Aging boomers bring boom in monkey traffic

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2004:

Beijing news media on November 25, 2003
announced the arrest of lab animal dealer Jia
Ruiseng. Called by police the biggest wildlife
trafficker ever caught in China, Ruiseng
allegedly bought 2,130 macaques during the year
from illegal trappers in central Anhui province.
China is building a new primate research
center at Sun Yat Sen University, in the
southern part of the country, but it will start
with only 100-200 macaques, officials said.
Ruiseng served the export trade.
The Royal SPCA in 1995 won a ban on the
import into Britain of wild-caught nonhuman
primates for research use. In August 2003,
however, the Home Office authorized the import
of captive-bred monkeys from the Centre de
Recherches Primatologiques in Mauritius, despite
RSPCA video purporting to show “squalid and
barren cages that appear to fall far short of
International Primatological Society guidelines.”
The Medical Research Council, a British
government agency, is reportedly increasing its
access to monkeys by starting a macaque breeding
center at Porton down in Wiltshire.

In December 2003 the Supreme Court of
Israel upheld an interim order barring Mazor Farm
from importing 60 monkeys from Mauritius for
resale and export. Founded in 1991, Mazor Farm
sold 1,362 monkeys to Britain between 1994 and
2000. Contending that the business violates
Israeli law, the activist groups Let The Animals
Live and the Association for Moral Science
claimed a significant victory.
“There are 200,000 monkeys in the world
who are being raised in capitivty for research
purposes,” Mazor Farm attorney Robert Fishman
testified. “About 100,000 are used annually.”
The U.S. uses nearly half of them:
49,382 in 2001. USDA records show that from 1973
to 2001, nonhuman primate use rose 17%, but the
jump was in from 1975 to 1987, when use rose
70%. After a 31% drop in the next four years,
the annual fluctuations have been under 10%.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service animal
import data collected and analyzed by Aesop
Project founder Linda Howard tells a more
alarming story.
U.S. lab acquisition of monkeys from
abroad more than doubled between 1997 and 2002.
Monkey imports jumped 22% over the preceding year
in 1999, 19% in 2001, and 22% again in 2002.
From 1995 through 2002, Howard found,
Charles River Laboratories imported 36% of the
monkeys, Covance Research Products imported 30%,
and all of the top 20 importers were labs or lab
supply firms.
The 16 leading sources of monkeys
included four suppliers in China, four in
Indonesia, three each in Mauritius and Vietnam,
and two in the Philippines.
In August 2003 the National Institutes of
Health awarded a $6.4 million, five-year grant
to the Pittsburgh Development Center to
investigate cloning nonhuman primates,
apparently to expedite domestic captive breeding
as an alternative to imports.
PDC researcher Gerald Schatten “has
attempted conventional cloning methods with more
than 700 eggs from rhesus macaques and has
transferred 33 early embryos into surrogate
mothers, but never achieved a pregnancy,”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer Anita
Srikameswaran disclosed after reviewing a paper
Schatten published in Science.
If lab use of nonhuman primates is as
steady as the USDA data indicates, why the
surging interest in acquiring monkeys?
Offered Jonathan Amos of the BBC News
Online science staff in July 2003, in an
assessment as applicable to the U.S. as to
Britain, “The number of nonhuman primates used
in medical research in the U.K. [3,342 in 2001] is set to rise significantly. The pharmaceutical
industry has acknowledged as much. As science
seeks to tackle the neurological diseases
afflicting a ‘greying’ population, it will need
a steady supply of monkeys on which to test the
safety and effectiveness of its next-generation
pills. Experts say the extremely specific way
that these novel pharma products will work means
primates–because their brain architecture is
very similar to our own–will be the only animals
suitable for experimentation.”
“We’re not talking about a cure for
baldness,” Genetic Interest Group representative
Dr. Alastair Kent told Amos. “We’re talking
about horrendous conditions–Parkinson’s,
Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia.”
To do the testing, comparably horrendous
conditions must be inflicted on the test subjects.
And it is not all about drugs.
Transplant research involving nonhuman
primates peaked in notoriety with the macaque
head transplants done by Robert White,
1963-1971, and spiked again after the Baby Fae
baboon-to-human heart transplant controversy of
1984. Those experiments, however, were just
parts of the beginning phase of transplant
experimentation on nonhuman primates.
Documents leaked to the British group
Uncaged Campaigns in September 2000 and October
2002 “describe in unique detail harrowing
experiments involving the transplant of
genetically modified pig organs into 500 higher
primates,” Uncaged Campaigns summarized in April
2003, after winning a 30-month court battle
against the drug maker Novartis Pharma, which
had sought to suppress publication of the data.
“The research was conducted by
Cambridge-based biotech subsidiary Imutran Ltd.,”
Uncaged Campaigns continued, “at the
laboratories of Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Imutran, bought by Novartis in 1996, had hyped
pig organs as an imminent solution to transplant
waiting lists. The experiments were a
blood-soaked disaster, causing severe suffering
as scientists failed to overcome the complex
barriers to cross-species transplants.”
Implants of mechanical and electronic
devices tend to have a higher success rate than
intraspecies xenographs.
Miguel A.L. Nicolelis of Duke University in
Durham, North Carolina, in October 2003
published details of a brain implant that allows
monkeys to control robotic arms with their
thoughts. “The technology could some day allow
people with paralyzing spinal cord injuries to
operate machines or tools with their thoughts as
naturally as others today do with their hands.
It might even allow some paralyzed people to move
their own arms or legs again, by transmitting
the brain’s directions not to a machine but
directly to the muscles in those latent limbs,”
enthused Rick Weiss of the Washington Post.
Like the monkeys used in brain research
decades ago, the Nicolelis research subjects
have wires sticking out of their skulls–but
Nicolelis is working on wireless signal
transmission technology, Weiss reported.
Such high tech experiments are rapidly
superseding some of the older kinds of primate

