Non-human primates in research and safety testing
6. How could the welfare of primates used in laboratories be improved?
New standards of care, treatment and living conditions are needed
Source: Jorge Vicente
There are several ways to reduce the level of suffering of non-human primates (NHPs) in scientific research and to enhance their welfare:
- Avoid poor housing and care standards which cause unnecessary suffering and produce animals less suitable for studies. Primates are social animals so it is important to attend to both their physical and their mental needs.
- Do more research to recognize when animals are suffering and understand the effects of pain. The welfare of animals improves if animals are acclimatised slowly, if they are helped to get used to procedures using positive training techniques such as rewards, and if they are given painkillers after painful procedures.
- Design experiments so that pain and discomfort are as low as possible. Stop experiments as soon as the objectives are met, or sooner if there is significant pain and distress. In the case of vaccine research, stop the tests as soon as it is clear that an animal has not become immune.
- Improve non-invasive technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to test the safety of drugs, and to check the effects of previous interventions on the brain without having to kill animals to collect samples for testing.
- Humane early objectives (or endpoints) should be established in the development of vaccines, such as the detection of early symptoms, to prevent experiments from lasting longer than necessary.