The BUAV took action as soon as we learnt that Malaysia had lifted its ban on the export of wild-caught macaques thus opening the way for them to be used for research.
The reason given was that the monkeys had started to travel into residential areas looking for food and as such were considered a ‘pest’. BUAV investigators went to Malaysia to film conditions at a holding centre. We joined forces with a Malaysian animal protection group and subsequently launched a European-wide campaign to lobby the Malaysian government.
With the help of a BUAV veterinary expert, we also produced a briefing document detailing humane methods to resolve Malaysian’s monkey-human conflict. Following our efforts, in February 2008, the Malaysian government announced that it had reinstated its ban on the export of wild-caught primates.
The BUAV has also exposed the plight of primates in research in countries including the UK, USA, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Thailand. Our investigations have found monkeys subjected to invasive and painful procedures from which most will not survive - forcibly restrained, while toxic chemicals are forced down their throats, electrodes implanted in their brains or other parts of their body, deliberately brain-damaged or injected with substances that will cause them to develop painful and debilitating conditions.
In more recent years, the BUAV has carried out a number of high profile investigations into the use of primates in research, including the deliberate infliction of brain damage on marmosets at the University of Cambridge (2002) in an effort to mimic human diseases and the use of primates in toxicity testing at contract testing laboratory Covance in Germany (2003). Both investigations received widespread international media and political attention, including in-depth coverage on the BBC flagship political programme, Newsnight.
The BUAV subsequently launched a legal challenge against the UK government and has also produced well-researched scientific reports, such as the Zero-Option and Next of Kin (links) (with a foreword by Dr Jane Goodall) calling for an end to the use of primates in research, questioning the scientific validity of their use and offering viable alternatives.
The BUAV has been a major player in the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE, a coalition of animal protection organisations from across Europe) and has consistently lobbied the European Union to take action to end the use of primates in research.
The BUAV has re-launched its published list of airlines that transport primates destined for the research industry. The primate research industry is feeling the effects as an increasing number of airlines are helping to put a stop to animal cruelty and suffering by refusing to transport primates destined for the research industry. It is now becoming increasingly difficult for companies to ship primates from certain countries.
Most recently Eva Air who was responsible for shipping monkeys from Indonesia to the USA pulled out as a direct response to communications with the BUAV. Other major airlines, including United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Northwest Airlines, Qantas Airways, South African Airways, Delta Airlines and China Airlines have re-confirmed their commitment to not transport primates for the research industry.
The following statement was made at one recent primate research industry conference:
“The international transportation of nonhuman primates between continents remains a critical and unpredictable risk factor for both biomedical communities and primate breeding facilities worldwide. Its impact on the use of imported primates for scientific research is probably as significant as the impact on captive-bred animals and the conservation of natural primate resources. Scientific communities worldwide must deal and communicate with airline industry to avoid a severe interruption of research using primates. Fewer and fewer air carriers are willing to ship nonhuman primates in the air and to handle them on the ground.”
International Perspectives, The Future of Nonhuman Primate Sources, Proceedings of the Workshop, National Research Council, April 17-19 2002, P199
The BUAV continues to face new challenges in its efforts to end the international trade in primates for research. There is still much work to be done but we are determined to keep the pressure on a trade that inflicts such cruelty on hundreds of thousands of animals every year.