Non-Human Primates in Research
Dear minister, dear member of parliament,
Recently, the Belgian government, in particular the ministry of Health, has asked the European Commission to permit them to be more restrictive than the Directive 2010/63/EU by allowing them to forbid addiction research on nonhuman primates (NHP) in Belgium and possibly even to stop all nonhuman primate research in Belgium. This question is currently under investigation by the EU commission.
In parallel, other actions at the level of the Belgian government aim to limit if not stop biomedical research involving nonhuman primates by giving power to the minister responsible for animal welfare (which currently is the minister of Health in Belgium) to decide on the authorization of each individual project. The new proposal states that the minister will appoint members of a new national advisory Ethical Commission, specifically dedicated to nonhuman primate research. This national commission will give an advice on every nonhuman primate project, in addition to the local ethical committee. Every project involving NHP will have to be approved by the minister, which is free to follow or ignore the advice of the national and the local ethical committee. Thus, the minister will have the power to decide her/himself on each nonhuman primate project, which potentially can lead to decisions that may halt scientific progress and impair human welfare and health eventually. In particular, politically active animal rights extremists may have a strong impact on these decisions.
This proposal runs counter to the new EU Directive (articles 37 and 38), which specifies the procedures for project authorization and project evaluation. No specific procedures for NHP projects have been identified in the EU Directive.
Numerous scientific reports state that progress in biomedical research necessitates experiments on nonhuman primates (monkeys). As acknowledged by the recent Directive 2010/63/EU on animal experimentation, this includes basic (fundamental) research as well as more applied research. Therefore we ask that the Belgian authorities comply with the 2010 EU Directive, allowing basic and clinical research peer-reviewed projects that involve nonhuman primates and that adhere to the animal welfare regulations stipulated in that Directive, and refrain from more extreme and restrictive actions that will impair scientific and medical progress.