World Day for Laboratory Animals was instituted in 1979 and has been a catalyst for the movement to end the suffering of animals in laboratories around the world and their replacement with advanced scientific non-animal techniques. The suffering of millions of animals all over the world is commemorated on every continent.
World Day for Laboratory Animals 24 April 2016
For World Day for Laboratory Animals in 2016, we are drawing attention to the use of primates in research. Primates (apes and monkeys) are our closest relatives and are intelligent, emotional, can communicate at a sophisticated level and some species are known to be self-aware (previously thought to be only applicable to humans). Some have even learned human sign language.
The European Directive on the use of animals in research already places extra restrictions on primate use and aims for the phase-out of the use of primates born of wild-caught parents. For decades, the use of chimpanzees in research has been banned in the UK, and Europe has followed this policy. Around the world, governments are responding to public concerns about the use of our closest relatives in laboratory research and moving to replacement technologies.
Commercial safety testing (toxicity testing) of products for the human market involves separate phases, starting with known information about a product or compound and tests on smaller animals such as rats and mice and then tests on larger animals such as dogs and primates – all before a product is given to people. Although the idea is that pain and suffering is minimised and the minimal number of animals is used, our investigators in laboratories have found animals being used to test products that are already being used by people – unnecessary pain and suffering and a waste of animals’ lives.
Animal tests – unreliable, unethical and unnecessary – why do it?
These tests continue to be used simply because this is the way it has always been done. Government and agency regulators who are responsible for allowing products on the market, are used to these standard animal tests and the estimates and ‘safety’ evaluations drawn from lab animal test results. They are also aware of the potential for species differences, which may result in injury to people. Thus, a series of animal tests is followed by human trials and this is where the problem of species differences can produce unexpected adverse reactions in people.
Some examples of horrific and unexpected side effects in people, due to differences in reaction between species include:
TGN1412 – an experimental drug was given to human volunteers and caused life-threatening reactions, yet monkeys were given doses 500 times higher than the human volunteers and no side effects had been seen. This disaster may have been avoided with the implementation of advanced technologies such as ‘micro dosing’ with spectrometry analysis.
Another disaster despite animal toxicity testing: BIA 10-2474 Drug Trial. Clinical trials with a new drug, BIA 10-2474, went fatally wrong – when given to human volunteers – one died, four showed evidence of brain damage and it has since been reported that another lost his fingers and toes. The product had been tested on mice, rats, rabbits, dogs and monkeys for toxic effects on various organs as well as reproductive toxicity. Monkeys were given doses approx 75x that given to the human volunteers. See full report here.
- Morphine drugs are a depressant in rats, dogs, hamsters and other species, but produce tremors and convulsions at comparable doses in mice and cats.
- Penicillin is a useful antibiotic for people but it kills guinea pigs.
- Guinea pigs can only breathe through their noses.
- A drug used successfully for Legionnaires’ disease in humans did not prevent deaths in infected guinea pigs.
- The breast cancer drug tamoxifen was designed as an oral contraceptive. It is in rats, but in women it has the opposite effect. It is now used in the treatment of breast cancer, despite causing cancer in rats in some studies.
- Rats and mice cannot vomit.
- The cancer drug 6-azauridine can be used in humans for long periods, but in dogs small doses produce potentially lethal results in a few days.
- Phenylbutazone works through the body slowly in humans, but in dogs it disappears in hours.
- The introduction of blood transfusion was delayed over 200 years because of misleading results of animal experiments.
- The introduction of corneal transplants was delayed nearly 90 years by misleading animal tests.
- Cancer drug Teropterin was tested on 18,000 mice. Used to treat acute childhood leukaemia, but children died more quickly than if they had not been treated at all.
- The heart drug, Eraldin was thoroughly studied in animals and satisfied the regulatory authorities. None of the animal tests warned of the serious side effects in people, such as blindness, growths, stomach troubles, and joint pains.
