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scientists react to the findings of the Weatherall report into the use of non-human primates in research


The report is published by the Academy of Medical Sciences and can be downloaded from their website at

Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), said:

“The Weatherall committee’s report should be welcomed for reasserting the need to judge each use of non-human primates on a case by case basis and for recommending that the research funding bodies carry out regular systematic review of the outcome of all primate research. Only by taking into account the harm caused to the animals involved, the potential scientific or medical benefit of the work, and the availability of alternative approaches can a truly informed decision be made about the necessity and justification for primate use.

“However, it is disappointing that, despite a ringing endorsement for the work being done to reduce primate use, the report did not go far enough in trying to map out the priorities for development and adoption of new alternatives. Nor did it identify what gaps in our current understanding need to be broached in order to move forward in the areas that are less promising at the moment. The committee has therefore missed an opportunity to give some much-needed direction in this critical aspect of the debate on using primates for research, which is central to helping society resolve the serious ethical dilemmas involved.”


Dr Simon Festing, Director of RDS, said:

“Scientists will welcome this thorough and sensible report on primate research. We are pleased that the working group makes clear the strong scientific case for continuing primate research in areas such as infectious disease, neuroscience and reproduction. In addition, we welcome recommendations for increased communication both within the scientific community and with the public; for widespread adoption of best welfare practices; and for accelerating the development of alternatives wherever possible.”


Professor Chris Higgins, Director, Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, said:

“Although nobody likes the idea of any research using non-human primates, if it comes to an choice between regulated studies on a few animals and a treatment for an incurable disease affecting hundreds of thousands of people, or the well-being of a son, daughter or close relative, most people reluctantly make the same choice.”


Dr Mark Baxter, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, Oxford University, said:

“This is a great report. Research with nonhuman primates has taught us how communication between certain brain areas is absolutely critical for memory function, as well as how certain brain chemicals are vital to memory and decision-making, which is helping us to understand human brain disorders. The report underscores the value of this work as well as the very high standards under which it is carried out in the UK.”


Professor Tipu Aziz, Consultant Neurosurgeon, Radcliffe Infirmary (uses non-human primates on his research to help treat Parkinson’s disease), said:

“I welcome the publication and conclusions of the Report. It is one of the most comprehensive reviews of the use of primates in research I have ever seen or read. It is clear that the use of non-human primates must continue within strict ethical and animal welfare guidelines to secure alleviation, prevention or cures for many diseases that affect mankind.”


Baroness Perry, Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on the ethics of animal research, said:

“As an area of particular public concern, a review of the use of primates in research is to be welcomed.

“The report’s emphasis on finding alternatives and improving welfare concur with many of the conclusions of our own report on this topic. We urge researchers and funders of research to take action in these areas.”


Jo Tanner, Chief Executive, Coalition for Medical Progress, said:

“The carefully regulated use of non-human primates in medical research has led to the development of many of the treatments we currently take for granted: kidney dialysis, asthma medicines, intensive care for premature babies, and IVF treatments were all developed using primate research. Many new breakthrough medicines, such as Herceptin, were safety tested using primates. And if we are to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or vaccines against Malaria and HIV, we will need to carry out research using a small number of primates.”


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