Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Report defends monkey experiments in Britain

monkey testingThe UK's leading research organisations are expected to back the continued use of primates in scientific experiments.

The Weatherall committee is expected to back the use of non-human primates for studies that can reduce human suffering and loss of life.

Fewer than 1% of animal tests are conducted on primates and the committee has spent 18 months examining if these are sound and relevant to humans.

Anti-vivisectionists are firmly opposed to research involving primates.

BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh said research on primates caused particular controversy because they were more sentient than other laboratory animals and so suffered more.

The committee, led by Oxford geneticist Professor Sir David Weatherall, heard evidence from 35 people, including representatives from academic organisations, animal welfare groups, the government and patients.

It also received 62 written submissions.

The inquiry was set up the Royal Society, Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Just over 4,500 experiments were carried out on primates last year, mostly to test new drugs.

The scientific community has long argued that there is no other safe way to test many new drugs or carry out certain types of brain research.

However, opponents insist primates are poor models for human disease, and say such research has failed to produce treatments for leading killers including heart disease and malaria.

The use of great apes, including chimpanzees and gorillas, is prohibited in the UK.

Story here.

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