HOW WCW DID IT: Inside the Campaign That Killed FDA Monkey Business 

Posted by Amanda Nieves
13 September 2023 | Blog


  • Since 2015, big establishment organizations have shut down a grand total of zero government primate labs–and zero monkey tests in the U.S.
  • Monkey business is increasing everywhere. To stop taxpayer-funded primate experimentation, you must stop wasteful government spending.
  • Here’s how WCW just laid waste to the FDA’s top primate lab, stopped the culture of losing, and slashed FDA’s monkey testing by 63%. 

Experimentation on non-human primates is rising almost everywhere. Efforts to stop it have been a humiliating failure.

But thanks to the White Coat Waste Project (WCW), there is at least one bright spot:

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) top primate lab just confirmed that WCW has shut down all of its tests in addition to its monkey breeding program. 

Plus, as first reported by TimCast, new federal data analyzed by WCW shows that our campaign has slashed the FDA’s overall primate abuse by 63 percent. 

This wasn’t easy. We faced stiff opposition: 

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

But in the end, we beat them all: 

Here’s how we did it. 

Getting the Monkey (Tests) off the Taxpayer’s Back. 

In late 2016, WCW launched a blockbuster Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) investigation.  

That’s when we first discovered that the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Arkansas—the FDA’s largest primate lab, with an annual budget of nearly $80 million—was addicting baby monkeys to nicotine.  

This is an actual FDA illustration of a baby monkey pushing levers for hits inside a nicotine addiction chamber at the NCTR lab.

WCW filed a successful lawsuit to obtain documents about the taxpayer-funded testing, including the FDA’s secret videos of the $5.5 million experiments.    

We organized a big tent coalition including Dr. Jane Goodall, tobacco harm reduction groups, and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy to demand FDA cancel these wasteful tests.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle criticized the FDA’s senseless spending.   

In early 2018, following WCW’s campaign, the FDA canceled the nicotine tests and—for the first time in agency history—retired the surviving primates to a sanctuary

But hundreds more monkeys were still locked up. So, we intensified our campaign to de-fund and defeat the FDA’s biggest primate prison. 

Here’s What We Just Shut Down. 

Female monkeys at the NCTR were impregnated, locked alone in tiny metal cages, and repeatedly forced to give birth to lab specimens.  

Newborns were tortured and killed during their first week of life.  

Five-day-old babies were torn from their moms. Holes were cut into their abdomens for “simulated” surgeries.  

Monkeys were exposed to fentanyl and ketamine to stress their tiny brains. 

A day after the surgeries, when the babies were less than a week old, the monkeys were killed, and their brains were dissected.   

In another experiment at NCTR, victims in solitary confinement were forced to ingest massive doses of Ritalin—ten times the maximum dose for humans—five days a week for 12 YEARS!   

This is an actual FDA photo of Moby (Govt ID #5177) at the NCTR lab. Our new win helps ensure this wasteful government spending won’t happen again.

Every weekday, FDA white coats locked the monkeys in restraint devices. After a decade, the primates were forced into withdrawal to study the effects. 

NCTR also forcibly addicted monkeys to amphetamine, ketamine, and nicotine… just to see if being hooked on Ritalin would also make them addiction-prone to other drugs.  

FDA white coats literally congratulated each other for torturing and killing one of these babies:  

This is an actual FDA email at the NCTR lab. Teamwork from bipartisan lawmakers and our grassroots army helped WCW shut it down.

As you can see, heartless government white coats didn’t just pat themselves on the back for abusing these newborns. They danced as they locked up the little monkeys in cages:  

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

This is an actual FDA video at the NCTR lab. Our new win helps ensure this wasteful government spending won’t happen again.

Permanent metal collars were locked around the monkeys’ necks to drag them with poles from their cages into restraint devices for hours at a time.  

FDA white coats outrageously and callously claimed that the drug-addicted, restrained monkeys “enjoy” the experiments! 

WCW exposed that one of the monkeys restrained by the neck for this experiment even strangled to death.  Sound fun to you? 

Records obtained via FOIA also show that hapless monkeys were literally driven insane by stress, pain, and solitary confinement. 

Like humans, other social primates who are psychologically and physically abused develop stress-induced abnormal behaviors like self-injury and incessant rocking and spinning. 

At NCTR, the mental suffering of monkeys was so severe that many were killed. 

How We Did It: F.E.D. 

Taxpayers are fed up with wasteful government spending. So, WCW took the fight to the FDA with a page from our winning campaign playbook: F.E.D. 

Step 1: Find Govt Waste. You’ve seen why FOIA is so important. Nobody knew about NCTR. Not even Congress. 

We also filed an ongoing FOIA challenge lawsuit in 2022. We’ll see you in court! 

Step 2: Expose Govt Waste. We launched an all-out media blitz to get international press coverage of even more waste and abuse inside NCTR’s primate labs. 

Step 3: De-fund Govt Waste.

We united powerful Republicans and Democrats in Congress to cut the federal purse strings. 

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

Waste Warriors like this:

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

And heroes like this:

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

To pass groundbreaking appropriations language like this: 

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

Since 2019, WCW has rallied Congress to pass and enact bipartisan legislation directing the FDA to reduce primate testing, prioritize alternatives, and retire survivors. We’ve successfully lobbied for the language to be included in virtually every federal spending bill since. 

In response, the FDA told Congress last year that it: “shares the nation’s interest in reducing the need for non-human primates (NHPs) in FDA intramural research.” 

And current FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf has told Congress that cutting animal testing is an agency priority

It Matters More Than You Think. Here’s Why. 

Now, following our historic seven-year campaign, WCW has ended ALL primate testing and breeding at the NCTR

Federal records also show that the FDA has cut its overall primate experimentation by a staggering 63 percent! 

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

When WCW launched this campaign in 2016, the FDA’s primate testing was on the rise. 381 monkeys were abused across all FDA labs. Now, it’s down to just 141. 

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

There’s more! WCW got the FDA to enact its first-ever agency-wide retirement policy, allowing primates and other animals who survive experiments to be relocated to rescues and sanctuaries.  

WCW Stopped Monkey Business

Our campaign also led Congress to make the FDA install live-feed cameras to help stop “accidental” strangulations and monkey deaths. And we compelled the FDA to create itsfirst-ever animal welfare council

Now that’s progress for primates!  

Winning > Losing. 

The White Coat Waste Project is proud to be the only organization that has successfully shut down government primate labs—or any monkey tests in the United States—in nearly a decade. 

Our bipartisan wins—and specifically, these primate lab closures—happened under both Presidents Trump and Biden: 

  • Ended $7 million Angel Dust tests at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Minneapolis.
  • Wasted a $9 million monkey-crippling lab at the VA in West Haven
  • Won an agency-wide phase-out of VA primate testing by 2025. It’s the first time in American history that Congress has given a federal agency a hard deadline to cut its monkey business.

For the better part of the last decade, the big establishment groups declared a war on primate testing and lost. 

But at the FDA, WCW declared a War on Waste…and won. 

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