Dear Medical Journals, Stop Giving Press to Primate Experime

Mike Ryan, February 8, 2019

In Shanghai, China, animal abusers making a living conducting lethal experiments on monkeys reached a new low—they genetically altered a primate to ensure it was born suffering from an inability to sleep properly. Then they cloned this animal to create more monkeys suffering the same fate.

The results were published in the “National Science Review” by the journal’s editor in chief. Conflict of interest aside, the National Science Review is a predatory publication masquerading as a scientific journal. And it got us wondering:

Would a scholarly journal in the United States have stooped to publishing this kind of unethical research?

Why this question matters

We’ve seen real progress in reducing primate experiments—

  • Harvard University closed its Primate Research Center in 2015
  • Chimpanzee experiments are now prohibited
  • The University of Oklahoma dropped certain NHP research

But there’s more progress to be made.

One way to guarantee that fewer nonhuman primates are abused in medical experiments is to prevent the results of unethical, lethal primate experiments from ever seeing the light of day.

The results of experiments that cause tremendous and unrelieved pain to primates are still being published.

Calling for reform

In 1997, the United Kingdom’s Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was established to help ensure editors of scholarly journals have basic ethical guidelines and a code of practice in place. Many prominent U.S.-based scholarly journals adhere to COPE’s guidelines voluntarily and support COPE’s work.

NEAVS is delighted that one of COPE’s core areas of concern is “ethical oversight” as relating to “ethical conduct of research using animals.”

It’s a great first step. But we’d like to see them go further. The truth is — no leading academic journal we’re aware of has as a standing policy prohibiting the publication of research derived from lethal experiments on captive primates.

We believe any time nonhuman primates are caged in experiments that cause them harm—and ultimately robbing them of a normal life and leading eventually to their death in captivity—constitutes a breach of research ethics. It’s time for ethical oversight to protect animals.

We call on the good people at COPE to consider this important reform to truly encourage and promote ethical standards in medical publications.

Experiments that were once considered normal practice—such as now-illegal unethical experiments on humans—are today prohibited. No scholarly journal would stoop to publishing results that involved testing on non-consenting adult humans. We believe animals deserve the same protection.

Now tell us where you stand.

I believe scholarly journals should prohibit publication of research that conducts lethal experiments on captive primates.