So, the good news is that the National Institutes of Health has stopped using macaques in experiments conducted at a major research lab.
The bad news is, the development has nothing to do with a long campaign by PETA to stop the practice, but has everything to do with dollars:
“NIH has to make decisions on how to spend its research dollars regardless of what others may think,” says Constantine Stratakis, the scientific director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which oversees the lab in question. “Clearly the timing is awkward, but I can assure you that PETA was not a factor in this decision….”
Stratakis says the decision was purely financial. For decades, the animal facility in Poolesville was shared by many of the agency’s institutes, including NICHD, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Mental Health. A number of these institutes have decided to pull out because they couldn’t afford to stay there, he says, leaving NICHD to assume the costs of running the entire facility. “For us, it wasn’t tenable in the long run.”
And worse, the monkeys themselves won’t get a break:
Stratakis says that NICHD decided this summer to begin phasing out the animal work at Suomi’s lab, the only NICHD lab at Poolesville. It currently houses about 300 monkeys, all of which will be transferred to other facilities over the course of the next 3 years. In the meantime, Suomi’s team can continue working with the animals it has, but it cannot breed new ones. “It won’t be business as usual,” Stratakis says.
It’s encouraging that the program’s ending, but it would’ve been nice to see Stratakis & Co. attribute it to some kind of moral awareness rather than just money. Then again, owning up to the ethical issues that exist around animal testing might’ve just opened up a Pandora’s Box of problems they couldn’t talk themselves out of.