Action for Primates

Long-tailed macaques, photo by Sarah Kite
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News 2022

The following are news items we have posted in 2022. See elsewhere for news from previous years.


10 August 2022: Monkeys confiscated by authorities in Cambodia – Updated

Update 31st August 2022:

Action for Primates and Lady Freethinker have welcomed further action taken by the authorities in Cambodia, the confiscation of another five macaques, seized in accordance with the country's wildlife legislation. All the monkeys were being held captive, exploited and used for online 'entertainment' on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.

Depressed infant macaque on social media
Depressed infant macaque, social media

Lady Freethinker and Action for Primates have welcomed action taken by the authorities in Cambodia that has resulted in the confiscation of 13 pig-tailed and long-tailed macaques. The macaques had been illegally poached from the wild as infants and kept captive as 'pets' in human households. They were seized in accordance with the country's wildlife legislation. The monkeys were being used for online entertainment on social media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook.

A joint investigation carried out in Cambodia in February of this year by Action for Primates and Lady Freethinker, found that the reality for monkeys kept as 'pets' is very different to the glamour of the colourful matching outfits and synchronised moves that are broadcast on, often monetized, social media platforms. Substantial harm, suffering and distress is inflicted on these baby monkeys, deprived of their mothers, and cruelly controlled and manipulated to 'perform' on camera, often several times a day. Other monkeys are deliberately placed into frightening and distressing situations from which they cannot escape. Their reactions, including obvious signs of terror, screaming and violent struggling, are then filmed for the online 'entertainment' of viewers.

Watch our video (warning: contains upsetting scenes): https://vimeo.com/701323086

Frightened long-tailed macaque infant on social media
Frightened long-tailed macaque infant, social media

Such videos also normalise the incarceration of wild baby monkeys as well as perpetuating the legal and illegal trade in wild monkeys as 'pets'.

Action for Primates and Lady Freethinker launched a campaign and, together with Stop Monkey Abuse Asia, sent a dossier of information to the Cambodian authorities urging them to crack down on the illegal keeping of macaques in private homes and confiscate any illegally held captive monkeys so that they may be relocated to a reputable sanctuary.

Sarah Kite, Co-founder, Action for Primates, stated: "Action for Primates is encouraged with the action taken by the Cambodian authorities. We hope this confiscation will send an important message and deter other people from keeping and mistreating monkeys. Animal cruelty in the guise of 'entertainment' must never be tolerated and it is shameful that YouTube and other social media platforms continue to allow such content to be posted."

Nina Jackel, Founder, Lady Freethinker, stated: "Holding monkeys captive as 'pets' for exploitation on social media is highly cruel, as demonstrated in LFT and AfP's recent investigation. I'm grateful to Cambodian officials for taking action to help these animals who were illegally poached for human gain, and encourage further enforcement to help end the epidemic of abuse of baby monkeys."

For further information: https://tinyurl.com/2p9y8uys

Infant macaques kept as 'pets' forced to 'perform' for social media; photo credit Lady Freethinker & Action for Primates
Infant macaques forced to 'perform', social media
credit Lady Freethinker & Action for Primates

There has been a critical new development regarding the conservation status of the long-tailed macaque, the non-human primate species most often kept as 'pets' and filmed for online 'entertainment' on social media platforms. The long-tailed macaque has now been assessed as Endangered (previously it was assessed as Vulnerable) for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in 2022. The IUCN assessment is based on the current degree of exploitation of the species. Threats identified include habitat loss and degradation, national and international trade, hunting, capture for 'pet' trade and filming for abuse videos on social media, and killing due to negative interactions with people; all have contributed to the alarming decline in populations. If something is not done now to change the trend, it is expected that the species will be on the verge of extinction in the foreseeable future.

9 August 2022: Egyptair stops transporting non-human primates to laboratories

Long-tailed macaques at Cambodia breeding facility; photo credit Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaques, Cambodia breeding facility
credit Cruelty Free International

Action for Primates has welcomed the announcement by Egyptair that it has not renewed its contract in June 2022 to transport monkeys to laboratories. The airlines confirmed this decision in an E-mail to PeTA. Egyptair now joins the growing list of airlines, and follows the recent compassionate decisions by Air France and Kenya Airways, to have ended their involvement in the global trade in non-human primates for research and toxicity (poisoning) testing. Thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign with One Voice and Stop Camarles and contacted Egyptair urging the airline to end its flights of misery, thereby demonstrating the strength of public feeling on this issue.

