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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
Cambridge monkey experiments inquiry
Animal, Buav
The video shows the brain injuries inflicted
An anti-vivisection group has accused Cambridge University of carrying out highly invasive brain experiments on monkeys without the proper authorisation.


After horrific surgery these animals are confined in barren cages and put through very stressful tests for a period of months

Michelle Thew, Buav
The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (Buav) has released video footage, taken during a secret 10-month investigation, which it claims shows "horrific" procedures.

It said the marmosets in the film were subjected to tests that contravened the specific terms of the Home Office licences granted to the university.

Cambridge, which is being supported by Prime Minister Tony Blair in its campaign to set up a new animal research centre to study brain diseases, said it was investigating the Buav allegations.

The Home Office said it would look into the matter, too.

'Chilling insight'

Buav said one of its investigators had secretly filmed monkeys used in experiments for Parkinson's Disease, stroke and fundamental research into brain function.

The pictures show animals that have had their skulls opened and their brains deliberately damaged, either by sucking out sections, cutting sections, or by injecting toxins.

Buav claimed the monkeys suffered bleeding head wounds, fits, vomiting, severe bruising, whole-body tremors and mental and physical disabilities. It said the standard of care offered to the animals in these states was woeful.

Michelle Thew, Buav's chief executive, told the BBC: "This is the first in-depth investigation into primate research in the UK. It shows a chilling insight into the ways monkeys are used in highly invasive research.

'Far-reaching implications'

"After horrific surgery, these animals are confined in barren cages and put through very stressful tests for a period of months."

The Home Office, which issued the licences to Cambridge University to carry out the primate experiments, said evidence gathered by Buav would be considered and referred to ministers.

A spokesman said: "The government strives to ensure that the highest standards of animal welfare are being implemented and that animals are used in scientific procedures only where it is fully justified and no alternatives are available."

Buav claimed the monkeys should only have experienced "moderate suffering" under the terms of the licences. "It's clear these animals have experienced extreme suffering," said Michelle Thew.

Animal, Buav
The university says it will investigate
Cambridge University released a statement on Friday when it was presented with the allegations.

"The university is taking this matter extremely seriously and has launched a full-scale investigation into the claims made," the statement read.

"These claims have very far-reaching implications and every possible effort is being made to establish the facts surrounding them.

"The university strongly agrees with, and rigidly enforces, the guiding principles emphasised by the Home Office on the need to refine protocols, to keep the numbers of animals used to a minimum and to replace the use of animals with other methods of research where possible."

UK interests

The university said it could not comment on the details of any specific investigation being carried out at present. It said it would consider appropriate action when the facts were known.

Animal experimentation, and in particular monkey experimentation, is a controversial issue in Cambridge.

Planning permission for a laboratory at Girton on the city outskirts was turned down in February because the local authority said the cost of policing animal rights protests would be too high.

But the government's chief scientist David King - a Cambridge chemistry professor - and the Prime Minister have both lent their support to a reapplication.

They believe that failure to build the new centre would have a deeply damaging effect on the ongoing search for new treatments for neural diseases, and potentially on the pharmaceutical industry in the UK.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Pigott
"Home Office licences systematically hide the true level of suffering"
Mark Prescott, Senior Scientific Officer, RSPCA
"We would like to see an end to primate experiments"
Dr Simon Festing, AMRC
"It is vital that we are allowed to do research on animals"
See also:

23 May 02 | UK Politics
23 May 02 | England
16 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
23 May 02 | UK Education
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