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Monkey Business

The NIH planning a workshop this summer to discuss its ethical policies and procedures on the use of monkeys, baboons, and all other nonhuman primates in all federally funded US research labs, according to ScienceInsider. The review is in response to a congressional mandate, and follows the agency's decision to no longer support invasive research on chimpanzees.

The mandate from Congress came about after Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D–CA) and three other representatives contacted NIH in late 2014 in response to a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, ScienceInsider says. They were concerned about how the primates were being used and whether there was adequate oversight.

NIH Director Francis Collins said an agency investigation found nothing wrong with the way primate research was being conducted, but announced in December that the agency would phase out monkey experiments, ScienceInsider says.

In a recent letter to lawmakers, Collins said nonhuman primate research was very important to finding cures for Ebola, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses, the magazine adds. But he also noted that the NIH takes animal welfare seriously, that the NIH would gather experts in primatology, animal welfare, and ethics "to ensure that NIH has the appropriate policies and procedures in place for conducting research with non-human primates."

 ScienceInsider also spoke with Tom Holder — the director of Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports the use of animals in scientific labs — who said he hopes the NIH doesn’t change its policies on primates. "It is important to avoid creating politically motivated layers of regulation that would harm science in the US while providing little or no tangible improvement to animal welfare," Holder told the magazine. "Speaking of Research hopes that the NIH's workshop will recognize the fantastic work being done by the scientific community to continuously improve the way in which primate studies are conducted in the US."