National Primate Research Center System

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

National Primate Research Center System. (NPRC) refers to eight regional centers that perform animal testing and breed primates for laboratories.


Macaques (primarily rhesus macaques) are the most commonly used laboratory monkeys. Other species include marmosets, squirrel monkeys and tamarins. The chimpanzee is the only great ape species used in research. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 chimps remaining in U.S. laboratories, even though they are an endangered species. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 69,990 non-human primates (NHPs) were used U.S. research laboratories in 2007. This is an increase of 11% since 2006 and the highest number since the USDA began tracking in 1973. This figure does not include primates used for breeding or being "held" for research. The actual figure is approximately 112,000.

A number of institutions have expanded their primate facilities in the last decade and indications are an increase in primate research. China is increasing primate use and export. Primates are used in research involving human pathologies, diseases, psychology, toxicology, nutrition, biological warfare and bio defense, drug abuse, pharmaceutical and vaccine testing and cloning. The federal government spends over a billion dollars a year on primate research. The eight NPRC's alone received $1.2 billion dollars in 2007.

The NPRCs were established by Congress in 1960 to provide "resources" for primate research [1] and to narrow the gap between U.S. and Soviet space programs. [2] The centers are supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and have over 27,500 primates of 20 different species in captivity.

Regional centers

Chimps struggle and scream while being sedated. HSUS investigation of New Iberia, Louisiana. - 2008 - 2009
  • California (Davis, Calif.)
  • New England (Southborough, Mass.)
  • Oregon (Beaverton, Ore.)
  • Southwest (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Tulane (Covington, La.)
  • Washington (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.)
  • Yerkes (Atlanta, Ga.)

Additional federally funded primate centers include chimpanzee centers at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center; the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, New Iberia Research Center; Alamogordo Primate Facility and Primate Foundation of Arizona; the Caribbean Primate Research Center; a squirrel monkey colony at the University of South Alabama and a baboon breeding facility at the University of Oklahoma. Even some private breeding facilities receive government funds. [3], [4]

"Hosting" institutions

The NPRCs are "hosted" by the following institutions: Harvard University (New England); Emory University (Yerkes); University of Wisconsin-Madison (Wisconsin); University of Washington-Seattle (Washington), Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (Southwest), Tulane University (Tulane); Oregon Health Sciences University (Oregon National Primate Research Center) (Oregon); and the University of California-Davis (California). [5]

Invasive procedures & isolation

Brutal pole & collar transfer into restraint chair. HSUS investigation of New Iberia, Louisiana. - 2008 - 2009

In this video, (right) a technician brutally handles monkeys using a "pole and collar transfer technique" to force monkeys into restraint chairs. [6]

For infectious disease research, primates are infected and the disease is allowed to progress into symptoms which may include severe diarrhea, dehydration, wasting and anorexia. In some cases, they receive no medical intervention. They are also subjected to a wide variety of painful, invasive procedures which may include long term restraint (sometimes for days), multiple surgeries, food and water deprivation, lethal dosing, irradiation, blood and tissue sampling. For some procedures, the animals must be literally wrestled out of their cages. The majority of research conducted on nonhuman primates is invasive. [7] Due to the nature of certain types of research, such as infectious diseases; primates are often housed in isolation (single housing). In a survey of 22 institutions housing approximately 36,000 primates; 73% were socially housed, compared to only 46% being used in research protocols. Single housing has been shown to lead to depression, withdrawal, frustration, self-mutilation, rocking and other psychotic behaviors. [8]

Although the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) calls for a "physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being of primates", [9] standards are vague and simply require research and other institutions to "develop, document, and follow an appropriate plan for environment enhancement adequate to promote the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates", to address social grouping and "enrichment." (This might include perches, objects that promote feeding/foraging, swings, etc.) Also "special considerations" to the needs of infants/juveniles; great apes weighing over 110 pounds; those showing psychological distress and those in "restricted activity." However, since Congress mandated that psychological needs of laboratory primates be addressed over 20 years ago, the USDA has continually failed this (and other) AWA requirements; however minimal. Instead, the USDA largely relies on laboratories to "self regulate". [10] See also USDA, section 3.

Inefficacy & criticism of primate "models"

In spite of their ineffectiveness as models for human diseases like HIV, chimpanzees continue to be subjected to painful and invasive experiments; some for over 40 years. The vast majority of laboratory chimps are not being used, while their care is financed by tax dollars. [11] Many of the chimpanzee's bred during the 80's for AIDS research account for the chimpanzee “surplus." Scientists ultimately learned that chimps do not contract AIDS from HIV infection. Instead, they typically shed the virus in time. Yet, those still pushing for their use have gone to great and invasive lengths (quite outside of the normal progression) to force HIV infections in primates. Chimpanzees have proven to be a failed and dangerous model for heart and cancer research as well. In August of 2008, Dr. Jarrod Bailey presented his work on AIDS research and his previous study Chimpanzee Research at the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. [12] See also The Case to End Chimpanzee Research: Scientific Publications [13] & War on Cancer.

