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Inhumane or unavoidable? As Congress scrutinizes an increase in monkey research, scientists defend its necessity

Scientists are relying on monkey research more than ever before. And now Congress wants the NIH and FDA to explain why.
A rhesus macaque. Source: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images

Federally funded research labs conduct thousands of experiments that rely on monkeys and other nonhuman primates — and now, Congress is ramping up its scrutiny of that science.

As part of the congressional appropriations process in the House this year, lawmakers directed both the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to produce reports detailing the ways the agency’s scientists use the thousands of nonhuman primates in their research centers.

Animal rights advocates are praising the oversight, saying research on monkeys is inhumane, inefficient, and unreliable. They argue that while federal agencies have been lauded for a relatively recent push to end research on chimpanzees, the use of other nonhuman primates has actually increased by about 22% since 2015 to the highest levels ever — and they want the NIH and FDA to explain why.

Leading the push among lawmakers is Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), who drafted the language in both the reports addressing the NIH and FDA.

“I want NIH and FDA to put a plan in place that responsibly phases out the expensive, inefficient and inhumane practice of primate testing, in favor of modern research

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