‘Brutal’ life of monkeys on paradise
The paradise island of Mauritius risks becoming the new front in the battle over animal rights after its government announced plans to open a monkey vivisection laboratory.
It has already tapped into the lucrative “medical tourism” industry by opening alternative medicine centres and government officials now want to attract academics and large pharmaceutical companies.
They believe scientists would benefit from the country’s rich natural resources, including exotic plants that can be used in medicines.
However, it is the exploitation of another living natural resource, loved by tourists, that could cast a sinister shadow over the island’s reputation – the long-tailed macaque.
Mauritius currently exports thousands of them to animal testing labs around the world where they are used in scientific experiment for research on drugs.
Since 2009, 2,227 macaques have been imported into Britain, the majority from Mauritius.
The Mauritius macaque is considered “grade A” for such research, but after an outcry the EU has banned importing any that have been trapped in the wild.
Instead, Mauritius can only export the offspring of wild-caught macaques that have been reared on the island’s breeding farms.
Regardless of the issues around vivisection, there remain huge animal welfare concerns, even among the scientific community.
The macaques have to travel in small cages for thousands of miles, in particular to the United States, which is a major importer.
Because that also involves high cost, moves are afoot to minimise travel.
Puerto Rica in the Caribbean is already opening a contract research centre to cut the distance from the US and now Mauritius is considering something similar.
Raju Jaddoo, the managing director of the Board of Investment in Mauritius has said a bill going through parliament “will unleash the potential for contract research organisations and pharma companies to set up in Mauritius and carry out clinical trials”.
Large Indian pharmaceutical companies, such as Ajanta Pharma, are already operating on the island and in December 2009, the government hosted a large Biohealth conference to discuss further moves.
Delegates included monkey breeders and representatives from the drugs industry.
Professor Chris Thiemermann, the boss of the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary University in London, which tests on animals, but not macaques, was also there.
Earlier this month, Dr Bella Williams from the pro-testing lobby group Understanding Animal Research, flew to Mauritius for discussions with government officials.
She told the Sunday Express that working conditions in Mauritius would be “wonderful” but she said opening a vivisection lab was something for the “far future” because the island currently lacked the legislation and skills base.
Just a few days after her visit, Sarah Kite, the director of special projects at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, which last year carried out an undercover investigation into the island’s monkey trapping business, also arrived – only to find all her meetings with government officers had been cancelled.
She told the Sunday Express: “Mauritius promotes itself as a paradise for holidaymakers, yet it is certainly no paradise for the monkeys.
“Every year, up to 10,000 of them are exported overseas to be used in cruel experiments.
“These monkeys are ripped from the wild, forced into captivity in concrete pens on huge breeding farms and their babies taken away from them to be later shipped to laboratories around the world, including hundreds to the UK.
“It is a brutal industry that has been hidden away from the many thousands of tourists who visit Mauritius every year.
“The Government of Mauritius must address the negative impact this cruel trade will have upon Mauritius's international reputation as a holiday paradise."
Queen Mary University in London does not test on macaques.
Source: Sunday Express
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