The European Union (EU) has long considered a ban on the use of wild-caught primates and great apes. It has been widely accepted that the chimpanzee model for HIV was a failure as infected chimpanzees do not develop AIDS. [14] As scientists began steering away from the chimpanzee model, they turned their attention to monkeys. However, after years of pursuit and tens of millions of dollars, the failures of the monkey models are increasingly evident as well; with AIDS patient advocacy groups calling for an end to funding this type of research. Over 85 vaccines have failed human clinical trials, with some actually increasing the likely hood of HIV infection. [15], [16] Although readily acknowledged that the same "viral infections" that pose a "health risk" to humans are "seemingly harmless" in primates, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR) researchers like Drs. Jonathan Allan, Luis Giavedoni and Krishna Murthy continue to infect chimps and other primates; using millions annually in taxpayer funded "research". [17] On September 8, 2010, the EU voted in favor of a ban on the use of great apes, as part of drastically tightened rules to scale back the number of animals used in scientific research. [18] See also SFBR & AIDS industry.

Animal cruelty & welfare issues

Four month PETA investigation of ONPRC. - 2007

A nine-month undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) revealed a rare glimpse of the everyday abuse and neglect behind the razor wire facilities of secretive laboratories like the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Louisiana. The investigation resulted in a 108 page complaint to the USDA alleging a minimum of 338 possible AWA violations. Isolated primates engaged in severe self mutilation and routine procedures included the use of powerful, painful dart guns and squeeze cages for sedation. Infants screamed as they were forcibly removed from their mothers. [19]

In recent decades, primate centers have become the focus of unyielding criticism. In that environment, researchers have hunkered down. The Shively report is one of the few known instances of one primate researcher engaging in unsparing, documented criticism of other colleagues' practices and procedures. [20], [21] See also ONPRC.

Global CRO's that import primates

In 2006, 26,638 primates were imported into the US; a 44% increase over 2004. The three companies responsible for over 75% of all of these imports were Covance Laboratories (11,738), Charles River (5,359) and SNBL (3,097). Cynomolgus macaques made up 92% followed by rhesus macaques, marmosets, squirrel monkeys and other macaques. Half of all primates were imported from China. [22]All of these corporations serve as contract testing laboratories (CRO)'s and have histories of gross animal welfare violations. See also Covance Laboratories, Charles River & SNBL.

Ten Worst Laboratories

Six of the eight regional primate centers are listed on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals's (PETA) ten worst laboratories according to worst violations of the Animal Welfare Act [23]; largest numbers of animals killed; most painful and invasive experiments and least willing to make improvements. [24] Primates and other animals are subjected to isolation and studies involving, alcohol, tobacco, cocaine and even ecstasy; as well as cruel deprivation and psychological studies. Experiments may involve the use of primate restraint chairs, food and water deprivation, invasive procedures without anesthesia, duplicate studies, addiction studies and staggering numbers of animals. Many "studies" are simply crude and barbaric physical and psychological torment. Some have been on going for over 30 years with no apparent benefits. Harvard alone has over 75 publications solely about monkeys exposed to cocaine. See also ten worst laboratories.

On November 13th, 2007, PETA went public with the results of a four-month undercover investigation of Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC). [25]

The vivisection "debate"

See also animal testing, section 6.

Other information

Facility information, progress & USDA-APHIS reports

For links to copies of NPRC's USDA-Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) reports, other information and links, see also Stop Animal Experimentation Now!: Resources & Links: National Primate Research Center System.

USDA AWA reports

As of May 26, 2009, the USDA began posting all inspection reports for animal breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers, research facilities and animal carriers by state. See also USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports.

Public relations

Americans for Medical Progress's (AMP) board of directors consists of senior executives and other representatives employed by the pharmaceutical and vivisection industries. Board members represent multinational, billion dollar corporations as well as universities and institutions receiving government grants for vivisection. Three of the primate centers are represented by AMP board members; Tulane University, Harvard University, & Oregon Health and Science University, as well as Charles River, a leading importer of primates and the world's largest animal breeding company. [26]


The NIH is the largest single funding agency in the U.S. for animal testing. [27] The total of NIH funded projects involving species of animals was 29,441 for the fiscal year 2001. While research on dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters has decreased, experiments on macaque monkeys, squirrel monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, rats and mice has greatly increased. In the fiscal year ending in 2001, the NIH funded 171 separate projects on neural information processing in macaque monkeys, 123 projects on visual neural information in macaque monkeys, 286 cocaine studies on rats, 109 cocaine studies on mice and 55 cocaine studies on macaque monkeys. There were a total of 450 projects studying cocaine in three different species. Approximately $131,175,900 a year is spent on addiction research in only three species. Some of these grants have existed for decades. Several neural information processing grants for macaque monkeys have continued for 30 years (with one reaching 38 years as of 2001). If decades of study have not garnered worthwhile information, why are new grants are still being approved for this field?

