Members of Congress Press NIH on Required Review of Primate Experiments

Recently Passed Federal Spending Package Mandates First-Ever Scrutiny of Ethical Policies Governing Experiments on Primates

For Immediate Release:
February 1, 2016

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


Following the signing of the federal spending package by President Barack Obama, a coalition of members of Congress led by California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard has sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins outlining their expectations for the first-ever ethical review of experiments on primates that the bill requires NIH to conduct.

The relevant language in the bill, which was championed by Rep. Roybal-Allard, orders “NIH to conduct a review of its ethical policies and processes with respect to nonhuman primate research subjects, in consultation with outside experts.”

In this most recent letter to Collins, Rep. Roybal-Allard, in conjunction with Reps. Sam Farr, Eliot Engel, Dina Titus, and Brendan Boyle, stresses 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 request a timeline for the completion of the report.

More than 100,000 primates are confined to U.S. laboratories, yet unlike studies on humans and chimpanzees, NIH currently does not subject experiments on monkeys to formal ethical review or risk-benefit analysis. An independent review of NIH’s experiments on chimpanzees—who comprised less than 1/100th of the primates in laboratories at the time—conducted by the Institute of Medicine in 2011 found that the controversial tax-funded experiments were “unnecessary” and prompted NIH to end all experiments on chimpanzees and announce plans to send them to sanctuaries.

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.”

A copy of the letter to NIH is available upon request.

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