Last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will end the controversial nicotine addiction test it had been conducting on squirrel monkeys following strong protests from consumers and animal rights activists.
In a statement, the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, said the agency will permanently end the study. In this study, adult and adolescent squirrel monkeys were injected with nicotine. Gottlieb stopped the study in the autumn and called for an investigation into the welfare of the animals after he learned the death of four monkeys.
On Friday, Gottlieb said it was clear that the study was inconsistent with the agency’s high animal welfare standards based on the findings of the investigation. He said, a team of primate veterinarians and animal care professionals found repeated flaws with the agency’s third-party animal welfare contractor.
In a letter to Gottlieb in September, Jane Goodall, the world-renowned primatologist, called the FDA’s study “shameful” and urged the agency to end its research program. She wrote: “It is not only extremely cruel to restrain monkeys, but also the ill-effects of the nicotine are said to include vomiting, diarrhea and tremors. I was deeply shocked to read during the experiment, each monkey was kept alone in a cage for nearly three years.”
Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Not Blowing Smoke also urged Gottlieb not to resume the studies in a letter earlier this month.
“Nonhuman animals that do not choose to smoke and are forced to live in a controlled, sterile and highly stressful captive environment are impossible to fully inform questions about the complex behavior of human smokers who have more complicated brain function and live in a more complex world,” they wrote. “We believe the use of animals in researches putatively designed to inform tobacco policy to be misleading, unreliable and unethical.”
While the agency is working to reduce the need for animal testing, Gottlieb says there are still many areas where animal testing is needed. “Without animal research, it would be impossible to get some important knowledge to prevent human and animal suffering from many life-threatening diseases,” he said. “In the past, animal research has played a key role in preventing polio, eradicating smallpox and identifying new cancer treatments.”
Anthony Bellotti, founder of the taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, praised FDA’s decision in a statement Friday. “This is a huge victory for taxpayers and abused animals,” he said.
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