Animal Rights Groups Call for End to Primate Experimentation

At August’s Fifth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, a number of animal rights groups signed on to a resolution calling for the worldwide end to all medical research involving primates.

Those agreeing to the resolution included the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and the German Animal Welfare Federation.

The full text of the resolution read,

Call to end the use of non-human primates in biomedical research
and testing from animal protection organisations worldwide
Berlin, August 2005

Non-human primates are highly intelligent, sentient animals. They form intricate social
relationships, interact with their environment in a dynamic and complex way, and
engage in imaginative problem solving. It is also widely accepted that primates
experience a range of negative emotions (e.g. anxiety, apprehension, fear,
frustration, boredom and mental stress) as well as a range of positive emotions (e.g.
interest, pleasure, happiness and excitement). In short, they are very close to humans
in their biology and capabilities, and the users of non-human primates argue that this
makes them ideal ‘models’ for research. However, this also means that primates have
the capacity to suffer like humans, so there can be no question that primates can
experience pain and distress.

Confining animals who would normally live in a very large and complex home range in
the laboratory, must have a significant adverse effect on their welfare. At its best
laboratory primate housing represents only a small fraction of their home range. The
worst, still commonly used in many countries, is a small, barren metal box in which the
animals can only take a few steps in any direction. Other aspects of the lifetime
experience of laboratory primates also cause stress and suffering, particularly where
they cannot control their environment, social grouping, or what is done to them. Any
pain or distress associated with experimental procedures is therefore compounded by
additional adverse effects resulting from capture of wild primates, breeding practices,
transport, housing, husbandry, identification, restraint, and finally, euthanasia.

For these reasons alone, the use of primates in research and testing is a matter of
extreme concern to the animal protection community worldwide and to the significant
sector of the public who they represent. This concern has been recognised at a
regulatory level with some countries making special provisions for primates in their
legislation, and emphasising the need to reduce and replace primate experiments.


The animal protection organisations attending the Fifth World Congress on
Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Berlin in 2005 have united to
call for an end to the use of non-human primates in biomedical research and
testing. We urge governments, regulators, industry, scientists and research
funders worldwide to accept the need to end primate use as a legitimate and
essential goal; to make achieving this goal a high priority; and to work together
to facilitate this. In particular, we believe there must be an immediate,
internationally co-ordinated effort to define a strategy to bring all non-human
primate experiments to an end.

In a press release announcing the resolution, the Humane Society of the United States noted its objections to the continued use of non-primate species in medical research as well,

At the occasion of the World Congress, the Vice-President of the German Animal Welfare Federation (Deutscher Tierschutzbund), Dr Brigitte Rusche, the Director of Eurogroup, Sonja van Tichelen, and the Vice President for Animal Research Issues of the Humane Society of the United States, Dr Martin Stephens, also expressed concern about the continuous use of other animals in research and the slow progress in the development, validation and acceptance of non-animal alternatives. As a result in the EU alone, over 10 million animals continue to be used in experiments every year including mice and rats but also fish, pigs, goats, cats, dogs and primates.

Of course this is the same Martin Stephens who in 1999 conceded that we owe much of our advanced understanding of human biomedical knowledge to animal research.


Worldwide call for primate testing ban. UKPets.Co.UK, August 22, 2005.

Animal Protection Organisations from Around the World Call for an End to the use of Primate Testing. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, August 22, 2005.

Activists In Monkey Suits Turn in Anti-Primate Research Petition

On August 2, several animal rights activists dressed in monkey suits showed up at Number 10 Downing Street along with Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker to turn in the 163,000 signatures they had gathered on a petition asking for a ban on primate research in the UK.

The Next of Kin campaign, organized by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, argues that medical research with primates is cruel and should be abolished.

Most British newspapers wrote bland summaries of the event, typically with a short quote from Simon Festing of the Research Defense Society saying,

BUAV are right to highlight the similarity of primates to humans – that is why they are so useful. But they are only a fraction of the number of animals used in research, around 0.1%, and they have been essential in a number of areas, including hepatitis vaccine, fertility studies, the modern contraceptive and research into Parkinson’s disease.

The Manchester Evening News, however, ran a story which was read like BUAV itself had drafted the story. That included this odd claim,

Less than 20% of medical primate use is for medical research, with 70% for the profit of pharmaceutical companies.

. . .

Research suggests toxicology procedures, to benefit pharmaceutical companies — the majority of primate use (70%) — can lead to loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, unsteady gait or loss of balance and even death.

Just accepting the figures for now, toxicology research isn’t medical research? Does Manchester Online believe that pharmaceutical companies should start selling drugs without first having performed toxicological assays?


Total ban on primate testing plea. Manchester Evening News, August 2, 2005.

Petition calls for end to testing on primates. Matthew Tempest, The Guardian, August 2, 2005.

