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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 12:58 GMT
RSPCA demands monkey import ban
An end to the import of primates into the UK for scientific research has been demanded by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

The animal welfare group said around 1,500 primates were imported annually from Mauritius, the Philippines, China, Indonesia and Israel.

The RSPCA said some were dead on arrival.

Launching the campaign, RSPCA primatologist, Dr Mark Prescott, said primates had an awareness of pain similar to humans, but were kept in cages for up to three days before they reached their destination.

He said: "It is ludicrous that we have EU transport legislation containing special provisions for farm animals, yet no such provision to protect primates."

'Utterly unacceptable'

Dr Prescott said: "The UK Government has reported primates dead on arrival in Britain and this is utterly unacceptable."

The RSPCA demands include:

  • An end to the import of primates;
  • A reduction in the numbers used for research, with humane alternatives chosen at every opportunity;
  • An end to long journey times and improved welfare during transport;
  • An end to trade with breeding centres that capture primates from the wild;
  • Improvements in housing and husbandry for all laboratory primates.
'Strong views'

The report was being launched on Friday at Monkey World near Wareham, Dorset, the only sanctuary in the UK that rehabilitates laboratory monkeys.

It is ludicrous that we have EU transport legislation containing special provisions for farm animals, yet no such provision to protect primates

Dr Mark Prescott
Many of the animals have never lived in social groups before and have never seen an adult monkey, as they are the offspring of monkeys taken from the wild for breeding.

Dr Alison Cranin, of Monkey World, said: "A large proportion of the public are aware that primates are used in research and hold strong views on the issue, but many will be unaware of the suffering that occurs before they even reach the lab."

The RSPCA has sent its report to the Home Office and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

An online petition will also be sent to both government departments.

Animal Welfare Minister, Elliot Morley, said the transportation of apes was currently governed by EU regulations.

"These EU rules cover the conditions in which they are moved - food, water, ventilation, temperature - but not journey length because, to date, this has not been thought to have critical welfare effects.

"We think this is inconsistent with the approach we have established for farm animals.

"The EU is due to review its rules in the spring of next year. We believe there is a need for a scientific examination into the effect of journey times on the welfare of apes in transit and we intend to take this up with our EU partners."

Macaques are occasionally used in UK laboratories; great apes such as chimpanzees have not been used for many years in British labs, and their use is now banned.

Rats and mice are by far the most commonly used laboratory animals (used in more than 80% of procedures in 2000). Non-human primates were used in 0.13% of procedures; use in 2000 fell by 8% compared with 1999.

The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Most monkeys are experiencing pain and suffering"
The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
speaks to the owner of Monkey World, Dr Alison Cranin, and the RSPCA's Dr Mark Prescott
See also:

13 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Animal testing appeal sparks protest
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