Taking a stand against the suffering

DRAPED in black mourning clothes, two animal activists staged a silent protest against primate breeding facilities and experiments on monkeys at Monash University Gippsland last week.

After discovering a facility existed in Churchill which housed macaque monkeys, Lyndel Thomas staged the protest aiming to spread public awareness about the “cruelty to animals” breeding facility.

She said she was seeking support to ban the breeding and importation of primates to Australia for research purposes.

“Australian researchers should be using non-animal methodologies that are far more relevant to studying human disease rather than trying to replicate a disease in a species that is genetically different to our own and expecting to achieve accurate or indicative results for humans,” Ms Thomas said.

She said apart from “the obvious ethical argument”, there was a lack of transparency regarding the purpose of these research centres.

According to Monash University Research Office, Animal Ethics website, “a person at Monash University who wishes to use animals in research or teaching must first obtain approval from their local department or school Animal Ethics Committee”.

“Only after approval from their AEC may the project commence,” the website stated.

“Many granting bodies including the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and the National Heart Foundation do not release funding until they are advised by the Animal Ethics section of Monash Research Office that animal ethics clearances have been obtained.”

However, Ms Thomas said there was no independent review system in place to ensure the breeding and research facilities were adhering to this policy.

“The problem here is that the committee is associated with the research facility/department so no independent review takes place and there is no-one on the committee who is really there to advocate the animal’s rights and interests,” she said.

Ms Thomas encouraged Monash University to seek alternative research methods.

“There are other ways to do medical research now, many universities in America and United Kingdom have now stopped using animals for research,” she said.

Ms Thomas said the silent protest, symbolic of animals inability to speak for themselves, aimed to make the public aware of the research centres in Australia.

“It is a symbolic funeral and a silent vigil in honour of the macaques and marmosets who have died and whose lives are lost during the course of unethical, inhumane and unnecessary, scientific research,” she said.

The Express attempted to speak to Monash University animal services but they did not respond by publication deadline.