Response to Weatherall Report on primate use

The NC3Rs welcomes the endorsement for the work being done by the NC3Rs, but is disappointed that the report does not go far enough in mapping priorities.

The NC3Rs has now published its response to the Weatherall Report:'The use of non-human primates in research'. It has also responded to the Consensus Statement by the funders of the Weatherall Report and the full response from MRC, BBSRC and Wellcome Trust which were both published on Tuesday 12 June 2007.

The NC3Rs welcomes the work of the Weatherall Committee in examining the scientific basis for the use of non-human primates (hereafter primates) in research, and the endorsement in the Committee's report for the work being done by the Centre to replace, reduce and refine use of these animals.

However, it is disappointed that the report presents a defence of primate research without serious attention being given to alternative approaches. It does not go far enough in trying to map out the priorities and gaps for development and adoption of alternatives. The Committee has therefore missed a unique opportunity to give some much-needed direction in this critical aspect of the debate on the use of primates for research, which is central to helping society resolve the serious ethical dilemmas involved.

Responding to the publication of the Consensus Statement from the funders of the Weatherall Report, Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the NC3Rs, said: "The Weatherall Report made the scientific case for primate use in some areas of research, but it was not a comprehensive or systematic review. We are pleased that the UK's major funders of primate research are taking seriously their responsibility to retrospectively assess the value of the work they have funded. Such an assessment should weigh the outcomes from the research against the actual harms caused to the animals involved and the availability of alternative approaches.

"There is growing recognition in UK science and industry that looking critically at research using animals can benefit the scientific outcomes as well as the animals, and also a greater willingness to think innovatively about where the use of primates can be reduced. The Government and the funders should be seeking to develop a national strategy that is not just about the continued use of primates, but which has the clear aim of replacing, refining and reducing that use wherever possible."

Detailed responses to all the Weatherall Report's recommendations can be found in the NC3Rs' full response.

Subscribe to our newsletter