Action for Primates
The following are news releases for 2021. See elsewhere for news releases from other years.
Index of news releases; select date & title to access:
Animal protection groups across Europe call for end to Mauritius trade in monkeys for research
Every year, thousands of monkeys are imported from Mauritius to suffer in European laboratories
7th December 2021
Animal protection groups across Europe are participating in a Week of Action against the trade in monkeys for research from Mauritius (1). During 6th-11th December, more than a dozen European animal groups will be raising awareness among their supporters and the public by holding events and taking part in a social media campaign that will focus attention on the Mauritius government, embassies, and tourism offices across Europe, calling for an end to the Mauritius trade in monkeys for research.
Mauritius, famous for its beaches, tropical climate, heritage sites and wildlife, is a popular destination for European holidaymakers. The country's promotion as a "paradise island", however, is tarnished by a dark side of which most holidaymakers are totally unaware: the country's cruel persecution of its wild monkeys.
Mauritius is one of the world's largest exporters of monkeys for the global research and testing industry and the main supplier to Europe, exporting thousands every year. In 2020, 10,827 long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) were exported from the country, an increase of 40% from 2019. Between January and September 2021, 10,810 long-tailed macaques were sent overseas to laboratories, including 1,913 (Spain), 758 (France), 642 (UK), 109 (Netherlands), 112 (Canada) and 7,276 (USA). This represents an increase of over 58% for the same period during 2020. Supply companies Camarney SL in Spain and Silabe (Simian Laboratory Europe) in France are known to regularly import many of these monkeys for breeding or for sale to laboratories in Europe.
The monkeys are packed into small transit crates and transported as cargo by air. Air France is the main airline known to be involved in transporting monkeys from Mauritius to Europe. Other airlines that fly monkeys out of Mauritius to other destinations include Safe Air (Kenya-based) and Wamos Air (Spanish-based).
Captured from their habitat and taken from their families and social groups, long-tailed macaques may be exported overseas to laboratories or held in one of eight breeding farms in the country. Tens of thousands are kept captive in these breeding farms, spending their lives behind bars. Their offspring are taken from the mothers to be later exported overseas; some may only be 16 months of age when exported.
Despite widespread global concern over the capture of non-human primates from the wild for use by the animal research and testing industry, the Mauritius government recently granted permission for one of the monkey farms to capture around 1,000 wild monkeys. Several official bodies and organisations, including the European Union (EU), recognise the suffering involved in the wild-caught trade and from 2022, wild-caught primates can no longer be imported for breeding or use in experiments in the EU (2).
Around 11,609 experimental procedures took place on non-human primates in the EU in 2017, with France, Germany and the UK being the main users (3). Regulatory toxicity testing is a major area in which long-tailed macaques are used. Toxicity (or poisoning) testing is carried out on monkeys to assess adverse reactions to drugs (or chemicals), primarily for the purpose of developing commercial products for humans. The tests are carried out using different concentrations of the test substance, over different periods of time. These experiments are especially cruel and usually involve restraining the monkeys to in order to give the test substance intravenously (directly into the bloodstream) or injected through a tube that is forced into their mouths to reach the stomach. Monkeys may suffer effects such as lethargy, vomiting, seizures, difficulty breathing, skin problems and weight loss. Other adverse effects may include internal bleeding and organ failure. Surviving animals are killed at the end of toxicity tests and their bodies dissected and examined. References:
17 November 2021: Monkeys destined for US labs die on board Wamos Air flight
Animal Protection groups are calling on the Spanish holiday charter airline, Wamos Air, to immediately stop transporting monkeys for research laboratories following the tragic deaths this week of several monkeys on board its flight from Cambodia to the US.
The tragedy began Sunday 14th November. According to a tip-off received by a concerned person in Madrid, Wamos Air transported 720 long-tailed macaques as cargo on Flight EB998 from Cambodia (PNH) to Houston (IAH) (AWB 46090129060). The ordeal suffered by these monkeys included confinement inside small transit crates for 24 hours of flying time, with an additional six hour stop-over in Tbilisi, Georgia, which included a three hour delay. In addition, many hours would have been spent in transit to and from the airports.
