ALL use of monkeys in medical research should be banned, a Scottish MEP said yesterday.
David Martin described it as "Scotland's shame" that one in ten experiments involving monkeys in the European Union was carried out in Scotland. In 2007 1,213 monkey experiments, mainly involving marmosets and macaques took place in the country, according to analysis by the charity Advocates for Animals.
But scientists said the only reason monkey use appeared to be high in Scotland was that so much quality biomedical science was carried out here.
They also said the level of animal use in experiments was already low and reducing it further would drive research to other countries where there was less regulation.
Mr Martin hoped a European ban on using chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans in research could be extended to all primates, including the many being used in Scotland.
He said that though the centres where tests were carried out were often kept secret, research units using monkeys could be found in the Lothians, Inverness and Glasgow.
"This is a moral issue," he said. "Monkeys are so similar to us. "They feel pain, they anticipate pain and react to pain in the same way as we do."
The Labour MEP also claimed that although monkeys were similar to humans, they were different enough to give misleading results in research.
"We have a population of five million, Europe had a population of 500 millions, so proportionately it should be one in 100 – but it is one in ten," he said.
"Scientists admit that they are already using other methods to carry out their research," he added. "It is clear that we need to put more energy and resource in expanding these methods."
But scientists said monkeys were used only when absolutely necessary. Simon Festing, head of Understanding Animal Research, said: "There are still many things we just can't do without using animals. We can't study movement or brain function in a test tube. We can't get computers to do things that are quite simple, such as catch a cough. It is about working towards treatments and cures for very devastating diseases, from hepatitis to Parkinson's."
Dr Festing said testing involving monkeys was not a Scottish phenomenon.
"It's just that several of the facilities which are carrying out this research are located in Scotland," he said.
• RESEARCH involving monkeys has led to many medical breakthroughs, including the discovery of the polio vaccine, that have saved many lives.
• Monkeys are also being used to help find treatments for hepatitis and Parkinson's disease, with patients already seeing the results.
• In Scotland, monkeys are being used to help look for the causes of infertility, affecting one in six men.
• Based on funding, only 20 per cent of research in the UK involves animals, and of this less than 1 per cent involves monkeys.
• Anyone wanting to carry out animal research in the UK has to go through a lengthy Home Office process that can take months or years. Scientists claim testing is easier abroad.
• The United States is thought to use around 50,000 monkeys a year in research.
• Professor Bob Millar, from the Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh, says monkeys are used for research into women's health because they are the only other species to menstruate.