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.

Great Britain's Ban on Fox Hunting Finally Goes Through

After years of trying and failing to force through a ban on fox hunting, the Labor government finally succeeded in passing a law that will ban fox hunting with hounds beginning in February 2005.

In order to do so, however, the government had to invoke the Parliament Act for only the fourth time since 1949. The Parliament Act allows the House of Commons to override opposition from the House of Lords. With the House of Lords again opposing the ban on fox hunting by a vote of 153-114, invoking the Parliament Act was the only way the ban was ever going to happen.

Since 1949, the Parliament Act had only been used to pass the War Crimes Act of 1991, the European Parliamentary Elections Act of 1999, and the Sexual Offences Act of 2000 (to lower the age of consensual sex for homosexuals). Apparently, the Labor government find fox hunting to be an issue on the same scale as war crimes and sexual offences.

Royal Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals’ John Rolls called the bill,

. . . a watershed in the development of a more civilized society for people and animals.

But many of those involved in the act — including supporters — see the bill as being not so much about animals, but rather being about British class warfare.

On November 21, for example, Labor MP Peter Bradley — a strong proponent of the ban — penned an op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph headlined, “Yes, this is about class war” which read, in part,

Now that hunting has been banned, we ought at last to own up to it: the struggle over the Bill was not just about animal welfare and personal freedom, it was class war.

Labour governments have come and gone and left little impression on the gentry. But a ban on hunting touches them. It threatens their inalienable right to do as they please on their land. For the first time, a decision of a Parliament they don’t control has breached the lodge gates.

The placards of the Countryside Alliance plead “Listen to Us”, but what they mean is “Do What We Say” – as for centuries we have. That old order no longer prevails. Deference has been eroded by a new, universal prosperity. It’s the recognition of that irrevocable change that has made the campaign for hunting so fierce and yet so futile.

The landowners have come to realize that although they still own the country, they no longer run it. That does not make them the victimized minority they claim to be, but it does make them very angry.

So the minority which for centuries ran this country from the manor houses of rural England now rails against the hegemony of an elected majority in Parliament. And, covertly encouraged by some peers and Tory grandees, those who today threaten to defy the laws they do not like bear the names of the legislators who for generations kept the rest of us in our place.

But the problem the landowners face is not theirs alone. It is shared by the Conservatives with whom, to their mutual disadvantage, they are so closely associated.

. . .

The old order is going, but its values continue to dominate the Tory belief system. In a culture that now demands equality of opportunity, too many Conservatives can only properly enjoy what others do not have.

That is why they have an ideological commitment to private health and public schools. It’s why they oppose the right to roam and a ban on hunting. For them it’s ownership of property, especially land, and not citizenship that confers privilege. It’s why they believe that the rights of minorities – or at least their minority – should prevail over those of majorities. But in an age in which we are all aspirational and few are deferential, that is an increasingly unappealing philosophy. The tide is against the Tories as it is against the hunters and, now more than ever, the House of Lords.

Fox hunting supporters, for their part, vowed to defy the ban. Countryside Alliance chairman John Jackson told the Associated Press,

True civil disobedience is now on the horizon.

In fact, several hundred hunt supporters protested outside a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II for visiting French President Jacques Chirac.


Yes, this is about class war. Peter Bradley, Sunday Telegraph, November 21, 2004.

Queen approves hunting ban. ic Croydon, November 18, 2004.

Brits outlaw fox hunting. Associated Press, November 18, 2004.

RSPCA Upset at Ketchup Commercial Featuring Hamster

UK newspapers are reporting that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is unhappy with a Heinz ketchup advertisment that features a hamster.

The ad features a hamster in a cage drinking from a ketchup bottle instead of a water bottle.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said of the ad,

We are concerned about child copycat incidences arising from this ad. Hay, grass, cereal mix and water are an essential part of a guinea pig’s diet and in no case should water be replaced with ketchup.

Heinz said in response that, “The advert is about exaggerating the fact that all foods taste better with Heinz Tomato Ketchup, and in no way is Heinz encouraging families to copy the adverts.”

Wow. The first place I ran across this was in British tabloid The Sun and assumed it was a hoax or, at best, exaggerated, but numerous other British newspapers are reporting the same story.

The RSPCA has really mastered the art of unintentional self-parody of late.


Heinz tomato ketchup guinea pig ad criticised by RSPCA. Media Bulletin, November 23, 2004.

Guinea pig’s tomato sauce TV role leaves a bad taste. Russell Jackson, Scotsman.Com, November 23, 2004.

RSPCA criticises guinea pig ad. ITV.Com, November 23, 2004.

Fury over new ketchup ad. The Sun, November 23, 2004.

RSPCA Helps People Pray for The Souls of Their Dinner

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in October published and distributed to thousands of clergy across Great Britain a booklet titled “A Service for Animal Welfare.” According to the RSPCA, the booklet contains “prayers for animals slaughtered for food, as well as hunted animals and laboratory animals.”

In a press release announcing the publication of the booklet, the RSPCA said,

People who attend animal services arranged by clergy on Animal Welfare Sunday on 3 October will ask God to give them compassion for animals exploited for food, for science, and for entertainment. One prayer asks that the “Compassionate God” will “awaken within us a sense of feeling for all living creatures”, and another asks for forgiveness for our “callousness and cruelty to animals”.

The new service booklet is being distributed to thousands of clergy in an attempt to raise consciousness about the plight of animals. “Clergy don’t often appreciate that animal welfare is a Christian duty”, said the author of the new service, Oxford don, the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, “after all, it was an Anglican priest who helped found the RSPCA – the first animal welfare society in the world – in 1824.”

Linzey is the animal rights theologian who last year said that hunting was “intrinsically evil” and comparable to “rape, child abuse and torture” (see this article for more information on Linzey’s views).


RSPCA launches new church service for animals. Press Release, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, October 2004.

Great Britain Rejects Proposed Ban on Kosher/Halal Slaughter

Last year I mentioned that the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Council had proposed a ban on kosher and halal slaughter on the grounds that such slaughter methods were cruel. I recently received a number of inquiries on what ultimately happened with such proposals. It turns out that earlier this year, in April, the British government rejected the proposals.

Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said at that time,

We will not ban the production of halal or kosher meat. A ban could in any case simply result in kosher and halal meat being imported. We would, therefore, be exporting the problem, resulting in no overall improvement in animal welfare.

The Government sees some merit in the FAWC recommendation that cattle slaughtered by having their throats cut should receive an immediate post-cut stun because of the time it takes cattle to lose consciousness but we do not intend to pursue a mandatory system for this and intend to explore whether progress can be made on a voluntary basis. We would welcome the view of the communities concerned.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s Dr. Julia Wrathall complained about the decision, saying,

While welcoming the Government’s support for many of the other FAWC recommendations we are extremely disappointed that they have failed to act on the evidence — based on scientific research and practical experience — that slaughter without pre-stunning imposes unnecessary suffering.


Stunning for welfare rejected. CountrysideOnline.Co.UK, April 5, 2004.

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.