Action for Primates first revealed Egyptair's role in transporting monkeys in March 2022, after being contacted by a concerned airport worker. Since then, the airline has shipped many thousands of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), including from Vietnam and Mauritius, but primarily from Cambodia, to the US via Cairo, with the monkeys enduring a gruelling and traumatic ordeal of around 22 hours of flying time with a 5-6 hour stop-over. Many of the monkeys were destined for Envigo, the global contract testing company.

The global trade and transportation of non-human primates for research and toxicity testing is an industry steeped in suffering and cruelty. Airlines play a key role in the chain of suffering, with tens of thousands of monkeys being transported every year to destinations around the world. Monkeys are transported as cargo in crates that are too small to permit normal postural adjustments nor any exercise. They may have to endure inadequate ventilation, noise, extreme temperature fluctuations and delays en route. Monkeys have been injured or have died on these flights. For example, several monkeys were found dead on board a Wamos Air flight from Cambodia to Houston, Texas, in November 2021.

Action for Primates wrote to the Prime Minister of Egypt and Egyptair following the recent up-listing to Endangered for the conservation status of the long-tailed macaque for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List List of Threatened Species. There are concerns about the future of the species if we do not take action now to protect it. Threats faced by the long-tailed macaque, and taken into consideration as part of the assessment, include the trade in long-tailed macaques for research and testing. Click here for more information.

Action for Primates will continue to campaign to end the trade, transport and use of non-human primates for the research and toxicity testing industry.

25 July 2022: Non-human primates in deadly disease research at Porton Down in the UK

Rhesus macaque in laboratory cage; photo credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International
Rhesus macaque in laboratory cage
credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International

According to information released by the UK government, in 2021, 71 non-human primates were used at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down. This secretive government facility carries out research into chemical weapons and deadly diseases using non-human animals.

One such area of research uses macaques as models for tuberculosis (TB) which is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. A recently published experiment used twenty-four male and female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) of Indian origin from the closed breeding colony at Porton Down (Public Health England) (White et al 2021). The work was supported by the UK Department of Health and a grant from Aeras.

Buxco Head-Out Chamber, photo by company
Buxco Head-Out Chamber

Eight of the macaques received MTBVAC vaccine, the focus of the study. Another eight macaques received BCG vaccine for comparison and the remaining eight individuals were used as the control group and received no vaccination – no protection against this deadly disease which affects the lungs and causes persistent coughing, weight loss, high fever, loss of appetite and death. All twenty-four monkeys were sedated and injected into the nose with the tuberculosis bacterium while restrained in a Buxco Head-Out Chamber (see photo). At various intervals, the monkeys were sedated for thoracic radiographs, blood sampling, CT scans and collection of other data.

One of the BCG-vaccinated monkeys and three of the non-vaccinated monkeys were killed before the end of the experiment because the extent of their suffering was so great that it met the so-called humane endpoint for the experiment: depression or withdrawn behaviour, abnormal respiration (dyspnoea [difficulty in breathing]), loss of 20% of peak post-challenge body weight, fever, abnormalities on radiographs and blood abnormalities such as anaemia. The remaining twenty macaques were killed at 16 or 18 weeks after exposure to the bacterium.

The MTBVAC vaccine has been shown to be effective and safe in clinical trials with people. The authors even point out that immune profiles induced following immunisation with MTBVAC [in the macaques] reflect those identified in human clinical trials of MTBVAC. The experimental work done by the authors was basically just to further a model of tuberculosis in macaques in order to do more studies, which challenges the contention that the high degree of suffering inflicted upon these animals is justified. Some of the authors are considered to have had Competing interests which appeared to be financial in nature.

Research at Porton Down involving non-human primates infected with other deadly diseases includes Marburg virus, infection with agents causing haemorrhagic fever, lethal inhalational infection with Francisella tularensis (causes tularaemia) and research into inhalational anthrax infection. Such experiments involve substantial suffering and often result in the death of the animals. Subjecting sentient beings – who unquestionably are unwilling and would never give their consent – to this is barbaric. Humans are intelligent enough to develop innovative means to investigate such diseases in ways that are humane and directly applicable to people.

