1 September 2006
International Primate Day, 1 September, will herald a new drive for an end to the use of primates in research. This is especially important with the prospect that the European Union’s regulations on animal research are under review, with the prospect of a primate research ban on the table.
Animal Defenders International will be working to build on the support for the call to ban the use of primates in research as part of their ‘My Mate’s a Primate’ Campaign, launched last year.
My Mate’s a Primate is a campaign to alert the world to the four main threats to our closest relatives in the animal kingdom – these are our family – our next of kin. The very existence of the primate species worldwide is threatened by the bushmeat trade, laboratory animal trade, pet trade, and use of primates for entertainment.
In 2006 we plan to focus on the use of primates in research and testing for International Primate Day:
In 2005 Animal Defenders International and the National Anti-Vivisection Society secured support from over 70 organisations worldwide for the Berlin Declaration, a call for an end to the use of primates in research, signed in Berlin in August 2005. The seventy signatories to the Berlin Declaration represent nearly 2 million people worlwide. The Berlin Declaration was launched at the 5th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Berlin, and presented by Dr Jane Goodall, on behalf of the signatories.
There is scientific support for a ban on the use of primates
A group of scientists based in Denmark and the USA have highlighted the necessity to reconsider the use of primates in research. The team, led by Professor Rasmus Nielsen of Copenhagen University, compared genes found in humans to their equivalent genes in chimpanzees.
They found that the genes which differ the most between humans and chimpanzees are those related to immune defence and cancer development. They also identified that the genes which are most similar between humans and chimpanzees are those which are expressed in the brain. Genes encode information essential for the construction and regulation of proteins (such as enzymes) and other molecules that determine the growth and functioning of an organism. Therefore they form the basis of how a human or animal develops and responds to its environment.
By identifying that immune defence and cancer development genes differ greatly between these two species, Nielsen and colleagues have drawn attention to the fact that using primates as research tools is misleading. The results obtained from chimpanzees and other primates with regards to drugs, toxicity, disease and cancer research would be inaccurate when applied to humans. This is because the huge genetic differences between them dictate that humans and primates would respond differently to an immune system invasion, and their respective development of tumours and cancers would also be different.
The fact that the genes which are expressed in the brain are very similar between humans and chimpanzees underlines another reason why the use of primates in research should be avoided. This evidence stands in favour of the often-quoted ethical argument that primates and other animals should not be used in research due to their ability to feel pain. With gene expression in the brain so similar between humans and chimpanzees, it is possible to conclude that non-human primates can feel similar pain and distress to humans, and that they will suffer as a result of experimental manipulation in much the same way as humans would.
1 Nielsen R., C. Bustamante et al. (2005) A scan for positively selected genes in the genomes of humans and chimpanzees. PLOS Biology 3(6): e170 July 2005.
The UK has become Europe’s largest user of laboratory monkeys with around 5,000 experiments on record for 2003 (latest recorded government figures). The USA, where ADI is also staging events, is the world’s biggest user of laboratory primates.
Jan Creamer, chief executive of the NAVS, ADI and LDF, said: “As one of the original organisations involved in moving towards this agreement, we welcome today’s statement for an internationally co-ordinated effort to bring all non-human primate experiments to an end. Our ‘My Mate’s A Primate’ campaign this summer has focused on the distress and inhumane treatment of primates used in research, as they are caged and chained and kept in the bleakest conditions before being subjected to horrendous experiments. Many die in transportation on the way to laboratories, others are bred merely to supply research and yet, they suffer pain and anguish in much the same way as humans do.”
My Mate’s a Primate highlighted the fact that the UK, with 4,799 primate experiments in 2003 (the last recorded government figures) is Europe’s largest user of laboratory monkeys and that globally, an estimated 1.7 million primates are used in experiments each year.
Scientific reports show that animal experiments produce misleading results and can actually hold up medical progress. They are flawed because of the anatomical and physiological differences between species, which makes them unreliable as a predictor of likely human effects. Opinion polls have confirmed that 90% of the public would like to see more funding of non-animal alternatives.
The Berlin Declaration was signed by the animal protection groups on 21 August 2005, it says:
“The animal protection organisations attending the Fifth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Berlin 2005 have united to call for an end to the use of non-human primates in biomedical research and testing. We urge governments, regulators, industry, scientists and research funders worldwide to accept the need to end primate use as a legitimate and essential goal; to make achieving this goal a high priority; and work together to facilitate this. In particular, we believe there must be an immediate, internationally co-ordinated effort to bring all non-human primate experiments to an end.”
Adopt a Primate
To mark International Primate Day, ADI will be launching a new Adopt a Primate scheme inviting people to adopt chimpanzees like Toto, rescued by ADI and now living with his family at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, in Zambia.
Contact us to see what you can do for International Primate Day
My Mate’s a Primate
Since Darwin first placed chimpanzees on our family tree, it has been acknowledged that we share a common ancestry with chimps – and less recently in evolutionary terms – with the other primates as well. As our cousins in the animal kingdom, they have a capacity to suffer greatly in captivity – as we would. The similarities in behaviour, emotions, and intelligence between them and us are striking. Yet we inflict suffering on them daily – and we are taking some of these species to the very brink of extinction. As we lounge on our expensive hardwood furniture, the life flickers out of the forest from which they are taken…
Animal Defenders International’s new campaign, My Mate’s a Primate, examines the relationship between our species and our relatives in the animal kingdom and calls for a change in attitude and behaviour towards them. Primates aren’t just our mates, they’re part of the family.