Credit: BUAV. Top: J Creamer / NAVS
"Using animals to model humans should be abolished because this practice so frequently leads to human death or suffering and so rarely leads to cures or treatments"









"Studying monkeys to learn about diseases unique to humans - if the outcome of this were not so tragic, it might be humorous"


Scientific Critique of Primate Research

X-CAPE has submitted a substantial body of evidence to the public inquiry, which includes a fully referenced scientific critique of primate research by Dr Ray Greek MD (available here in PDF format). Dr Greek has also provided the following summary of the report.

To summarise our argument: The very small differences between non-human animals and humans at the genetic and molecular levels make extrapolation between species dangerous. Our theoretical explanation for this, based on evolutionary and molecular biology, is that causally relevant disanalogies exist between species. There is vast empirical evidence supporting this theory and minimal modern-day evidence contradicting it. People are killed and maimed because of trans-species extrapolation.

It is easy to forget how far civilization has come in the past 300 years. Before Newton, demigods ruled the universe so if crops failed or sickness afflicted one's family, it was caused by sin or disfavour with God. Darwin's theory of evolution, genetics, and DNA were not yet discovered. And I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the philosophy of life known as science has been responsible for these changes and the advances that so separate us from our ancestors of just a few hundred years.

When society first started using animals in an attempt to learn about human disease and health, it made sense in a way. Grossly, animals and human had things in common; important things: both were composed of cells, were affected by viruses and bacteria, responded to vaccines, had circulatory systems, lung, livers and so forth. So the initial idea of extrapolating results from animals to humans appeared valid and indeed society did learn things from animals. However, science has now progressed beyond this basic level of understanding. New technologies offer insight into the fundamental processes of life, with variations unique to each species.

As we demonstrate with many examples, progress in the understanding and treatment of neurological disorders has been made by careful clinical studies of patients, their tissues and their families. Vast numbers of studies have been conducted in primates and other animals, but they have not contributed to advancements in this field. Rather, they have hampered progress and harmed patients. Doubtless, they will continue to do so. Meanwhile, human studies and the technologies enabling them become ever more sophisticated.

Researchers who use animals are operating under a misleading paradigm that wrongly assumes that all animals are more similar than different. Modern-day biology demonstrates that the differences are far more important than the similarities with regard to how organisms operate at the cellular level, the level where disease occurs and pharmaceuticals act. The animal-model paradigm appeared viable during the 16th-19th centuries when we knew so little. On the gross level all animals are similar: monkeys have hearts, so do humans; chimpanzees have electrical activity in their brains, so do humans. But today we are studying things on the very level that explains the species' differences - the molecular level.

Better research methods exist and this is where the great advances are coming from. Continuing to use animals such as nonhuman primates is a guarantee for more human suffering from neurological diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, autism, addiction disorders, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington's, epilepsy, and others. It also guarantees basic science research will be delayed because instead of funding research involving the vast array of new brain imaging technologies, funding will go to study the brains of species other than our own. Studying monkeys to learn about diseases unique to humans - if the outcome of this were not so tragic, it might be humorous.


Full scientific critique (PDF format) >>

Dr Ray Greek MD, November 2002