Reference:

  1. White, Andrew D.; Sibley, Laura; Sarfas, Charlotte; Morrison, Alexandra; Gullick, Jennie; Clark, Simon; Gleeson, Fergus; McIntyre, Anthony; Arlehamn, Cecilia Lindestam; Sette, Alessandro; Salguero, Francisco J.; Rayner, Emma; Rodriguez, Esteban; Puentes, Eugenia; Laddy, Dominick; Williams, Ann; Dennis, Mike; Martin, Carlos and Sharpe, Sally 2021-01-04 "MTBVAC vaccination protects rhesus macaques against aerosol challenge with M. tuberculosis and induces immune signatures analogous to those observed in clinical studies" NPJ Vaccines 6(1):4
  2. Competing interests E.P., E.R. and C.M. are co-inventors on a patent on MTBVAC held by the University of Zaragoza and Biofabri

1 July 2022: Air France to stop transporting non-human primates to laboratories

Campaign message by Action for Primates, One Voice & Stop Camarles
Air France campaign message
Action for Primates, One Voice & Stop Camarles

Action for Primates has welcomed the announcement from Air France that it has decided to stop transporting non-human primates for laboratory use. The airline made the announcement on 30 June 2022 via Twitter, stating that it will end the transport as soon as its current contractual commitments come to an end: https://twitter.com/afnewsroom/status/1542490334009204744

Air France has been a major transporter of non-human primates for decades, in particular long-tailed macaques from Mauritius and Vietnam, destined to be used in research and toxicity (poisoning) testing in laboratories in Europe and the USA. The monkeys are transported as cargo, usually on Air France passenger flights. For example, from Mauritius, the monkeys are flown to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris. From there, they are either flown on to Chicago, USA, or transported across Europe by road or air carriers. Concerned airline workers in the US and Europe have alerted Action for Primates to these shipments. On 14 April 2022, one such shipment involved 100 long-tailed macaques transported by Air France from Mauritius to Paris, and then transferred to another airline and flown to Manchester Airport, UK, a key destination for monkeys imported into the UK. The monkeys were destined for Labcorp, a global contract research company in Harrogate.

The campaign against Air France has been global, running for many years and involving organisations from across the world, including Cruelty Free International, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments and PeTA. More recently, Action for Primates, One Voice and Stop Camarles have been running a campaign calling on the airline to stop flying monkeys to suffer and die in laboratories: afp_take_action_2022.php#20220520

The international trade in non-human primates for laboratories involves tens of thousands of monkeys being transported every year by airlines to destinations around the world. Monkeys are transported as cargo in crates that are too small to permit normal postural adjustments nor any exercise. They may have to endure inadequate ventilation, noise, extreme temperature fluctuations and delays en route. Monkeys have been injured or have died on these flights. For example, several monkeys were found dead on board a Wamos Air flight from Cambodia to Houston, Texas, in November 2021.

Action for Primates is grateful that Air France will now become part of the growing list of passenger airlines that have ended their involvement in the cruel international trade in non-human primates. These include American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines, Eva Air, Air Canada, China Airlines and Kenya Airways. Many other passenger airlines and cargo companies have also declared their intent to not become involved in this cruel trade.

23 May 2022: Action for Primates submits evidence to US committee looking at non-human primate research

Long-tailed macaque restrained by neck and body in testing laboratory; photo credit Cruelty Free International/SOKO Tierschutz
Long-tailed macaque, neck & body restraint
credit Cruelty Free International/SOKO Tierschutz

The US Congress has requested that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) look into the use of non-human primates in research. The NAS has provided no information on why Congress has made this request. They have set up a Committee which will be responsible for carrying out a landscape analysis to describe the state of the science on nonhuman primate model systems, including assessing their current roles in biomedical research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and exploring future needs. The committee will also examine opportunities for new approach methodologies to complement or reduce reliance on NIH-supported research with nonhuman primates.

Although this review is important and timely, there are major concerns regarding conflicting goals stated by the Committee, as well as the people comprising the Committee. Many millions of public tax dollars are spent every year by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its many agencies, on research that involves subjecting tens of thousands of non-human primates to unimaginable suffering, distress, pain and death. There is an urgent need for an unbiased evaluation of this appalling abuse of non-human primates in US laboratories.

