Action for Primates

Long-tailed macaques, photo by Sarah Kite
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Take Action on Behalf of Non-human Primates 2023

The following are take action items we have posted in 2023. See elsewhere for take action alerts from other years. In addition to the Take Action entries below, you can click here for petitions you can sign and share to help non-human primates around the world.


23 January 2023: US tax payers fund attempt to develop a non-human primate model of autism

Male rhesus macaque in Gokarna Forest, Nepal; photo credit Charles J. Sharp/Wikipedia
Male rhesus macaque living freely, Nepal
credit Charles J. Sharp/Wikipedia

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the science community at large offer repeated assurances that non-human primates are used in research only when necessary, when there is no other way to gain information that will advance the human condition. Despite this, we continually see published work on studies in which various species of non-human primates were used, mutilated and killed in the name of science. In most cases, not only is the information gained not applicable to humans, it is either available already or can be obtained in ethical and humane studies on humans.

A recent example of such a study is one in which captive rhesus macaques were observed to see if they had behaviour that might suggest autism-like traits (Talbot et al 2022). The work was done at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), which is funded by the public through the NIH (grants HD087048, MH020016, OD011107), comprising of many millions of US dollars. The authors were affiliated with the University of California-Davis, Cornell University, the Florida Institute of Technology and Stanford University. They wanted to use the information gained to identify an animal model which could then be exploited and manipulated in order to understand behaviour that might be translatable to human autism.

Autism is a spectrum condition and refers to a broad range of conditions thought to be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Looking for autistic-type traits in monkeys is a simplistic, reductionist and mechanical approach to this complex condition. Furthermore, the rhesus macaques in question, even though being 'housed' outdoors in large groups, are not afforded the freedom and opportunities that would be present while living freely in their natural homes. Their development and behaviour would be different. Because they are not normal in the true sense of the word, findings in them are likely to be misleading.

More importantly, there is no shortage of studies involving humans with autism. A search of the National Library of Medicine online records reveals tens of thousands of such studies. Despite this, rather than pursuing humane and human-relevant areas of research, researchers are once again increasing – not decreasing – the use of non-human primates by trying to find new ways of using non-human primates as surrogates for humans. Once they 'establish' their animal model, it is almost certain that they will begin subjecting the macaques to various manipulations including giving experimental drugs or doing surgery to implant electrodes in order to study the connections in the brain.

This abuse of non-human primates must end. As long as the National Institutes of Health and its branches continue to reward researchers with millions of dollars annually to use and abuse non-human primates in the name of science, and journals such as the American Journal of Primatology continue to publish the results, research entities will continue to use non-human primates as surrogates for humans, often resulting in misery, suffering and death for these individuals. We ask people to send a message to the directors of the NIH and the relevant branches and object to this continued exploitation of non-human primates:


Reference:

  1. Talbot, Catherine F.; Madrid, Jesus E.; Del Rosso, Laura A.; Capitanio, John P.; Garner, Joseph P. and Parker, Karen J. 2022-12-01 "Rhesus monkey sociality is stable across time and linked to variation in the initiation but not receipt of prosocial behavior" American Journal of Primatology 84(12):e23442

20 January 2023: Entire population of vervets to be slaughtered on Sint Maarten

African green monkey living freely; photo credit Cruelty Free International
African green monkey living freely
credit Cruelty Free International

Action for Primates is urging the government of Sint Maarten to abandon its appalling and inhumane plan to kill the entire population of vervets (African green monkeys) (Sint Maarten approves plan to destroy entire population of vervet monkeys). The slaughter is reportedly to 'resolve' the issue of negative interactions between people and the monkeys. Funding will be given to the NGO, Nature Foundation St Maarten, to capture and kill the entire population, estimated to be around 450 individuals, over the next three years. The slaughter of hundreds of sentient and intelligent beings will repulse people around the world and tarnish the reputation of Sint Maarten as a popular Caribbean holiday destination.

Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, a veterinarian with many years experience of working with non-human primates in different settings, stated: Non-human primates share many of the important characteristics we value in ourselves. There is a greater awareness of the genetic proximity of non-human primates to human beings together with their capacity to experience pain, suffering and distress similarly to people. With the growing acknowledgement of the negative impact human activities are having on the planet and its inhabitants, it is more important than ever that we reassess the way we not only treat non-human primates, but how we humanely resolve negative interactions.