Deprivation study ends

“University of Colorado Health Sciences
Center researcher Mark Laudenslager–featured on
national animal rights web sites for his maternal
separation experiments–has ended his 17-year
study,” Committee for Research Accountability
directors Rita Anderson and Barbara Millman
announced in November 2003.
“Since 1986 Laudenslager has conducted
experiments in maternal separation, funded by
the NIH,” the CRA announcement explained.
“Laudenslager claimed his most recent study,
‘Behavioral and Physiological Consequences of
Loss,’ would show if inadequate parenting had an
effect on the progression of AIDS in HIV-positive
children. Laudenslager sent two groups of
three-to-four-year-old monkeys,” including a
group separated from their mothers in early
infancy, “to the University of Washington
Regional Primate Research Center. Both groups
were injected wth the simian form of the HIV
virus. After that the monkeys were isolated in
individual cages where they were monitored for
the progression of symptoms.”
Laudenslager was among the last
researchers in the U.S. doing work derivative
from the isolation chamber experiments done by
Harry Harlow from1930 to 1970 at the University
of Wisconsin. Harlow drove generations of baby
macaques mad, plunging them into stainless steel
“pits of despair,” subjecting them to
deliberately cruel robotic “mothers,” and
allowing mothers dri ven insane by his
experiments to abuse and kill them. When Harlow
semi-retired to a part-time post at the
University of Arizona, other University of
Wisconsin faculty immediately dismantled his lab.
Harlow died in 1981, at age 76, a
reputed drunk whose chief contribution to
mainstream laboratory primatology was inventing
the “rape rack,” a device for artificially
inseminating primates. But he had trained some
disciples and defenders, who have continued
similar work.
Laudenslager distinguished his work from
Harlow’s in part by reuniting babies with their
mothers after varying lengths of time–a
distinction meaning little to babies who had no
way of knowing that the reunions would ever occur.
Psychological experimentation believed to
be relevant to educating and socializing the Baby
Boom generation was the most prestigious branch
of primate research during most of Harlow’s
career. AIDS research took the spotlight in the
early 1980s, but by the early 1990s was clearly
a dead end. Chimpanzees, the species
researchers most anticipated using, not only
rarely develop HIV but also are increasingly
regarded as being to close to humans to use in
invasive experimentation.
“It would not surprise me,” National
Center for Research Resources director of
comparative medicine John Strandberg told the
American Association of Laboratory Animal Science
annual meeting in October 2003, “that at some
time in the future–I don’t want to get into
when–chimpanzees are not used” in biomedical
Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand,
and Sweden have all adopted regulations that
impose moratoriums on the use of great apes in
Around the world, labs are divesting of
chimps and purchasing monkeys. More monkeys can
be kept in the same space, for less cost.
Monkeys are also typically subject to less
regulation–but that is not supposed to be true
in the U.S.
In 1985 Congress amended the Animal
Welfare Act to require labs, zoos, and other
federally inspected institutions to provide for
the psychological well-being of dogs and all
nonhuman primates, regardless of species.
A six-year political battle over the
proposed enforcement regulations followed, as
the National Institutes of Health and
universities resisted anything that would force
significant changes in facilities. After the
enforcement regulations were at last introduced,
another seven years of lawsuits and lobbying
followed, until the USDA itself concluded that
the regulations it imposed in 1991 are inadequate
and poorly enforced.
On July 21, 2003 the Animal Legal
Defense Fund and Animal Welfare Institute filed
yet another lawsuit seeking to make the 1985
Animal Welfare Act amendments a reality.

