Congress Takes Historic Step Toward Phasing Out NIH’s Costly and Cruel Primate Experiments

20 May 2019 General News

For the first time in history, Congress is making moves to direct the federal government’s largest performer of primate experiments to reduce and replace the practice.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), housed under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spends more tax dollars testing on primates than any other government agency, but that may change after the House Appropriations Committee passed its complete Labor-HHS funding bill for 2020 on Wednesday.

The bill, which passed in the subcommittee last week, directs the agency to end all of its primate testing and to come up with a strategy and timeline for the reduction and replacement of primate experiments with alternative methods as well as a plan for their retirement to sanctuaries.

Watch the full committee vote below:


Federal documents obtained by taxpayer watchdog White Coat Waste Project reveal NIH averaged using about 7,000 primates a year from 2014 to 2018. During that period, the agency increased “maximum pain” experiments on the animals, in which no relief is given, by 300 percent.

Here are some of the experiments the agency has recently spent taxpayer money on:

  • destroying areas of monkeys brains so that they can no longer recognize faces
  • infecting monkeys with HIV-like viruses that cause massive weight loss, major organ failure, and death
  • implanting electrodes into monkeys skulls, placing metal coils in their eyes, and locking them in restraint chairs to watch computer screens before killing them and dissecting their brains
  • exposing monkeys to the Ebola virus, causing pain, fever, vomiting, bleeding, and death

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) led the congressional efforts to push NIH to phase out its primate experiments and celebrated the latest development in a statement to IJR:

I’m pleased that the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill includes my language calling for more accountability and transparency in NIH efforts to reduce and replace cruel and unnecessary primate testing. For more than two decades, I’ve been a leader in the fight to end congressionally funded testing of primates.

She continued on to challenge the NIH to follow through:

Our fight has helped to stop the NIH’s invasive chimpanzee research, and end harsh psychological experiments on baby monkeys. Now, I want NIH to put a plan in place that responsibly phases out the expensive, inefficient and inhumane practice of primate testing, in favor of modern research alternatives.

“We’re thrilled that thanks to the strong leadership of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and the rest of the House Appropriations Committee, Congress is finally demanding historic, concrete action from NIH to curb the growing problem of wasteful taxpayer-funded primate abuse,” Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy for White Coat Waste Project, told IJR.

The NIH’s upcoming efforts to reduce and replace its primate experiments follow the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to end its own nicotine addictions tests on monkeys.

As IJR has reported, several federal agencies are coming under bipartisan pressure to eliminate cruel and costly animal experiments, including the FDA and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (VA) tests on dogs. Last month, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the end of its kitten experiments after backlash.

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