In recent months, animal protection groups Action for Primates (UK), One Voice (France) and Stop Camarles (Spain), have spearheaded a campaign across Europe calling on Wamos Air to stop transporting monkeys after discovering the Madrid-based airline was flying thousands of monkeys to the US for research.
Sarah Kite, Co-founder of Action for Primates, stated:
This tragedy exposes the shocking reality of the suffering inherent in the transportation of these intelligent and sentient beings. It is simply not possible to confine non-human primates to small crates, away from familiar surroundings, and transport them on long journeys across the world without causing considerable distress, physical and psychological suffering. This is an issue that attracts widespread public concern, and it is time for Wamos Air to join the long list of airlines that now refuse to be a part of the cruel global trade in monkeys for research.
We know that deaths occur on airlines flying monkeys for research, but details are rarely publicised. This shocking and heartbreaking incident on board a Wamos Air flight is a stark reminder of the very real suffering involved in the global trade and transportation in non-human primates for research.
The long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) is the most heavily traded non-human primate species for the global research and testing industry, with the US being one of the world's largest importers and users of non-human primates for research. In 2020, imports of long-tailed macaques from Cambodia by the US increased by 82.8% from 8,571 in 2019 to 15,664 in 2020. Wamos Air, formerly Pullmantur Air, primarily operates passenger charter flights to holiday destinations, including in the Caribbean. It is a subsidiary of the Miami-based Royal Caribbean Group (formerly Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd), the world's second-largest cruise line entity, which operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises.
During transportation, monkeys are held in small transit crates and travel as cargo. In addition to the cramped conditions, they may be forced to endure inadequate ventilation, unfamiliar and loud noises, temperature and humidity fluctuations and delays en-route. Monkeys may become ill or die in transit, as happened in this case. For others, anxiety and stress can lead to infections and the onset of disease which may remain latent until the animals reach their destination.
Action for Primates:
Web site: https://actionforprimates.org/
Animal cruelty content should be included in the UK's Online Safety Bill
Animal abuse is ubiquitous and profitable on social media, and self-regulation has failed. The AfA Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition believes that the UK government should step in.
7th October 2021, United Kingdom The Asia for Animals (AfA) Coalition has asked Member of Parliament Damian Collins to ensure that animal cruelty content (1) is explicitly included in the scope of the UK government's forthcoming Online Safety Bill. Mr Collins is the Chair of the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee established by the House of Lords and the House of Commons to scrutinise the proposed Online Safety Bill, the aim of which is to establish a new regulatory framework to increase accountability of online technology companies and protect users from harmful online content. More information…
28th June 2021
Marmosets in the Netherlands subjected to inescapable electric shocks to study PTSD
Animal Protection groups have severely criticised publicly funded research in which marmosets were subjected to inescapable electric shocks to their feet in an experiment to study post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people (1). PTSD is an anxiety disorder, which can develop after a traumatic, harmful or life-threatening event, such as combat exposure, an accident or physical assault. The study was done purportedly to evaluate the effect of ketamine which is used as an anaesthetic for people and other animals on fear memory, heart rate, cortisol levels and sleep, which are affected in people suffering from PTSD.
The work was done at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC), Rijswijk, in the Netherlands, and funded by the European Framework Program 7 (2).
Animal Rights (Netherlands) and Action for Primates (UK) are calling for an end to the research at the BPRC, Europe's largest non-human primate research centre funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The Dutch government banned the use of chimpanzees at the BPRC several years ago but allowed research to continue using other non-human primates.
In the recently published research, twelve adult female common marmosets were used in the research. They were placed in a
passive avoidance apparatus with
two compartments (dark vs illuminated). Confined in one of the compartments with an electric grid floor, they were subjected to four random inescapable foot-shocks within a 15-minute period.
The marmosets were subjected to highly invasive abdominal surgery to implant a transmitter device to record sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) (recording of the electrical activity of the brain) and the heart rate by electrocardiogram (ECG). Electrode wires for the ECG were tunnelled through the subcutaneous tissue to the chest and fixed to a muscle and those for the EEG were inserted through the subcutaneous tissue to the skull and fixed by a surgical screw and dental cement.
