Why does Free Davis Primates exist? What are you protesting?

Free Davis Primates is a group of concerned citizen in Davis here to speak out for the over five thousand monkeys held captive by the primate center in Davis, California.

What kinds of experiments are done?

Monkeys at the California National Primate Research Center in Davis are deliberately given diseases, brain damage, and put in high stress situations. Primate experiments on psychology, sex, alcohol, and drugs far outnumber research on diseases like cancer and AIDS by 90% at CNPRC. Some experiments involve restraint chairs and deprivation of water. Many experiments are performed on pregnant, infant, and elderly monkeys. The new (2016) $18 million smoke inhalation facility will test the effects of smoking on pregnant monkeys by forcing them to inhale smoke and other allergens. Another experiment on the Zika virus involves infecting pregnant monkeys with the virus and dissecting their babies.

Why now?

With the recent closure of Harvard’s primate research center, it’s time for the rest of the national primate labs to follow suit. Concerned citizens have been protesting the primate center for decades, our concerns are not new ones. In present day, we have the intelligence and the ability through technology to come up with better solutions to our problems that don’t require the sacrifice of innocent primates.

What’s wrong with experimenting on monkeys if it helps humans?

Most research at the center is not focused on life-saving medicine. The few experiments that can be considered “life-saving” do not justify the torture of innocent beings.

Animal research does not usually help humans. According to the FDA, 92% of drugs that pass animal tests fail in human trials. It is unfortunately a common trend among scientists to stick with past methods rather than trying to explore new, innovative methods. Animal experimentation has been around for centuries, and despite the overwhelming failure rate, people prefer to stick with what they know rather than do the work involved in finding better methods. Lobbying done by the pharmaceutical industry has also helped to ensure that the animal testing they are used to remains an industry standard. We are already developing better ways to help humans, including population studies, computer models, and 3D printing of tissues. Hopefully someday we will take our focus off of our outdated animal methods and devote more resources towards developing humane experiments with higher success rates.

There will always be more diseases, more ways to learn. We can’t keep using progress as an excuse to torture innocent beings. These monkeys are closely related to us. They have families, they play, they communicate just as we do. And they feel pain and distress just as we do. It’s time for us to give our fellow primates the respect they deserve.

What will happen to the monkeys if UC Davis ended experiments on primates?

Our hope is that they can go to sanctuaries. We understand that the care of these monkeys will take money, but perhaps the CNPRC can find it in their hearts so spare some of their $35 million annual budget, and put it towards the well being of non-human survivors of their experiments. Of course the dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, sheep, pigs, and other farm animals at the CNPRC also deserve to be provided with sanctuaries and foster homes.

Harvard’s lab sent many of their monkeys to other primate centers when they closed. We hope to avoid that as much as possible and look for sanctuaries to take them in. These monkeys have been through enough, they don’t need to be repurposed for more experimentation.

What kind of primates are at the CNPRC?

The CNPRC currently imprisons over 6000 Rhesus Macaques and Coppery Titi monkeys (2016).

Titi Monkeys have one of the most complex animal languages ever observed. They enjoy holding hands and cuddling.

Rhesus Macaques have complex competitive social systems, including Machiavellian strategizing. They like to swim.

How many animals are experimented on at the CNPRC? (Updated 2017)

  • 6,078 monkeys
  • 2,117 farm animals (excluding sheep and pigs)
  • 419 cats
  • 315 rabbits
  • 125 sheep
  • 90 pigs
  • 59 hamsters
  • 30 dogs
  • 6 guinea pigs


But don’t the scientists follow strict guidelines on the care and use of the monkeys?

According to citations and news articles, the CNPRC is not well run and does not have the capacity to properly care for the thousands of animals in their charge. While they claim to follow strict regulations, the reality is that they are mostly self-regulated by the UC Davis IACUC. The main external regulation they receive is through the USDA which has repeatedly found UC Davis to be negligent and responsible for avoidable animal pain and deaths. Monkeys have been found to be crushed in an air duct and strangled with a rope toy. There was one incident of dozens of monkeys escaping into the town, which is a public health hazard. The CNPRC has been under review by the USDA for their many violations. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing how exactly these monkeys are being treated beyond the USDA citations. (This is part of the reason for the 2019 lawsuit).

The IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) is  composed of 25 members, most of which are faculty devoted to animal experimentation. These people are hand picked by the university, and have no reason to be objective in their judgement.

The CNPRC may claim that their experiments follow strict guidelines, but the reality is that animal experimentation rules are vague and riddles with loopholes. Criteria for justifying animal experimentation are: does it further knowledge in some way, or does it benefit humans or animals in some way? The knowledge criteria means that you can essentially justify any experiment no matter how useless as long as you learn from it. Additionally, any amount of pain and suffering can be approved for experiments so long as you have scientific justification.