PETA on primates

By LIZ PELLY  |  August 4, 2011

Also, there are about 100 million animals in laboratories in the United States, and the Animal Welfare Act only covers about one million of them. Because mice, rats, birds, and other cold-blooded animals, who are the most predominantly found animals in US labs, are not considered animals under the Animal Welfare Act. They're not given any of the legal protections that other animals are, even though they make up the overwhelming majority of animals who are tested on.

HOW DOES THIS COMPARE WITH OTHER COUNTRIES? In the UK, it's illegal to test tobacco and alcohol products on animals. In the US, that's not illegal. RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris, for example, still do that. In every other industrialized country in the world, it's illegal to conduct invasive experiments on Great Apes and chimpanzees. In the United States, there are still 1000 chimpanzees locked in labs, and experiments are still allowed to be conducted on them. There's legislation being considered in Congress that would make that illegal, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Saving Act, to prohibit invasive experiments on chimpanzees and also retire 500 federally-owned chimpanzees to sanctuaries.

WHY DO YOU THINK OUR COUNTRY IS SO SLOW TO CATCH UP WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD, TO PROTECT ANIMALS FROM EXPERIMENTS? The industry is very powerful here. The only reason mice and rats aren't covered [by the AWA] is because animal experimenters didn't want them covered. The original authors of the AWA, including Bob Dole, made it very clear in 1966 that all animals were supposed to be covered. That was the original intent of the law, but animal experimenters have fought tooth and nail to make sure that they aren't, because it would make things expensive and inconvenient for them. . . . It's about money. It would cut into their profits.

THE MAJORITY OF THE MONKEY POPULATION IN AMERICA IS IN LABS. WHERE ELSE DO THEY LIVE? Unfortunately, in the United States it's still not illegal for people to privately own primates in their homes, although legislation to ban that has been proposed several times. So there are primates in people's homes, circuses, zoos . . . but most of them are in laboratories. These includes primates that are bred in captivity. The United States imports tens of thousands of monkeys every year, many of whom are captured in the wild.

ARE LAB MONKEYS IN THE US BRED HERE? Most are bred here in captivity. There's companies that do that for money. Covance is one of the largest suppliers of monkeys to laboratories in the world. There's also Charles River Laboratories, headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts. They're one of the largest importers of primates in the country, and the largest supplier of mice and rats to laboratories in the world.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO PEOPLE WHO SAY THE DATA BEING DRAWN FROM PRIMATE RESEARCH IS MORE VALUABLE THAN THE LIVES OF MONKEYS BEING TESTED ON? That position is not founded in science or ethics. The primates being experimented on in laboratories are like humans in all the ways that matter. They feel pain, they feel suffering, and they feel pleasure. And treating them like disposable laboratory equipment is unjustifiable. Experimenting on them for any reason, despite hypothetical benefits to humans, is wrong. Scientifically, the benefits of experimenting on primates have been consistently overblown by people who make money by doing it. And very rarely are the results they get from primates relevant to human beings.

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