Clinical observations were carried out once a day when the animals were scored on displaying signs of apathy, immobility, inadequate grooming, huddle (foetus-like posture), stereotypic behaviour (non-purposeful repetitive movements such as circling). The scoring ranged from 0 (normal) to 4 (severe).
All the marmosets were killed to study the brains.
Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, stated:
Subjecting non-human primates to inescapable foot shocks in an attempt to simulate PTSD in people is a simplistic and very inhumane way of studying this distressing disorder. The general treatment hypothesis could be tested more effectively and humanely in people with PTSD. The BPRC claims it adheres to the 3Rs and
…promotes the use of alternatives to animal experiments where possible and considers their development to be part of its mission. I believe that this study is contradictory to that.
Animal Rights founder Robert Molenaar stated:
Generating so much stress, fear and pain in animals that are so much like us is nonsensical and completely unacceptable.
Animal Rights has started a petition (https://www.animalrights.nl/bprc-apen-krijgen-elektrische-schokken-toegediend) and sent a letter to the Dutch Parliament calling for the closure of the BPRC.
25th June 2021
Cambridge University provides step-by-step guide for surgery and training to create
depression in marmosets
Action for Primates, an animal protection project that campaigns on behalf of non-human primates worldwide, has raised concerns about animal suffering and the validity of a protocol developed by the University of Cambridge, in which common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) are being used as living test vehicles for testing drugs for human mental health issues. Placed on a restricted diet, the marmosets have holes drilled into their brains for drugs to be injected and their abdomens opened to implant a measuring device into a major blood vessel. They are then forced to carry out tasks inside small testing boxes.
The researchers, from the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute and financially supported by the Medical Research Council (publicly funded) and Wellcome Trust, describe the methodology used to create a
model of anhedonia-like
depression in marmosets and are promoting this widely in the scientific community by publishing a 'how to' paper (1).
The recently published paper describes the protocol the researchers use, step-by-step, starting with the
training of the marmosets to carry out certain tasks. Food rewards (non-nourishing marshmallow sweets) are used in training and testing, but to 'motivate' the marmosets to work, their diet is restricted on 5 out of 7 days each week. The marmosets are put into a Pavlovian discrimination testing chamber an enclosed testing box with LED strips and audio speakers (click here to see a video from the article, showing a marmoset being tested in this chamber).
The marmosets are subjected to at least two major surgeries, including one to implant intracerebral cannulae to target different areas of the brain with drugs in which a dental drill is used to drill holes through the skull and into the brain cavity to insert cannulae. Drugs are then injected into the regions of the marmoset's brain where activity is purported to be relevant to impaired reward processing in depression in people and, the researchers claim, can be used to test the efficacy of antidepressant drugs.
Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure from things that normally would cause pleasure. Blunted sensitivity to rewards is associated with anhedonia and is a core feature of depression in people. There is no evidence, however, that any other primate species experiences this. Further, because there is no way to know what the marmosets are feeling, the researchers have to limit their claim to measuring or looking for
anhedonia-like [emphasis added] signs in the animals.
The complex emotional, genetic and environmental stressors that cause mental illness and depression in people cannot be compared with the simplistic marmoset
model created by these researchers. Further, it is clear from the authors' own statements that the issues can be and have been studied in people and that there are serious limitations in the marmoset, including:
…marmosets are sensitive and temperamental animals whose behavior is sensitive to slight changes in their social and physical environment.
…the manipulations described here are all acute intracerebral pharmacological infusions which do not fully mimic the chronic depressed state.
The researchers claim that they keep the marmosets
...in a manner that fully supports their biological and social needs with
paired housing wherever possible [emphasis added] and
a spacious home cage with enrichment objects.
According to Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California:
Such a claim is incorrect given that marmosets are highly social animals, live in lush jungle habitat with an abundance of trees for climbing and nesting, and an extensive and rich variety of food. None of what the researchers provide the marmosets comes even close to approximating a normal environment or providing for a normal lifestyle that ensures the maximum opportunities for well-being.
