An investigation by the BUAV and Soko-Tierschutz has uncovered the shocking suffering of primates from Mauritius used in cruel experiments at a leading European research laboratory. Disturbing video footage shows monkeys with devices implanted in their brains and bleeding head wounds. The secret filming took place at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany (MPI) over a seven month period in 2013-2014. The laboratory is now at the centre of a controversy after the findings of the investigation featured last night on national German Television (Stern TV).
Mauritius is one of the world’s largest suppliers of primates for research. Thousands of monkeys are imprisoned in large breeding facilities across the country. Many were captured from the wild and are kept in concrete pens for breeding. Their offspring are shipped around the world to suffer and die in the laboratories of Europe and the USA. Because of the secrecy of the research industry, up until now, very little has been known about what happens to the monkeys once they leave Mauritius. The investigation has revealed that long-tailed macaques used in the German research came from two Mauritius breeding companies, Le Tamarinier Ltee and LCL Cynologics.
Primates at the MPI laboratory in Germany were being used in basic research into how their brains process information; with any application to humans being highly speculative. As part of an experiment looking at neural connections in the brain, the long-tailed macaques were subjected to major surgery to have a device (head chamber) implanted in their skulls, so ‘tracers’ could be injected directly into their brains.
Following surgery, the monkeys suffered from bruising and bleeding head wounds; made worse because they repeatedly picked at the incision sites. Some of the wounds became infected with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) resulting in further suffering and discomfort. The experiments could last months; the monkeys were then killed, so their brains could be removed from their skulls and examined. In the wild, long-tailed macaques can live for up to thirty years; in this facility they are unlikely to make it beyond the age of six.
The BUAV believes that the use of primates in this way is an ill-conceived approach and has also accused the Institute of failing to properly apply the 3R’s (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) which is mandatory under EU and German legislation. We believe that more could be learnt from ethical studies involving patients and volunteers than subjecting stressed monkeys in highly artificial situations to experiments which are unlikely to mimic the human situation. This is particularly true of non-invasive brain imaging techniques such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), which is already being used heavily in clinical research. Clinicians are not waiting for the results of primate research to ‘confirm’ neurological principles, but are already using these techniques to understand the human brain and help human patients.
Sarah Kite, Director of Special Projects, BUAV stated: ‘We believe the people of Mauritius will be shocked to learn that the monkeys from Mauritius are being sent to the laboratories of Europe to suffer in these cruel and horrific experiments. This is basic research to understand the neural processes in macaques; with any application to human beings highly speculative. We believe there are other ways to do this research that do not involve harming primates. We now urge Mauritians to join us in calling on the Mauritius Government to end the breeding and export of monkeys.’
The BUAV is calling for all licenses to conduct research on primates at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics to be suspended pending an inquiry independent of the institute and the authority.