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Council of Europe recognizes lab primate suffering

New Council of Europe guidelines for the housing and care of laboratory animals are coming into force this month, which raise further questions about the suffering of primates in laboratories.

The guidelines note: "..... keeping non-human primates in the laboratory creates a number of problems which are not shared with other commonly used laboratory animals; they are not domesticated, but are wild animals; they are more alert and thus highly reactive to unfamiliar stimuli. ...They will retain most of the attributes of their wild conspecifics". They go on to concede that: ".... non-human primates have advanced cognitive capabilities and complex foraging and social behaviour and require complex, enriched environments to allow them to carry out a normal behavioural repertoire".

The guidelines emphasise that non-human primates used for scientific research should be captive-bred and, where practicable, reared on site to avoid transport stress, pointing out that "..wild caught animals ...present health hazards to staff, have unknown histories and are likely to be more afraid of humans. .... there can be a significant mortality among the animals at the trapping site and during transfer to the source country holding site".

10,000 monkeys are used in experiments across Europe, with over 4,600 used in the UK each year. There are no accurate records of how many wild-caught monkeys are used in experiments in the EU, but it is estimated by the European Commission to be as many as 1,000 per year.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI & NAVS, commented: "The new Council of Europe guidelines clearly acknowledge the immense suffering of primates in laboratories and highlight the need for action on this issue. Sadly, we have seen in the past how husbandry guidelines for laboratory animals are often routinely ignored without sanction. The only way to protect these animals is to make a genuine commitment to ending these tests. Fortunately, an increasing number of MEPs agree and support is rising for affirmative action to protect primates".

Last week 173 MEPs signed a Written Declaration (40/2007), which urges the European Commission to use the revision process of animal experiments Directive 86/609/EC to end the use of Great Apes and wild-caught monkeys in research, and to establish a timetable to end all experiments on primates.

Animal Defenders International & NAVS
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