The use of primates in scientific experiments – necessary or avoidable?
Recent scientific information examined by EU scientific committee.
Brussels, 1 July 2009. Every year, more than 100 000 monkeys and apes are used for biomedical research around the world. Because primates have close and sometimes unique similarities to humans, their use is still deemed necessary in the safety testing of new pharmaceuticals and in several areas of biomedical research. However, the principles of reducing, refining and replacing the use of non-human primates in scientific testing are supported as ways to minimise their use without compromising the quality of scientific work.
These are some of the conclusions reached by the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) of the European Commission which examined newly available scientific information and issued an opinion on “The need for non-human primates in biomedical research, production and testing of products and devices”.
At the request of the European Commission DG Health and Consumer Protection, GreenFacts faithfully summarised this recent scientific opinion. The plain-language summary is now available from the EU Directorate General of Health and Consumers http://ec.europa.eu/health/opinions/en/non-human-primates/) in four languages: English, French, Spanish and German. It is also available from GreenFacts (www.greenfacts.org), a leading publisher of scientific information._
Highlights of the SCHER Opinion__At present, there are no valid scientific arguments to stop using primates for drug safety testing and scientific research in several areas, such as research on infectious diseases and on the brain, but this position should be regularly reviewed as new alternatives are constantly being developed.
The SCHER supports the “three Rs” principle of reducing, refining and replacing the use of non-human primates in scientific testing and makes a series of recommendations regarding their use:
_. Non-human primates should be used only when this is scientifically justified;
_. Alternative techniques such as tests on cells grown in the laboratory, non-invasive methods and computer modelling should be encouraged;
_. The use of other animal species should be further investigated and considered;
_. There should be coordination and communication between facilities and countries doing animal testing to share data to minimize the numbers of primates used;
_. Any tests on primates should cause as little pain and distress as possible;
_. Housing and breeding of primates used in research should follow high standards of care;
The use of primates caught in the wild should be discouraged for both scientific and animal welfare reasons.