Focus: Campaign of the week - Charity calls for primate testing ban

Helen Warrell, helen.warrell@haynet.com

Animal Defenders International is stepping up attempts to stop scientific research on primates with a country-wide International Primate Day on 1 September.

The day will involve events for the charity's supporters around Britain, including protests at primate testing laboratories, a web chat about primate experiments and picnics for children. In London, ADI will be organising a photocall with some of its celebrity backers, which include former model Twiggy, paranormalist Uri Geller and actors Carol Royle and Jenny Seagrove.

The charity has mailed supporters with details of the activities and has set up a dedicated minisite at www.mymatesaprimate.org, which includes the background to the campaign, pledges from celebrity supporters and an action section giving information about how to get involved. Supporters will also receive a reminder email as the day approaches.

The charity will also be taking the opportunity to launch two new publications, a report on primate testing, which will feature the latest figures and research, and a report on alternatives, highlighting the latest technological developments that could herald non-animal testing methods.

According to ADI, the UK has become Europe's largest user of laboratory monkeys, conducting about 4,000 separate experiments on primates in 2004 alone. The charity spends about £300,000 a year on funding research into alternatives to primate testing. Its key argument is that the anatomical and physiological differences between primates and humans mean that animals are unreliable indicators of the possible effects of medicines on people.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, said recent discoveries show that primates suffer pain in the same ways humans do. "Over the past few years there has been a lot of new evidence about primates' culture, intelligence and emotions," she said. "It has been found that the animals have language and forms of communication."

Last year's campaign, My Mate's a Primate, focused more widely on the environmental threats to the survival of primate species.

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