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Primate use

Governments, industry, scientists and research funders worldwide should accept the need to end primate use as a legitimate and essential goal. 

Marmoset © Andrew Forsyth/RSPCA photolibrary

The cognitive abilities, physical and behavioural requirements, and capacity of primates to suffer, make their use in research and testing a matter of serious concern to the RSPCA.

We believe that it is not possible to satisfy the complex requirements of primates in the laboratory, so suffering in experiments is compounded by confinement in an unnatural environment and other factors such as transport and restraint. Capture of wild primates to replenish breeding stock (and for use in research in some countries), and breeding practices - including early separation of infants, are additional issues of concern.

Far more critical evaluation of the scientific need for, and justification of all primate use is essential, together with more rigorous application of the 3Rs throughout primates’ lives.

Our research animals department uses animal behaviour and welfare science to provide expert input into reviews of primate care and use and the laws that regulate them.

Examples of our work in this area

  • We responded to the publication of the Bateson Report (2011) examining research projects involving primate experiments carried out with financial support from the Medical Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council or the Wellcome Trust between 1997 and 2006.
  • Submission (on behalf of Eurogroup for Animals) made in 2008 to the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) that reviewed the use of primates in research.
  • Initial evidence and subsequent response to the Weatherall Report on the validity and possible future uses of primates in research. The Report was produced by a working group set up in 2005 by the Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, The Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust.
  • We initiated and drafted a resolution calling for an internationally co-ordinated effort to define a strategy to bring all non-human primate experiments to an end. The world's leading animal protection organisations signed up to the resolution in 2005 at the 5th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences.
  • We set out our concerns about the serious welfare issues associated with the global trade in primates in our report ‘Counting the Cost’. This was produced in 2001, but many of its recommendations are still current, including those relating to long journey times, early maternal separation and lack of UK jurisdiction over standards of housing and care at overseas breeders.
  • Members of our research animals department also provided input into reports on primate use by the Boyd Group and the UK Animal Procedures Committee (APC), and to the APC report on primate supply.

Full reports, where applicable, can be accessed below.

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