Rather than dismiss vervets as a 'pest' or a nuisance and killing them, Action for Primates appeals to the government and communities of Sint Maarten to learn to adapt their behaviour in ways that will help to prevent problems arising in the first place, and if problems arise, to support resolving such 'conflicts' humanely. Considerations for non-lethal resolution include reproductive control such as sterilisation combined with education programmes to help the public deal with and prevent negative interactions with monkeys.

Please speak up for the vervets on Sint Maarten and urge the government to abandon this inhumane plan and instead adopt a humane approach to any negative interactions with people:

16 January 2023: Your help needed to provide protection for long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques in Indonesia

Southern pig-tailed macaque at Indonesian market
Southern pig-tailed macaque, Indonesian market
credit Animal Friends Jogja/Action for Primates

Harrowing images of baby long-tailed and southern pig-tailed macaques on sale at a market in Indonesia have been released by Animal Friends Jogja and Action for Primates, illustrating why these non-human primate species are in such urgent need of protection. These bewildered and distressed infants, who should be in the protective and nurturing care of their mothers and extended family, were found chained by the neck and imprisoned in small cages at this busy market alongside many other wild and domestic animal species.

Long-tailed and southern pig-tailed macaques are indigenous to Indonesia and are part of the rich and diverse ecosystem, contributing to the country's unique biodiversity. In 2022, the IUCN Red List uplisted the conservation status of both species to Endangered. Despite this, neither species is being protected. Without such protection, and labelled as 'pests', the macaques are persecuted, killed or captured – abducted from their natural habitat, family and social groups – to be sold at markets and into the 'pet' trade. Infants are taken from mothers to be kept as 'pets', abused for "likes" and profit online, or forced to 'perform' on the streets as 'entertainment'.

Long-tailed macaque at Indonesian market
Long-tailed macaque, Indonesian market
credit Animal Friends Jogja/Action for Primates

Long-tailed macaques also suffer because of the global trade in non-human primates for research and toxicity (poisoning) testing, captured for breeding purposes by companies that supply thousands of macaques to laboratories in Indonesia and overseas, including China and the USA. Harrowing video footage released by Action for Primates, revealed the shocking cruelty during such capture of long-tailed macaques in Indonesia (click here see our previous Take Action alert) and the inhumane way in which they were treated. The monkeys were trapped inside large nets and forcibly removed by hand, often dragged out by their tails (long-tailed macaques' tails are not prehensile, making spinal injury an issue) or pinned to the ground by a trapper's foot and removed, to be stuffed head first into sacks or crammed into wooden crates. On capture, infants were separated from their mothers, and 'unwanted' alpha males were beaten down with a pole and their throats cut with a machete.

The Primates Fight Back Movement, a coalition of animal protection, environment and conservation groups, including Action for Primates, is calling upon the Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry to protect long-tailed and southern pig-tailed macaques from exploitation, persecution and abuse.

The Asia for Animals Macaque Coalition has published The Macaque Report – Indonesia's Unprotected Primates. The Macaque Coalition comprises local and international animal protection organisations, including Action for Primates, which share an interest in protecting some of the most heavily exploited and misunderstood non-human primates on earth: macaques.

What you can do to help: Please urge long-tailed and southern pig-tailed macaques in Indonesia to be given protection:

13 January 2023: Capuchin monkeys killed just to get their brains in Brazil

Tufted capuchins; credit public domain
Tufted capuchins
credit public domain

Five adult capuchins, two females and three males, were killed for no other reason than to obtain their brains. The work was done at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) in Brazil and was approved by their Ethics Committee for the Care and Use of Experimental Animals and done in accordance with the guidelines of the National Institute [sic] of Health for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. It was published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology (Bonfim et al 2023).

There was no mention of the species of the capuchins, only that they were of the genus Sapajus. No information was provided on the source of the individuals nor under what conditions they were housed before their lives were brutally ended. Each individual was deeply anaesthetised and then killed by injecting a poisonous substance (fixative) directly through their chest cavity into the heart.

The work was done just to see if a specific part of the brain (inferior parietal cortex) had a similar structure to that seen in macaques and how that might be considered in the context of evolution. In addition, it was part of a Master Dissertation project for one of the authors. The findings have no relevance for capuchins or any relevance to humans. We do not know whether the authors knew which species they were using, but we do know that not all species of a particular genus are identical; there are at least seven species of capuchins classified under the genus Sapajus and they have different behavioural traits. This calls into question the 'science' of this study. Furthermore, source and housing conditions have effects on the development of individuals, including of the brain and probably particularly the area the authors sought to examine: Skilled hand movements and tool manipulation are landmarks [sic] abilities observed in capuchin monkeys. The development of the brains of individuals who are born in their native land and who develop subject to the normal environment comprising land and vegetation, as well as the learning opportunities from their parents and extended family, will almost certainly be substantially different from those who are raised in a laboratory environment. Despite this, such information was not provided.

