Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Action on Monkey Experiments

Posted: 10 April 2017. Updated: 10 April 2017


Ten years after European Parliament Declaration calls for phase-out of primate experiments, the time is right to step up the pressure.

Following a blistering campaign, we secured Written Declaration 40 in 2007, instructing the Commission to use the next EU Directive on animal experiments to end the use of apes and wild caught monkeys in experiments and set a timetable to phase out primate research. Over 400 MEPs signed (55% of the European Parliament). Pro-vivisection lobbyists flooded the meetings discussing the new Directive, opposing any measures that might restrict animal experimentation. For over three years we fought our most intense campaign in history.

As a result the Directive adopted in 2010 included certain restrictions on monkey experiments: an end to experiments on chimpanzees (although a caveat allows this to be overturned on a specific case appeal, but this has not been activated); no more wild caught monkeys; phase out of monkeys born of wild caught parents; retrospective review of experiments; greater transparency; thematic review of specific research. Sadly, the timetable to phase out primate experiments was lost but the evidence against the use of primates has continued to mount.

There have followed six intense years working to push for the best of the Directive to be implemented across Europe – with some countries, including our own, delaying and prevaricating on some issues.

Last year, NAVS and ADI were pleased to see prominent naturalists, biologists, veterinarians and animal behaviourists including Dr Jane Goodall, broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, Prof. Ned Buyukmihci and Prof. Marc Bekoff, call for action on the use of primates in neuroscience experiments.

Now with the EU Directive on animal experiments under review again, with a consultation on the use of primates taking place, WE NEED YOUR HELP to push again for the timetable demanded by the European Parliament a decade ago.

Advanced Replacements

A 2006 European Commission Survey found 80% of respondents felt primates experiments to be “not acceptable”. Written Declaration 40/2007 sought a commitment to replace these experiments with advanced techniques such as computer modelling, analytics and databases, tissue or cell cultures and AMS with micro-dosing.

Some catastrophic drug trials have shown the unreliability of using primate results to predict human effects, and safe human dosing studies such as microdosing combined with analytical tools such as Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, provide safer and more reliable human based data.

Monkey and dog tests have become locked into the regulatory process – the ‘tick box’ approach to safety testing. The NAVS has previously revealed leaked lab documents showing human trials underway whilst animal tests were still being conducted. There appears to be no logic in choosing to extrapolate from animals when human data is available, other than to simply tick off tests as quickly as possible.

Ten years ago, the World Health Organization predicted a surge in mental and neurological illnesses over the next 20 years. In the face of government support for neuroscience experiments on primates, the Lord Dowding Fund (LDF, our non-animal research wing), funded a series of projects at Aston University and elsewhere, including a new imaging facility at Aston where human patients and volunteers could undergo noninvasive brain scans. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is important in the development of research into mental health disorders. The technique enables visualisation of brain cortex function in response to physical tasks, by detecting an increased flow of oxygenated blood in areas of nerve activity. Human imaging techniques avoid the problem of species differences between monkey and human brains, but as this research found, the fact that a volunteer or patient can talk to researchers makes a huge difference.

LDF’s Prof. Paul Furlong met the EU Commissioner and presented the work at Aston University to the European Parliament, explaining how non-invasive brain imaging technologies using human volunteers would replace the use of primates.

Devastating human consequences

Last month, a BBC docu-drama revisited the catastrophic 2006 trial of drug TGN1412. A group of healthy volunteers were given the drug in doses 500 times weaker than it had been given to laboratory monkeys. It had also been tested extensively in dogs and rabbits with no adverse effects.

Within an hour the volunteers were transferred to intensive care with side effects including soaring body temperatures, dilated blood vessels; plasma leaking into surrounding tissue and dramatically falling blood pressure. One man’s head and neck swelled massively and his limbs turned purple, one had fingers and toes amputated. The sheer terror expressed by the volunteers, not knowing what was happening, was a reminder of what lab animals endure on a daily basis.

This led to reform of how drug trials on humans are performed. But the start point of the tragedy – the misleading animal data – was left unchanged. In the media, we called for an overhaul of out of date animal testing methods. The road leading to the TGN1412 disaster remains the same.

Last year, a trial on BIA 10-2474 by French company Biotrial saw six volunteers hospitalised displaying neurological symptoms, one lost all his fingers and toes and one died. An investigation confirmed that high doses had been administered over long periods to monkeys, dogs, mice and rats with no comparable effects. Doses in some monkeys are estimated at around 75 times higher without causing neurological toxicity like that in humans.

Ending monkey experiments

As a member of Eurogroup for Animals, we are working to shape the next European Directive on animal experiments and maximise protection in all the EU countries. In the UK, we are pushing for assurances that the protections for animals for which we fought so hard in Europe, are all enshrined in UK law.

Our team meets regularly with the UK Home Office, presenting scientific evidence, challenging decisions and policies and responding to scientific consultations as every aspect of the 2010 EU Directive is implemented. At this stage, there are indications that a logical approach would be for EU regulations on animal experiments to remain in place, post Brexit. What is less clear, are the aspects of the Directive that have not yet been implemented – revoking the notorious secrecy clause, Section 24 of the Act, has been repeatedly delayed.

In terms of primate experiments, pressure needs to be put on in both the UK and the European Union, as both will impact what happens in the UK.

Now you can have your say

The European scientific committee, SCHEER, has published its preliminary opinion on primates in research. We are submitting our response with detailed information on replacing primates with
non-animal methods.

You can take part, too! We are issuing a “virtual postcard” outlining the main concerns with SCHEER’s opinion, which the European Commission will use to inform their update of European laws on animal experiments. You can send this to make the following points:

    • A timetable for phasing out primate experiments is essential to drive the implementation of replacement and provide a route to end their use.

    • Replacement must mean replacement! The use of other animal species, such as mice and pigs, over primates, is misrepresentation of the definition of ‘replacement’.

    • Unsubstantiated claims about the necessity for primate experiments. Mentioning casual “similarities” between humans and other primates is NOT scientific evidence that primate species are indispensable in research.


EU Action: Respond to the European Scientific Committee preliminary opinion on primates in research, using our virtual postcard.

UK Action: Write to your MP and ask that they secure the government’s commitment to transfer all EU laboratory animal protection regulations into UK law, as the UK leaves the EU. Ask them to support establishment of a timetable to phase out the use of primates in experiments.

© Animal Defenders International 2018