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Germany sees spike in experiments on monkeys

Rebecca Staudenmaier
December 20, 2018

Millions of animals are used in medical and pharmaceutical research in Germany each year, a report suggests. Although the government has vowed to restrict animal testing, the number of monkeys used rose in 2017.

A Rhesus monkey with an impant in a cage at the Max-Planck-Institute in Tübingen, Germany
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Murat

Nearly 2.8 million animals were used in scientific experiments and tests in Germany last year, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday, citing government figures that were sent to the European Commission.

The vast majority of the animals involved in the tests were rodents, with some 1.37 million mice and 255,000 rats used.

Another 240,000 fish were also used, along with 3,300 dogs and 718 cats, according to the figures from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The number of monkeys used in experiments went up sharply in 2017 — up to 3,472 from 2,462 in the previous year.

Monkeys are primarily used in medical research, due to their similarities to humans — although the types of primates permitted for animal testing in Germany is limited.

Researchers are barred from using great apes like chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas in experiments, with the last tests having taken place in 1991.

Read more: What is the future of animal testing?

Technology instead of animal testing

Thousands killed for organs and cells

Some 50 percent of the animals were used for "basic research" looking into areas in the animals' immune systems and nervous systems, according to the German government.

Another 27 percent were used to test or produce medication and other pharmaceutical drugs, while some 15 percent were used in experiments on human and animal illnesses.

According the ministry, 740,000 animals were killed in order to use their organs or cells for further research.

Read more: Most medical studies misreport animal testing

Germany, UK top animal testing list

Germany has one of the highest rates of animal testing in the European Union, coming in second only to the United Kingdom. The European Commission has accused Merkel's government of not adapting German law enough to curtail the practice.

Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government has promised to push for alternatives to animal testing, Berlin has drawn criticism from Brussels over the rate of animal experimentation.

Although the EU banned animal testing for cosmetic products in 2004, it is still permissible to carry out tests on animals for scientific and medical research.

A mouse climbs out of a laboratory glass
Hundreds of thousands of animals were killed last year for scientific purposesImage: imago/Westend61

In light of the latest data, Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that the government is committed to lowering the figures and adapting German laws to comply with EU directives.

"I want the number of experiments on animals to be continuously reduced. Animals are fellow creatures and they deserve our sympathy," Klöckner said.

Assurances from Merkel's government do not go far enough for animal welfare advocates and the opposition Green party.

"We need a clear exit strategy now," Greens parliamentarian Renate Künast told the paper.

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