for the monkeys, after the lab, rest

InvestigationOver the past ten years, European regulations and growing support for animal welfare have allowed a tiny fraction of laboratory primates to benefit from retirement.

Seated high up, almost cross-legged, she observes the visitors through the fence that separates her from them. His brown hair frames eyes lit up with a golden yellow. Impassive. Cinnamon spent nineteen years in the laboratory, as indicated by the panel adjoining his cage. Humans looking at her observe her features that are eerily similar to theirs. The macaque has been “retired” for three years, at the zoo-refuge La Tanière, in Nogent-le-Phaye, near Chartres (Eure-et-Loir). His emblematic case crystallizes the growing concern of the world of research for the end of life of its primates. When they survive.

Ruffio and Cinnamon, the monkey that has become emblematic of the refuge and the retreat of laboratory monkeys.  The duo come from the same laboratory near Lyon, and arrived together in 2019. At the zoo refuge La Tanière, in Nogent-le-Phaye (Eure-et-Loir), on June 30, 2022.

In 2020, out of nearly two million animals involved in animal experimentation in France, there are 3,996 primates according to the Ministry of Research. Monkeys thus participate in the development of vaccines, drug or treatment tests, for example against HIV or more recently against Covid-19, or in the study of diseases such as cancer, endometriosis, depression or cystic fibrosis.

Although tests for cosmetic products have been banned since 2013 by European regulations, it is legal to experiment on animals in the context of biomedical, basic and toxicology research. At the moment, the current state of alternative methods does not allow to completely do without them. This is where the paradox of the use of so-called “non-human” primates takes shape: their genetic proximity to Homo sapiens makes them indispensable, but, from an ethical point of view, the question is particularly delicate.

Cannelle’s course is exceptional. Only a minority of laboratory monkeys are involved in non-lethal procedures. They can then be reused in new experiments. Then, for the tiny part of those who are still alive, rehabilitation in a shelter is possible.

“I would not have sacrificed them”

“Perhaps Cannelle’s work will help your grandmother live well in her retirement”, explains a caretaker from La Tanière to a boy who approaches the enclosures, referring to the animal’s participation in drug tests intended to treat Parkinson’s disease. A dozen monkeys from laboratories swing and delousing in pairs. Some of them have lent their brains in studies of Alzheimer’s disease, scars run through the hairs of their skulls. To avoid disturbing their tranquility, it is best to avoid looking them in the eye, shouting, pointing at them or smiling at them.

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