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Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.

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EU Shouldn't Kill Our Closest Relatives

In the cover story of the March's edition of the EU political magazine, 'Parliament,' none other than the Vice-President of the European Parliament, David Martin, MEP (PES UK) put forward a well argued case for an immediate ban on the use of primates in laboratory experiments.

He referred to recent reports that the DNA of chimpanzees is 98.5% similar to that of humans, and that this makes stronger the ethical reasons for doing so; and that the New Zealand Government is considering extending certain fundamantal rights to great apes in light of this.

Reference is also made to last year's report by the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments which 'contained shocking facts about primate experimentation.' Around 10, 000 non-human primates are used for scientific experiments in the EU each year. Furthermore, the use of primates has been increasing in the EU 'a worrying trend that conflicts with the general trend of declining levels of animal experimentation. Indeed - despite the 50% reduction target contained in the Fifth Environmental Action Programme - only Sweden had seen a clear reduction in numbers of primates used.'

One reason for this increase is the emergence of diseases like AIDS and BSE, which scientists say 'necessitates' primate studies. Mr Martin wonders if 'we' have been panicked through fear of these diseases into accepting primate experiments without ' taking full account of animal ethics and suffering, as well as critically evaluating possible future medical use of the research.' Poor 'cost-benefit analysis' by those 'regulating' animal experiments? - surely not!

He further points out what has been revealed by recent publications of scientific research - that chimpanzees are a poor 'models' for humans in AIDS research (and this a species that shares 98.5% of their DNA with humans!!). 'It has been demonstrated that HIV is transmitted and spread in a different way in chimpanzees and humans, and the typical progression of the disease and symptoms found in humans cannot be triggered in chimps (HIV does not develop into full-blown AIDS). Meanwhile, thousands of chimps are in HIV infected and living in solitary isolation; and possible vaccines are being tested straightaway on humans (because of doubts about tests on chimps resulting in any meaningful data).

Mr Martin further catalogues the moral and compassionate bankruptcy of modern scientific research with such creatures. Primates are infected with BSE by direct injection into the brain - innaccurate models causing untold suffering - despite the fact that we already know BSE can cross the 'species barrier'; and the abundant epidemiological evidence that CJD comes from BSE. Most primates used in resaerch are captured in the wild, transported for over 50 hours in small crates as cargo on passenger airlines (Hansard: UK House of Commons), and then kept in 'barren cages so small that they can barely stand - and many are kept in isolation, unable to make any social contact with their own species.'

The stress and suffering of these animals is inconceivable and yet is allowed in the name of scientific research. Surely anyone can see: this is too big a price.

The current regulatory framework for the use of primates in scientific research in the EU is over ten years old and permits these highly developed social animals to be caught in the wild, brought over from China or Indonesia, kept in atrocious conditions, and used in horrific experiments. Failure by the recipient of wild-caught endangered species to meet the housing requirements (that they are kept in a manner appropriate to their species) does not result in the refusal of permits for research.

However, change may be on the way. Mr Martin reports that 'The European Commission and Member States have already recognised the ethical importance of this particular area of animal experimentation and have been working to draft a Community policy statement on the use of primates os laboratory animals.' He expresses concern that early versions appeared 'weak' and that there was a delay in involving the Parliament, but now the Commission is 'looking into this in greater depth and has pledged to bring there proposals to the Parliament.'

Mr Martin calls for an end to this particular case of animal abuse. We hope that, with his weight behind it, the use of primates in laboratory experiments will soon be outlawed in the EU - and that the ethical and scientific reasoning behind such a ban will then be logically applied to all animal experiments.

ACTION: Write to your MEP asking her/him to actively support calls for a ban on the use of primates in laboratory animals. The European Elections are fast approaching - vote for a candidate who will pledge to support a ban (eg the Green Party).

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns 07.04.99


Space Monkeys Row

Nasa and the Bion (Institute of Biomedical Studies - Russia) want to send macaque monkeys back into space in order to 'fathom the consequences of spending several years in space, as Mars-bound crews would need to.'

