Life of macaques
inside an italian
Never seen before footage from an Italian primate lab
Never seen before footage from an Italian primate lab
Marta, Charlie and other macaques are imprisoned in the cages of an institution at a major Italian university. These are not their real names, which we have decided not to divulge just as we will not divulge the name of the person who worked in this laboratory with the aim of documenting and revealing the sad life of these animals.
These macaques live in small metal cages that are completely barren. They have electrodes inserted into their skull or temple, required for the neuroscience experiments to which they are subjected. Their life of total deprivation leads many of them to exhibit stereotypical behaviour: they move backwards and forwards within the cage, compulsively lick the walls and bite the padlocks and bars.
We did not document particularly painful experiments, but rather the infinite sadness in which these macaques live for long years of research. Beyond the door of the laboratory where they are taken for experiments, imprisoned in containment cages, we do not know what happens.
We believe that these images are sufficient for us all to question the use of animals in Italian universities and research centres. The impotent gaze of the macaques touches the heart and cannot leave us indifferent. The question these animals seem to ask is “Is it really not possible to make this no longer necessary?”
Food is their only happiness, which I can only give them in small doses: it is used to make them “collaborate”, they tell me. Some of the monkeys haven’t had a drink in almost a week; when I turn on the tap they try to get my attention, they shake the bars, scream, with their mouths they make the gesture of when they are drinking from the drinking bottle; they are thirsty, very thirsty.”
Approximately 600 laboratories are authorised by the Ministry of Health to carry out animal experiments. These are public or private research centres, located within pharmaceutical companies, universities and hospitals. The good news is that, year after year, the total number of animals used for scientific research is gradually decreasing: today there are just under 600,000, while only ten years ago there were almost 1 million. This is thanks to new technologies and the obligation for animals to be used only when strictly necessary and if no alternatives exist, and very probably also to the growing awareness of this issue within society.
The numbers are still high and especially in some areas such as education and training (where the use of animals is prohibited except for higher education) and basic research (where there is no obligation and it is therefore the researcher’s choice to use animals), the practice could be eliminated or considerably reduced with immediate effect.
Despite a positive downward trend in the number of animals used, it is worth noting an increase in the use of macaques. In 2015 there were 224, a figure which doubled to 454 in 2016 and reached 548 in 2017. This number increases still further if primates re-used in a second procedure are included, leading to a final figure of 586 primates. In this case, it is important to note that the Ministry should authorise the use of non-human primates only in exceptional cases and only if the research cannot be conducted in any other way.
The macaques most commonly used in Italian laboratories are Macaca fascicularis. These animals come from farms in China, Laos, Vietnam or Mauritius Island. Although they were born in cages, many of them come from mothers recently captured in the forests. This practice is required in order to ensure good genetics in the animals, which would deteriorate with too many generations in captivity.
Laboratory experimentation is one of the areas in which images and footage are hardest to obtain. As an organization, our aim is to reveal what happens to animals in order to remove every last veil of secrecy from the practices to which millions of them are subjected. Awareness is the first fundamental step towards discussing these practices and thinking about ways to eliminate them. It is in this spirit that we are publishing this investigation with a view to contributing to a discussion within society, but also within the scientific community, towards ending experimentation on primates and all other animals.
Although they may also come from external pressure, changes in a sector often depend heavily on internal dynamics. Already, there is an obligation to use animals only when strictly necessary and if no alternative methods exist. The implementation of alternative methods therefore depends on the scientific community itself. For this reason, it is precisely from within the sector that people interested not only in curing the terrible diseases from which so many of our fellow human beings suffer, but also in putting an end to a method that 80% of Italians consider cruel, should emerge and find more scope. These two paths do not and need not conflict.
We need minds that study and develop alternative methods, as well as more funding, more debates on ethical limits in science, scientific journals that give space to these issues, students who dream of becoming great scientists and being able to solve this ethical social dilemma. And it is to these people that the impotent gaze of the little macaques in the video is directed. Please make every effort to ensure that these images become nothing but a sad memory just a short time from now!
Thanks to our team of investigators, millions of people are discovering the reality of animal abuse and cruelty and can help to change things. Our work saves animals and needs your support.