Speaking up for CNPRC

The following article appeared in The Aggie, a stujdent run newspaper at UC Davis. It is good to see students willing to diligently explain the reasons behind the use of animals in medical research [Tom]

Two weeks ago, during National Primate Liberation Week, activists on the quad protested against the use of non-human primates at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) on the UC Davis campus. This shows ignorance of the medical research process. While the CNPRC tries to minimize research on primates, the anatomy of the human body means that sometimes non-human primates are the only option.

Humans are a species of primate, so with some diseases, such as malaria and AIDS, studying primates is necessary. Unlike lab rats or guinea pigs, monkeys used by the CNPRC have a physiology, drug metabolism and fetal development similar to humans.

The CNPRC studies many human diseases that co-evolved with primates. The parasite that causes malaria is a protozoan specially adapted to life in the human body. Testing strains of malaria in primates like rhesus monkeys is an effective alternative to running unethical experimental research on humans.

The CNPRC also conducts research on SAIDS (Simian AIDS), the closest disease to human AIDS. Researchers use infected macaque monkeys to study the prevention of HIV (and Simian IV) infection and the body’s immune response to the disease. This research gets results: the center recently found that a drug called tenofovir could be used in a gel to reduce HIV transmission in humans.

Protesters have some legitimate arguments against the CNPRC. In 2004, a USDA report showed that several monkeys were kept in enclosures where the temperature reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit. But the CNPRC paid a penalty and temperature hasn’t been a problem since then. Last year, a researcher at the center caught a respiratory infection from a group of infected primates. No other humans caught the disease, and the researcher recovered. The CNPRC is open about the incident, and the researchers know the risks.

Research on primates is not perfect – many infected animals die. But the CNPRC works hard to keep the process humane; the USDA regularly inspects the facility, and all primate research must be approved by two committees on campus plus the federal funding agencies. The university also has a policy of never conducting classified research, and CNPRC studies are regularly published in scientific journals.

Opponents of primate research call for more transparency in research facilities, but militant protesters keep scientists from working more openly. Scientists from the CNPRC are reluctant to speak to the press after some researchers receive death-threats and mail containing razor blades.

When one looks into a monkey’s face, one naturally feels compassion. Sadly, the genes that make other primates our closest relatives also make them good test subjects. The research is worth it. Despite the protests and threats, primate researchers know that monkeys are the best option if we want to save human lives.

– Madeline McCurry-Schmidt, Max Rosenblum, Mark Ling, Jeff Perry, Nick Markwith

[This was reposted with permission from The Aggie newspaper]

5 responses to “Speaking up for CNPRC

  1. “Matt seems to be the Dr. Mengele of the Animal Rights movement.”

    Pathetic ad hominem. I’m merely appealing for consistency in reasoning. By the way, I’m not representing anyone other than myself.

    “One of the key facts that AR members like to ignore because it doesn’t fit their arguement is that humans are used in testing. They’re used in testing AFTER being tested in animal models.”

    Well, yes, but this is voluntary.

    “Since they believe there is no difference in the value of a human or that of an animal I don’t see why they don’t volunteer for more clinical trials.”

    I can accept that there are differences between normal adult humans and animals. (whether these are morally relevant differences is not what I’m here to argue). However, if you accept that there are morally relevant differences between normal adult humans and animals, you are then committed to accept that there are morally relevant differences between normal adult humans and certain other humans, UNLESS you can somehow demonstrate that being genetically human is itself morally relevant. I would suggest that being genetically human is not morally relevant, unless you wish to start claiming that individual human cells have a moral status worth protecting.

  2. Matt seems to be the Dr. Mengele of the Animal Rights movement. One of the key facts that AR members like to ignore because it doesn’t fit their arguement is that humans are used in testing. They’re used in testing AFTER being tested in animal models. I can’t think of anything of hand that went straight from an animal model into general use by the population. Since they believe there is no difference in the value of a human or that of an animal I don’t see why they don’t volunteer for more clinical trials. They would be saving the lives of those animals they purport to represent.

  3. Why should ‘potential’ be relevant ? We don’t say a medical student has the same rights as a doctor simply because they have the potential to be a doctor. We don’t say a child has the same rights as an adult simply because they have the potential to be an adult. Most non-religious people do not say a zygote has the same rights as the mother simply because it has the potential to be a person.

    Also, there are cases of human babies being born that even lack any potential for development.

    “relationships to individual members of the human community, and membership of human society, don’t mean anything to you then? ”

    These are RELATIONAL properties, not ones that are inherent/intrinsic to being a human baby. They can apply to animals (e.g many people consider pets members of their family), and they do not necessarily always apply to human babies.

    Additionally, if you wish to use this argument, it implies that a baby that is abandoned at birth, or is orphaned (e.g due to maternal death and absence of father) is worth less than a baby born to loving parents. Actually, it goes further than that, and implies ALL humans have different values depending on their relationships to others.

  4. “No relevant characteristics”. Really?

    I guess the potential for development into an adult human being, relationships to individual members of the human community, and membership of human society, don’t mean anything to you then?

    A rather frightning glimpse into the mindset of an AR activist.

  5. “Despite the protests and threats, primate researchers know that monkeys are the best option if we want to save human lives”

    Nope. Humans are the best option if we want to save human lives. Using human babies would lead to faster, more relevant data regarding human disease. And, as far as I can tell, human babies possess no relevant characteristics that make them morally more important than non-human primates.