Action for Primates believes that the marmoset project is inconsistent with claims made by the University of Cambridge that they
…place good welfare at the centre of all our animal research and aim to meet the highest standards… (2) and that they scrutinise
…research projects and procedures involving the use of live animals to ensure that the 3Rs reduction, refinement and replacement have been adequately applied… (3)
Action for Primates has written to Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor, urging the University of Cambridge to place a permanent moratorium on the use of non-human primates in research.
18th June 2021
Members of European Parliament raise concerns with European Commission over the trapping of wild monkeys in Mauritius
Members of the European Parliament have raised concerns with the European Commission regarding the trapping of wild long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in Mauritius. This follows the Mauritius government recently giving its approval to allow the expansion of one non-human primate farm with up to 1,000 macaques to be captured from the wild to be used for breeding. The MEPs include Ms. Manuela Ripa, Mr. Guenther Sidl, Ms. Marie Toussaint, Ms. Anja Hazekamp, Mr. Francisco Guerreriro. Mr. Martin Buschmann, Ms. Eleonora Evi and Mr. Raphaël Glucksmann.
Ms. Manuela Ripa, MEP stated:
The intended expansion of Mauritius' program to capture wild macaques is very alarming. With this, the country seeks to broaden breeding efforts to be able to supply the international market including the EU with monkeys for testing purposes. This could lead to large-scale commercial trapping of wild animals, which would be a major setback for biodiversity protection and animal welfare.
Mr. Raphaël Glucksmann, MEP stated:
The European Union led the way when it included the welfare of animals in its treaties as early as the 1990s. It did so again, in a practical way, when it proposed in 2010 to prohibit scientific experiments on wild primates. The ban should take effect next year, after too many long years of preparation.
In a backward move, the government of Mauritius has recently approved the extension of an establishment breeding long-tailed macaques. The owner intends to use animals captured in the wild in this breeding establishment.
As most of the primates used for scientific research purposes in the European Union come from Mauritius, we cannot just stand by and let this happen. We must not take the risk of importing macaques taken from the wild into the EU, even if this is legal for a few more months.
We call on the Commission to act. In accordance with the high level of European ambition in relation to animal welfare, it must ensure that no wild primates will be used in Europe for the purposes of scientific research.
The questions asked of the European Commission by the MEPs include:
Considering that the EU has set the date for ending the use of wild-caught primates and first-generation offspring in research, is it not incongruous that at the same time the EU is importing primates from a country that not only condones a wild-caught trade but is also allowing it to expand? How will the EU ensure that primates imported from Mauritius are genuinely captive bred or not sourced from farms that are involved in the export or trapping of long-tailed macaques for breeding purposes?
A coalition of animal groups in Europe and Mauritius (Action for Primates, One Voice, Animal Rights and Progress Science Mauritius), that led an international campaign to oppose the expansion and capture of wild monkeys, is grateful to the MEPs for responding to its concerns and has welcomed the submission of questions to the European Commission.
Mauritius is the main supplier of monkeys to Europe for research, exporting many thousands each year. In 2020, long-tailed macaques were exported to the following EU countries: Spain (2,126), France (1,027), Netherlands (290) and Germany (29).
In acknowledging that animal welfare, animal health and ethical problems arise from the capture of non-human primates in the wild, the EU decided to end its involvement in the capture of monkeys from the wild for scientific and breeding purposes. From 2022, the EU will only allow non-human primates to be used in research if they are the offspring of animals who have been bred in captivity (F2/F2+ generation), sourced from self-sustaining colonies. Recent developments in Mauritius, however, point to the resumption of a wild-caught trade for breeding and export, when in April, the Mauritius government approved the expansion of one non-human primate farm, Biosphere Trading Ltd, allowing up to 1,000 macaques to be captured from the wild to be used for breeding.
