Twenty-six squirrel monkeys were recently rescued from a United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nicotine testing lab and relocated to a sanctuary. The move—which is the first time the FDA has retired primates from its labs—came after pressure from advocacy group The White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) and world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, among others. The monkeys were used in an FDA study investigating the role of various levels of nicotine in the onset of addiction in young adults. After learning about the study in 2016, the WCWP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for materials related to the study. Soon after, Goodall sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, saying she was “disturbed” and “shocked” to learn that the agency was still performing nicotine addiction experiments on monkeys. The study was halted, and the remaining monkeys were relocated to Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Florida. “This is the beginning of the end of wasteful government primate testing, thanks to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Jane Goodall, Congress, Jungle Friends, and over 600,000 White Coat Waste Project supporters who worked to save these monkeys’ lives,” Noelle Callahan, WCWP public policy manager, told VegNews.
Last year, nearly 76,000 non-human primates were used in experiments at US animal research facilities, and more than 34,000 were held captive in facilities but not used for experimentation, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Commissioner Brendan Boyle (D-PA) urged the FDA to engage the Animal Welfare Council—an organization Gottlieb recently formed to strengthen the FDA’s oversight of animal testing—to review, reduce, and replace primate testing in labs. “Painful primate testing has no place in the 21st century, and I applaud the FDA for quitting its cruel nicotine experiments on monkeys and sending the animals to a sanctuary where they can breathe easy and live in peace,” Boyle told VegNews. “This is a great first step and I will continue to urge the FDA and other federal agencies to end all of their harmful primate testing, which is rightly opposed by most Americans because it’s inhumane, ineffective, and outdated.”