WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Animal rights advocates are looking to expand recent research treatment laws passed on behalf of chimpanzees to another primate — medical lab monkeys.
New U.S. laws requiring ethologically appropriate treatment of chimpanzees is being pushed by several animal organizations for the same research treatment of monkeys. The Animal Legal Defense Fund says current rules on animal welfare and treatment is outdated and no longer consistent with today’s research on animal feelings.
There are an estimated 112,000 monkeys currently being kept in U.S. labs, with many labs viewing calls for improved treatment to be burdensome expenses on researchers, The Guardian reports.
“These animals are being kept in neglectful conditions,” Carter Dillard, head of litigation at the fund, told The Guardian. “The conditions do not reflect what the science shows these animals need. Without the standards we’ve asked for, these animals are suffering.”
The ALDF and other animal rights organizations say that even when researchers are punished for animal cruelty or mistreatment it is often a light slap on the wrist.
One example cited is a Nevada lab’s $10,000 fine in response to the overheating deaths of 32 monkeys.
The ALDF is joined by the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, Laboratory Primate Advocacy Group and New England Anti-Vivisection Society, who all petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in May to reconsider how nonhuman primates are treated in U.S. labs. The USDA bears responsibility for the Animal Welfare Act that guides research animal treatment guidelines – which are minimal for monkeys.
Monkeys today are often kept in tiny cages, the young are separated from their mothers early on, and cages are often barren aside from a plastic toy – vastly different from what would be their natural habitats.
“The activists say the approach taken with chimpanzees is a good approach for all primates. I agree,” Brian Hare, a Duke University anthropologist who’s worked with both chimps and monkeys, told The Guardian. “We have a responsibility as researchers to do everything we can to limit suffering.”
“I’m not against invasive research, and I’m not against using animals in research to save human lives,” he said. “But the way to protect this research is to show compassion.”
“We’re not asking them to stop any research,” said Conlee. “This is about improving the monkeys’ care while they’re being used.”