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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Campaign demands EU ape research ban
Chimps at Netherlands lab WSPA
Campaigners say chimps are housed in 'appalling' conditions
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Nine European animal welfare groups are urging the European Union to ban experiments on great apes.

I think it's unethical to experiment on chimpanzees and other primates - and also on dogs and cats

Jane Goodall, primate expert
They are calling for the closure of a Netherlands laboratory - the only one in the EU still to use chimpanzees.

The nine groups are urging supporters to press their MEPs to seek an end to EU funding of the Dutch laboratory. And they have attracted the support of several well-known naturalists.

They have joined forces to set up the Coalition to End Experiments on Chimpanzees in Europe (Ceece). UK-based members include the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

Double standards

A report by the coalition says the Dutch laboratory, the Biomedical Primate Research Centre at Rijswijk, keeps 112 chimpanzees and hundreds of other primates in "appalling" conditions.

Ceece says the Dutch Government has acknowledged that conditions at the BPRC "do not meet generally accepted standards".

It says many animals are housed in cages so small that they cannot stretch, with many showing signs of disturbed behaviour. Infants are said to be routinely separated from their mothers.

The coalition says researchers from leading UK universities, hospitals and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are involved in experiments at the BPRC that would be illegal in the UK, which banned such research in 1997.

Emotional similarities

Janie Reynolds, who chairs Ceece, and has visited the BPRC twice, said: "It is an ethical absurdity that great apes are still experimented on, now that we have learned so much about their human-like intelligence and ability to suffer."

Chimps at Netherlands lab WSPA
Primates are used for Aids research
Ceece says many of the centre's chimpanzees were bred for research on Aids, but are no longer wanted for it, as it says many scientists think they are of little use.

The famous primatologist Dr Jane Goodall said: "I support Ceece in its call to end the use of chimpanzees in biomedical experiments.

"Chimpanzees resemble humans more than they resemble gorillas. They're capable of true altruism, they have amazing social, mental and emotional similarities to us.

'Unethical experiments'

"It is an outrage to incarcerate these wonderful beings in tiny cages and subject them to repeated intensive techniques, knowing that they can anticipate what will happen when a man in a white coat approaches them.

"Even for those few scientists who believe that the use of apes and monkeys advances medical knowledge, the conditions in which the animals at the BPRC are kept are morally unacceptable.

"I think it's unethical to experiment on chimpanzees and other primates - and also on dogs and cats. But I don't know where you draw the line.

"We need to develop research on human tissue in test-tubes. That's the only scientifically valid and ethical way to go."

The naturalist and TV programme maker Sir David Attenborough said, in a statement supporting Ceece: "I am in favour of a European ban on the use of apes in invasive medical research.

"I have seen footage of the conditions inside the BPRC and am appalled by it. I do not believe that the BPRC, or any other laboratory keeping primates, should be entitled to do so any longer."

Photos courtesy of WSPA

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13 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
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