German authority rejects application for brain research on non-human primates
- Dipl. Biol. Silke Strittmatter
Doctors Against Animal Experiments speaks of landmark decision
In Bremen, the licensing authority has just officially rejected the application by researcher Andreas Kreiter at the University of Bremen (Germany) to continue his brain research on non-human primates. The authority does not consider the "suffering of the animals to be justified by the intended gain in knowledge" and thus assesses the project as "ethically unacceptable". The nationwide organisation Doctors Against Animal Experiments (DAAE) very much welcomes this decision. It had contributed to this in advance by providing its expertise and appeals to other approval authorities to follow this example.
The recently published announcement from the Bremen health authority states: "After a comprehensive examination of the application ‘Spatiotemporal dynamics of cognitive processes of the mammalian brain’ and the commissioning of various expert opinions, the authority came to the conclusion that the suffering of the animals cannot be justified by the desired gain in knowledge and that the animal experiment is therefore ethically unacceptable." According to the authority's assessment, the suffering of the macaques must be categorised as severe according to the EU Directive on the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes.
"The decision of the Bremen authority to reject the application despite a possible subsequent legal dispute is a landmark decision that will have a major impact on the legal and scientific classification of cruel brain research on non-human primates in general," says Dipl. Biol. Silke Strittmatter, scientific advisor at Doctors Against Animal Experiments. In addition to Bremen, similar experiments are carried out at 7 other institutions in Germany. Due to a past court decision, authorities often do not dare to reject these cruel experiments. This could now change and put an end to neurological experiments on non-human primates not only in Bremen, but throughout Germany in the coming years.
One of the reasons given by the Bremen authority to reject the application is that non-human primates are very intelligent animals that are able to grasp the reality of their lives and to suffer due to the consequences of multiple limitations. The extent of this suffering is often difficult to recognise from the outside. Macaques - like almost all animals - would hide pain, suffering and damage as long as possible in order not to jeopardise their position within the group. The animals would also show this behaviour in the laboratory setting. Neurophysiological experiments mean a lifetime of severe suffering which can lead to behavioural disorders.
The Bremen health authority had already rejected experiments on non-human primates in 2008. In a subsequent lengthy legal dispute, the German Federal Administrative Court ultimately came to the decision that animal welfare weighed less than the freedom of research and that the suffering of the animals should be considered ‘moderate’ at best.
However, the case of the monkey Jara, made public by Doctors Against Animal Experiments in 2022, shows that this assessment was wrong. DAAE is in possession of internal official documents which reveal that the monkeys in such experiments experience not just severe, but even the most severe suffering. The injuries that Jara suffered included drill holes in the skull bone and stich wounds to the brain with associated inflammation. The documents also show that the injuries are an ‘unavoidable consequence of the implant technique’, that means it’s standard.
According to the current information and legal situation, Strittmatter considers the outlook in case of a legal dispute to be positive. "Due to the German Animal Welfare Act having been improved in 2021 due to pressure by the EU, and the fact that the suffering of the primates is proven to be severe compared to a benefit that is just a vague promise and never proven, the chances that the court will follow the authority's decision are significantly better than in the past." In line with the harm-benefit requirement of the EU Directive, an experiment may only be authorised if the benefits of an experiment outweigh the so-called harm (suffering of the animals). This is not the case here.
Doctors Against Animal Experiments pays great respect to the Bremen Health Senator and her team for this ground-breaking decision and will continue to contribute its expertise nationwide in order to achieve an end to primate brain experiments.