Government rules on primates

March 31, 1995

Primates caught in the wild are to be banned for use in research, the Government has announced. And regulations on the use of captive-bred primates are to be tightened.

But anti-vivisection groups say the regulations are weak and will merely formalise current practice. They have criticised a "loophole" in the regulations which will still allow research into wild-caught primates if it has "exceptional and specific justification".

The rules are the Government's response to recommendations from its Animal Procedures Committee. Scientists will also have to explain their reasons for wanting to use any non-human primates and for using Old-world as opposed to New-world primates. More data will be collected on primate use.

Non-human primates caught in the wild are said to experience greater harm than those bred in captivity because of the stress of capture, confinement and transport. Old-world primates, such as baboons and macaques, are frowned on for use in research compared with New-world primates such as marmosets.

The RSPCA welcomed the move, saying that tighter regulations would force researchers to be more aware of the origin of the primates they use and to consider more carefully whether or not they needed to use them.

Maggy Jennings, head of the research animals department said: "This sets a precedent internationally. Getting the government's position in writing is a real step forward."

But the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection said: "We don't believe this is going to reduce the number of primates used in research."

Mark Matfield, director of the Research Defence Society, said that the move "formalises what has become the accepted good practice over the last couple of years".

He predicted that it would not become more difficult to get permission for research on wild-caught primates because of the allowance for "exceptional and specific" cases.

The use of wild-caught animals in research dropped from 84 per cent in 1989 to five per cent in 1993, according to the RSPCA. Some 5,000 experiments were performed on primates in the UK in 1993.

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