Earlier this week, the National Institutes of Health hosted a conference on the use of nonhuman primates in research. The workshop was the subject of considerable controversy.
Here are the public comments I submitted in advance of the workshop:
As Dr. John Gluck points out in his recent Opinion Editorial in The New York Times, in 1974, a federal commission was formed to develop ethical principles for human research. In contrast, no similar, comprehensive and principled effort has addressed the use of animals in research – despite the large body of science showing how animals can suffer physically and mentally. To address this gap, Dr. Gluck, Dr. Tom Beauchamp, many other colleagues, and I worked on a multi-disciplinary National Science Foundation grant exploring the limits of existing animal research guidelines, as well as potential solutions. Results were reported in multiple publications, including a special issue of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics called Rethinking the Ethics of Research Involving Nonhuman Animals. One of the articles, authored by primatologist Dr. Agustin Fuentes and myself, addressed the imbalance between the harms of research involving nonhuman primates and deprivation of benefits to them. We concluded much of the laboratory research conducted today has inadequate standards, leading to significant physical, psychological, and social harms to nonhuman primates. Several other articles in the series examine how widely recognized bioethical principles could better inform decisions about the use of animals, including nonhuman primates, in research. I urge you to consider factors such as these in your deliberations.