Leave our apes alone
Conservationists resist call for medical experiments on primates
Sunday 04 June 2006
The wildlife television presenter Saba Douglas-Hamilton and primatologist Jane Goodall are fighting back against a proposal by Professor Colin Blakemore, the head of the official Medical Research Council, that the eight-year-old ban on using the apes - chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos - should be lifted in a global health emergency. Sir David Attenborough has also come out against the testing.
Professor Blakemore - a brain scientist at Oxford University, and an outspoken supporter of animal experiments - said yesterday that he was opposed in principle to banning the tests on the great apes, which share more than 96 per cent of their DNA with humans, because it muddles the boundary between people and animals. He said: "I worry about the principle of where the moral boundaries lie. There is only one very secure definition that can be made and that is between our species and others."
And he added that, though he was "pleased" that experiments are not being carried out on them at present, they might be needed if a pandemic virus emerged that affected both them and humans.
But conservationists hit back, saying that the tests would be inhumane. Saba Douglas-Hamilton told The Independent on Sunday: "As humans, we are also great apes, so where does that leave us ethically? Apes share many characteristics with us that we consider to be fundamentally human - like compassion, empathy, self-awareness and a sense of mortality. It is difficult to see how medical testing on great apes is going to be of any benefit to them, if at all."
Dr Goodall also believes that the experiments - banned in Britain since 1998, but still conducted in Japan, the United States and the Netherlands - are unethical. She says: "Most people do not know - and do not want to know - the grim reality of what happens to non-human primates in laboratories. Chimpanzees have amazing social, mental and emotional similarities to us. It is an outrage to incarcerate these wonderful beings in tiny cages and subject them to repeated intensive techniques, knowing that they can anticipate what will happen."
Sir David Attenborough has also come out against the tests. He said: "I am in favour of a European ban on the use of apes in invasive medical research."
The UN Environment Programme says that all great ape species face a high risk of extinction within the next 50 years.
'Mini ice age' coming in next fifteen years, new model of the sun's cycle shows
African wildcat caught on camera riding on the back of rhino in rare footage
Pope Francis calls for a new system of global government to tackle climate change
Margaret Atwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'
Tobias Jones: How bee hives in a woodland sanctuary I set up for people in crisis came with a sting in the tale
- 1 Katie Hopkins reveals fear she will die during brain surgery to cure epilepsy
- 2 Edward Heath 'child sex abuse' allegation: Investigation to be held into Wiltshire police handling of alleged claim in the 1990s
- 3 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 4 Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
- 5 Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara handle excruciatingly awkward and offensive interview questions like pros
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...
£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...
Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...