Tragically, the NIH spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year funding a bottomless pit of animal research duplication, that accomplishes nothing more than funneling tax dollars into nationally known laboratories. In 2000, the average grant was $291,502 for 29,855 research projects totaling over 8.7 billion dollars in grants that year. There were also an additional 651 projects involving species other than those mentioned above. Many facilities receive well over $100 million yearly and some laboratories approach $200 million. A 2001 audit for 30 facilities revealed that approximately 56% received over 100 million per year from the NIH for animal research. The Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees (IACUC) who evaluate projects for approval, are heavily staffed by animal researchers, affiliated veterinarians and others with vested interests in animal research. [28] Sadly, the current system provides funding approval for virtually any project and has led to a steady climb in animal research. A conservative estimate for NIH funded animal testing is in excess of 8.5 billion annually.[29]

The eight NPRC's received approximately $1.2 billion in federal funds in 2007. [30]

Funding & population trends 1999-2006

In a period of just 7 years, there was an 695% increase in funding for the NPRCs; from $154,253,937 in 1999 to $1,225,916,809 in 2006. There was also a 15% increase in primate populations, from 24,182 in 1999 to 27,914 in 2006. The following table shows funding and primate population increases for the years 1999, 2003 and 2006. [31]

See also National Institutes of Health & U.S. Government's War on Animals, section 5.

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles


  1. An Introduction to Primate Issues, Humane Society of the United States, accessed November 2009
  2. Phillip Dawdy Monkey in the Middle, Willamette Weekly, February 2001
  3. An Introduction to Primate Issues, HSUS, accessed November 2009
  4. National Center for Research Resources: Primate Resources, National Institutes of Health, accessed November 2009
  5. National Primate Research Center System: Facts You Weren’t Supposed to Know, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, accessed November 2009
  6. What Experts Say About HSUS Videotape Evidence From the New Iberia Research Center, HSUS, May 2009
  7. Jarrod Bailey, PhD, An assessment of the role of chimpanzees in AIDS vaccine research. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, 36(4), 2008
  8. Bayne et al, 1992; Bayne et al, 1995; Bellanca, R & Crockett, C, 2002; Jorgensen et al, 1996; Lutz et al, 2003; National Research Council, 1998; Rommeck et al, 2009.
  9. USDA Animal Welfare Act, section 13 (A)(2)(b)
  10. An Introduction to Primate Issues, HSUS, accessed November 2009
  11. Chimps Deserve Better, HSUS, July 2009
  12. HIV/AIDS Debacle: Research Attributes Lack of HIV/AIDS Vaccine to Use of Chimpanzees, Project R&R, New England Anti-vivisection Society, 2009
  13. The Case to End Chimpanzee Research: Scientific Publications, Project R&R, NEAVS, 2009
  14. (Bailey, 2008; Nath, Schumann and Boyer, 2000, and others)
  15. Dr. Jarrod Bailey An assessment of the role of chimpanzees in AIDS vaccine research. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, 36(4):, 2008
  16. An Introduction to Primate Issues: The Value of Primate Research is Challenged, HSUS, accessed November 2009
  17. Overview: Retroviruses and AIDS, Virology & Immunology, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, 2009
  18. Great apes protected as EU restricts animal testing, Agence France-Presse, September 8, 2010
  19. Undercover Investigation Reveals Cruelty to Chimps at Research Lab, HSUS, June 2009
  20. Phillip Dawdy, Annie Hundley Monkey in the Middle, Willamette Weekly, February 2001
  21. Carol A. Shively, PhD The Psychology and Well Being of Laboratory Primates at Oregon National Regional Primate Research Center, September 2000
  22. An Introduction to Primate Issues: Importation of Primates on the Rise, HSUS, accessed November 2009
  23. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 2009
  24. Oregon Health & Science University, Ten Worst Laboratories, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed February 2009
  25. Justin Goodman PETA States Opinions on Primate Research in Oregon, Salem News, November 2007
  26. Board of Directors, Americans for Medical Progress, accessed May 2009
  27. Michael A. Budkie The Animal Experimentation Scandal: An Audit of the National Institutes of Health Funding of Animal Experimentation: Introduction, SAEN, 2001
  28. Micheal A. Budkie An Audit of the NIH: Funding of Animal Experimentation: Audit Findings, SAEN, 2001
  29. Micheal A. Budkie An Audit of the NIH: Funding of Animal Experimentation: Summary, SAEN, 2001
  30. An Introduction to Primate Issues: Government Support for Primate Research, HSUS, accessed November 2009
  31. National Primate Research Center System: Eight Year Primate Center Funding and Population Trends, SAEN, 1999-2006

External articles

External resources