Animal Procedures Committee releases review of ‘welfare’ of animals in science

The Animal Procedures Committee (body previously responsible for advising the Home Secretary on matters relating to animal testing), headed by MP Norman Baker, have today released their review of the assessment of cumulative severity and lifetime experience in non-human primates used in neuroscience research. This review, undertaken to establish “the cumulative effect of long term scientific procedures on the animals involved”, focused on the physiological and behavioural effects on animals used in such procedures, in particular primates such as macaque and marmosets.

The full paper can be viewed here: Review of the Assessment of Cumulative Severity and Lifetime Experience in Non-Human Primates used in Neuroscience Research.

pygmy-marmoset-4[6]

Incredibly – or perhaps predictably – he review concludes “little evidence” was found (in the majority of non-human primates) to suggest that, after applying all refinement techniques, the cumulative impact on the animal warrants an increased severity assessment over that for single events/procedures alone. The review also highlighted issues specific to the concepts of cumulative severity and lifetime experience that should be subject to further and future debate, namely:
– the quality of life of primates bred specifically for neuroscience research;
– the conflict between using a small number of subjects for longer or more subjects for a shorter period; and the weighting of the impact of the terminal phase against the overall lifetime, and
– experience of the animal when assigning severity categories.

The entire report makes for pretty grim reading, in particular the sheer number of animals our government continues to allow to be butchered in the ever loosening name of science, along with the conditions these poor animals are forced to endure. Equally chilling is section 1.2.7 which states that, “users provided a list of advances to improve primate welfare, for example, in anaesthesia, housing, training and implants, that had made it possible to carry out improved long-term neuroscience research”. Somehow ‘primate welfare’, ‘implants’ and ‘neuroscience research’ in the same sentence aren’t quite ringing true for me. You have to wonder how the picture would change if primates in these situations were swapped for their consistently scientifically championed cousins: us. I can’t quite picture the government signing humans off to have implants inserted in their skulls while confining them to a lifetime of pain and cruelty. In fact, on the same day this review has been released, news reaches us that the government has reviewed a ban on guitars in UK prison cells.

Ironic isn’t it, how close they claim we are to primates when it suits them.

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