The animal groups are dismayed that the trapping of long-tailed macaques is taking place and calls this a major step backwards in terms of animal welfare, especially at a time when there is widespread global concern over the capture of wild non-human primates, because of the cruelty and suffering caused by the removal of such animals from their natural habitat, social and family groups.
2010/63/EU The European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Article 10) Directive. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2010/63/oj
26th April 2021
Animal Protection groups outraged as Mauritius government gives permission for capture of wild monkeys and expansion of monkey breeding farm for vivisection
Animal Protection groups have condemned as a 'backward step' the decision by the government of Mauritius to grant permission for the expansion of Biosphere Trading Ltd and to allow the company to capture around 1,000 wild monkeys. Biosphere Trading, a company at Closel in Tamarin Falls, breeds and exports long-tailed macaques for research. It has been reported that it will now increase its current capacity of 800 monkeys to 7,500 monkeys, with the aim of exporting 1,500 monkeys per year to the USA and Canada (1).
Mauritius is already one of the world's largest exporters of monkeys for the global research industry, exporting thousands of monkeys every year to the USA and Europe. In 2020, 10,827 long-tailed macaques were exported from the country, an increase of 40% (3,088 monkeys) to 2019.
The animal groups Action for Primates, Progress Science Mauritius, One Voice and Animal Rights, who led an international campaign representing many thousands of people from within Mauritius and around the world, are dismayed this decision was made at a time when there is widespread global concern over the capture of wild non-human primates, especially because of the cruelty and suffering caused by the removal of such animals from their natural habitat, social and family groups. They are concerned that such a step could lead to the resumption of the large-scale commercial trapping of wild long-tailed macaques in Mauritius.
Several official bodies and organisations, including the European Union, recognise the suffering involved in the capturing of wild non-human primates. For example, the International Primatological Society (IPS):
...the capture of nonhuman primates from the wild is stressful for the animals and increases the suffering, risk of injuries, spread of disease and even death during capture, storage and transport(2)
The European Union Directive (applied across the EU in 2013) recognises that the capture of non-human primates from the wild is highly stressful for the animals concerned and carries an elevated risk of injury and suffering during capture and transport. In order to end the capture of animals from the wild, including for purposes of breeding, the Directive introduced provisions with the objective of moving towards using only non-human primates who have been bred in self-sustaining colonies, from parents who themselves have been bred in captivity (3).
Holding and transportation are additional sources of stress and suffering, as the monkeys are shipped on long journeys around the world in the cargo holds of aeroplanes. There has been much evidence accumulated over the years that has revealed the immense cruelty and suffering that is inflicted on monkeys during their capture, caging, holding and transportation.
Action for Primates:
YouTuber in Indonesia who abused monkeys is fined and sentenced to imprisonment
18th April 2021
Action for Primates and Jakarta Animal Aid (JAAN) have welcomed the conviction of a YouTuber for animal cruelty by the authorities in Jakarta. Rian Mardiansyah abused and mistreated monkeys and filmed their suffering for 'entertainment' which he then broadcast on the YouTube channel Abang Satwa (previously called 'Monkey Raging').
The trial took place on 9th April 2021 at the Jakarta Selaten District Court Office (Kantor Pengadilan Negeri Jakarta Selaten). Mardiansyah was sentenced to a fine of Rp. 402,000 and 15 days imprisonment for behaviour relating to exploitation and violence against monkeys (1).
In February, Mardiansyah's monkeys were confiscated by the authorities in Jakarta, including Satpol PP South Jakarta Administrative City and the local government / pemda DKI, following complaints submitted to Dr Anies Baswedan, the Governor of Jakarta, by Action for Primates and Jakarta Animal Aid (JAAN). The three macaques, Boris, Mona and Boim, are now safely at the JAAN rescue centre and have started their new lives free from the torment and cruelty to which they were being subjected daily.
Examples of Mardiansyah's cruel behaviour towards the monkeys included spraying them with jets of water, rubbing obnoxious substances such as glue or chilli onto their food, lighting firecrackers and sparklers to scare them and encouraging the monkeys to fight each other by teasing them with food. He then posted these videos with sound tracks and commentary on his YouTube channel.