New Leader, Same Old British Union Against Vivisection

Back in August, this site noted the hiring of Italian animal rights activist Adolfo Sansolini to head the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. Different idiot at the helm, but the same old lies from BUAV.

In a letter to The Herald (Glasgow), Sansolini makes the typically absurd case against animal research,

Take the case of Aids, for example. It is well known that immunodeficiency viruses act differently in different species. It’s only humans who suffer from full-blown Aids, and most other animals are not even able to contract HIV. Yet research with primates still continues, even though virtually all of the breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of Aids have come from studies not involving animals, and species differences mean that research into cancer and Alzheimer’s and other diseases involving animals is a poor predictor of the disease in humans, and scientifically dubious. That’s one of the reasons that lead us to oppose all animal experiments, because they are an obstacle to the development of more scientific and reliable methods, which could really help to save lives.

Presumably the rabbit antiserum that played a key role in initially isolating HIV and then serving as the basis for a diagnostic test for detecting the disease was vegan rabbit antiserum. In fact, animals have played a central role in many areas of HIV research.

If you’ve ever had an HIV test, you’ve had a test that relies on animal antibodies at some point in the diagnosis determination.

Sansolini also leaves out some important information about the early 1990s withdrawal of manoplax (flosequinan). In Sansolini’s version,

Manoplax (flosequinan), for example, was a new drug for congestive heart failure launched in 1992. It was licensed for general prescription in the UK and the US, but withdrawn in July 1993 after human trials showed that it increased death rates. Manoplax was extensively tested using animals, including rats, rabbits, cats, baboons, dogs, guinea-pigs and ferrets.

First, as is typical with BUAV, Sansolini has his facts wrong. Manoplax never received “general prescription” approval in the United States. In fact, the FDA approved it to be used only in the patients suffering from congestive heart failure who could not tolerate existing treatments, and even then it had to carry a prominent warning on its label.

Second, Sansolini forgets to mention — for whatever reason — that manoplax also underwent almost a decade of clinical testing in human beings prior to approval.

What happened with manoplax? Congestive heart failure is not a curable condition, and manoplax did not attempt to cure it. Rather, what it did was provide a better quality of life for people with CHF. The downside was that when it was finally used in a post-approval trial of 3,000 people, it also turned out to significantly increase the risk of mortality.

Dr. Robert Fenichel, who worked with the FDA analyzing new drug applications, did a good job of outlining the sort of risks and benefits that the FDA and drug companies must weigh when approving drugs for diseases like congestive health failure. The New York Times asked Fenichel about how the FDA approaches cases where a drug has high risks but also conveys great benefits upon patients. He responded,

The most dramatic case, I think, was a drug called flosequinan, made by Boots Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom, for congestive heart failure. People with severe congestive heart failure are terribly disabled. Some cannot even walk across a room without becoming desperately short of breath, and their median survival from diagnosis is only two or three years. Flosequinan really made patients feel lots better. They stayed out of the hospital and they could move around.

And the drug increased mortality, by about 50 percent. I mean really a lot. They died of their congestive failure sooner than people who weren’t taking the drug.

Well, we thought about this, and the results with respect to feeling better were so impressive that people in the division thought, Gee, if I had that disease, I would want that drug. Now not everyone said that. But many people in the division thought, I would want that drug.

And so it was approved. And the company finally lost its nerve, and they never marketed it.


Why animal research testing is unreliable. Adolfo Sansolini, The Herald (UK), February 2, 2005.

A Conversation with Robert Fenichel. Denise Grady, The New York Times, March 6, 2001.

Manoplax: from heart to heartbreak. Patrick Hosking, The Independent, July 25, 1993.

Boots ‘unlucky’ over heart treatment drug. William Tinning, The Herald (Glasgow), July 20, 1993.

British Universities Struggle to Preserve Researchers’ Anonymity

Universities are finding it difficult to comply with the new British Freedom of Information Act and also preserve the privacy/anonymity of their researchers.

Universities like Oxford obviously want to prevent researchers from becoming targets of animal rights extremists, but guidelines are still a bit vague as to how much they have to disclose in Freedom of Information Act requests and whether or not they can refuse such requests by certain individuals.

The Times Higher Education Supplement recently reported that,

The Freedom of Information requests that universities are dealing with have been described as “very specific.’ Universities are concerned that the Act does not allow an institution or government department to refuse an application simply because it comes from a person with a criminal record for animal-rights activism.

Which seems like a pretty silly objection — after all, if you prevent someone with a criminal record from having access to such information, it has to be near-trivial for that person to simply enlist a friend who does not have a criminal record to file the request.

Oxford has posted nine summaries of animal research projects on its website that it received Freedom of Information requests about.