- Opren, the anti-arthritis drug, was passed safe in animal tests. It was withdrawn after causing more than 70 deaths, and serious side effects in 3,500 other people, including damage to the skin, eyes, circulation, liver and kidneys.
The UK is one of Europe’s largest users of primates. Over 2,000 monkeys were sourced from outside of the EU for use in UK laboratories in 2014. The international trade in primates is taking unsustainable numbers from the wild, despite policies to use only ‘captive bred’ primates. For the factory-farm style laboratory monkey suppliers, monkeys continue to be snatched from the wild to breed babies for research. Babies are torn from their mothers, pinned down and tattooed, suffering brutal handling. Packed in boxes, the monkeys are flown to laboratories across the world, where they will be strapped down and force fed or injected with test products before they go onto the market. Others have bolts and electrodes implanted into their brains in research for which there is no particular human benefit in mind.
The US is one of the world’s largest users of primates, and over 12,000 macaques were imported for use in US laboratories in 2014. Mauritius is the second largest monkey supplier after China. Hundreds of animals are exported by Biodia, one of several Mauritian farms breeding long-tailed macaques for experiments, to the US each year.
During an investigation of Biodia we discovered: workers swinging screaming monkeys by their tails; distressed baby monkeys torn from the arms of their desperate mothers and tattooed without anesthetic; monkeys injected in the eyelids for TB tests; monkeys restrained and injected in view of other animals; animals captured from the wild and used as breeding machines; barren, crowded cages; animals killed and injured from fighting; stressful separation of mothers and babies; rough handling; monkeys wrenched from cages by their tails; netted animals slammed onto concrete floors; heavily pregnant monkeys manhandled and pinned down. Find out more here.
Similar scenes of brutal handling and deprivation were discovered at Mauritian monkey dealer Noveprim at its “distribution hub” in Spain. Our findings included: terrified monkeys dragged from cages and swung by their tails by workers; monkeys screaming in fear as their arms are pinned behind their backs; monkeys locked alone in tiny, barren cages, with barely room to move; monkeys desperately clinging to the wire mesh of cages as they are dragged down by their tails; hundreds of monkeys shipped over 10,000 miles to US laboratories each year. Find out more here.
Given the known differences between species on how they react to chemicals, advanced non-animal techniques based on the likely effects in the human body are clearly more reliable, so what are the alternatives?
Replacing use of animals with advanced science
Animal tests can be replaced with advanced scientific methods that are faster and more relevant to people, therefore safer, see more here.
How you can help during World Week for Laboratory Animals (April 24-30)
For World Day for Laboratory Animals on April 24, 2016, we will be focusing on the use monkeys in laboratories. We need your help.
- Make a donation and help us stop primate tests.
- ORDER our World Day for Laboratory Animals leaflets! Get a stock for friends, family, colleagues, to leave in bars, at gigs – keep spreading the word – STOP using monkeys in safety testing – non-animal tests are already available.
- Get involved in our social media campaigns throughout April.
- Sign up TODAY for our NAVS street collections nationwide in April. These raise funds, attract publicity, and the thousands of leaflets distributed create awareness. On selected days, NAVS supporters across the country will be collecting in their local high streets, railway stations and shopping centres. It will take just a few hours of your time but will make a world of difference to the animals we are trying to save – it’s a great way to get involved in campaigning to help animals.
- Write to your local newspaper; blog about it; share on facebook.
- Kick animal testing out of your house and choose cruelty free, and tell your friends and family not to buy products tested on animals
With your support we are making progress: bans on the use of chimpanzees and wild caught monkeys in EU labs; phasing out the capture of wild monkeys to stock the factory farms; stopping the Colombian hunters trapping owl monkeys for malaria experiments; most airlines refusing to transport monkeys for research; and some restrictions on experiments across Europe. But baby monkeys are still being torn from their mothers, tattooed and sent across the world to die in experiments, so please help us to keep fighting until we end the cruel trade.