Monkey Business at Monash University

Monkey in cage

Credit: Rommel Manuel

Universities go to great lengths to woo prospective students, rightfully showing off the best that their facilities have to offer. But you can bet that there’s one thing that Monash University in Victoria isn’t telling prospective students about: its macaque-breeding colony, which is funded by the federal government. The colony ensures a ready supply of non-human primates for cruel and pointless experiments conducted by both Monash University and other groups.

Experiments on animals are never more controversial than when undertaken on primates. Yet despite this, the number of such experiments in Victoria has reportedly tripled over the last five years.

Previous experiments carried out in Victoria have involved infecting macaques with HIV, shocking marmosets, deliberately overdosing baby marmosets with opiates and giving diseases to pregnant baboons. According to Professor Anne Keogh AM, an Australian cardiologist and a former president of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, “The problem lies in the animal ethics committees”.

Professor Keogh points out that although animal models are known to be flawed with regards to being applicable to humans, effective alternatives – which are readily available – are not being used. If, as she suggests, animal ethics committees are acting as administrators rather than regulators, then there is little incentive for experimenters to take up humane forms of research.

Dr. Andrew Knight, a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, agrees with Professor Keogh, saying, “Almost every large-scale scientific study to have examined this issue has indicated that animal experiments contribute little to human healthcare advancements, despite their enormous costs. Our public health funds would be more responsibly spent elsewhere”.

Many of these barbaric and senseless experiments are funded by the federal government using the public’s tax dollars and by health charities such as the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and the National Heart Foundation of Australia. This money would be better spent on relevant human-based research.

Today’s non-animal tests are cheaper, faster and more accurate at predicting human reactions to chemicals and other substances than archaic animal tests ever were. It’s time for institutions like Monash University to realise that animals are not ours to experiment on – and start spending their time and money on useful and humane research instead.

Posted by Claire Fryer