All experiments conducted in Australia involving non-human primates must comply with:
- NHMRC Policy on the Care and Use of Non-Human Primates for Scientific Purposes (the Policy), governs the use of primates in teaching and research
- Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (currently in the 8th 2013 edition) The Code currently provides that “particular justification” is required for activities involving the use of non-human primates.
- Relevant State and Territory legislation, for example, animal welfare acts. These acts refer to, amongst other things, the breeding and use of primates for teaching and research.
Retirement and Sanctuary
The 8th edition of the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes was released in 2013 and it states (in section 3.4.2) that:
Opportunities to rehome animals should be considered wherever possible, especially when the impact of the project or activity on the wellbeing of the animal has been minimal and their physiological condition and behavioural attributes indicate that they can be introduced to a new environment with minimal, transient impact on their wellbeing.”
There are currently no retirement facilities in Australia for primates after their use in research. The NHMRC Policy on the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes requires the long term welfare of non-human primates to be taken into account when deciding the fate of the animals. Retirement at the national breeding colonies is an option when the health and temperament of the animal are considered suitable.
It has been acknowledged by the NHMRC that due to their close evolutionary relationship to humans, primates are worthy of special consideration in regards to their ethical treatment.
However, as mentioned in the primate policy, the breeding colonies will not generally accept animals that have been used for scientific purposes.
Depending on the type of research conducted on the animals, some may be left in a traumatised or deteriorated state, however many animals may still have the ability to sustain a quality life. To merely dispose of these animals when they are no longer required is a total disregard of their individual worth.
If their use has been funded by the NHMRC then the NHMRC and/or research institution must take responsibility to ensure that the wellbeing of these animals is guaranteed for the remainder of their natural lives. The establishment of a retired primate sanctuary could be funded primarily by the NHMRC and supported and overseen by animal welfare groups. These animals deserve a dignified retirement in return for their use in science.
Where to from here?
Humane Research Australia is calling for the replacement of all primate experiments with more humane and scientifically-valid (non-animal) methods of research, an end to importation of primates for research, and the establishment of a primate retirement sanctuary in Australia for ex-laboratory animals.
Help primates in laboratories by taking some or all of the following actions:
- Sign our petition calling for the Australian government to ban primate research.
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 Senate Community Affairs Committee, ‘Answers to estimates questions on notice’, Health and Ageing Portfolio, Budget Estimates 2013-14, 5/6 & 7 June 2013, question E13-104, http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/Estimates/Live/clac_ctte/estimates/bud_1314/DoHA/Answers/104.ashx, (accessed 9 July 2014).
 National Health and Medical Research Council, Policy on the Care and Use of Non-Human Primates for Scientific Purposes, 2003. Available at https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ea14.pdf, (accessed 9 July 2014).