ON the one hand, Nancy Rothwell of Manchester University tells the Times that it would be easy to guess who the individual researcher is based on the summary,

I’m pretty sure I could identify some of the license holders because their work is so specialized. I do not see a way of maintaining anonymity yet retaining a summary that has value.

On the other hand the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection complains that the summaries do not contain enough details. Adolfo Sansolini, chief executive of BUAV, told The Times,

This is a smokescreen for further secrecy by the Government.

Look, at some point the research is going to be made public if the results are ever published. Its silly to sit back and try to keep animal rights activists from learning the names of individuals working on animal research projects. The problem is not that this sort of information might be public, but rather that the government has done such a poor job protecting researchers and containing animal rights extremism.


UK scientists seek anonymity. Anna Fazackerley, The Times Higher Education Supplement, January 28, 2005.

Number of Animals Used for Research in UK Increase Slightly

A report by Great Britain’s Home Office indicates that the number of animals used for medical research in that country rose from 2.73 million in 2002 to 2.79 million 2003.

For all experimental procedures, 85 percent involved mice, rats and other rodents; 6 percent involved fish; 4 percent involved birds; and less than 1 percent involved dogs, cats, horses and primates.

Home Office minister Caroline Flint said of the report,

There remains a clear need for the use of animals in vital scientific research where no alternative is available. This type of research saves countless lives each year and the Government fully supports the efforts of scientists working to secure medical advances and public health improvements. The UK’s controls on the use of animals are amongst the tightest in the world.

. . .

The Government has recently established the National Center for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research to drive the search for alternatives to animal experiments. But let us not forget, this is essential, life-saving research. Scientists carrying out this work have been targeted by extremist groups and the Government has made clear that this type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated.

But perhaps the bigger long term threat is less from animal rights extremists than from relatively mainstream animal welfare groups that do their fair share to undermine support for animal research. It wasn’t surprising, after all, to see Nicky Gordon of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection tell The Guardian,

Non-human primates are our closest relatives and their capacity to suffer, experience stress and feel pain is clear for all to see. Subjecting them to medical research and toxicology experiments which require them to undergo brain surgery and swallow poisons is abhorrent and should be ended immediately.

It was a bit more surprising, however, to see this exchange between Dr. Simon Festing of the Association of Medical Research Charities and Penny Hawkins of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (emphasis added),

The overall increase of animal use in 2003 is due, in part, to the greater use of genetically modified animals in research aimed at understanding what the 30,000 or so genes inside every human cell actually do.

“One of the things you can do is add a human gene to a mouse so that he mouse gets a disease it otherwise would not have got, like cystic fibrosis,” said Dr Festing. “Then you can observe the mouse and try out new therapies on it.”

But Ms Hawkins said: “Do we actually need to know what every single gene does? Often this is being done without a clear applied medical benefit in mind.

For someone designated as a “science officer” for the RSPCA, Hawkins seems to have a great deal of ignorance about the importance of basic research.


Animal rights groups protest at 20% rise in experiments on primates. Alok Jha, The Guardian, September 8, 2004.

Animal laboratory experiments up 2.2% – Report. David Barrett, Press Association News, September 7, 2004.

BUAV's New CEO: Ignore the Violent Man Behind the Curtain

Italian animal rights activist Adolfo Sansolini this month became chief executive officer of the British Union for the Abolishment of Vivisection. Sansolini founded Italian anti-animal research group Lega Anti Vivesezione, and for the last few years has been a consultant to Eurogroup for Animal Welfare.

What the British press picked up on right away were Sansolini’s views on non-violence. UKPets News included the following quotes from Sansolini,

I oppose all violence, be it violence against animal victims in the laboratory or violence towards people outside the laboratory. The difference between races, sexuality or religion have long been used to justify prejudice and exploitation. The argument that we have the right to experiment on animals because they are a different species is just the same.

. . .

To depict anti-vivisectionists as terrorists is dishonest. A small number of violent people can exist in any environment but they cannot be taken as a symbol of a radically non-violent movement like the one for the respect of animal rights. But that’s not to say that some anti-vivisectionists shouldn’t be more self-critical when it comes to tactics.

Talks out of both sides of his mouth — should fit in perfectly at BUAV.

BUAV’s press release announcing Sansolini’s appointment included a quote from him claiming that, “The BUAV is the world’s leading organization campaigning for an end to animal experiments . . .” This was followed by a note that “Adolfo’s appointment to the BUAV comes in the year (2004) of the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Frances Power Cobbe, the BUAV’s original founder.” Apparently it doesn’t take much in the way of results to become the world’s leading organization campaigning for an end to animal experiments.

Here’s to another 100+ years of continuing that same level of success by the BUAV.


New BUAV CEO defies animal activist stereotype. UKPets.Co.UK, August 26, 2004.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection Appoints Adolfo Sansolini as Chief Executive Officer. Press Release, The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, May 20, 2004.