Forced by court action brought by animal rights activists, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have had to rush into print a draft of new regulations for improving the lot of apes and monkeys living in the nation’s research facilities. Now they are bracing under a deluge of complaints from primate researchers.

As called for by 1985 amendments to the Animal Welfare Act, the regulations compel researchers to provide “a physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being of primates.” Proposed are increases in cage size, housing primates in social groups when possible, and varying the methods of feeding them, as well as providing a more naturalistic and complex environment, with perches or swings, and objects to manipulate.

But there is a big difference between what humans think will make monkeys and apes happier in captivity and what is really best for their welfare, says a group of researchers who have...

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