Army to stop injecting monkeys with nerve-blocking drugs

The Army has agreed to stop injecting monkeys with high doses of a nerve-blocking drug to simulate a nerve gas attack after they received sustained pressure from animal rights groups and a member of Congress.
The practice, which has been carried out at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, Md., is meant to train Army medical personnel to respond to chemical attacks on troops, the Washington Post reports.

Army spokesman Michael Elliot confirmed Thursday that Aberdeen will be phasing out the nerve tests on the primates. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R.-Md.), who has pushed the Army to end the testing, said in a phone interview that he met with two generals who indicated they would halt testing by the end of the year.
The Army will instead switch to trained actors, computer programs and high-tech mannequin-like patient simulators.
In August, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine formally petitioned the Defense Department to end the tests of physostigmine on monkeys, saying that they were inhumane and a poor training tool.
“Using African green monkeys to try to demonstrate effects of nerve gas exposure on humans is not accurate," John J. Pippin, a physician with PCRM, said, according to the Washington Post. "The physiology is not accurate. Many of the first signs in humans — sweating, dilation of pupils — can’t be assessed. Also, participants in the course don’t actually do anything except hold a bag to help the monkey breathe.”
Other animal rights groups, such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society International, protested the practice.
“I have a lot of respect for the U.S. Army,” actor Woody Harrelson said in support of ending the practice, according to the Washington Post. “They’re some of the bravest, most selfless people I’ve met, so it’s gratifying to me to see them take this humane course of action.”