Primate Experimentation in the US:
The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know

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Primate Experimentation in the US: The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T.
513-575-5517 [email protected]  

How Many Primates Are in Labs??

In the past all estimates regarding the number of primates in laboratories across the United States have been incomplete. These statistics have been based on data promulgated by the USDA. Previous USDA data has dealt specifically with the number of primates actually used in experimentation. No statistics were kept for the number of primates held in labs for breeding or other purposes. However, these practices changed for the reporting of statistics by the USDA for fiscal 2002.

For the first time statistics are now available which deal with all primates in labs, whether held for breeding, or actually used in experimentation. For fiscal 2002 the USDA reports the use of 52,275 primates in experimentation for the entire U.S. The USDA also reports that U.S. labs held 43,676 primates for breeding or conditioning. This places 95,951 primates within U.S. laboratories. This information may not be totally complete, because since 1985 the USDA has never been successful in obtaining reports from all U.S. labs. But it is reasonable to assume that the majority of primates have been accounted for.

This information (and more detailed data including state by state listings, etc.) is available at: .

The states which record the largest population of primates within laboratories are:

The 12 States with the Largest Populations of Primates within Laboratories

State Primate Population within labs  Major Primate Labs within the State  
Louisiana 11,673 Tulane Primate Center 6,319
    New Iberia Lab 5,000
California 8,841 UC Davis Primate Center 4,112
Texas 8,307 Southwest Foundation Primate Center 5,755
Maryland  7,593 Various Government Labs  
New Jersey 7,572    
Massachusetts 6,007 New England Primate Center 2,156
Georgia 5,227 Yerkes Primate Center 3,861
South Carolina 5,092 LABS of Virginia 6,736
Virginia 4,549    
Wisconsin 4,543 Wisconsin Primate Center 1,756
Washington 4,116 Washington Primate Center 2,898
Oregon 3,335 Oregon Primate Center  4,027
Total 76,855 Total 46,620

80% of the primates currently held within U.S. labs are located within 12 states, with 52% in the top six. Many of these primates are maintained within just a few labs (listed in the table above). In fact 48% of the primates in US labs are held in only 10 labs.

What trends are taking place in the use of primates in laboratories? The USDA has been charged with maintaining statistics regarding the use of animals in experimentation. However, the statistics maintained by the USDA have several severe limitations. Firstly, at no time in recent years have all US labs reported. With respect to primates, even the non-reporting of one or even two labs could substantially skew the statistics. Secondly, only recently has the USDA published data regarding the number of primates in labs for breeding and conditioning. For 2002 these non-experimented upon primates made up almost 44,000 of the approximately 96,000 primates maintained within labs. This is another serious drawback.

Therefore, a different method of tracking primate populations within labs has been utilized. Primate populations at sixteen large labs have been compared for the years 1997 and 2002. For 2002 these nineteen labs comprised (when counting both experimented upon and non-experimented upon primates) 47% of the total US laboratory population of primates. This is clearly a reasonable sampling to determine trends in terms of primate populations within laboratories.

Primarily two types of documents were used for this comparison. Eight of these labs are part of the National Primate Research System. These labs file (with the NIH) annual progress reports that disclose their primate populations. The reports for the 2002 - 2003 year were compared with similar reports for 1997. This utilization of documentation was necessary because the reporting period has changed for these reports. For the southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research a slightly different approach was utilized. This lab joined the Primate Center System during this period. Therefore, the 2002 NIH report was compared with the annual report for the USDA report for 1997. Data for the other labs relied entirely on USDA reports (2001 vs. 1997).

The results of this comparison were startling. These nineteen labs housed/experimented on 31,655 primates in 1997. During 2002, these same facilities housed/experimented on 45,036 primates. This is an increase of 13,381 or 42%. This is an amazing increase for such a short period. The individual facility information is contained in the table which follows.

US Primate Laboratory Populations (a sampling)

  1997 2001-2002 increase %  increase
Harvard 1435 2156 721 50
U of Washington (Seattle) 2018 2898 880 44
U of CA (Davis) 3980 4112 132 3
U of CA (SF) 131 188 57 44
U of Oregon Health Sciences 2734 4027 1293 47
Emory 3281 3861 580 18
U of OK 197 285  88 45
Tulane 4857 6319 1462 30
Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research  3081 5755 2674 87
U of Pittsburgh 422 606 184 44
U of WI (Madison) 1540 1756 216 14
Labs of Virginia 2399 6736 4337 181
U of PR 1806 1835 29 2
Wake Forest 1636 1004 -632  -39
Advanced Biosciences 162 591 429 260
Johns Hopkins 398 544 146 37
Novartis 312 701 389 125
Primedica 615  817 202 33
Bioqual  651 845 194 30
Totals 31,655 45,036 13,381 42

Go on to:  How are Primates Cared for Within Laboratories?
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