News & Publications

NEAVS’ Letter to the New York Times on Harvard Primate Center Closing

Read the published New York Times letter here.
Read the original, extended letter here.

Closing of Primate Center
Published: April 29, 2013

To the Editor:

News that Harvard Medical School is closing its New England Primate Research Center is welcome (news article, April 25). Since the center’s 1966 dedication, science has advanced in leaps, except for resistance to relinquishing the ineffective animal model for human research. It’s no shock that now, officially for budgetary reasons (fewer possible future grants for animal research and more for superior alternatives), Harvard is closing it.

Budget cuts always eliminate the least necessary. We drop premium cable before heat or electricity. Harvard’s decision suggests that it, too, knows that primate research isn’t a necessary expense or a justifiable cruelty.

But the monkeys will not celebrate if sent to another lab, as planned. They deserve protection from further harmful research. Sanctuaries, with financing, would be able to take them.

I hope that Harvard, which has profited plenty, will do the right thing: Retire the monkeys with the support necessary to live the rest of their lives in safety and comfort.

Theodora Capaldo
President, New England Anti-Vivisection Society
Boston, April 26, 2013


Growing up with Harvard’s Primate Research Center (full version)

News of Harvard’s decision to close its New England Primate Research Center (NEPRC), one of the oldest primate centers in the country, comes as a welcomed and not entirely shocking surprise. Familiar with it since high school, I wonder why it took this many years for Harvard to decide it was not a necessary or even beneficial component of its mission to benefit human health. Since NEPRC’s dedication in 1966, the year I graduated from Methuen high school, all areas of science have advanced in leaps and bounds – except for the stalled and seemingly intransient commitment to the animal model for human-based research. It does not surprise me that now, officially for budgetary reasons (i.e., less and less likely future NIH dollars for animal research with more and more toward alternative methods that deliver more benefit), Harvard decided to close NEPRC’s doors. At last.

Anyone forced into budget cuts always gets rid of that which is least necessary. All of us drop extra cable channels before we have our heat or lights turned off. University research budgets are no different – to cut costs they eliminate non-essential research. Harvard, despite its rhetoric as to the why, is indicating that primate research is not – even in its judgment – a necessary route, expense, or justifiable cruelty to benefit human well-being.

Harvard’s primate lab is responsible for decades of pain and suffering of thousands of monkeys as well as ongoing, serious Animal Welfare Act violations. NEAVS, established in 1895 in Boston to end animal research and replace it with humane and better science – came soon after Harvard established the first dedicated animal research facility in the nation. NEAVS celebrates the end of NEPRC and sees it as another piece of the rapidly growing movement to abandon cruel and unnecessary animal use and replace it with superior alternatives.

However, the monkeys at NEPRC will have little to celebrate with us if sent to another lab. They, many from generations of monkeys bred and used by Harvard, deserve protection from further harmful research use and oppressive laboratory life. Sanctuaries are able to take them with funding. Research facilities and their related universities, such as Harvard, who have profited from using these monkeys, must hold themselves accountable for lifetime care.

Sanctuaries are carrying the burden of an industry gone awry. I hope that Harvard, in light of its world-renowned status and its own pride, will step up and do the right thing: Retire the monkeys with the support they will need to live the remainder of their lives in the safety and comfort of sanctuary.

Theodora Capaldo, EdD
President, NEAVS (New England Anti-Vivisection Society)