Action for Primates

Long-tailed macaques, photo by Sarah Kite
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Take Action on Behalf of Non-human Primates 2024

The following are take action items we have posted in 2024. 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.


Index of action alerts; select date & title to access:


8 February 2024: URGENT APPEAL – Stop construction of massive monkey farm in Mauritius

Long-tailed macaque in toxicity testing, Germany; SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaque in toxicity testing, Germany
SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International

Action for Primates is deeply concerned over a proposal for another monkey farm to be established in Mauritius. The company, Hammerhead International Ltd, has submitted an application to the Ministry of the Environment with a proposal to build a facility that will eventually hold up to 12,000 long-tailed macaques. The company will initially be exporting around 4,000 wild-caught monkeys per year to laboratories where they will be subjected to experimentation and toxicity (poisoning) testing (like the monkey in the photo). If granted, this proposal would inflict even further suffering upon long-tailed macaques, including the capture of thousands of monkeys – 40-50 individuals every day, for over 300 days in the year, totalling up to 15,000 monkeys – an inhumane practice universally recognised as cruel because of the removal of the monkeys from their families, friends and and homes.

Urgent action is needed as we only have until the 24th February 2024 to submit objections to this application (see below).

Hammerhead International Ltd is a notorious company that made headlines in March 2023, when Mauritius authorities seized 446 long-tailed macaques – found to be kept in deplorable conditions – from an illegal farm it was operating. Its director, Shafeek Jhummun, was arrested and the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security has brought a case against Hammerhead International for the ill-treatment of animals and for the illegal possession of macaques.

Long-tailed macaque living freely in Mauritius; Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaque living freely, Mauritius
Cruelty Free International

In recent years, Mauritius has exported many thousands of monkeys to laboratories in the USA, Canada, France, the UK, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Numbers have increased following the United States Fish and Wildlife Service investigation into the global trafficking of long-tailed macaques which led to restrictions on the export trade from Cambodia. The USA is now importing thousands of wild-caught monkeys from Mauritius. Long-tailed macaques are the primary non-human primate used in toxicity testing, which is the deliberate poisoning of animals to see whether and how much of a chemical or drug it takes to cause them serious harm or death. They are forcibly restrained, and a test substance given by injection, infusion, stomach tube or aerosol – in increasing amounts to measure the poisoning effects. The suffering caused to the macaques is immense and immeasurable.

Action for Primates has joined with other organisations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the USA, One Voice, Abolición Vivisección and Cheshire Animal Rights Campaigns in Europe, and Monkey Massacre in Mauritius, in calling on the Government of Mauritius to refuse permission for this proposal. There is growing concern about the use of non-human primates in laboratories and 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. We need to show the Mauritius government the strength of opposition to this cruel trade in monkeys' lives.

Please speak up for the monkeys in Mauritius:

2 February 2024: Long-tailed macaques subjected to brutal xenotransplant surgery in USA

Young long-tailed macaques in Mauritius breeding facility; Cruelty Free International
Young long-tailed macaques, Mauritius
Cruelty Free International

Twenty-five long-tailed macaques lost their lives in a brutal experiment in which their kidneys were removed and replaced by those from mini-pigs (who also were killed) (Firl et al 2023). The work, which was done at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the USA, was almost entirely supported by eGenesis, a company which supplies xenotransplant organs and which supplied the mini-pigs used and killed in this research. The macaques were obtained from Charles River Laboratories, Alpha Genesis, Inc. and BC US LLC. Some of the macaques, supplied by BC US LLC, were stated to be wild-caught. BC US LLC is a breeding, holding and quarantine facility located in Florida. It is part of the Bioculture Group and imports wild-caught long-tailed macaques from its sibling company Bioculture (Mauritius) Ltd (BCM). In 2022, Bioculture (Mauritius) exported over 4,000 macaques – captured from the wild – to the USA.

In addition to the obvious vested interest of eGenesis in this work, three of the authors were being supported by or were employees of the company; two were stated to have equity interest in eGenesis. Three others had served as consultants to the company. Two of the researchers were supported by National Institutes of Health grant AI007529.

