Research Animals: More? Or Less?

Posted by Dana Campbell, ALDF Attorney on August 26, 2009

How apropos that the same week I received an invitation to an upcoming national symposium on animals and toxicity testing to occur in Portland Oregon, I also saw a news story about how the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), which is located in a Portland suburb, is seeking millions in stimulus money to expand its facilities to house more primates for more research. Accident? Coincidence? Ironic is what I’d call it.

Now from what I understand, ONPRC does not do much toxicity testing; its focus is on behavioral and biomedical research on a population of about 4,200 nonhuman primates. It is run by Oregon Health Science University, which states on its website that it is Portland’s largest, and the state’s fourth largest employer, operating with an annual budget of $1.4 billion and more than 12,400 employees. According to the article I saw in the Willamette Week newspaper, ONPRC is asking for $14.8 million in stimulus funds for a new building with more cages to relieve a shortage of cage space since the population has significantly increased, and to add a bunch of amenities like a monkey nursery and healthcare facility. The article quotes ONPRC’s director as saying it is unable to keep pace with the growing demand for experiments, thus the breeding bonanza and housing shortage. I’m not really sure how more monkey cages will stimulate the economy, but there you have it.

Trending the opposite direction in animal research is the field of toxicity testing, which may be on the verge of making significant breakthroughs in improving scientific outcomes in chemical and other substance testing using alternatives to testing on animals, a vision outlined in the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council Report on Toxicity Testing in the  21st Century. This is the topic of the symposium, which will bring together experts in toxicology, environmental law, animal law, risk analysis, and policy implementation for “an open dialogue and exchange of ideas.”

I recently attended a presentation on animals and toxicity testing in which I was stunned to hear the speaker estimate that by merely requiring researchers to share their research results with other scientists to decrease duplicate testing, and by harmonizing chemical testing standards, several million animals would be immediately spared from use in unnecessary research.

Given that Portland also happens to be the home of two of the symposium’s sponsors, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis and Clark Law School and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (our Criminal Justice Program office is there), one must conclude it is neither accident nor coincidence that the symposium landed in Portland. However, juxtaposed as it is with ONPRC, the irony is unmistakable.


5 thoughts on “Research Animals: More? Or Less?

  1. Lois Kackley says:

    My adorable cocker spaniel is in danger of euthanasia or being taken from me if I cannot defend adequately against a suit alleging that he bit a pet sitter because of a “vicious and violent nature.”

    I am at loose ends. I cannot afford a startup lawyer fee of $4,000 and who-knows-how-much-more!

    The pet sitter did not secure Forrest Gump, my cocker, in a room, but let him roam a strange house in my absence. Without knowing where he was she, at 3 or 4am went to her living room to lie on the sofa. Fell asleep. He jumped up on her and, startled, she shoved him to the floor. She said then he growled and started biting her.

    She now alleges she did not provoke him in any way. I say there is no way to know that he even knew she was there in the dark; or, that he didn’t attempt by whining or nudging, to awaken her.

    He has never bitten anyone before or since. Can anyone help? the incident took place in Georgia in 2007; and I am a 1 1/2-yr resident of Mass.

  2. Lois, we are so sorry to hear about your situation with Forrest Gump. Please be sure to check out our information about “What to do if your dog is in danger of being declared “vicious,” or if your dog has bitten someone who is now suing you” – it can be found here: http://aldf.org/article.php?id=246 All the best to you and Forrest.

  3. Roze says:

    If there is such a growing demand for more monkeys for experiments, why does ONPRC have such a surplus?

    It sounds like they have been overbreeding animals for which there is decreasing demand from the scientific community. There are much more reliable, more humane and cheaper ways to advance science than torturing monkeys.

  4. Julie van Niekerk says:

    THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY – CRUELTY

    I am writing this letter not because I am a scientist or an intellect or a graduate. This is from a humble human being from the bottom of my heart.

    Mother earth and her inhabitants, humans and animals share this beauty of nature together and the ultimate aim is to live with her in peace and harmony where cruelty is not suppose to be part of it. People have altered it all.

    What a shame that we as humans can face the cruel treatment of animals, whether it is in the laboratory, companies, factories, Circuses, Zoos, Puppy mills or individual torturing of animals, wild and domesticated.

    Animals in the laboratories are being tortured and killed in the name of science for the welfare of the human being. Who are we to decide that it is all in order to do cruel tests on these animals, when they scream and try to escape from the danger they find themselves in. They use body language to communicate with the scientist and the abusive person, yet we fail to recognize the cruelty behind this. It is not natural for any animal to be put through trauma deliberately. This earth is their planet too. Looking at nature and unhampered wilderness, I tend to think that this earth is their territory in the first place. We as humans have invaded their space to make way for technology and industries. Technology has put us in a dwindling spiral and thus the reason all the conflict between nations, let alone the animals that have to suffer due to our unethical behavior.

    Ironically, we are so dependant on animals for our survival. Humans fear old age, illness and death and justify the cruel experiments on animals. For how many years should man be the beast and behave like the beast and keep torturing animals that any scientist can see is endless suffering. How does a scientist go home and treat his family with passion and yet the other side of him is non caring towards other forms of life. How can he watch an animal being clamped from head to toe and observe the fear, kicking and “pleading for mercy”. How can he look at the pain and turn his head and have no remorse for his actions towards an animal that experience the same pain as any human.
    Has scientist not gathered enough information and written libraries full of books of all the tests being administered on animals?

    Scientists are still testing for the cure of cancer and aids and many other illnesses. They want to find a cure for all the illness and a tablet to curb old age. What for? We all have to complete the cycle of life. We all have to “depart” one day and make space for the new. It is the natural order of all living things, exactly like the weather pattern. Start educating humans to live a life of ethical and moral standards and see the Aids decline. Teach humans to wash their hands and see cholera decline. We regard ourselves as the higher species and yet we can not obey the basic rules in life. It is time we look at the behavior of animals and their self discipline. They can teach us plenty about pride and dignity.

    Is it not perhaps fame that drives the scientist towards these deeds? Are these tests truly for the human survival? At a new discovery in the lab, the scientist name is on all the billboards, the media coverage and most probably the Nobel price too. Yes, the wealth speaks for it self. Do you want to see real trauma? Ask any very wealthy person to contribute towards charity and observe the devastating pain on his face. He regards his bank balance far more superior than life itself. Humans will do anything to hold on to their status which is so important for his survival. Greed has surpassed humanity…

    Mans best weapon is his reasoning. We have used it and we have abused it and then we go up in arms because this planet is not a safe place to live in anymore. Cruelty has increased. Crime has increased. Illness is taking lives of young people. Corruption has increased. All this is due to the sad behavior of people that call themselves human.

    What scientist can do is start experimenting on humans and try to find out why some are so cruel and evil and only a handful show dignity towards our planet and our animals. Why am I different than the cruel and evil person? Don’t test on animals to find out why humans have lost the plot! Humanity is on the endangered list and people became used to the idea of being barbaric. The barbaric gene has invaded the human body and filled the cavity of humanity. We have lost our dignity, our ethics, our honesty, our principles and moral standards. What is left …nothing. We are empty vessels!

    Some will read this letter and grin and think that I am insane. Yes, it maybe so, but my insanity has not harmed you. My insanity has not robbed the bank. My insanity has not car jacked you. My insanity has not raped or murdered your family or friends. My insanity has not stolen your purse…

    Thanks
    Julie van Niekerk
    South Africa

  5. bunny says:

    Julie, that was beautiful. Although I disagree with one part I wish there were more people thinking like you, keep up the passion!

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