Philosophy - Index
Testing - Index
Lab monkeys 'scream with fear' in tests
February 8, 2005
Secret documents describing how some monkeys can scream in
misery, fear and anger during experiments were produced in the high court
yesterday as evidence that the laws intended to protect laboratory animals are
Excerpts from Cambridge University internal papers - one of several sites where
primate research is carried out - give laboratory technicians and scientists
advice on how to deal with problems during and after experiments. Presented in
court by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), they
describe occasions when primates are "screaming, trying to get out of the box,
defecating", and state: "This is an angry animal."
Scientists and technicians are advised in the documents to "punish" the bad
habits of the monkeys, stating that these bad habits include the normal
Richard Drabble QC, for the BUAV, told the high court yesterday that the
documents contradict the general public perception that animals are well cared
for and protected under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
Making an application for judicial review of the legality of lab practices, he
also alleged that brain-damaged monkeys at Cambridge were not provided with the
24-hour veterinary care which the government's own guidance states is necessary.
David Thomas, the solicitor for BUAV, said: "Cambridge staff work 9-5pm, so
animals who had just been brain damaged were left overnight without veterinary
"Some were found to be dead in the morning, some were found to be in a worse
condition. Yet there is an obligation of licence holders to keep suffering to a
minimum. The whole system is very secretive and the public does not get to see
what is really going on."
The court challenge comes after the government's chief inspector of animals
dismissed the findings of a 10-month undercover investigation by BUAV into three
research programmes at Cambridge in 1998. BUAV claimed they discovered monkeys
which had the tops of their heads sawn off in order for a stroke to be induced
and were then left for 15 hours without veterinary attention.
But the court heard that after reviewing the licence to Cambridge for the three
programmes, and some of the other 4,000 testing licences granted in England and
Wales, the chief inspector of animals gave a clean bill of health to all
For the home secretary, Jonathan Swift said the application for a judicial
review should be dismissed. He said the chief inspector of animals had concluded
that the decisions taken each time the licences were granted had been sound and
the home secretary had accepted these findings.
Mr Swift said the granting of licences was case-specific and highly
fact-sensitive. The home secretary had to "weigh the likely adverse effects on
the animals concerned against the benefit likely to accrue as a result of the
The three programmes Cambridge was carrying out involved research into
degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.