Sen. Booker Introduces Historic Bill to End Primate Research

Mike Ryan, December 12, 2018

Senator Cory Booker just made history by introducing the first law that would finally mandate a reduction in primate experimentation. Some kinds of primate experiments are banned, a new review process is set up for all other kinds, with ethicists and experts about alternatives to animal tests finally getting a seat at the table.

Here’s what’s in the bill—which we love

  1. Ban on certain primate experiments: An immediate ban on primate experiments that are simply done to compare consumer products with other consumer products for marketing purposes.

  2. Nat. Academy of Sciences Review: Second, real scrutiny of the merits of primate experiments: 6 months after the bill is signed into law, the National Academy of Sciences has to conduct a review of all experiments using nonhuman primates.
            a. The review will scrutinize every area of research using primates to determine if the experiments have made any meaningful scientific contributions that have led to clinical interventions. In other words, no more endless taxpayer dollars for experiments that achieve precious little.
            b. This is critical because although primate experiments have shown us that they feel pain and suffer in the same ways humans do, the other biological differences between non human primates and human (primates) are vast enough that precious few scientific results have come from primate experiments in recent decades.
            c. If any experiments have demonstrated value, they’ll have to be reviewed every 5 years after that.

  3. New Panel: Third, a year after the bill passes, the Secretary of Health & Human Services must establish the standing committee that will decide the future of nonhuman primate experimentation. Here’s who will sit on the panel:
    •  1/4th of its must be federal employees at either HHS, the VA, or DOD.
    •  1/4th of its members must be ethologists or other individuals who have expertise in the behavioral and psychological needs of nonhuman primates, but who don’t use or directly benefit from the use of nonhuman primates in invasive experimentation.
    •  1/4th must be experts with regard to what non-animal methods can best replace the use of primates.
    •  1/8th must be clinicians actively treating 5 human patients; and
    •  1/8th must be individuals who represent the interests of the nonhuman primates.

Key features:

•  No experiments anywhere on primates without the standing committee’s signoff: No new primate experiments can take place in the U.S. (both public and private sector) unless the experiments are approved by this standing committee.
•  No US taxpayer funding will support any primate experiments – full stop – unless the standing committee approves.
•  Note: These two prohibitions won’t apply to any experiments already underway, but will apply to any renewals of those experiments.
•  No outsourcing to evade the point of the law: The bill prohibits taxpayer dollars from being sent to entities in foreign countries. This is needed to prevent primate experimenters from trying to evade the spirit and intent of this bill.
•  No transferring primates to corporation – only to sanctuaries: A ban on the transfer of primates to non-federal entities (like corporations) – primates can only be transferred to actual sanctuaries, which by definition do not treat the primates as a means to an end, but as an end themselves worthy of consideration and basic protection from pain and suffering.
•  Budgeting for sanctuary retirement now mandatory: Any entity doing primate experimentation with federal tax dollars will have to also budget and set aside funding for the eventual retirement of the primates, so that the primates can be retired to a sanctuary.

The standing committee cannot approve any nonhuman primate experiment unless—
•  The standing committee determines that—the research is for the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of debilitating or potentially life-threatening clinical conditions in human beings;
•  No alternative research method exists;
•  The nonhuman primates will be housed in an ethologically appropriate environment;

Fines/Enforcement/Civil Actions

Violators of this law will:
•  Be fined up to $10,000 per day, per primate.
•  Be permanently precluded 15 from receiving Federal research funds.
•  Have to forfeit any primates in their possession to a sanctuary.
•  Have to forfeit any related equipment, too.
•  Also, the bill states that anyone can commence a civil action on his or her own behalf to enjoin any person, including the United States and any other governmental instrumentality or agency, who is alleged to be in violation of any provision of this Act. Injunctive relief and civil fines are on the table, too.

As you can see, this bill would have extraordinary impact on primates suffering in labs. While it’s too late to have you voice heard on this issue you can still make a difference for primates and all animals suffering in labs by visiting our advocacy page. Thank you.