Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Save primates from suffering in British labs, government urged

Posted: 18 July 2019. Updated: 18 July 2019

With Britain being one of Europe’s largest users of primates in research, Animal Defenders International (ADI) is urging the UK Government to become a leader in phasing out their use, in line with public opinion and modern science.

Home Office figures published on the use of animals in research in Britain today reveal that 2,472 primates were experimented on last year – an increase of 257 (12%). Many primates will be used for curiosity driven “basic research” not required by law. Although our closest relatives, ADI is highlighting the well-observed fundamental differences at a cellular, genetic and immune system level between ourselves and other primates, making the findings of such research unreliable for people.

ADI President Jan Creamer said: “Despite there being better, humane alternatives available and in use, primates are still suffering today in British laboratories. The UK Government has an opportunity to become a leader on this issue, advancing science that is relevant to humans and better for animals.”

More than 80% of the public consider the use of primates to be unacceptable, providing a mandate for government and funding bodies to replace their use with advanced, scientific, human relevant methods. Although the downward trend in primate use, falling 26% over a decade, is welcomed, action on a long-standing commitment to phase-out primate use across the EU, is still awaited.

“Basic research” conducted on primates in British labs includes invasive neurology experiments, for which animals may have electrodes inserted directly into their brains to record brain cell activity as they perform tasks. Classed as causing “moderate” suffering, a hole is cut into the monkeys’ skulls and a recording device implanted, in addition to a head restraint frame. Common adverse effects of this procedure include wound infections. Such single cell recordings can be, and are being, carried out in ethically controlled trials of patients undergoing brain surgery.

Using advanced, non-invasive scanning methods, researchers can also focus on networks of brain cells, rather than the single cell recordings undertaken in animals, a superior and human-relevant way of investigating brain function and disease. Despite this, neurology primate experiments continue at some institutions, such as the Institute of Neurology in London, as they have done for decades. This needs to change, for the sake of science and the animals.

Supporting measures to accelerate a “move away from animal models towards more human-relevant research methods”, nearly one hundred ( 93) academics, scientists, institutions, companies, organisations and celebrities have signed up to the Declaration for Advanced Science. Launched earlier this year by ADI, Declaration signatories include Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Marc Bekoff; Professor of Pharmaceutical Analysis Laura Waters; Consultant Haematologist Dr Shireen Kassam; Microbiologist Dr Warren Casey; Senior Cell and Molecular Biologist Dr Pelin L Candarlioglu; Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics Andrew Knight; and Emerita Professor of Anthropology Barbara King. The full and current list of signatories can be viewed here:

Signatory and long-term supporter of human-relevant methods of research Joanna Lumley said: "With a growing number of humane, modern methods available, governments and industry must act and adopt their use."

A realistic mechanism for phasing out specific areas of animal use is ‘Thematic Review’. Set out under EU legislation governing animal research, it has yet to be implemented. ADI has set out proposals showing how the European Commission, national governments and even individual establishments can identify and progress specific uses where animals can be replaced.

ADI’s investigation of Europe’s biggest primate breeding facility, the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC) in the Netherlands, revealed the routine suffering of primates before research even begins. Footage from the facility, which collaborates with UK researchers including from the University of Cambridge, shows: primates being frightened into crush cages and sedated to be tattooed and tested; animals still conscious under sedation and reacting as routine procedures are performed on them; workers showing little respect for the animals, dancing and singing around them; unattended, disorientated animals struggling and falling as they recover from sedation; monkeys suffering rectal prolapse caused by stress; animals killed in front of their cage mates when no longer of use. After seeing the video, comedian Ricky Gervais said: "To see these sensitive, intelligent animals born to suffer in this way makes me angry. It should make you angry too."

Media contact:
Angie Greenaway 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548

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