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UPDATE: NIH Sets Date for Workshop on Ethics of Experimenting on Primates

Written by Michelle Kretzer | February 12, 2016

UPDATE: As a result of PETA’s successful campaign to shut down NIH’s experiments on baby monkeys, the agency will be organizing a workshop on September 7 at which experts in science, policy, ethics, and animal welfare will discuss the ethics of experimenting on primates.

The following was published on February 22, 2016:

UPDATE: After members of Congress contacted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to outline their expectations for the congressionally mandated ethics review of experiments on primates, NIH Director Francis Collins has announced that the agency will convene the first-ever workshop on the issue this summer. Collins says the workshop will include “outside experts across scientific disciplines such as primatology and animal behavior, as well as ethicists and experts in animal health and welfare,” and that the agency will produce a report for Congress.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard reacted to the announcement, saying, “This is great news. I’m very happy that the NIH is going to conduct the ethical review we asked for, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they find. I’ve been very concerned about the ethics and oversight of primate research, and so have many of my colleagues in the House. Members of both parties have been supporting this review, because there’s nothing partisan about improving animal welfare.”

Rep. Brendan Boyle added, “I strongly believe federally-funded biomedical research must be more efficient, effective and, above all, humane. I am grateful that the NIH is responding to our concerns and agrees on this basic premise.”

“I’m really uncomfortable with experiments on primates,” said Rep. Sam Farr. “Hopefully a thorough review of the NIH’s work, one that includes voices from all sides of the debate, will address many of the concerns I share with the public about these experiments. We have a moral responsibility to make sure our tax dollars do not support any unethical and unnecessary research using animals.”

Rep. Dina Titus added, “I welcome this action by the NIH; it is the humane thing to do. For more than a year I have been advocating for an independent, ethical review of all primate research and recently helped expose and end unnecessary taxpayer-funded experiments on chimpanzees and baby monkeys.”

The following was originally published on February 12, 2016:

By signing the federal spending package, President Barack Obama mandated that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct the first-ever ethics review of experiments on primates. And several members of Congress are ready for it to happen and see the Year of the Monkey bring real change for primates. Led by U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, a group of representatives sent a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins outlining their expectations.

The bill orders “NIH to conduct a review of its ethical policies and processes with respect to nonhuman primate research subjects, in consultation with outside experts.” So Reps. Roybal-Allard, Sam Farr, Eliot Engel, Dina Titus, and Brendan Boyle stressed in their letter the need to involve outside experts to “ensure the review is as independent as possible, so that the most difficult ethical questions with regards to the use of all non-human primates in a wide range of experiments can be honestly asked and answered.” The representatives also requested a timeline for completion.

More than 100,000 primates are confined to U.S. laboratories. Unlike studies on humans and chimpanzees, NIH currently does not subject experiments on monkeys to formal ethical review or risk-benefit analysis. The current request for a review of all experiments on primates was prompted by PETA’s exposé of NIH’s cruel psychological experiments on baby monkeys that were recently ended following a yearlong PETA campaign.

“Decades of cruel and wasteful experiments on monkeys at NIH and the laboratories it funds with taxpayer money demonstrate exactly why an independent ethical review of all NIH’s primate experiments is so sorely needed,” says PETA Director Justin Goodman. “PETA applauds these forward-thinking members of Congress, who want to ensure that federal funds are spent on research that is scientifically and ethically justified.”

Note: PETA supports animal rights and opposes all forms of animal exploitation and educates the public on those issues. PETA does not directly or indirectly participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office or any political party.

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