a report that found these animals were no longer essential to biomedical research. And in 2016, Congress directed NIH to hold a workshop on the...
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