The Royal Society, the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Academy of Medical Sciences conclude, predictably, that experimenting on monkey brains is vital . Well, of course they would! All four organisations have long been outspoken in their support for both primate research and animal experimentation in general. Sir David Weatherall is a professor at Oxford University – currently the centre of fierce controversy over the building of its new animal laboratory – he could hardly have concluded otherwise! The report is a shallow PR exercise designed to maintain the illusion that primate research is indispensable.
But the claim that experimenting on primates is vital for researching basic brain function or indeed Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, AIDS and other diseases, is contradicted by a scientific review published by patient safety organisation Europeans for Medical Progress: “Non-human primates in medical research and drug development: a critical review” (Biogenic Amines, Vol. 19, No. 4-6, pp. 235-255) – available at http://www.safermedicines.org/pdfs/reportbiogenic.pdf. In summary:
Says neurosurgeon Dr Marius Maxwell: “As a practicing neurosurgeon and neuroscientist with more than two decades of research behind me, I know only too well that non-human primate research has contributed little, if anything, to the treatment of patients with neurological disorders. The great strides in our understanding and ability to treat such disorders have resulted from human studies. If we want medical progress, we must focus on humans, not monkeys, using today’s sophisticated scanners and other state-of-the-art techniques.”
This press release was directly quoted (unattributed) in coverage by the Today programme, the Guardian and the Daily Mail.