Posted by Dr Jarrod Bailey on 30th October 2018
How monkey experiments have failed patients with neurological diseases
We present damning evidence against animal testing at Cologne conference
I have just returned from Science Instead of Animal Research in Cologne, an annual conference which looks at the use of animals in biomedical research. The main focus of this year's event, organised by the German organisation Doctors Against Animal Experiments, was neuroscience experiments on animals. It was a great opportunity for doctors and other medical professionals, as well as scientists and government officials, to meet and debate the failings of animal research and how science could, and should, do better. Delegates discussed how mouse and monkey experiments have failed Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, and considered the barriers slowing the use of humane alternatives and how they can be overcome.
Cruelty Free International was invited to present our recent work in this area, including our 2014 investigation of monkey experiments at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany and our study into flawed and misleading primate brain research. Our research has found that neuroscience experiments on monkeys have no direct use in combatting human brain disease and that ethical research using humans is much more useful.
In these cruel and unnecessary experiments, monkeys have the top of their skulls removed so that electrodes can be placed into their brains to measure the activity of specific nerves. They are restrained in chairs to keep them still for many hours a day, day after day, for weeks or even months. They even have posts cemented or screwed into bone to keep their heads completely immobilised during procedures.
Over many months they are trained to perform “tasks” such as pressing buttons or moving levers when they see certain things on computer screens. The animal researchers ration the monkeys’ water and food because they are easier to control when they are desperately thirsty or hungry. This ordeal causes some monkeys to show symptoms of human post-traumatic stress disorder.
This cruel practice continues to take place around the world – including in the UK and the rest of Europe - because those who do it and those who fund it claim it is essential, defending their experiments by hiding the true suffering involved and exaggerating the benefit for humans. However, such experiments will only ever have very limited relevance to people, due to differences in the brains of monkeys and humans.
Human-specific research is greatly informing many different fields, including vision, hearing, movement, and how different areas of the brain are connected. It becomes more powerful and capable every year. It is getting harder to justify the need to conduct experiments on monkeys that cause these animals great pain and suffering, while proving poorly informative of human neuroscience.
I was proud to bring our work to this conference on your behalf, and believe that the more who hear our message, the closer we get to the change we all want to see. With the amazing and ever-increasing power of human-based research methods unlocking the workings of the human brain, alongside animal testing’s questionable scientific value, there are fewer and fewer reasons to defend the suffering of animal for use in these cruel experiments. With your support behind us we know it is only a matter of time until they are ended, for good.