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Primate testing in Europe


Our Background

Animal Defenders International (ADI), founded in 1990 and with offices in London, San Francisco and Bogota, represents the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) (founded 1875) and its scientific research wing, the Lord Dowding Fund (LDF) (founded 1974) in the international arena. The three organisations are active on a range of animal protection and conservation issues worldwide, with their respective missions to: conserve and protect animals and the environment; work for and end to the use of animals in research; promote and fund non-animal scientific and medical research. The work of the three groups includes research, investigations, publishing of technical reports, educational materials, and briefings for governments. The LDF provides funds for scientists conducting non-animal scientific and medical research, with an annual research spend of circa £300,000/€320,107.


With the European Commission’s proposed new Directive to replace Directive 86/609 on the use of animals for scientific purposes now in discussion in the European Parliament, it is important to study the use of primates in regulatory and commercial testing as well as academic research within the European Union. The main focus of this report is the use of primates in regulatory testing. 10,000 primates are used in research and testing in the EU each year, 70% of this is regulatory and commercial product testing.

In order to gain a first-hand understanding of day-to-day work and animal care practices in a typical European contract testing laboratory, we arranged for an investigator to work as an animal technician in the primate unit at Huntingdon Life Sciences, Cambridgeshire, UK.

Although much has been written about Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), we feel it is important to keep in mind that this is a typical European regulatory testing facility and that the accommodation and animal care, and the experiments we describe in this report, should not be dismissed as a ‘rogue’ case.

HLS is perhaps the most heavily scrutinised animal laboratory in Europe, having previously been exposed for falsifying data and animal cruelty (for which staff were subsequently convicted), and subsequently being threatened by the authorities with withdrawal of its licence[221]. As a result, the company’s shares crashed. Ten years later, the company boasts annual sales of £130million/€137million and £30million/€31.5million in profits. HLS clients, who commission experiments in order to launch new products onto the market, include the world’s largest pharmaceutical and chemical companies with profits running into the billions. The UK’s Ministry of Defence is a client. This is a wealthy industry, with wealthy clients.

In contrast, the monkeys used to test the new compounds huddle in small windowless rooms or small cages – starved of their home world, space, family, interest and stimulation and the kiss of the sun or a breeze on their cheeks.

This report and the accompanying DVD ‘Save the Primates’ reveals the standard set for welfare following under the UK’s Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and EC Directive 86/609.

Likewise, the Vietnamese primate supplier included in this report has been scrutinised by UK licensing authorities, even warned about its standards, to little or no avail. The impotency of EU regulation and the laws of Member States when it comes to setting standards in these institutions thousands of miles away is all too vivid.
We also examine the failure of the adoption of modern scientific techniques to replace animals. More alternatives are available than ever before, but primate experiments are rising. The casual acceptance and defence of animal experimentation has become a roadblock to progress. Yet when pressure is applied, as with the Cosmetics Directive or with REACH, the replacements are found.

Watch our Save the Primates Video

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