Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, has described the treatment of monkeys used in research as “shocking and inhumane”, calling for a phase out of their use at the earliest opportunity.

Witnessing footage from an Animal Defenders International (ADI) investigation of the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in the Netherlands, the UN Messenger of Peace and Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute said: “The video I have just watched allegedly shows conditions endured by monkeys in a research laboratory in the Netherlands. We know today that monkeys, along with many other animals, experience not only pain, but also emotions including fear and depression, so the way they are being treated in the video is shocking and inhumane. It is my considered opinion that those involved in this kind of research on primates should consider using alternative procedures that do not involve experimentation on intelligent, sentient beings. This research should be phased out as soon as possible.”


Europe’s largest primate facility, the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC) in the Netherlands breeds animals for its own use and other laboratories, collaborating with researchers in the UK and the US. Latest figures show that it has reportedly more than trebled its primate use, from 95 individuals in 2016 to 317 in 2017. The facility has some 1,600 primates; most of the macaques are kept in breeding groups of 20-40 individuals and when taken to be used in research for diseases are housed alone in small barren cages. At the end of the experiments they are killed.

The video from ADI reveals:

  • Throughout their lives the BPRC primates experience fear, confusion, restraint, routine suffering, injury and death, whether they are used in experiments or not
  • Frightened into crush cages and sedated to be tattooed and tested, no matter how the animals struggle, there is no escape
  • Baring their teeth and shaking the cage bars, primates show their fear of the workers and what is happening to them
  • Although sedated, animals are still conscious and capable of feeling and react as routine procedures are performed on them
  • Singing and dancing, workers show little respect for the animals around them
  • In their groggy state, the monkeys risk injury when left unattended; disorientated animals struggle and fall as they recover from sedation
  • Unable to cope with their unnatural environment, desperate animals lash out at their cage mates, causing serious injury
  • The stress causes monkeys to suffer rectal prolapse
  • When no longer of use, animals are killed in front of their cage mates.

Since its release on International Primate Day, the findings of ADI’s investigation has caused shockwaves, particularly in the Netherlands where there has been widespread media coverage, questions raised in parliament and calls to close down the facility. The video has also been shown in the European Parliament at a meeting of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, where the use of primates and other animals in neuroscience research was discussed.

After seeing the video, comedian Ricky Gervais stated: “To see these sensitive, intelligent animals born to suffer in this way makes me angry. It should make you angry too.”

With such suffering inevitable where primates are bred and used in research, ADI is calling for their use to be phased out, as adopted in a resolution at the European Parliament 11 years ago, for which a timetable has yet to be published.

As one of Europe’s largest primate users, ADI urges the UK to lead on this issue. The UK used 2,215 primates for research in 2017, seven times the number used in the Netherlands and nearly a quarter of the total number of primates used across Europe.

Primates are used mainly to test drugs and typically endure force-feeding or injections of experimental compounds and full body immobilisation in restraint chairs during experiments. The side effects of compounds given to the animals, or simply the stress of procedures, can cause rectal prolapse, vomiting, blocked lungs, collapse, self-mutilation and death. Terrified monkeys are also used in brain research, which can involve electrodes and bolts being screwed into their heads – despite that non-invasive technology is already used with human volunteers.

Due to species differences, tests in primates and other animals have been shown to produce misleading results – replacing primates with more sophisticated human-based techniques provides results which are more relevant to people.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International said: “Given the known species differences between primates and humans, there can be no scientific or ethical justification for continuing to use primates in this kind of research. The move to advanced scientific techniques is good for science and ends the suffering.”

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