Monkey Business at Labs and Roadside Zoos Must End

By on April 20, 2015 with 14 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

HSUS undercover investigations have revealed primates in psychological distress at research facilities and roadside zoos, and it’s time to do something comprehensive about the problem. Today, we submitted a legal petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking the agency to provide regulatory guidance directing research facilities, exhibitors, and dealers that breed and use primates on how the animals should be properly housed and cared for, since the current plan isn’t working and primates are suffering.

For example, at a laboratory in Louisiana, we saw primates engaging in self-mutilation due to extreme stress, tearing at gaping wounds in their arms and legs. At Texas Biomedical Research Institute, we documented abnormally high levels of aggression in primates kept in poorly managed social groups. At a roadside attraction in Collins, Miss., we found a monkey living alone in a barren enclosure, pacing incessantly due to boredom and anxiety. And at the unaccredited Natural Bridge Zoo, whose permit was recently suspended by the state of Virginia, our investigator witnessed newborn monkeys being taken away from their frantic mothers to be sold into the exotic pet trade.

The USDA has a legal responsibility to provide oversight of care of primates — 30 years ago, Congress amended the Animal Welfare Act to specifically require that monkeys and apes, including chimpanzees, macaques, capuchins, and marmosets, be provided with enriched environments to promote the “psychological wellbeing” of these highly intelligent creatures. Over 100,000 primates are kept in laboratories and exhibition facilities in the United States. But the USDA’s regulations have long failed to prevent unnecessary suffering in captive primates and the agency’s own inspectors called for guidance over 15 years ago, conceding that current regulations are too difficult to enforce.

Central to this essential reform is the need to prohibit the premature separation of mothers and infants, which experts agree causes long-term behavioral abnormalities and even changes the structure of an infant primate’s brain. We don’t doubt the importance of the maternal bond and social development in our own species, and we shouldn’t be surprised that disregarding the similar needs of our primate cousins leads to significant psychological distress.

The USDA is responsible for setting minimum standards to ensure the welfare of captive primates, and the action requested in our petition is long overdue. The National Institutes of Health recently instituted new requirements for keeping captive chimpanzees in ethologically appropriate environments, and the USDA should follow that example to develop meaningful criteria to improve the lives of captive primates.

Animal Rescue and Care, Animal Research and Testing, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Claudette Houde says:

    This is horrifying and cruel !
    It breaks my heart to read these details of such intelligent animals (they all have their own intelligence ) being treated like pieces of furniture, without any concern for their well-being.
    Let’s hope that every day will bring a better world on this earth of us!

  2. Jill Cutrona says:

    Unnecessary and barbaric!

  3. David Bernazani says:

    I wish the USDA would completely ban the trade in all primates. They are dangerous, highly intelligent, and totally unsuitable as pets (despite what you see on sitcoms) or as captive wildlife. They no more belong in cages than, say, orcas belong in concrete pools. They are simply too social and intelligent, and literally need companionship and activity as much as they need food. It is selfish and unethical for anybody to keep one captive.

  4. Lanora Boyd says:

    I can not believe how bad to all the animals

  5. Deanna Kelley says:

    I am an Animal Control Officer for Mobile County, Al. This is happening at a roadside “zoo” in Wilmer, Al. known as the Mobile Zoo. We have been told we have no jurisdiction to prosecute the abusers for the neglect that is happening at this so- called “Zoo”. Only the USDA has jurisdiction. Please help us shut them down! I believe the USDA has cited them for neglect issues but we are not privy to the documents so we don’t know what is really going on or how much progress has been made. We don’t believe they should be allowed to correct “issues”, they simply should not exist. Period. Please look into this if you can… I promise you this is no Zoo but rather a horrible place where animals are mistreated and where social animals are left alone pulling their own fur out due to stress. If there is anything we can do several of us would step up to do it just give us the word! Thank you for your hard work and giving us a place to comment and inform you of more of these horror stories! Go HSUS!

    • R.A. Langsam says:

      Thank you for speaking up about this! I am shocked to learn that you cannot intercede on behalf of suffering animals in this zoo. I think legislation needs to be enacted so that you, and all other animal control officers, can intervene in cases of cruelty, such as this one.

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi Deanna, I am blog editor for A Humane Nation. I’ve shared your message with the campaign handling this and they will be in touch. Thanks.

  6. Carla says:

    The USDA seems to be turning a blind eye. It is so frustrating for a zoo to have 31 violations and given multiple times to comply with regulations. In the meantime, what is happening to these poor animals. They need to wake up and do their job!!!

  7. Billie Menzel says:

    The USDA needs to do the job they are ” well-paid ” for.

  8. patricia g says:

    Thank you hsus, keep doing all you can to help the monkeys.

  9. maureen joubert says:


  10. natalie oag says:

    End this torture and cruelty now. You are practising Hitlers methods on animals! Barbaric. Shame on you !

  11. Gail Gillespie says:

    It has got to stop

  12. Jane Guan says:

    In 2004, Carlsson H-E, took a global overview for Use of Primates in Research They assessed a total of 2,937 articles involving 4,411 studies that employed nonhuman primates (NHPs) or nonhuman primate biological material were identified and analyzed.
    More than 41,000 animals were represented in the studies published in 2001. In the 14% of studies for which re-use could be determined, 69%involved animals that had been used in previous experiments.
    Recently, more animals, including NHPs were used in research, animal experiments is the important process for drug development, the typical translational research area.
    Of course, more human subjects were recruited in clinical trials; however, NHPs have no choice to say “no”. Thus, they are weaker than human subjects, who may attend a trial by misunderstanding or being cheated.Treating kindly and protecting animals is a duty of human.

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