The procedures to which the macaques were subjected were reportedly conducted in accordance with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals...with the approval of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (Protocols 2017N000216 and 2017N000214).

The twenty-five long-tailed macaques were subjected to at least one major abdominal surgery to remove both their kidneys and implant the pig kidneys. Only 17 individuals lived past 60 days as eight were killed before this time, although no details were provided as to why this was done. The researchers acknowledged that this survival rate may not be representative of human xenotransplantation given certain incompatibilities of transplanting an organ designed for humans into NHPs [non-human primates] and challenges in NHP post-transplant care.

Due to kidney function problems, four of the surviving macaques had had only one kidney removed initially. They were subjected to another major abdominal surgery about 20 days later to remove the other kidney. All the macaques were subjected to chemical immunosuppression so that they would not reject the pig kidneys. They were also subjected to multiple additional surgical procedures to remove pieces of the transplanted kidneys every two to four months, for evaluation. Survival periods for the macaques were stated to be from 64-648 days. It was not clear from the publication whether the macaques died or were killed (euphemistically referred to as euthanized by the authors) because they were suffering beyond what was 'acceptable', including allowing the loss of 25% of body weight.

Eleven of the macaques developed hydronephrosis (stretched and swollen kidney due to build up of urine). The authors did not provide any details on the effects of the transplantation on the welfare and well-being of the macaques, other than to state that post-transplant care in non-human primates is 'challenging'. We know, however, that major abdominal surgery of this type (xenotransplantation) would result in considerable pain and suffering for an extended period, even if pain relief was provided. The authors provided no information on whether or what pain relief they may have provided the macaques.

The researchers acknowledged many serious limitations to their work, calling into question any applicability to humans:

Research involving xenotransplantation – the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one species to another – is some of the most gruesome work carried out on non-human animals. Such research raises many moral and welfare issues for the individuals who are genetically modified to be used as providers of organs, such as the mini-pigs killed in this experiment, and for those used in the research as recipients of the transplants. Xenotransplantation research involves the major trauma of the transplantation surgery and its inevitable consequences. In addition, the individuals suffer greatly from the immunosuppressive drugs they have to receive to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ, including internal haemorrhage, vomiting, diarrhoea and kidney or heart failure.

Action for Primates opposes xenotransplantation research and the 'creation' of genetically engineered non-human animals as living spare-parts 'warehouses' for people. Other options for addressing organ donor shortages should be considered, such as adopting an 'opt-out' approach to organ donations. In this case, unless explicitly expressed otherwise, the deceased is considered to have given tacit approval to be an organ donor. This would go a long way in increasing the availability of suitable organs for human-to-human transplants. The USA, however, seems intent on adopting xenotransplantation as a solution. Not only does the country operate an opt-in system for donor donation, in 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved genetically engineered pigs for use in food and medical products.

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Cited information:

  1. Firl, Daniel J.; Lassiter, Grace; Hirose, Takayuki; Policastro, Robert; D'Attilio, Ashley; Markmann, James F.; Kawai, Tatsuo and Hall, Katherine C. 2023-06-13 Clinical and molecular correlation defines activity of physiological pathways in life-sustaining kidney xenotransplantation Nature Communications 14(1):3022

Information on NIH grant support (funding) is taken verbatim from relevant publications. If you have difficulty with any links provided, you can do your own search through the NIH RePORTER site: https://reporter.nih.gov/, by copying and pasting the grant number into the Search field on the form.

Be aware that some grants include funds for more than experiments on non-human primates.

8 January 2024: Pregnant rhesus macaques fed marijuana and unborn infants killed in USA research

Rhesus macaque mother and baby living freely; Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Rhesus mother & baby
Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Rhesus macaques at Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon National Primate Research Center in the USA were made to consume marijuana edibles before and during pregnancy and their unborn infants removed surgically and killed (Shorey-Kendrick et al 2023). The experiment was approved by the institution's animal use committee and was funded largely by public funds through grants from the National Institutes of Health: DA056493, HD000849, HD097116 and OD011092. Additional funding was provided through the March of Dimes Foundation and a Silver Family Innovation Award.