This work was simply carried out for 'intellectual curiosity'. It was a tragic waste of the lives of five individuals who should have been living freely in their native habitat, with others of their kind, including friends and family. We are told repeatedly that non-human primates are used only when necessary; this is yet another example where such assurances clearly are false.

What you can do to help:


Reference:

  1. Bonfim, Vânio; Mayer, Andrei; Nascimento-Silva, Márcio L.; Lima, Bruss; Soares, Juliana G.M. and Gattass, Ricardo 2023-01-02 "Architecture of the inferior parietal cortex in capuchin monkey" The Journal of Comparative Neurology

3 January 2023: Infant monkeys deliberately subjected to maternal deprivation and maltreatment in publicly funded research in US

Rhesus macaque infant with mother; credit Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Rhesus macaque infant with mother
credit Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

In this shocking and particularly inhumane publicly funded research carried out at Emory National Primate Research Center, Emory University, and disturbingly deemed worthy of publication by the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers purposefully fostered infant rhesus macaques with mothers known to maltreat their offspring (McCormack et al 2022). The infants were part of a group of 42 who had been removed from their biological mothers at birth and then provided with either a competent mother or one who had a history of infant maltreatment. The researchers wanted to observe the rates of maternal abuse and rejection received by the maltreated infants. In addition to outright rejection, infant maltreatment was defined, among other things, as physical abuse...at least 3 instances of violent behaviors of the mother directed towards the infant...that cause pain and distress, e.g. dragging, crushing, throwing, or roughly grooming or carrying the infant. These behaviours produced distress in the infants.

Despite acknowledging that childhood maltreatment is a devastating form of early life adversity/stress resulting in increased risk for psychopathology (e.g., anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder -PTSD), substance use disorders, cognitive deficits, obesity, and inflammation, the researchers created even more misery and suffering by causing similar damage in infant monkeys. Unsurprisingly, the researchers concluded that monkey mothers who maltreat infant monkeys provide an overall lower quality of care leading to lasting problems for the infants and that caregiving at a very young age is critical to the development of both emotional and physiological regulation.

The public are repeatedly told that non-human primates are used in research only when absolutely necessary and only when there are no other alternatives available. This shameful experiment, which will likely be repeated in various forms in the future, resulted in extreme suffering for infant monkeys and harm that may last their lifetime. It demonstrates the meaningless nature of such assurances and a lack of commitment to stop using non-human primates. Clinical studies – humane and ethical – have been and can continue to be done on relevant populations of people in order to get data that are directly applicable to people. As is always the case with the publication of the macaque studies, the authors acknowledged that many similar studies have already been done in people.

The work was funded entirely by public funds through the National Institutes of Health and its branch, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Included were grants: MH078105, MH086203, OD011132 and OD010757. These grants comprise tens of millions of US dollars.

Information gleaned from studies on human beings is the only way to definitively help people; so-called animal models simply do not work, as has been pointed out by a previous director of the National Institutes of Health, of which the NIMH is a part (McManus 2013). Moreover, experts in primatology are calling for an end to this type of research (Padrell et al 2021). The many millions of tax-payer funds wasted annually on this kind of research would be of substantial use in helping people with mental health issues directly, and now, not at some never to be achieved time in the future.

This abuse of non-human primates must end. As long as the National Institutes of Health and its branches continue to reward researchers with millions of dollars annually to abuse non-human primates in the name of science, and journals such as Psychoneuroendocrinology continue to publish the results, research entities will continue to concoct these cruel experiments that comprise misery, suffering and death for these individuals. We ask people to send a message to the directors of the NIH and the relevant branches and object to this inhumane research causing maltreatment of rhesus macaque infants:


Reference:

  1. McCormack, K.M.; Howell, B.R.; Higgins, M.; Bramlett, S.; Guzman, D.; Morin, E.L.; Villongco, C.; Liu, Y.; Meyer, J. and Sanchez, M.M. 2022-12-01 "The developmental consequences of early adverse care on infant macaques: A cross-fostering study" Psychoneuroendocrinology 146:105947