Sarah Kite, co-founder and spokesperson for Action for Primates, stated:
We are grateful to Dr Anies Baswedan and the authorities in Jakarta who responded to our complaint concerning animal cruelty by confiscating these monkeys and prosecuting the individual involved. We hope this conviction will send an important message and help to deter other people from inflicting cruelty on monkeys and other animals in the guise of 'entertainment' for broadcast on YouTube and other social media platforms.
The conviction of Mardiansyah and confiscation of the monkeys have also shone a spotlight on YouTube and its shameful promotion of animal cruelty by allowing such abusive content to be broadcast on its platform. There has been a proliferation of such animal cruelty videos appearing online across social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and TikTok. The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition, of which Action for Primates and JAAN are members, is playing a key role in co-ordinating efforts among animal welfare organisations across the world and raising awareness and educating the public. Its Website provides information and lists the many ways that people can take action to help end this animal cruelty content (2).
The Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition has also recently sent a letter to the Mr Ganjar Pranowo, Governor of Jawa Tengah, urging the authorities to take steps to investigate other similar YouTube channels based in Indonesia. Such channels, including 'Monkey Ji' whose owner also abuses and mistreats monkeys held in captivity and broadcasts their torment and suffering on YouTube (3).
For further information:
Action for Primates:
Web site: https://actionforprimates.org/
Jakarta Animal Aid Network is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the lives of animals in Indonesia:
Indonesia in breach of its own wildlife legislation by allowing export of wild-caught monkeys
26th February 2021
Action for Primates has criticised a decision by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry to allow the capture and export of 2,070 long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in 2021 for biomedical research, despite legislation that was introduced in the country in 1994 that prevented such exports of wild macaques. The 2,070 quota has been allocated to two companies that export macaques for research: CV Primaco and CV Inquatex.
Sarah Kite, spokesperson for Action for Primates, has stated:
To allow the export of wild long-tailed macaques is not only a breach of Indonesian wildlife legislation, it is also a huge backward step at a time when there is widespread global condemnation of the trapping of wild non-human primates, especially because of the cruelty and suffering caused by the forcibly removal from their natural habitat, social and family groups.
The resumption of capturing and exporting wild long-tailed macaques by Indonesia is an alarming development. Several official bodies and organisations recognise the suffering involved in the capturing of wild non-human primates. For example, the International Primatological Society has stated:
...the capture of nonhuman primates from the wild is stressful for the animals and increases the suffering, risk of injuries, spread of disease and even death during capture, storage and transport(1)
The European Union recognised that the capture of non-human primates from the wild is highly stressful for the animals concerned and carries an elevated risk of injury and suffering during capture and transport. In order to end the capture of animals from the wild for research, including for purposes of breeding, the European Union Directive (2010/63/EU) introduced provisions with the objective of moving towards using only non-human primates who have been bred in self-sustaining colonies, from parents who themselves have been bred in captivity. The implementation date for these new provisions has been set for 2022. (2)
Long-tailed macaques are indigenous to Indonesia and are part of the rich and diverse ecosystem, contributing to the country's unique biodiversity. The species is listed under Appendix II on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Further, there has been a new global assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species for the conservation status of the long-tailed macaque. The species has now been listed as 'Vulnerable' with a decreasing population trend (3).
The reason often cited by authorities for allowing the capture of long-tailed macaques is that the animals are coming into 'conflict' with residents and farmers in local communities. An ever-increasing expansion and encroachment into wildlife habitat by people is the primary cause for these 'conflicts', not the fault of the macaques. Rather than allowing wild macaques to be trapped and exported for research, Action for Primates urges the authorities to resolve the issues that lead to negative interactions, such as deforestation and disposal of food waste that results in macaques being attracted to human settlements.
Action for Primates calls on the Government of Indonesia to enact legislation that provides protection for the indigenous long-tailed macaques and urges the adoption of humane and preventative methods that can be used to resolve 'conflicts' without resorting to their capture and export.
Action for Primates is a not-for-profit group that campaigns on behalf of non-human primates worldwide.
Web site: https://actionforprimates.org/