Ricky Gervais hits out at scientific testing on monkeys “born to suffer”

By Jack Beresford

September 10, 2018

Ricky Gervais has spoken out against the routine suffering of primates born and raised in research labs.

Gervais was reacting to a new video from Animal Defenders International (ADI) revealing the reality of life for animals inside Europe’s largest primate facility.

The Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC) in the Netherlands breeds animals for its own use and other laboratories, collaborating with researchers in the UK including at the University of Cambridge.

Commenting on the footage filmed within the BPRC, Gervais said:

“To see these sensitive, intelligent animals born to suffer in this way makes me angry. It should make you angry too. Help save the primates from a life in the lab and demand that the government acts to end their use.”

Latest figures show that the BPRC has reportedly more than trebled its primate use, from 95 individuals in 2016 to 317 in 2017.

The facility has some 1,600 primates – around 1350 macaques and 250 marmosets – with most of the macaques kept in breeding groups of 20-40 individuals.

When taken to be used in research for diseases, the primates are housed alone in small barren cages. At the end of the experiments they are killed.

The footage shows how throughout their lives the BPRC primates experience fear, confusion, restraint, routine suffering, injury and death, whether they are used in experiments or not.

With such suffering inevitable where primates are bred and used in research, ADI is calling for their use to be phased out, as adopted in a resolution at the European Parliament 11 years ago, for which a timetable has yet to be published.

Jan Creamer, ADI President said: “Given the known species differences between primates and humans, there can be no scientific or ethical justification for continuing to use primates in this kind of research. The move to advanced scientific techniques is good for science and ends the suffering.”

The UK used 2,215 primates for research in 2017, seven times the number used in The Netherlands and nearly a quarter of the total number of primates used across Europe.

Primates are used mainly to test drugs and typically endure force-feeding or injections of experimental compounds and full body immobilisation in restraint chairs during experiments.

The side effects of compounds given to the animals, or simply the stress of procedures, can cause rectal prolapse, vomiting, blocked lungs, collapse, self-mutilation and death.

Terrified monkeys are also used in brain research, which can involve electrodes and bolts being screwed into their heads – despite that non-invasive technology is already used with human volunteers.

Due to species differences, tests in primates and other animals have been shown to produce misleading results – replacing primates with more sophisticated human-based techniques provides results which are more relevant to people.

Gervais previously called for a ban on having wild animals perform in circuses