Cruel and Unscientific: NIH Plans to Use More Marmosets in Experiments

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Experimenters want to torment and kill more primates, so they've set their sights—and our tax dollars—on marmoset monkeys.

marmoset in forest

Marmosets are intelligent and curious animals. In nature, they live high up in the canopies of rainforests in social groups composed of up to three generations of family members. They're highly vocal, communicating with each other in complex, high-pitched calls that convey information about a wide range of emotions and situations. Sensitive and largely monogamous, marmoset pairs spend time grooming each other, huddling together affectionately, sharing food, and coordinating activities, including raising their children.

"The Hidden Lives of Marmosets"

But marmosets' cooperative nature—along with their small size and relatively high birth rate—makes these monkeys a prime target for experimenters. And as most airlines have stopped transporting monkeys to laboratories—thanks to sustained campaigning by PETA, its supporters, and other animal protection groups—the experimentation industry is looking to vulnerable marmosets, who can be bred domestically in U.S. laboratories, to fill the void.

In other words, it has less to do with good science and everything to do with convenience.

marmoset in lab

Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the largest funder of animal experimentation worldwide—announced that it's planning to launch "funding opportunities to support centralized infrastructure for marmoset research." A report on this cruel boondoggle—which will be funded using our tax dollars—states, "Although details are hazy, the funding might bring in new marmosets, expand or establish breeding colonies, or advance transgenic projects." In those "transgenic projects," experimenters implant genetically manipulated embryos into female marmosets in order to produce babies who are born with disease-like symptoms or impairments.

In addition to its transparent cruelty, the use of animals in experimentation—including on chimpanzees, our closest living relatives—has proved an unqualified failure. The evidence is overwhelming that data from experiments on animals can't be reliably applied to humans. For example, NIH itself acknowledges that 95 percent of drugs that test safe and effective in animals fail in humans. This is because they don't work or are dangerous. And a review in the prestigious medical journal The BMJ reported that more than 90 percent of "the most promising findings from animal research" fail to lead to human treatments.

By ramping up funding to increase the supply of marmosets for laboratories, NIH is doubling down on a failed enterprise.

Please urge NIH not to squander more tax dollars on failed animal experimentation and instead to redirect funds to modern, non-animal research methods.

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A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health

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