A review of research on non-human primates (NHPs) has concluded that one in ten of the research projects taking place within a 10-year period had no scientific or medical benefit. 

A review of research on non-human primates (NHPs) has concluded that one in ten of the research projects taking place within a 10-year period had no scientific or medical benefit. 

Review of Research Using Non-Human PrimatesThe study, which was led by Patrick Bateson, emeritus professor of ethology at the University of Cambridge’s department of zoology, examined projects carried from 1996 to 2006. It was commissioned by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Wellcome Trust, all funders of primate research.

Prof Bateson, who is president of the Zoological Society of London, reviewed 67 academic projects carried out over the decade and involving approximately 3,000 primates.

Speaking at a briefing on July 27, in which his report, Review of Research Using Non-Human Primates, was outlined, Prof Bateson said: “Unqualified support for all work on NHPs is unjustified and unjustifiable, but the same can be said for an outright ban on such research. What is needed is discrimination based on hard evidence.”

Professor Patrick BatesonHe added: “We did find in a minority of cases, about 9% of them, that the justification of the projects was inadequate or insufficient. These projects were unlikely to be beneficial and the claims made for them were implausible. In my view, funding of work on NHPs should not be continued if no effort has been made to demonstrate, plausibly, the potential medical and social benefits of the work.”

Commenting on the report, John Savill, chief executive of the MRC said: “Being able to identify potential for benefit in over 90% of studies is a great fillip for the peer review mechanisms involved because that’s a very high hit rate, in my view.”

Also commenting on the report, Michelle Thew, chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said “It is still far too easy to subject primates to extremely devastating experiments with little or no human benefit. It is now clear that the only measure that would completely protect primates, and to ensure more productive medical research, is to end their use in research.”

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