A petition with more than 14,000 signatures calling for a ban on importing primates into Australia for medical and scientific research has been handed to the Federal Parliament.
Humane Research Australia has handed over the petition amid revelations of the secrecy and alleged cover-ups surrounding experiments being conducted on baboons and small primates, including marmosets, in New South Wales.
The chief executive of Humane Australia, Helen Marston, said Australia already had three government-funded facilities in NSW and Victoria in which baboons, marmosets and macaques were being bred specifically for research.
"Yet despite this ready supply, nine permits have been granted since 2000 to import primates into Australia for research."
Ms Marston said data obtained from the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species had shown that between 2000 and 2015 Australia had imported:
- 331 pig tailed macaques from Indonesia
- 250 crab-eating macaques from Indonesia
- 71 owl monkeys from the United States
- 37 marmosets from France.
Fairfax Media reported on Sunday that millions of dollars were being spent on secret medical and scientific experiments, some of which were allegedly being covered up.
A baboon named Conan had reportedly undergone a xeno-transplantation of a whole organ transplant of a kidney from a pig, but the state government had denied in freedom of information documents whole-organ transplanting from animal to animal.
Marmosets were used at the University of Sydney to take electro-physiological readings from their brains before they were killed with an overdose and then had their eyes removed so their retinas could be dissected.
In another separate experiment on pregnant baboons, a mother was killed by accident leaving an orphan baby, and another baby baboon, dead as a result of the testing.
A senate inquiry is under way into the importation of primates into Australia for research, as a result of a private member's bill banning the prohibition. It has been introduced by Greens senator Lee Rhiannon.
Senator Rhiannon said on Sunday that she believed the public would be "deeply shocked" to find out what sort of experiments had been carried out.
The inquiry is due to report by March 1.
Ms Marston said Australia needs to impose a complete ban of importation of primates for research.
"Primates are already subjected to highly invasive experiments," Ms Marston said. "Gruelling long-distance transportation adds even further stress and suffering to these sentient and highly cognitive animals."
She said that 95 per cent of animal-tested drugs that entered clinical trials did not make it to the market.
"This not only questions the efficacy of using animals as models for human disease but raises the question of all those drugs which failed animal tests and may have actually worked in humans.
"The drugs that we do have available to us today have, therefore, been developed not due to animal tests but rather despite them," she said.
The story Thousands sign petition urging an end importing of primates for medical research first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.