Moving the Primate Debate Forward

Science  13 Apr 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5822, pp. 173
DOI: 10.1126/science.1142606

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Summary

In the United Kingdom, public concern about the use of animals for research has a long and checkered history. In 1875, Charles Dodgson, better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll as the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, wrote a fierce polemic on vivisection in an attempt to prevent the establishment of a physiology department at Oxford University. The activities of animal rights movements have since reached new dimensions, ranging from threatening mail and personal violence to letter bombs and worse. Nevertheless, opinion polls show that the majority of the UK public accepts the need to use animals for medical research. What they are less happy about is the use of primates, particularly for what is perceived as curiosity-driven research rather than work with a medical objective. The debate on this topic is likely to remain highly controversial in the United Kingdom, but a recent reportby an independent group of scientists and nonscientists outside the primate research community attempts to provide a better-informed basis for this debate through an in-depth analysis of the scientific reasons for research on monkeys. Most important, it calls for a national strategic plan for nonhuman primate research. The sponsors of the report--the Royal Society, Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, and Academy of Medical Sciences--are expected to respond to the report's recommendations by June 2007.