Primates Needed for Medical Tests, Say Scientists ; HOME

By Connor, Steve | The Independent (London, England), December 13, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Primates Needed for Medical Tests, Say Scientists ; HOME


Connor, Steve, The Independent (London, England)


There is a strong scientific case for the continued use of monkeys in medical experiments, according to a high-level investigation by some of Britain's leading scientists.

The report on the use of primates in scientific research was immediately condemned yesterday by anti-vivisectionists, who labelled the independent inquiry short-sighted, misguided and a whitewash.

A working group of nine people - mostly scientists and chaired by Sir David Weather-all, a distinguished medical geneticist - concluded that "nonhuman primates" were still essential for important scientific research. "There is a scientific case for careful, meticulously regulated non-human primate research, at least for the foreseeable future, provided it is the only way of solving scientific or medical questions and high standards of welfare are maintained," Sir David said.

Using monkeys will be critical for further breakthroughs in a range of medical fields, from the development of vaccines against mass killers such as HIV and malaria to the basic understanding of brain disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, the report says. It also called for more research into alternatives to using monkeys and other animals and recommended better training of scientists and technicians involved in primate experiments, as well as better welfare provisions for the animals.

But despite the report's emphasis on the more-humane treatment of monkeys and on the development of alternatives, it failed to satisfy anti-vivisectionist groups which want to ban or phase out the use of monkeys.

"This report seriously underplays the importance of non-animal research methods. It adds nothing new to the literature and merely provides a pedestrian and persistently negative interpretation of the opportunities to replace primate use," said Gill Langley, the science director of the animal welfare charity the Dr Hadwen Trust.

"If this sort of short-sighted, uninspired and misguided thinking is the limit of our aspirations, both for sound medical progress and for the humane treatment of our closest cousins, then it is a sad indictment of us all," Dr Langley said.

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Primates Needed for Medical Tests, Say Scientists ; HOME
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