The University Record, August 16, 1999

Use of primates in research focus of demonstration, media briefing

Activists protest use of primates in research

By Jane R. Elgass

Members of In Defense of Animals and others sharing their point of view were on campus Aug. 12 to increase awareness of and educate people about medical research on primates.

Standing on the curb along Thompson Street near the Fleming Building in the morning, the activists were silent, letting their posters and placards tell their story. Cars passing the group honked their support as one of the members made literature about the organization available to passersby.

The visit to the University is one stop on the California-based group’s 1999 Primate Freedom Tour, which will take them to seven regional primate research laboratories established in the 1960s by the National Institutes of Health and 19 other research facilities that use primates. About 30 people were in Ann Arbor, 20 of them members of the town.

Spokesperson Jennifer Schneider explained that the group focuses solely on research involving primates, noting that such research increased when the fight against AIDS was launched. She characterized research on primates as “scientific fraud. This research is not finding cures, “she stated, “and it is unethical. The primates are removed from their environment and tortured. A university is supposed to teach. How does this teach students? It doesn’t teach true science. You can’t apply veterinary medicine to human medicine.”

Schneider said the group’s awareness and education focus aims to hold primate research laboratories accountable. “Where are they going? What benefits have they produced?” She noted that most of the facilities don’t carry identifying signage, reducing the chances that they will be targets of demonstrations.

A brochure published by In Defense of Animals with the Coalition to End Primate Experimentation notes that in 1963, Jane Goodall reported that chimpanzees had learned to make and use tools. At about the same time, a University of Wisconsin researcher reported that infant monkeys went insane when deprived of maternal contact. These revelations were “a devastating blow” to a society that previously endorsed primate research, the brochure states.

“Using primates for research is just like doing these things to ourselves,” Schneider stated, adding that were it proposed the citizenry would not stand for such work.

She contends that funds supporting research on primates should instead be funneled into drug rehabilitation, epidemiological and clinical research studies, disease prevention programs, work with in vitro cell and tissue cultures and research on cadavers.