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Elan Maj
Anthropology 1020
Professor Schaefer
October 15th, 2014
Nonhuman Primates in Biomedical Research
The use of primates in medical research has been a touchy subject for many
years. Primates refer to any omnivorous mammals in the order Primates. There are
three subclasses within the order Primates: Anthropoidea, Prosimii, and Tarsioidea.
The subclass Anthropoidea is made up of humans, apes, gibbons, Old World
monkeys, and New World monkeys. The subclass Prosimii is made up of lemurs and
loris, and the subclass Tarsioidea is made up of tarsiers which our known for their
use of hands and complex social and cultural life. These primates are all considered
to be fairly intelligent, sociable, and emotional. But what makes them such targets
to biomedical testing is that our fellow primates share up to 98 percent of our
human genome, which means that on a genetic level, we are fairly similar. On a
deeper level it allows us to determine the causes, progress, prevention, and then
treatment of many different diseases. Although implementing primates in
biomedical research has led to many discoveries about cancer, AIDs, and
Alzheimers, people consider it unethical while others insist that the use of
nonhuman primates in biomedical research is essential to the advancement of
medical research.
According to the California Biomedical Research Association nonhuman
primates reflect the anatomical, physiological, and behavioral makeup of humans,

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they provide an indispensible, and currently irreplaceable, bridge between basic
laboratory studies and clinical use. Because of these similarities, nonhuman
primates have lead to advancements in medical research since the early 1900s. For
example, in the 1920s the study of nonhuman primates lead to the ability to treat
and diagnose typhoid fever, 1940s gave knowledge to blood-typing that is essential
for safe blood transfusions, 1950s developed the polio/yellow fever vaccine and
chemotherapy for cancer, 1960s mapped the hearts connections to arteries, and the
1970s led to the treatment of leprosy and the knowledge to bring back blood supply
to the brain. In the last three decades nonhuman primates in biomedical research
have led to an extraordinary amount of findings such as the treatment for lazy-eye
in children, heart and lung transplants, Hepatitis B vaccine, model for AIDs,
understanding puberty, postpartum and postmenopausal depression, the monkey
model for curing diabetes, and a monkey model for treatments and vaccines for HIV.
Although there have been great discoveries in the medical field with the help of
nonhuman primates, there are people and organizations, such as PETA (People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who consider the implementing of nonhuman
primates in medical research unethical (CBRA).
According to PETA, there are 125,000 primates in laboratories throughout
the United States that are abused and killed in invasive, painful, and terrifying
experiments. In fact, the United States is one of two countries in the world to
continue using chimpanzees in experiments. Because of the similarities in our
anatomy and psychology with nonhuman primates it makes them specific targets
for such experiments that are life threatening (PETA). These primates are typically

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bred in government facilities rather than captured from their own environment.
The California Biomedical Research Association claims that 12,000 to 15,000
monkeys are captured and imported to the United States each, which only one is
used for research (CBRA). PETA tells us that there have been many investigations
under the way these primates are captured, and they have found that trappers will
shoot the mothers down from the trees or use dart guns, and then the trappers will
capture the babies who hold on to their mother with fear. Once these primates are
captured they are put into cages with little to no food and water. Things do not get
any better once these primates arrive to laboratories; here they will find plain steel
cages, nonsufficient for movement, that are far different from their home
environment of lush trees and greens. These primates are typically given cheap
plastic toys, ruined mirrors, and sometimes have the opportunity to eat their native
fruits. Because of the isolation from their natural environment and the abuse they
go through 90 percent of primates show signs of unusual behavior such as rocking
back and forth, pacing in their cages, repetitive movements like flipping, and tearing
their own hair out. Not only do these primates have to tolerate an unsuitable
environment, they have to go through painful experiments such as pharmaceutical
tests, vaccine tests, military experiments and training, and brain experiments. In
pharmaceutical tests primates have thick tubes forced into their nostrils or throats
so that experimental drugs can be tested, in which there is a 92 percent fail rate
according to the FDA. In vaccine tests they are given diseases so that they can be
used as test subjects in experimental vaccines. In military experiments and training,
primates are introduced to chemical warfare such as anthrax. Lastly, primates go

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through brain experiments where they find themselves having holes drilled through
their skulls, metal plates and screws placed onto their skulls, and electrodes put into
their brains. These primates, who are much like us, are imprisoned and tortured;
there must be a better way to implement and test experimental drugs (PETA).
California Biomedical Research Association reports that less than one
percent of animals studied in the United States are nonhuman primates, .30 percent
to be exact. The majority of animals that are tested are rats and mice, which make
up 95 percent of all animals that are used in biomedical research. Even though
12,000 to 15,000 of monkeys are imported to the United States each year, this is not
what threatens their extinction. The native people of the lands the primates live in
are what threaten their extinction because the people deforest their land and move
in. If these primates do become endangered, it is against the law to capture one.
This is what happened to Chimpanzees in the mid 1970s; the United States hasnt
held a captured Chimp for 30 years now. Although it is legal to use born in captivity
Chimps in research, they still hold a vital position of their species if they were to
become extinct. Some people go further and state that no animal should be used in
any sort of research. Unfortunately that cannot be a reality, medical researchers
need a live organism to study because our biology is extremely complex where
every part depends on the next part and so on. For example, you cannot study
Parkinsons without a live species because the disease is active and in the brain.
Animal research is the current best biomedical research option, unless actual live
humans were implemented into such research; of course that would be an outrage

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and extremely unethical compared to the current way of implementing research.
(CBRA).
For many years now the use of nonhuman primates in medical research has
been a difficult subject and often considered to be unethical. It has been considered
unethical by organizations like PETA because nonhuman primates are fairly similar
to humans in that our genome matches 98% and our anatomy, physiology, and
psychology are similar. What organizations like PETA fail to point out are all the
advancements in the medical field from the use of nonhuman primates in
biomedical research. These primates led to the knowledge of heart transplants,
which are performed 3,500 times each year, and the development of the polio
vaccine. Without nonhuman primates in biomedical research, we as a human race
may miss the next great discovery in modern medicine that could save millions of
lives.

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Works Cited
"CBRA Fact Sheet." Why Are Animals Necessary in Biomedical Research? (n.d.): n. pag.
Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
"Primates in Biomedical Research." California Biomedical Research Association. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
"primate." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 14 Oct. 2014.
"Primates in Laboratories." PETA. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.