Sir David Attenborough signs anti Non-Human Primate research letter

Monkeys for experiments by Shpernik088 CC-BY-SA-4.0

On the 7th September, Sir David Attenborough was one of twenty-one signatories of a letter, published in the Independent, that called for an end of the use of non-human primates in neuroscience research. The signatories, which also included primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, argued that some of the methods used on non-human primates were cruel and that other methods were available that could replace them.  However, on the 13th September, a letter signed by over 400 scientists backing the use of non-human primates in animal research was published in the Guardian. The signatories, which included the Nobel laureates Sir John Gurdon and Sir John Walker, argue that primate research is still critical for developing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and other debilitating illnesses. They disagreed with the review put forward by the campaign group, Cruelty Free International, who called for primate research methods to be overhauled. That groups of researchers and experts on both sides are sharply divided on the morality and need for this area of research shows the need for debate on the subject. IDEA’s executive director Mat Corbett argues “The debate over the use of primates in science shows the complex scientific and moral questions on the issue of animal research. With the scientific community on both sides of the argument working to present their case, the public are in a better position to make up their own mind.”

Research on primates may be the most controversial however we should remember that all this is over a relatively tiny proportion of research as research on primates’ accounts for a little under 0.1% (3,612 procedures) of all animal research in the UK (4,142,631 total procedures) so there is a much wider debate to be had.