Keeping proprietary secrets

Monitoring compliance with the Animal Welfare Act requires observation.
In the early days of invasive animal
experimentation, some of the most notorious
vivisectors invited the public to witness their
work–and charged admission.
By the late 19th century, however,
animal experimenters usually sought secrecy.
Initially the idea was to escape public
opposition to cruel research. After substantial
opposition developed anyway during the 1980s,
some labs and individual vivisectors came under
sporadic violent attack. There were arsons in
the U.S. and Canada, and bombings and beatings
in Britain. Circa 1990 the most often mentioned
rationale for secrecy became protecting
researchers’ lives and property.
Since the early 1990s, however, attacks
on labs and individual vivisectors have
diminished, except against targets associated
with Huntingdon Laboratories, which is sole
focus of the British/U.S. group Stop Huntingdon
Animal Cruelty.
While research institutions still claim a
need for secrecy to protect life and property,
protecting proprietary rights associated with
product development seems to have become a
greater concern–as University of Utah freshman
biology major Jeremy Beckham, 18, has been
finding out.
Already an experienced activist who made
the Baylor University mascot bears a national
cause celebre, Beckham on January 16 won a
ruling on behalf of the Utah Primate Freedom
Project that the university is obliged by the
Utah Government Records Access and Management Act
to disclose the protocols used by faculty who are
studying baboons and macaques.
University of Utah associate general
counsel Phyllis J. Vetter held that the
university must withhold the protocols to protect
the security of the researchers and the
proprietary rights to their findings.
The state records request review
committee ordered the university to share the
protocols, after blacking out confidential and
proprietary information.
But the personal security issue was
hardly at issue. A hotbed of violent actions in
the name of animal rights during the mid-1990s,
Utah has had very little activist-linked violence
and property damage since the convictions of many
of the mid-1990s perpetrators in 1997-1998.
As Beckham pointed out, many University
of Utah researchers have posted their names,
photographs, and complete contact information to
web sites.
Reported Linda Fantin of the Salt Lake Tribune,
“The committee’s legal adviser, Mark Burns,
said the university may have to hire a patent
lawyer to distinguish between what is public and
what is proprietary–and send the bill to
The money to be made from patenting new
treatments appears to be the chief university

Exposés & escapades

The British Union Against Vivisection
meanwhile sparked an investigation of the Covance
Research Products nonhuman primate facility at
Munster, Germany, with undercover video of
staff allegedly abusing monkeys. The BUAV hired
journalist Friedrich Mulln to take a job at
Covance and document whatever went on. As the
case broke, Covance obtained an injunction
against further distribution of the video by
Mulln, but BUAV was beyond the jurisdiction of
the court.
An earlier BUAV undercover investigation
in 1997 triggered the Huntingdon campaign.
BUAV is also using undercover video,
showing monkey brain research done on marmosets
at Cambridge University in 2002, to rally
opposition to a $45 million new primate research
facility. Construction was authorized to begin
in 2004, but funding shortfalls caused the
university to announce an indefinite delay in
November 2003.
The Home Office Animals Inspectorate in
February 2003 rejected the BUAV contention that
the 21-minute video showed serious misdescription
of the amount of suffering caused by experiments.
The public, however, has had a more critical
response–and has been apprehensive of the
community impact of the project.
Comparable controversies surround the
planned construction of a $569 million Scripps
Research Institute complex in Palm Beach County,
Florida, and a proposed $200 million biodefense
lab for which the University of California at
Davis is seeking permits and funding.
The Palm Beach Post from November 26
through December 1, 2003 published a highly
critical week-long investigative look at the
financing, accountability, and community impact
of the Scripps complex.
Columnist George Bennett mentioned that
Animal Rights Foundation of Florida president
Nanci Alexander hopes to deter Scripps by
invoking a 1998 county animal control ordinance
that prohibits use of animals “for scientific
experimentation, which involves any cruel or
inhumane treatment.”
“The ordinance does not define ‘cruel’ or
‘inhumane,'” Bennett noted, adding that “State
law dealing with animal cruelty exempts animals
used for scientific research.”
Public opposition to the proposed
biodefense lab in Davis surged in February 2003
after a rhesus macaque escaped from the
California National Primate Research Center on
the U.C. Davis campus and completely disappeared.
The escape was reprised in March 2003 when 24
rhesus macaques escaped from the Tulane Regional
Primate Center near Covington, Louisiana,
though they were eventually recaptured, and in
August 2003 when a squirrel monkey escaped from
the New England Regional Primate Research Center
and was roadkilled 10 miles away.
An escaped lab animal could introduce pathogens
into the community, but the Public Health
Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and
Response Act of 2002 prohibits maximum security
disease research sites from disclosing the
escape, release, or theft of infectious agents
without authorization from multiple tiers of
federal and state officials.

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