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Investigation confirms decades of mistreatment of monkeys for brain experiments

An alliance of the animal welfare organisations SOKO Tierschutz, Doctors Against Animal Experiments (DAAE), PETA, ARIWA, Activists for the Victims and regional groups is calling for a large demonstration against animal experiments on Saturday, 6 July. The demonstration will start at 12 noon at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. The animal rights activists, citizens of the city and animal lovers from all over Germany are calling for “Research: Yes! Animal experiments: No!”

The background to the action is the severely invasive brain experiments on non-human primates, rats and mice carried out at the Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) in Frankfurt. Its researchers implant huge devices into the animals' skulls and force them to take part in experiments by depriving them of water and food. The non-human primates Gandalf, Rhea, Lenny and Homer have been kept and tortured in animal experiments for over 20 years. The Animal Welfare Alliance sharply criticises the institute's practices and calls for animal-free research. In addition, the around 38 monkeys currently kept at the institute should be quickly transferred to suitable rescue centres.

"We are calling for the release of the monkeys and for an end of the experiments once and for all," says alliance spokesperson Friedrich Mülln from SOKO Tierschutz. "How can it be in times of animal-free research methods that primates are still having their heads perforated at the Ernst Strüngmann Institute? Millions of research funds and taxpayers' money are being wasted on agonising, outdated experiments that are irrelevant to human health instead of being used to fund innovative and humane research that does not involve violence against animals."

Photos illustrate mutilations, violence and animal suffering at the ESI

Recently, the Animal Welfare Alliance received images from inside the ESI from a whistleblower. The pictures show monkeys and a rat with implants fixed to their heads. According to information from an anonymous contact, the rat died after days of haemorrhaging. Two monkeys have also been killed in recent months. Due to poor husbandry conditions, mice pulled out their fur and animals were killed by breaking their necks without anaesthesia. In addition, some of the highly social animals, such as Homer, are kept individually.

Chronology of documented abuses at the ESI and criminal charges filed by animal rights activists

In February 2023, Doctors Against Animal Experiments and PETA reported anonymously received information about abuses at the ESI to the responsible authorities. "The information pointed to serious animal welfare violations in primate husbandry," says Sabrina Engel, biotechnologist and PETA's expert on animal experiments. "That's why we filed criminal charges against those responsible at the institute." The authorities initially denied the miserable conditions. In July last year, the Ministry of Science finally admitted to DAAE that the accusations were justified and announced that they would be stopped immediately and that the necessary consequences would be taken.

At the beginning of 2024, anonymous whistleblowers informed the Animal Welfare Alliance that both the veterinarian and previous animal welfare officer and the head of the animal facility had resigned from their positions at the ESI at the end of February. Both had the legally required expertise in dealing with primates. Both positions, which are entrusted with the "welfare" of the monkeys, have not yet been filled in accordance with the law. The long-standing director Prof Pascal Fries also left the institute at the turn of the year without a soundbite. "Instead of immediately revoking the existing animal housing and animal experimentation permits, as the legal requirements are not being met, the authorities seem to be content, according to our source, that the ESI is currently refraining from animal experiments and the associated husbandry permit, despite the lack of adequate veterinary care," explains Dr Melanie Seiler, primatologist and SEO of Public Relations at DAAE. Doctors Against Animal Experiments filed a criminal complaint against the responsible licensing authority, the Darmstadt Regional Council, back in April.

Ultimately, the current footage from SOKO Tierschutz proves the ongoing suffering of the animals at the ESI. The organisation will also press criminal charges because of the rat that died in agony after days.


Date: Saturday, 6 July 2024
Time: 12:00 to 16:30
Location: An der Alten Oper (Opernplatz 1), Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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Some of the monkeys mistreated at the Ernst Strüngmann Institute have been kept in experimental laboratories for over 20 years.© SOKO Tierschutz

You can download this and other photos here and video footage here and use them exclusively for editorial reporting. The credit reference is: SOKO Tierschutz.