Medical research called to stop monkeying around

Medical research called to stop monkeying around

16th January 2014 By Adam Dayan

A prominent animal rights group has called on the government to cut funding for Oxford University’s experiments on primates.

The Anti-Vivisection Coalition claims that the University is unnecessarily using primates in animal research, and asserts that other countries run more humane research schemes while remaining successful.

The University says some of the claims are incorrect, and that primates are only used when “no other species can deliver the research answer”.

Luke Steele, head of the AVC, accused the University of “taking public funds and pumping them into cruel and scientifically redundant primate experiments.”

Arguing that there is “a global trend away from primate experiments”, Steele called for Oxford to “make a change to reflect the exodus from monkey testing”.

“Italy and Israel are both countries with very successful pharmaceutical research programs that don’t need to harm primates to help humans,” he added. He also cited Harvard as a university that had recently released all primates from its labs.

In 2012, 29 primates were used for experiments. 97 per cent of animals used in Oxford’s medical research are rodents.

A University spokesperson claimed some of the group’s assertions were incorrect. “The press release from Luke Steele and the Anti-Vivisection Coalition that I have seen includes incorrect statements on our animal research facility,” he said.

“Primates are only used where no other species can deliver the research answer, and we continually seek ways to replace primates with lower orders of animal.

“However, there are elements of research that can only be carried out using primates because their brains are closer to human brains than mice or rats. Macaque monkeys are used at Oxford in vital research into diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Research on animals has contributed to almost every medical advance of the last century. Without animal research, medicine as we know it today wouldn’t exist,” he added.

The AVC’s campaign came on the tenth anniversary of the closing of Cambridge’s primate labs. Steele said: “The cruel experiments on primates at Cambridge did not give results accurate to human beings. Primate testing needs to be abandoned in lieu of modern, human-based research.”

Students had mixed reactions to the news. Tom Kay, a first year biologist at Magdalen, said: “I strongly disagree with testing on animals above certain emotional intelligences such as dolphins or monkeys but it’s completely fine for worms or amoeba.”

“There is a spectrum in between. For things like mice some experiments should be allowed and some shouldn’t, depending on how cruel they are to animals and how beneficial they are to humans,” he added.