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24th November 2011

Publish monkey tests, says judge

Newcastle University is forced to reveal details of controversial animal experiments that they have conducted

A new ruling could force Newcastle University to reveal details of its experiments on monkeys.

Almost 21,000 animals were used in medical experiments at the university in 2008, and Macaque monkeys were used to examine new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and spinal conditions.

Tests on Macaque monkeys at the University involved implanting electrodes into their brains to record activity while they performed tasks.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) submitted a freedom of information request about the experiments in 2008 because they believed “monkeys were forcibly restrained by the head and body, which would cause them a high level of distress”.

Now the Information Rights Tribunal have concluded that there is a “strong public interest in animal welfare and in transparency and accountability” regarding animal experiments conducted at universities.

Newcastle University is seeking legal advice over the verdict. A spokesperson said, “the University carries out research that involves the use of animals only when there are no alternatives. Before any research is conducted on animals, the research proposals are approved by an ethical review committee, and then by the Home Office”.

In response to the decision, BUAV Chief Executive, Michelle Thew, said, ‘‘For well over three years, Newcastle University has tried every which way to avoid providing us with information.

“These are highly controversial and invasive experiments carried out on monkeys at a public institution. The public has a right to know what is happening to these poor animals and why.”

The information tribunal’s decision has prompted animal rights campaigners to challenge other research universities to release information about animal testing.

Greta Friedlander, a student who has been involved in promoting animal rights in Manchester, said “I am all for freedom of information so that people can make up their own mind about issues, so I would support more transparency about the animal testing that goes on at our university”.

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