The monkeys are not all right, according to a leading animal rights organization.
Cruelty Free International said that despite the “special protection” for them under European Union and United Kingdom laws, laboratory monkeys in the UK are still going through “extremely distressing, invasive and harmful experiments,” as recent findings published in scientific journals found.
Such practices continue mostly as a secret in universities, hospital, contract testing centers, and even government facilities across the country, warned Cruelty Free International in its report.
The prevailing ban on the use of Great Apes in experiments does not exist for monkeys, despite that they are largely similar with the apes –“highly intelligent and have a similar capacity to suffer,” the organization added.
The UK is the third largest user of laboratory monkeys in the EU, utilizing more than 2,000 of the said animals – macaques and marmosets included – every year.
Dr. Katy Taylor, director of science at Cruelty Free International, said most of the experiments are far from leading people closer to cures for debilitating human diseases.
“Most of the experiments appear to have minimal benefits for humans and give the impression of having more to do with defending the continued use of monkeys or satisfying the curiosity of researchers than advancing medical science,” Taylor said in the organization’s blog.
Taylor encourages seeking alternative methods that do not involve monkeys and other animals, including ethical human volunteer studies and “innovative experiments” that revolve around human tissues and cells.
Based on an EU directive, monkey testing should only be allowed in basic research, life-threatening or debilitating human health issues, or relevant primate species welfare and preservation.
Many of laboratory monkeys in the UK undergo drug testing, studies about which are generally not published are unavailable to the public, Cruelty Free International alleged. Monkeys used in researching HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, and other conditions, too, are said to be subjected to severe suffering such as mutilation of parts of the brain and nervous system.
A Home Office spokesman defended the animal welfare systems of the UK, saying it ensures that animal testing is done “humanely and only when necessary.” The spokesman added that special protection remains available to non-human primates, which is said to account for less than 0.1 percent of all licensed animal procedures.
A 2011 review of experiments on non-human primates over 10 years concluded that medical research on monkeys was generally justified and producing mostly good-quality work.
However, 9 percent of the 3,000 monkey experiments between 1996 and 2006 was seen to lead to no scientific or medical impact, with a majority not having a significant human health benefit.
Photo: Ivan Mlinaric | Flickr