International Primate Day just took place on September 1 and Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling for action to end the use of primates in research.
Worldwide an estimated 200,000 primates are experimented on each year, with over 2500 animals used in research across the UK – one of the largest users of primates in Europe.
The continued use of primates in research is unethical and unnecessary. Harmful to both our closest relatives and to science, governments must end primate tests and facilitate the adoption of modern alternatives without delay.
Some primates are forcibly removed from the wild and used as breeding machines to supply the industry, or used themselves in tests. In addition to the trauma caused to individuals during the capture process, subsequent confinement, and during procedures until their deaths, this brutal practice harms local populations threatening their survival.
In Latin America, we have exposed the capture of owl monkeys for use in malaria experiments in Colombia. Taken from the trees, these nocturnal primates go from the forest to a barren cage.
Our evidence led to a tribunal revoking the experimenter’s permits – although this groundbreaking decision has now been overturned.
Elsewhere, in Africa and Asia, ADI has revealed dire conditions inside the monkey breeders, who take primates from the wild to maintain their breeding stocks. At the monkey farms, individuals are confined to cages and routinely manhandled.
Primates are frequently used in brain experiments because of their apparent similarity to humans. However, despite being our closest relatives, non-human primates differ from us in a number of ways, including the immune system.
Their use in research therefore can never reliably predict potential human effects. Aspirin for example causes birth defects in monkeys, but is widely used by pregnant women without the same effect.
Such species differences are the fundamental flaw of using animals in research. Each species responds differently to substances, with an animal’s age, diet, sex, even bedding material, also affecting results.
As a result animal tests can delay scientific progress and lead to human tragedy.
Investment in animal research, predominantly with primates, has been wasteful and unsuccessful. A review has shown that not one of the 85 plus candidate AIDS vaccines successfully tested in primates have been effective in human patients.
Visit www.ad-international.org for more information on the organisation.