Animal Aid


Posted 6 October 2003

The internal revolt over Cambridge University's plans to build a massive primate research centre reaches a critical phase on Tuesday when the university's governing Council is likely to be charged with using deception to obtain approval for the project from the university's 'parliament'.

Anti-vivisection opponents of the scheme will be on hand when top officials meet at Senate House to hear complaints from Cambridge's Scrutiny Committee that the Council had tried to hide its proposed use of primates from the university's governing body - known as Regent House.

The scale of the deception was starkly summarised in a headline for a recent article in the Daily Express: "Don's ape fury: Truth about £20m monkey lab was 'kept from university body'".

The in-house controversy was first aired in an article in the university's official journal. "It is clear", said the August 6 report, "that a decision was taken to keep a vital fact from the Regent House... Ethical questions about experiments on primates aside, this fact was important because it seriously affected the likely cost of the project... both legal costs in obtaining planning permission... and labour costs ensuring the physical security of the site."

Protesters will be ready to remind university officials attending Tuesday's meeting - which could include new Vice Chancellor, Professor Alison Richard - that the deception practised by the Council on its own parliament is but a foretaste of the immoral activities planned for the new centre.

Monkeys would have their skulls opened and their brains damaged with corrosive chemicals and through surgery. They would then typically be set a battery of tests in neurological experiments that could last months, and even years. Most end with the animals being killed and their body parts analysed. But prior to death, the animals would suffer symptoms that include seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors and uncontrollable body movements.

A House of Commons motion calling for a government ban on all primate experiments has attracted support from no less than 115 MPs within a few weeks of it being tabled by Lib Dem MP Norman Baker. Early Day Motion No. 1307 objects to the experiments because of the "the important biological differences between people and primates' and because the monkeys' 'suffering is so severe".

The general public is also opposed to monkey tests. Fifty-two per cent of respondents to an Animal Aid-commissioned NOP poll said such experiments are morally unacceptable. Only 40% said they are acceptable - the remainder fell into the 'don't know' or 'refused' category.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is due shortly to announce whether he will give planning permission for the centre. But even if the green light is given, the university can choose not to go ahead.

In a statement sent to every member of the university's Council, Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler, declared:

"The track record of the 'primate model' in all fields of medical research is dismal. The Council will not be adopting an anti-science posture if it chooses to recommend that the University should cease all primate research. On the contrary, by embracing the many non-animal methods of research now available, it will be signalling its commitment to science that is rational, modern and humane."

The Tuesday October 7 Regent House meeting demo will begin 2pm at Senate house, central Cambridge.

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