Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

The Primate Nations: Laboratory use of primates, page 1

Posted: 1 September 2006

It is estimated that 10,000 primates are used in experiments in EU laboratories each year, 75-80% of which are macaque monkeys. The larger users are in the UK, France and Germany(36).

There is currently vociferous demand from the animal experimentation industry for increased use of primates – particularly in the fields of drug testing and neuroscience. Yet there appears no strong rationale for this. In 2003, an independent Public Inquiry about a proposed primate laboratory at Cambridge University concluded that no clear national need had been established for the facility. Developments in advanced scanning techniques and studies of humans, such as those at Aston University, should mean an acceleration of progress towards sophisticated advanced technology rather than animal tests.

Primates are used in a variety of laboratory procedures including development and testing of pharmaceuticals, chemicals for industry and domestic use, in neurological research, psychological tests and others. By their very nature all such procedures cause varying degrees of pain, suffering and distress. In the UK, licences are issued under our
Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in order to authorise any procedure on an animal that is likely to cause suffering or lasting harm. At the point of application for a UK licence, a cost-benefit assessment is made (cost to the animal in terms of pain and suffering vs potential human benefit). Licences are granted for procedures likely to cause levels pain or suffering which are categorised from ‘mild’ to ‘substantial’.

The legislation in the UK follows the over-arching regulations in the European Union, under EC Directive 86/609 on the use of animals in scientific research.

The UK government frequently claims to operate the most stringent animal research regulations in the world, with more stipulations in their Code of Practice (COP) on the use of primates than for any other animals. Yet investigations undertaken within UK laboratories by the NAVS/ADI have revealed that these guidelines are routinely flouted.

For example, at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, tamarin monkeys were kept isolated in small bare metal cages with nothing to do, completely cut off from one another by solid metal walls. These tamarins which would normally live in extended family groups, spending their days grooming, travelling extensively and foraging for food, were not provided with a number of the enrichments stipulated in the COP37. Following the investigation the Home Office promised that the facilities would be improved, but the laboratory was not penalised in any way(38).

Two years later and just a few miles down the road at London’s Institute of Neurology, we found macaque monkeys in the supply unit housed singly in small cages with dimensions of no more than a few feet; there was no bedding, no foraging materials, virtually no furniture, and the floors consisted of cold metal grids.

In an experimental room one poor macaque named Alice was alone in a cage; she had gone out of her mind, circling of her cage repeatedly with her head to one side, mostly unaware of the people around her. Her sides were raw with injuries(39). The Institute claimed that these had been inflicted by other primates at the facility which supplied her, and that she had been in a disturbed state on arrival (several months before ADI filmed her). The supplier was Cambridge University(38).

Further evidence of the impoverished housing conditions for primates was found at Inveresk Research in Scotland, a contract testing laboratory that is paid to test products on around 25,000 animals each year. Photographs leaked to ADI showed cages devoid of bedding material, with nothing for the animals in which to forage. With minimal cage furniture, there was no complexity and no source of stimulation in their environment at all(48).

The images from Inveresk show what is in fact standard laboratory housing. This is confirmation of how the welfare of primates is compromised from the moment they arrive in the laboratory, and that is before the experiments they must endure start.

The Inveresk researcher’s own reports revealed how during the testing of a new asthma drug, monkeys had suffered: liquid faeces; redness of face, lips, feet and hands; swollen penises and scrota; a loss of body tone; body tremors; quiet and hunched appearance; low heart rate and abdominal and umbilical hernias(48).

The leaked documents revealed a catalogue of suffering including: miscalculations in dosing resulting in severe suffering, death and premature termination of studies; animals suffocated with paint and the test stopped due to unforseen suffering; a test substance passing its expiry date before the end of the experiment, whilst dosing of the animals continued; at least three cases of animal tests being conducted when human studies were already underway; test substances accidentally pumped into animals’ lungs instead of their stomachs; animals given the wrong dosage of test substance. When ADI met with the UK’s Home Office about these tests we were informed that test details are not kept by the authorities, and since only blanket licences had been granted for groups of chemicals at Inveresk the authorities would not have access to the details of individual experiments or incidents(48).

In 1995, the NAVS filmed a macaque called Elisa at London’s Institute of Neurology. She had bolts and electrodes permanently implanted in her skull. These allowed her brain to be wired up to a computer so that recordings could be made of her hand movements as she performed tasks for food (which would be withheld to encourage her). She was killed for analysis several months later(39).

In 2005, ten years after NAVS first lifted the lid on primate suffering at the Institute of Neurology, very little seems to have changed. There has been no discernible let up in the number or severity of procedures carried out, which include deeply invasive and repeated surgery on monkeys as young as five days old(40). The first step of those particular experiments involved cutting open the monkeys’ scalps and injecting a chemical into the part of the brain responsible for hand movement. Following surgery, this chemical had made its way down to the spine as the monkeys regained consciousness and moved about. Once killed for analysis, the monkeys’ brains would be sliced into segments and a staining agent applied to highlight the chemical’s path.

However before that the same monkeys were subjected to still more experiments. This time, the opposite side of their scalps was cut open and two tungsten electrodes implanted into the upper part of the nerve fibres linking the brain with the spine. Then separate incisions were made to the outer layer of the monkeys’ spinal cord, before applying electric shocks whose strengths were measured with an electrode at the spine. While the 5-day old newborn monkey was spared this last ordeal, infant macaques aged 1-13 months were not(40).

Next: Laboratory use of primates, page 2


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