Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

Australian Experimentation on Other Primates

There’s an interesting story in today’s Age newspaper about primates being bred in Australia for medical and other scientific research.

Figures in the story show the number of primates being used for research in Australia is continuing to grow, even though protocols for the use of animals in research require alternatives to be used wherever possible. It is quite difficult to get the full picture about all the animals used in a variety of different types of research and institutions across across Australia, although the Humane Research Australia website provides some very useful stats and other information. Getting info about research using primates and other ‘higher’ animals is even more difficult, including what the purpose of the research is. But as this story shows, experiments on monkeys are being carried out right here in Brisbane by the Defence Force. Primates can also still be imported for research purposes, which is something Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon is seeking to prohibit.

The use of animals in research is is not something that is regulated consistently or transparently at a national level. I served for a couple of years on a University Animal Ethics Committee, which considered all research proposals which planned to use animals. The vast bulk of proposals involved using rats or mice – it tended to be that the more ‘developed’ the animal e.g. birds, pigs, dogs, the more scrutiny was given to whether the research was necessary and whether it could be carried out in more humane ways.

I never saw a proposal to use primates in research, but it is certainly something I find concerning, given the reality of emotional as well as physical harm being caused.


3 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Lorikeet

    I don’t think it makes much sense for any political party to align itself with extremist organisations such as Animals Australia, Humane Research Australia etc.

    As for humans being considered primates, all you have to do is look at their lifestyle and lack of technological advancement to know this could not possibly be the case, no matter how often the idea is pushed on national television.

    Even if humans were considered to be primates, animals in the wild (including some primates) hunt and kill one another for food, very often quite brutally.

    Over a number of decades, research scientists have been almost hamstrung where experimentation on animals is concerned.

    While I believe that animals should only be used when absolutely necessary, I certainly wouldn’t consider substituting humans, unless people from these extremist organisations were willing to volunteer.

  2. togret

    Humans obviously are included in the (evolving) scientific definition of primates, which takes into account a myriad of factors which we have in common with owl monkeys and their cousins. Whether it is mentioned on TV or not, I would have thought, has little to do with reality. Anyone who doubts that humans are very closely related to monkeys, orang utans etc might therefore wonder about the usefulness of the testing.

    The reading I was led to from your post, thanks Andrew, mentioned that there is doubt about the direct applicability of much animal research anyway. Why are we tolerating torturing and harming of living creatures who undoubtedly suffer when the results may be useless? I wonder also how much of this research is shared by the Army anyway? If they found wonderful information about malaria, would they share it with Indonesia, for example?

    It is related, in my opinon, to the mindset that would try to harm human beings in detention camps as a deterrent example to others. Not only is that of doubtful effectiveness, it is also cruel. What happened to the Hippocratic oath in science? Or is that only for humans?

  3. Lorikeet

    The Hippocratic Oath for humans is being dispensed with very slowly over time. As we know, abortions are now performed almost at the click of someone’s fingers, despite the fact that any doctor who performs an abortion in circumstances other than the very exceptional is breaking both the Hippocratic Oath and Queensland laws.

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