The macaques were used as 'models' of human chronic cannabis exposure via the consumption of edible tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) consumption similar to that seen in humans. The researchers wanted to see if giving cannabis during pregnancy was harmful to foetal genetic material. Ten adult female rhesus macaques were used (five were used as 'controls'). They were housed indoors, but, contrary to accepted practice and recommendations (ARRIVE; Pomerantz et al 2022), there was no mention if they were singly housed and no other information on enrichment, etc, was provided. Because the monkeys were being fed a drug at a dose based on each individual, we have to assume that they were singly housed. The 'experimental' group was given tetrahydrocannabinol in cookies (edibles) every day for about four months before being subjected to breeding to make them become pregnant, and throughout their pregnancies; the 'control' macaques were given a placebo. On gestational day 155, when the foetuses were almost full term (about 168 days), all the macaques were subjected to major survival surgery during which their foetuses were removed and killed. No details on the surgery were provided nor were there details on how the foetuses were killed.

The fate of the ten mothers after their use as 'foetus producers' was not mentioned. There was no stated consideration for the psychological trauma the mothers would have endured from the loss of their almost full-term infants, yet the mother-infant bond in non-human primates is similar to that in humans. We can only assume that these mothers were returned to the breeding 'colony' to be used again to produce more offspring for research. This is an exceptionally cruel fate for a species that is so like our own with respect to maternal bonding and attachment and developmental needs. Charities such as March of Dimes Foundation and Silver Family Foundation are committed to improving the health of mothers and babies and positive youth development. We cannot comprehend why they would choose to fund research that purposefully involved the infliction of such cruelty and suffering on non-human primate mothers and their unborn infants.

The researchers concluded that their results did not contribute substantially to our understanding of the long-term consequences of cannabis use on foetuses. Although they claimed that their limited results could be used to help counsel humans who use cannabis during pregnancy, they cited studies done on human beings, which demonstrated the effects of cannabis use on humans during pregnancy and beyond. The information necessary for counselling humans is already available. This study was done apparently without any regard for alternative, reliable and humane ways of getting information and was contrary to the Replacement criterion for the 3Rs.

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 resulted in substantial suffering for the monkeys and the death of their foetuses, demonstrates the meaningless nature of such assurances and a lack of commitment to stop using non-human primates. Not only is the information in macaques irrelevant to people given the fundamental differences between the two species, humane and ethical clinical studies have been and can continue to be done on human patients and volunteers in order to get data that are directly applicable to people.

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Cited information:

  1. Shorey-Kendrick, Lyndsey E.; Roberts, Victoria H.J.; D'Mello, Rahul J.; Sullivan, Elinor L.; Murphy, Susan K.; Mccarty, Owen J.T.; Schust, Danny J.; Hedges, Jason C.; Mitchell, A.J.; Terrobias, Jose Juanito D.; Easley, Charles A.; Spindel, Eliot R. and Lo, Jamie O. 2023-07-06 Prenatal delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol exposure is associated with changes in rhesus macaque DNA methylation enriched for autism genes Clinical Epigenetics 15(1):104
  2. ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) https://arriveguidelines.org/ Accessed 2023-12-08
  3. Pomerantz, Ori; Baker, Kate C.; Bellanca, Rita U.; Bloomsmith, Mollie A.; Coleman, Kristine; Hutchinson, Eric K.; Pierre, Peter J.; Weed, James L. and National Primate Research Centers' Behavioral Management Consortium 2022-06-01 Improving transparency—A call to include social housing information in biomedical research articles involving nonhuman primates American Journal of Primatology 84(6):e23378

Information on NIH grant support (funding) is taken verbatim from relevant publications. If you have difficulty with any links provided, you can do your own search through the NIH RePORTER site: https://reporter.nih.gov/, by copying and pasting the grant number into the Search field on the form.

Be aware that some grants include funds for more than experiments on non-human primates.