Russia has put six teams of two monkeys into orbit in previous missions. On the most recent, Bion-11, was to find out how two weeks in space changed muscle and bone structure. US animal rights groups (including Peta - USA) campaigned against this cruel programme. In January 1997, one of the monkeys died soon after parachuting to earth (unlike early missions where dogs and monkeys were left to drift and starve to death in space). Bion blamed Nasa interference; the latter withdrew from the programme under pressure from animal rights activists and luminaries like Oliver Stone.

The full extent of the suffering involved in sending monkeys into space is shocking. They are bound into bucket seats, fed through a metal nozzle, have tiny electrodes inserted in their brains through holes in their skulls. The scientists are pleased to explain that new capsules have been designed to fly higher and longer (so the monkeys can endure more suffering). The spokesperson for Bion explained why they needed to send monkeys out of the earth's atmosphere: 'We can't put electrodes in a human brain. The cosmonauts wouldn't agree to it.' Really?! But the monkeys did presumably..?!

Yet both Nasa and Bion want to resume exposing non-human primates to this suffering, and insist it is essential in order to fully understand whet happens to the human body under weightless conditions. Such experiments are surely a waste of time. Nasa has 40 years of clinical and epidemiological studies on astronauts. The database from such studies (which Nasa always insists is why they keep spending billions of dollars sending people into orbit) is surely more valuable than what they could learn from stressed-out animals in space.

Once again we see scientists quite literally on a different planet when it comes to having compassion for non-human species, and any understanding of basic ethics.

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns 07.04.99


The Mad World of Modern Science

There were two extreme instances of weird science last month.

1) Scientists have been investigating what genes make a leg instead of an arm. In the past ten years geneticists have isolated several genes that build arms, legs or wings - but have failed to discover why obvious differences arise. Cliff Tabin of Harvard Medical School in Boston explained (sic!) 'If you order chicken wings in a restaurant, you're not going to confuse them.' !!??

Now geneticists have found genes that are selectively expressed depending on the type of limb required. So they used viruses to carry copies of the genes into one developing wing of chicken embryos. They found that the Pitx1 gene switched on the other leg-specific gene (and presumably a leg-structure was formed). The scientists decided to see what would happen if the gene which switches on the wing-genes was present. They managed to grow a chicken where 'the entire limb muscle structure became more like that of a drumstick, with a claw...'

This was widely publicised in all parts of the media, and great excitement was aroused by the idea of 'three legged chickens' being available for a carnivorous Sunday lunch. No attention was paid to the suffering caused to the chickens involved, or to any proposed benefits for modern medicine - how were such experiments justified to the 'regulatory bodies'..?!

2) The Italian Doctor who helped a 62 year-old woman have a baby revealed that he used dead mice to incubate human sperm. Severino Antinori said he took immature sperm from husbands, who were unable to father children, and placed them in dead mice to mature before transplanting them into the wives!

Well, it's a relief to know that our scientists and doctors are sensitive to the ethical issues.

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns 07.04.99


'Sadist' Defence Ministry

Live goats are being crushed to death in secret military experiments, it emerged last week.

In the past five years over 700 goats have been blasted out of mocked-up submarines to study the effects of decompression on sailors who use escape hatches. A total of sixteen goats have been killed outright (in horrific circumstances); while others have later been killed in experiments that have been branded as 'sadistic, cruel and unnecessary' by both animal rights groups like Uncaged Campaigns and Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Mike Hancock.

On hearing that these tests had Whitehall backing Mr Hancock pointed out:

"That doesnt give us as a society a license to be cruel. It says we can carry out an experiment. The harmful effects of suddenly rising to the surface have been known for the best part of a century. I cannot believe there is an argument for these experiments."

The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) part of the Ministry of Defence claimed: "This research is to protect human life. Animals which experience decompression sickness get the same therapy as a diver. The vast majority make a complete recovery."

However, we have learned not to believe anything that emanates from those quarters about animal experiments after the secrecy and misinformation surrounding last years revelations about British involvement in 'Operation Danish Bacon.' Clearly animals have been suffering extreme pain, suffering distress and death as a result of these experiments. The effects of rapid decompression are well known, and have been for a number of years. These tests are clearly cruel and totally unnecessary, yet they passed what we are constantly being told by Government is the 'rigorous examination' of the Animal Procedures Committee.

Max Newton, Uncaged Camapaigns 07.04.99

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Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.