Rhesus macaque used in brain research; photo credit Cruelty Free International / SOKO Tierschutz
Rhesus macaque used in brain research
credit Cruelty Free International / SOKO Tierschutz

Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, co-founder and veterinary adviser to Action for Primates, has submitted written evidence to the Committee covering specific areas related to the use of non-human primates in research, including lack of proof that non-human primate research has helped people directly, the immorality of using non-human primates in research and the inhumane conditions under which the individuals are housed. He also focused on several areas of especially disturbing research funded by the NIH in which non-human primates are regularly used: maternal deprivation (infant monkeys taken from mothers), use of extreme physical restraint (including head fixation through use of a post surgically implanted into the skull), drug addiction studies (monkeys forced to become addicted to alcohol and other drugs such as cocaine and heroin), diet studies, brain function research (some of the most invasive and inhumane research, involving electrode implants and sometimes involving substantial fluid or food deprivation to force monkeys to carry out certain tasks).

Dr Buyukmihci also addressed the conflicting goals stated by the Committee: reducing reliance on NIH-supported research with nonhuman primates at the same time to identify areas of emerging science that may benefit from nonhuman primate research models. He also raised concerns and questioned whether the Committee can provide an unbiased, critical investigation when it is comprised of people who not only support the use of non-human primates in research, but also largely have a financial or other interest in this area. He argued for the need to have several people on the Committee who have sufficient knowledge about non-human primates as beings, not just 'tools' to be exploited, and who do not a priori agree that using these beings in captive research is appropriate. This is critical in order to be sure that the charge to look at areas to reduce reliance on research with nonhuman primates is explored without prejudice. The qualifications of these people should include demonstrated expertise in the welfare and well-being of non-human primates beyond just adherence to guidelines such as the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research Council 2011). Although this category would logically include professional primatologists, it could also include people who have substantial welfare and field experience with non-human primates, such as behaviourists or conservationists. These people should advocate unequivocally on behalf of non-human primates in order to balance the bias currently inherent in the Committee composition.

For further information about the NAS Committee and what it plans to do: https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/nonhuman-primate-model-systems-state-of-the-science-and-future-needs

5 May 2022: Over 34,000 monkeys imported into the US during 2021 for laboratory use

Captured long-tailed macaque in Indonesia; credit Action for Primates
Captured long-tailed macaque, Indonesia
credit Action for Primates

During 2021, over 34,000 non-human primates were imported into the USA by the research and toxicity (poisoning) testing industry. The majority of these individuals – 33,873 – were long-tailed macaques, primarily imported from Cambodia and Mauritius. The data released by US Fish & Wildlife show that 17,004 individuals were imported from Cambodia and 9,075 from Mauritius, both figures greater than those for 2020. Long-tailed macaques were also imported from Vietnam, China, Indonesia and the Philippines. Other non-human primate species imported during 2021 included rhesus macaques, African green monkeys, capuchins and marmosets. Some of the monkeys imported by the US had been captured in the wild or were the off-spring of wild-caught parents, with facilities continuing to capture monkeys from wild populations for breeding purposes. The monkeys are transported around the world in the cargo hold of aeroplanes, on airlines such as Egyptair and Air France. Confined for around 25 hours or more in small transit crates, they are forced to endure long journeys and may experience inadequate ventilation, unfamiliar and loud noises, temperature and humidity fluctuations as well as delays en-route.

Mother and infant long-tailed macaques on Mauritius monkey 'farm'; photo credit Cruelty Free International
Mother, infant long-tailed macaques, Mauritius 'farm'
credit Cruelty Free International

Action for Primates recently released harrowing footage of the brutal capture of wild long-tailed macaques in Indonesia (click here to view ; contains distressing scenes).

The long-tailed macaque is the most heavily traded non-human primate species for the global research and testing industry, with the US being one of the world's greatest importers and users of this species. Across SE Asia and in Mauritius, tens of thousands of macaques are imprisoned in small, concrete pens in large commercial holding and breeding facilities, denied their freedom and the lush foliage of their jungle homes.

Long-tailed macaques are imported by global companies such as Envigo and Charles River and are primarily used in toxicity (poisoning) testing, carried out to assess adverse reactions to drugs or their chemical ingredients, primarily for the purpose of developing commercial products for use by human beings. The tests are carried out using different concentrations of the test substance, over different periods of time. The monkeys are exposed to the substances through different means, including intravenously (directly into the bloodstream) and orally (through a tube that is pushed down the oesophagus into the stomach). All the monkeys are killed at the end of each test, with some of them suffering immensely before this.

