Scientific Testing On Primates Is At An All-Time High

A captive macaque, Dario Lo Presti/Shutterstock

US-based scientists are using more non-human primates in research than ever before, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

As reported by animal welfare science journalist David Grimm, government documents released in late September show that the numbers of primates used for scientific activities rose 22 percent between 2015 and 2017. In 2017, the total number of primates included in biomedical investigations was 75,825. Of these, 44,624 were used in studies that did not involve pain, 30,057 were included in activities that inflicted pain but offered drug-based pain relief, and 1,144 experienced pain with no relief. An additional 34,369 were held at various facilities but not used in research.  

Compared with the 2010 figures, demand for cats, dogs, pigs, and all other animals – excluding mice and rats, which are not subject to the same regulations – has been declining or holding steady at the most. Indeed, recent advances in computer modeling and the advent of innovative cell and tissue-based body system models – known as "organs-on-a-chip" – would imply that, ethics aside, the need for animal testing should be diminishing. Last year, the FDA announced a multi-year research agreement with an organ-on-a-chip company to develop and test their platform. The agency plans to first assess how well a liver chip can mimic the real deal during evaluations of medicines, disease-causing food-borne bacteria in foods, and chemicals in personal care products. The initiative will soon be expanded to include kidney, lung, and intestine chip models.

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