Four centres of excellence should be established to carry out experiments on primates because they are essential for medical research, claim UK experts in an independent report. “We felt there was a strong moral scientific case” for their use in research, says medical scientist Sir David Weatherall.
He led an independent working group that carried out an 18-month study of how non-human primates such as marmosets, tamarins and macaques are used in research. “We are not calling for an expansion in non-human primate research,” Sir David said. “Focusing research at specialised centres would have huge scientific and welfare benefits. There is a scientific case for careful, meticulously- regulated non-human primate research, at least for the foreseeable future, provided it is the only way of solving important scientific or medical questions and high standards of welfare are maintained.”
Although animal welfare groups immediately slammed the report, Sir David insisted that non-human primates are the only way to ensure that medications are safe and effective before they are tested on people. Rodents and other animals are too different to human beings to provide relevant information.
The journal Nature urged scientists to take a nuanced view of the use of animals in medical research. According to an anonymous poll it conducted, about three-quarters of scientists felt that animal research was essential to progress. However, some expressed misgivings about their work.
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