She experimented on primates for decades. Now she wants to shut down the labs

Lisa Jones-Engel quit her work as a lab researcher when she began to see how like us monkeys are

by Harriet Brown

“Right here! Beneath our feet! Are 300 monkeys! They haven’t seen sunshine! In years!”

Lisa Jones-Engel stands outside the entrance to the Washington National Primate Research Center along with two dozen other protesters – most 30 years younger than she. Her long gray-blond ponytail tucked over one shoulder, she yells into a megaphone. As she shouts, another part of her brain is thinking: “God, you sound like a f---ing activist. You sound like one of them.”

If you had told Jones-Engel she’d be doing this two years earlier, she would have been horrified. She was a PhD, a primatologist – a scientist, for God’s sake, not some silly monkey-hugger who reduced sophisticated issues to summer-camp chants.

She had worked at NYU’s Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates, and then at the University of Washington’s primate research center, one of eight national primate centers created in the 1960s. She’d spent decades in the field, trapping and sampling macaques and other primates across Asia on prestigious grants, publishing her research in top journals, co-authoring a book on monkey diseases, building expertise and credibility....