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Lab monkeys scream with fear in tests { February 8 2005 }

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Lab monkeys 'scream with fear' in tests

Sandra Laville
Tuesday February 8, 2005
The Guardian

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 being flouted.

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 self-grooming.

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 attention.

"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 establishments.

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 programme".

The three programmes Cambridge was carrying out involved research into degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

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