University of Cambridge rejects claims of “sickening” cruelty

Joseph Winters 6 February 2014

Cambridge has rejected calls for the withdrawal of public funding from its primate research facility after animal rights campaigners called their experiments “sickening”.

The Anti-Vivisection Coalition rejuvenated an ongoing campaign against the University last month, claiming Cambridge was using money from the publically-funded Medical Research Council to conduct “vicious primate experiments”, which included cutting open the heads of monkeys and planting electrodes in their brains.

Luke Steele, Head of AVC, said: “2014 marks 10 years since the British people spoke out against sickening primate experiments by stopping a new monkey laboratory being built in Cambridge. This was a call for change, but the government continues to present money from the very people who oppose these tests to fund the vivisectionists who undertake them.”

Yet a University spokesperson told The Cambridge Student: “Ongoing research with animals here at Cambridge and elsewhere offers the greatest hope of effective treatments for conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, strokes and transplants…  Without animal research, which is only used when there is no alternative, many treatments we take for granted today would not be possible.”

He also explained: “The UK has the most rigorous animal welfare regulations in the world, and Cambridge has always adhered to these regulations and will continue to work to the highest possible standards of animal care.”

Sam, a preclinical medical student, said: “Animal research forms the basis of so much of the knowledge that we as medical students read and learn about everyday. If we were to delete all the knowledge derived from animal studies from our textbooks we would be left with pretty scanty volumes, especially in disciplines such as neuroscience.”

 Jacob Sen, a first-year Veterinary Scientist at Trinity Hall, added: “I think it’s fair to say that nobody wants animals to [suffer] … I don’t think people should be guilt-tripped into believing animal testing is unacceptable when it still has relevance and is tightly regulated.”

A spokesperson for MRC explained the stringent guidelines surrounding animal testing: “Researchers applying for funding for studies involving animals must give clear scientific reasons for using them and explain why there are no alternatives. The legislation surrounding the use of monkeys is strictest of all.  All facilities are regularly inspected by the Home Office.”

The University spokesman assured TCS: “The University strongly agrees with, and rigidly follows, the guiding principles emphasised by the Home Office on the need to refine protocols, keep the numbers of animals used to a minimum and replace the use of animals with other methods where possible. This underpins all research carried out at Cambridge.”