NASA dumped 26 monkeys at a research center last year instead of taking them to a shelter, according to documents reviewed by The Guardian, which has prompted animal rights activists around the world.
According to documents published under the Freedom of Information Laws, 27 primates held by NASA were euthanized on February 2, 2019 at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. The document states that the monkeys were old and that 21 of them suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
U.S. House spokeswoman Kathleen Rice wrote to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstein about the deaths. “I look forward to Bridenstine’s explanation of why these animals were forced to squander in captivity and be euthanized, rather than live their lives in a shelter,” Rice Guardian said.
These monkeys were housed in an Ames facility under the supervision of NASA and a research body called LifeSource BioMedical. The research facility took these monkeys a few years ago when a suitable refuge could not be found due to their age, said Stephanie Solis, CEO of LifeSource BioMedical.
“We have agreed to accept animals, acting as a refuge and providing all care at their own expense, until their advanced age and impaired health result in a decision on humane euthanasia to avoid a poor quality of life,” Solis told The Guardian. She further clarified that no research was conducted on the monkeys while they were in the Ames facility.
John Gluck, an animal ethics expert at the University of New Mexico, condemned the incident. He said that they suffer from “ethological deprivations and frustrations inherent in laboratory life”. He added that these primates were not considered “worthy of a chance to live in a sanctuary” and said it was “a procrastination instead of an expression of simple decency”.
NASA has a history of using primates for their projects and research. A chimpanzee named Ham was the first great ape to be sent into space in 1961. But in recent years, the Federal Space Agency has reduced the use of primates for research purposes, due to a significant decision by the National Institutes of Health to withdraw all chimpanzees from medical studies. But other laboratories continue to use them because they are reportedly the best for studying diseases that affect humans.