Long-tailed macaques in airline transport crates; credit Action for Primates
Long-tailed macaques, airline transport crates
credit Action for Primates

Much of the other research involving non-human primates in the US is publicly funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many comprise deplorable addiction research in which monkeys are forced to become addicted to or ingest various substances – such as alcohol (ethanol), cocaine and heroin and methamphetamine – in the misguided notion that this will somehow provide answers to substance abuse in people. In others, long-tailed macaques are deliberately stressed by depriving them of food or forcing them to run on a motorised treadmill in order to see the effects on reproduction or their menstrual cycles. In still others, the monkeys are forced to consume 'Mediterranean' or 'Western-style' human diets in order to see how these affect their behaviour or bodily functions, despite the information already readily available as a result of similar studies in people.

26 February 2022: Alcohol and other drug addiction research on non-human primates flourishes in the US

Olive baboon in a research cage; photo credit Cruelty Free International
Olive baboon in research cage
credit Cruelty Free International

In this research, monkeys are forced to become addicted to various substances – such as alcohol (ethanol), cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine – in the misguided notion that this will somehow provide answers to substance abuse in people. Shockingly, non-human primates have been used in such drug addiction research for more than 70 years, and it continues with no end in sight. The projects are primarily paid for by taxpayer funds distributed to various institutions by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its many agencies.

Drug addiction in people involves considerably more than simply abusing certain substances. The complex combination of factors at play, such as genetics, emotional and personal experiences and socioeconomic aspects, can never be simulated or resolved through non-human primate research aimed at a 'silver bullet' solution. The millions of tax dollars spent on trying to turn monkeys into surrogates for human drug addiction could be better used to directly help the millions of people who suffer from substance abuse.

Below are examples of such research published over the last few years and which we have reviewed. Unfortunately for the monkeys, these comprise only a limited view of what is extant.

Baboons forced to drink alcohol daily for up to 12 years
In this research done at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Maryland, nine adult male olive baboons were forced to drink alcohol every day, seven days a week, for up to 12 years. Their gastrointestinal contents were studied. The protocol was approved by the Johns Hopkins University Animal Care and Use Committee, and funding was essentially entirely through public funds from the National Institutes of Health and branches. Click here for more information

Rhesus macaques fed cannabis to study effects on reproduction
Six adult male rhesus macaques were forced to become heavy users of marijuana in this research carried out at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), Oregon Health & Science University. The intent of the research was to see the effects on male reproduction. It was approved by the ONPRC Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and supported almost entirely with public funds (NIH and its branches). Click here for more information

Rhesus macaques forced to become cocaine addicts
Fourteen adult male rhesus macaques were deprived of water so that they could be 'trained' to self-administer cocaine at the University of Pittsburgh. The work was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at the University of Pittsburgh and funded entirely with public funds through the National Institutes of Health. Click here for more information

Baboons forced to drink vodka in addiction experiments
Baboons were forced to become 'alcoholics' using sweetened vodka (Stolichnaya brand, Stoli Group, NY), in order to test the effects of a drug on their drinking. The work was done at New York State Psychiatric Institute (part of Columbia University) and approved by the New York State Psychiatric Institute Animal Care and Use Committee. It was funded by public funds through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant AA023879 and privately through the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation. Click here for more information

Squirrel monkey living freely in South America; photo Fabrizio Cianella, Dreamstime
Squirrel monkey living freely
photo Fabrizio Cianella, Dreamstime

Squirrel monkeys injected with opioid drug to simulate human behaviour
Ten adult male common squirrel monkeys were injected with the opioid drug remifentanil in an effort to create surrogates for human drug addiction. The work was done at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, a branch of the NIH), Baltimore, Maryland, and funded entirely by public funds through NIDA. It was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the NIDA Intramural Research Program. Click here for more information

Monkeys forced to become binge drinkers and cocaine users
Twelve adult male rhesus macaques were used in this research carried out at Wake Forest School of Medicine, North Carolina. The work was approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Wake Forest University and funded entirely with public funds via National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA; a branch of the NIH) grant DA039953. By 18 days, the macaques were drinking amounts the researchers called a binge-like pattern. This was continued for five days a week for about nine months before the macaques were forced to take cocaine, euphemistically referred to as self-administration. Click here for more information

Squirrel monkeys injected daily with cannabis to study human teenage drug use
Twelve adolescent male black-capped squirrel monkeys were used in this research carried out at McLean Hospital (part of Harvard University), with collaboration by the University of Toronto. The research was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at McLean Hospital and supported by public funds (NIH grant DA042178) and Harvard University. The monkeys were injected with the active ingredient of cannabis to see its effects on behaviour. Click here for more information