Sir David Attenborough and Dr Jane Goodall are joining Cruelty Free International and a line-up of scientists, primatologists and animal welfare experts in raising concerns about the controversial use of non-human primates in neuroscience research.
The group of experts has signed an open statement of concern, calling on bodies responsible for the funding and licensing of this type of research, to review their policies and specifically to end support for experiments involving deprivation of fluids and movement restraint.
Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster and naturalist, stated: “The recognition that apes, certainly, and to an extent other primates, are so akin to ourselves, and can suffer so much, as we can, has transformed our attitude, or should have transformed our attitude, to using them for our own benefit. They are sentient beings that have mental lives comparable to ours, and sensitivities, and pain and deprivation mean things to them, just as they mean things to us.”
Jane Goodall, PHD, DBE Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace stated: “I and my team have studied chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, for over 50 years. I can state categorically that they have a similar capacity for suffering, both mental and physical, and show similar emotions to many of ours. We also study baboons and other monkeys and there is no doubt they too can suffer and experience fear, depression, anxiety, frustration and so on. To confine these primate relatives of ours to laboratory cages and subject them to experiments that are often distressing and painful is, in my opinion, morally wrong. To restrain their movement and deprive them of water is inhumane and extremely cruel and we have no right to exploit them in this way for any reason.”
Cruelty Free International is raising concerns about neuroscience experiments because of the level of suffering involved; monkeys can be subjected to water deprivation, physical coercion and physical restraint. Such research can include:
· Highly invasive brain surgery to implant recording devices in the brains of monkeys.
· The use of water deprivation, to coerce the monkeys into doing what the researchers want.
· The use of physical coercion (including the use of a collar and pole) to force monkeys out of their cages and to ‘acclimatise’ the animals to a restraint device (called a ‘primate chair’) – in which the monkeys are held by their neck and body in an abnormal and uncomfortable position.
· Thirsty monkeys, restrained by a post implanted in their heads and their bodies immobilised in the device, so that researchers can take recordings from their brains as they look at computer screens or push levers. This can take place for 6 hours per day, five days per week.
· Monkeys may be kept for years and continually used in this research – usually permanently housed indoors and sometimes in isolation.
Cruelty Free International is calling on funding bodies and licensing authorities in the UK and Europe to end their support for such experiments on the grounds that they cause substantial suffering and are unnecessary. A recent scientific review found that claims of the human relevance of data, made by researchers who use monkeys in these kinds of experiments, were overstated. It also found that the availability and use of ethical studies involving humans were of more value to medical progress.
Dr Katy Taylor, Director of Science at Cruelty Free International, states: “We welcome the support from Sir David Attenborough, Dr Jane Goodall and other notable experts to end this cruel research. The public may be forgiven for thinking these types of experiments ended in the 1960s, but sadly funding bodies and governments are still endorsing unnecessary experiments on the brains of monkeys. This brutal treatment of monkeys, for speculative ends, does not belong in a progressive society.”