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CAMBRIDGE MONKEY LABS IN DOUBT
Posted 30 October 2003
Campaigners fighting Cambridge University's plans to build a multi-million pound primate research laboratory are hugely encouraged by a statement this week from the university's governing Council indicating that serious financial problems mean the project might not now go ahead.
Soaring building and running costs of the proposed centre - which would conduct invasive brain experiments on primates - coupled with the deteriorating state of the university's finances, have led the university's Council to announce "... it is right the moment has come to take stock of the costs which have risen dramatically". This is the first time the university has indicated it needs seriously to rethink its plans for the new laboratory. In another significant development, the Cambridge Evening News has, for the first time, run a leader calling the whole project into question.
Animal Aid has been central to the campaign against the proposed labs - which would be the size of two superstores and house hundreds of monkeys - since plans were announced. The national campaign group's opposition is rooted in both scientific and moral objections.
Whilst primates are our nearest relatives, they do not provide an accurate model with which to study human disease because of key physiological differences. Relying on misleading data obtained from experiments on monkeys means real progress will be hindered, and flawed results run the risk of posing a serious threat to human health. Marmosets and macaques (the type of monkeys which would be used) are highly sensitive and intelligent animals. They would be brain-damaged, injected with chemicals, starved, subjected to psychological torment and physical pain.
Says Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid:
"It is unlikely the university will want to be seen as bowing to pressure from animal welfare campaigners, nor backing down on the principle of primate-based research, which is already being carried out within other university departments. Pulling the plug on the project due to lack of finances would give Cambridge a face-saving way out of the controversy. In recent months other university departments have become increasingly baffled and indignant at the thought of vast sums of money being wasted on such a project, given the critical state of the university's finances."
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