John Gluck, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “Second Thoughts of an Animal Researcher.” He mentions the upcoming NIH symposium in the essay:
On Wednesday, the N.I.H. will hold a workshop on “continued responsible research” with these animals. This sounds like a positive development. But as someone who spent decades working almost daily with macaque monkeys in primate research laboratories, I know firsthand that “responsible” research is not enough. What we really need to examine is the very moral ground of animal research itself.
The ethical principle that many of us used to justify primate experiments seemed so obvious: If you are ethically prevented from conducting a particular experiment with humans because of the pain and risks involved, the use of animals is warranted. Yet research spanning the spectrum from cognitive ethology to neuroscience has made it clear that we have consistently underestimated animals’ mental complexity and pain sensitivity, and therefore the potential for harm. The obvious question is why the harms experienced by these animals, which will be at least similar to humans, fail to matter? How did being a different member of the primate grouping that includes humans automatically alter the moral universe?
In the case of chimpanzees, the N.I.H. finally concluded that the harms did matter. The question now is, are there morally significant differences between the great apes and other primates?
The whole piece is worth a read!