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‘Retired’ FDA research monkeys find new home in Florida after years of torture

The saga of the squirrel monkeys began in 2014, when the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research conducted a study to examine the behavioral and biological effects of nicotine in squirrel monkeys.

JAQUELINE HOWARD: ‘Squirrel monkey chirps filled a small ranch-style building in north Gainesville, Florida — a chorus that made Kari Bagnall’s smile swell even wider. She covered her grin with a medical mask, calmly walked to the middle of a climate-controlled room and greeted each of the 26 monkeys. There were about three to each large cage… The monkeys arrived in mid-November at Jungle Friends, this primate sanctuary in Gainesville where Bagnall serves as founder and director. They were once involved in a US Food and Drug Administration study intended to investigate the role of various levels of nicotine in the onset of addiction in teens and young adults…

The saga of the squirrel monkeys began in 2014. That year, the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research conducted a study to examine the behavioral and biological effects of nicotine in squirrel monkeys. The research was an effort to better understand how reducing nicotine levels would impact them, and ultimately to better understand how it affects humans. After learning about the study, White Coat Waste Project, an advocacy group working to stop taxpayer-funded animal research, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for materials related to that research. The group claimed that the response it received didn’t comply with its request, and in August 2017, it sued the FDA…

In January, after the deaths of four monkeys involved in the research drew criticism from some animal rights activists, the agency ended the study. The 26 remaining monkeys were retired to Jungle Friends, and the FDA quickly established an Animal Welfare Council to oversee all animal research under the agency’s purview… “All of these monkeys were born inside,” Bagnall said. “They’ve never been outside. So they’ve never felt the sun on their face or the grass under their feet or rain or wind. It’s all going to be such a new experience for them, and they’re all just so different and individual. They’ll all react differently”…

The monkeys used in the nicotine addiction study are just a sliver of a larger debate around medical research on animals. In the United States, 75,825 non-human primates were used in experiments at animal research facilities last year; an additional 34,369 were held in facilities but not used for study, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The American public remains divided when it comes to animal research, with 52% opposing the practice and 47% in support of it, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in August’. SOURCE…

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