For Immediate Release:
April 11, 2022
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Norfolk, Va. – This morning, PETA rushed a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, detailing what is likely an active public health threat. Documentation uncovered by PETA shows that certain importation, breeding, and experimentation facilities in the U.S.—including the federally funded national primate research centers (NPRCs)—that warehouse tens of thousands of monkeys are hotbeds of “assassin bugs,” whose bite transmits the parasite that causes Chagas disease, a “silent killer” among humans. The large, outdoor colonies of monkeys are playing an active role in the maintenance, diversity, and transmission cycle of this deadly zoonotic pathogen that threatens the health of humans and dogs. There is growing concern that individuals with Chagas disease are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 manifestations.
In the letter, PETA notes that not only public health but also scientific integrity is in jeopardy, as using sick monkeys compromises experimental results—and urges Becerra to take the necessary steps to end public funding of the NPRCs and Walensky to act immediately to close the commercial primate facilities in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas.
“These facilities have failed to address or even come clean about the public health threat posed by keeping thousands of monkeys in their custody,” says primatologist and PETA Senior Science Advisor Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel. “PETA is calling on the HHS and the CDC to shut down the dangerous, shameful monkey experimentation industry, for everyone’s sake.”
Necropsy reports, internal reports and e-mails, and peer-reviewed publications uncovered by PETA reveal that several of the seven NPRCs—which collectively have received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in funding from the National Institutes of Health—as well as multiple private commercial primate facilities have failed to control the spread of Chagas disease or maintain the biosecurity of the monkeys who are used or sold for experimentation. Even more alarmingly, they have failed to report to state health authorities or address the public-health threat that holding tens of thousands of monkeys poses. The Texas Department of State Health Services has provided PETA with documents showing that the state’s primate facilities have failed to report this pathogen in their monkey colonies.
PETA notes that CDC researchers acknowledged more than a decade ago that primates held in outdoor facilities and used for experiments may be at particular risk of acquiring the Chagas parasite yet took no action.