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Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Death, Disease & Insanity: Health and Well-Being of Primates at New England National Primate Research Center/Harvard
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director, SAEN
513-575-5517 [email protected]  


Animal experimentation has always been a controversial issue. Spokespersons for laboratories portray this experimentation as vital to human health. Animal protectionists often do not accept experimentation under any terms, questioning both the scientific efficacy and the morality of animal based research.

However, there is one thing upon which both sides agree: the confinement of primates within laboratories can have a profound impact on the animals themselves. Regulations have been put into effect by government agencies to provide primates with environmental enhancement to address this situation.

These things leave us with many questions. How are the primates cared for? Does the laboratory setting or the experimentation to which the primates are subjected subject them to pain or distress? Does it affect them psychologically?

It is very difficult to answer questions like this without gaining access to the labs themselves. However, the officials who run laboratories do not give access to people within the animal protection movement. Therefore we are left only with the researchers own assessments of the treatment of the animals in their care, which is not likely to be objective. Or, we can depend on the opinions of government inspectors. While these inspectors try their best to enforce regulations, they have access to most facilities only a very few days per year. Almost anything can be made to look acceptable for a single day.

Since the aforementioned methods of laboratory evaluation are likely to be flawed, a different approach has been taken for this report. The annual progress report filed by the New England National Primate Research Center (which is funded through the Harvard Medical School) for fiscal 2002 2003 has been used as a basis for assessing the condition of primates within this facility.

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Rats, mice, birds, amphibians and other animals have been excluded from coverage by the Animal Welfare Act. Therefore research facility reports do not include these animals. As a result of this situation, a blank report, or one with few animals listed, does not mean that a facility has not performed experiments on non-reportable animals. A blank form does mean that the facility in question has not used covered animals (primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, pigs, sheep, goats, etc.). Rats and mice alone are believed to comprise over 90% of the animals used in experimentation. Therefore the majority of animals used at research facilities are not even counted.

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