Howard Hawks’ 1952 film Monkey Business centers on absentminded Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) developing an elixir of youth. A chimpanzee in the lab, Esther, lets herself out and mixes, as she saw Fulton do, a beaker full of chemicals. After she pours it into the office water cooler, various humans return to their sought-after youth. (The older Fulton even manages a romp with young secretary Marilyn Monroe!) If this 61-year-old film was made today Esther would be replaced by a monkey, since chimpanzees are now afforded protections from research by various government decrees. But “monkey business” continues as usual.
We promised, as our chimp campaign saw success, that NEAVS would next turn attention to the tens of thousands of primates still used in research – despite being flawed, limited, and dangerous models to study human health. They have yet to be recognized – like chimpanzees – as equally worthy of humane consideration, and NEAVS is taking the lead to focus on their plight. We begin with an appeal to the USDA (see Fall UPDATE), along with co-petitioners, to define criteria by which inspectors can determine if primates’ psychological well-being is “being maintained and enhanced.” By definition, living in a cage – surrounded by threats or the screams of others – makes life anything but one of well-being. But our first step in ending primate use is to ask our government to apply the same criteria it has accepted for the “well-being” of chimpanzees to all other primates held in U.S. labs.
Licensed businesses are driven out of business if they do not comply with laws. Insider trading and unlicensed medical services are examples. Why then, when it comes to the business of animal research, do even the most egregious situations of non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act often result in a mere hand slap?
NEAVS wants all animals in labs replaced with humane and scientifically effective research. But in the meantime, we want the full extent of the law imposed on labs that hold animals.
If ethical and stringent criteria were enforced, many labs in the business of monkey research would follow the path of the New England Primate Research Center: Shutting down. Closing. Going out of business.
We especially celebrated this closure since Harvard – who ran the lab – is currently developing state-of-the-art organson- a-chip, a promising alternative to animal use. One door closes and a better one opens. This is the future of humane and better science.
One step at a time. Let’s get this job done … for everyone’s sake.
Theodora Capaldo, EdD