Following an exclusive expose by Rare in March 2017, the FDA's Arkansas-based National Center for Toxicological Research canceled the animal experiments and released dozens of squirrel monkeys into a nature sanctuary. However, information about the experiments themselves was somewhat scant, as the information divulged following a Freedom of Information Act request in December 2016 was heavily redacted. However, enough was contained in the 64-page document to motivate the FDA to end the program, once it was brought to light.
The video shows several squirrel monkeys kept in tiny cages and wearing nylon vests, which activists explain are to hold nicotine-delivering catheters in place.
The activists who managed this feat were White Coat Waste Project (WCWP), a team of fiscal conservatives and animal rights activists who have united to oppose "the age-old problem of wasteful animal experimentation with new strategies," according to their website. "By shining much-needed sunlight on this reckless spending, holding agencies accountable, and defunding wasteful projects," WCWO says it is "changing the landscape of government-funded research. The goal: save animals and tax dollars."
The information supplied by WCWP to Rare in March 2017 was damning: 12 one-year-old and 12 five-year-old monkeys were given surgically-implanted catheters to deliver nicotine directly into their bloodstreams, then strapped into restraint chairs and given buttons that would deliver the nicotine into their arteries when pressed.
In August, WCWP filed a lawsuit against the FDA alleging that the heavy redactions in the FOIA documents was a violation of FOIA laws and demanding the agency release "critical information and documentation about this project including costs, primates' veterinary records, videos of the experiments and animal welfare violation reports," according to the activist group's website.
The New York Times reported in January 2018 that the program was ending following the deaths of four of the monkeys.
In addition to the videos, more than 2,000 related documents were released by the FDA, according to WCWP's website.
Although the FDA continues to experiment on animals, other government agencies have moved away from the practice.The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, declared in 2011 it would cease funding new biomedical research that used chimpanzees, although it continues to fund research on nonhuman primates in the areas of neurobiology, metabolic illness and other ailments, the New York Times reported.
WCWP and other groups fighting animal testing have a champion in the US Congress, though, in Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA). Calvert chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee and is also the sponsor of the Federal Accounting in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act, which would require federal agencies such as the FDA, NIH and others to "include a description of the progress on the development and use of alternative methods for toxicological testing," according to the bill's summary on congress.gov.