Animal Aid

MONKEY EXPERIMENTS - MPs call for UK ban

Posted 1 July 2003
Primate with head device. Credit: PETA

A parliamentary motion, initiated by Animal Aid, calling for a total ban on laboratory experiments involving monkeys, has attracted already support from almost 15% of all MPs.

Early Day Motion Number 1307 was tabled early June, supported by Animal Aid and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). Original signatories included Norman Baker (Lib Dem), Ann Widdecombe (Con), and Tony Banks (Lab). By mid-July, 97 MPs had added their names.

The initiative follows publication of a new Animal Aid report, Monkeying Around With Human Health: the cost to people of primate experiments. Written by Dr Ray Greek, Medical Director of Europeans For Medical Advancement, the report details the scientific case against using primates in medical research as 'models' of human beings.

Early Day Motion 1307 runs until November. You can help build parliamentary pressure for a ban on all primate experiments by contacting your MP and asking him or her to sign the Motion.

EDM 1307 explicitly supports the Zero Option campaign, launched by the BUAV to encourage public and political support for an end to all UK monkey experiments. In 1997, the UK Government banned experiments on great apes (gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo & orang-utan) on the basis that their suffering could not be justified as their level of sentiency was considered too great.

As well as the welfare dimension, EDM 1307 objects to experiments on primates on the grounds that such 'procedures' are bad science.

The tabling of the Motion comes as Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is considering whether or not to give the go-ahead to highly controversial plans by Cambridge University to build a massive new primate brain research laboratory. Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly supported the monkey lab in a speech to the Royal Society in May 2002. The immense suffering of brain damaged monkeys at Cambridge University's existing labs was exposed soon after the Blair speech in a shocking BUAV undercover investigation. A public inquiry was held to discuss the proposed Cambridge project at the end of last year. Animal Aid, the National Anti-Vivisection Society, BUAV, X-CAPE (Cambridge Against Primate Experiments) and Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine were among opponents who presented extensive evidence.

The UK remains the largest user of primates in experiments in the European Union. In 2001, 3986 experiments using 3342 monkeys were conducted in the UK alone - an 8% and 13% increase respectively since 2000. Many more primates were held in British laboratories and by supply companies as part of captive breeding colonies, developed to provide the vivisection industry with research 'subjects'.

The text of EDM 1307 is as follows:

"This House believes that experiments on primates cannot be justified in view of a) the important biological differences between people and primates; b) their well-developed intellectual and social awareness, which makes their needs impossible to meet in a laboratory and their suffering so severe; c) public opposition to the practice, and therefore believes it is time for the UK to adopt the 'Zero Option', a total end to experiments on all primates and calls upon the Government to extend the ban on the use of Great Apes to all primates as a matter of urgency."

An NOP opinion poll commissioned in April 2003 by Animal Aid revealed that 52% of respondents regarded primate experiments as morally unacceptable (only 40% acceptable, remainder don't know/ refused).

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