Every monkey held by NASA was executed in a single day last year, documents obtained by The Guardian show, in a move that angered animal welfare activists.
A total of 27 primates were found to be euthanized by drugs administered on February 2 last year at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The monkeys were aging, and 21 of them had Parkinson’s, according to documents released under freedom of information laws.
The decision to kill the animals instead of moving them to a sanctuary has been condemned by animal rights advocates and other observers.
The primates “were suffering from the ethological deprivations and frustrations inherent in laboratory life,” said John Gluck, an animal ethicist at the University of New Mexico. Gluck added that the monkeys “apparently did not consider themselves worthy of the opportunity to live in a sanctuary. Not even a try? Elimination instead of the expression of simple decency. Shame on those responsible. “
Kathleen Rice, representative of the US House of Representatives, has written to Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, demanding an explanation for the deaths.
Rice, a Democrat from New York, said she has been pushing for US government investigators to consider “humane retirement policies” for the animals used in the research. “I await an explanation from Administrator Bridenstine on why these animals were forced to be consumed in captivity and euthanized rather than live their lives in a sanctuary, ”Rice told The Guardian.
NASA has a long association with primates. Ham, a chimpanzee, received daily training before becoming the first great ape to be thrown out into space in 1961, successfully carrying out his brief mission before safely splashing into the ocean.
But the monkeys euthanized last year were not used on any daring space missions or even research, instead housed at the Ames facility in a joint care arrangement between NASA and LifeSource BioMedical, an independent drug research entity. that rents space in the center. and it housed primates.
Stephanie Solis, executive director of LifeSource BioMedical, said the primates were released to the lab “years ago” after a sanctuary could not be found for them due to their age and poor health. “We agreed to accept the animals, acting as a sanctuary and providing all care at our own expense, until their advanced age and declining health resulted in the decision to humanely euthanize to avoid poor quality of life,” said.
Solís said that no research was done on the primates while they were in Ames and that they were provided with a “good remaining quality of life.”
In recent years, the US government has begun to phase out the use of primates in research, with the National Institutes of Health historic decision in 2015 to recall all chimpanzees used in biomedical studies. Critics of the practice argue that it is immoral and cruel to subject highly intelligent, human-like social creatures to such conditions.
However, other laboratories continue to use monkeys in large numbers, a Record 74,000 were used in experiments in 2017, and scientists say they are far better than other animals, such as mice, at studying diseases that affect humans as well.
Even when monkeys are withdrawn from research purposes, the task of relocating them to appropriate sanctuaries is still messy.
“What tragic later thoughts these lives were,” said Mike Ryan, a spokesman for Rise for Animals, the group that obtained the freedom of information documents on the Ames primate deaths. “Pot it has many strengths, but when it comes to animal welfare practices, they are outdated. “
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