Ban Primate Experiments

Proposed Large Animal Testing Facility in Ireland

Proposed Large Animal Testing Facility could see controversial experiments on primates for first time in Ireland

In January 2019 the Health Business Services, the business division of the Health Service Executive, tendered for consultancy companies to bid to write a report ‘to determine the feasibility of establishing a Large Animal Test Facility in Ireland’, following lobbying from multi-national biotech firms. [1]

HBS is performing this task on behalf of the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM), a national centre funded through Science Foundation Ireland.

While led by National University of Ireland Galway, CÚRAM’s academic partners include UCD, UCC, TCD, UL and RCSI. According to the Irish Times, the consultancy would be required to complete a feasibility report on the animal testing lab by March, and provide a white paper on how the facility would operate by June.

For the IAVS, it is deeply concerning that the Irish Government is willing to invest tens of millions of euros in building new animal testing facilities at the behest of multinational corporations, in spite of the cruelty and scientific weaknesses of animal testing. Yet at the same time, the Government has ignored calls from animal welfare and science groups to invest a relatively small sum to establish a centre to coordinate the development of much-needed non-animal testing methods.

EU legislation requires Ireland, as a member state, to contribute to and promote the development of alternatives to animal testing. [2] But the Irish Government is actually doing the opposite, promoting barbaric and outdated animal tests on behalf of industry clients, in defiance of its legal obligations. Moreover, the number of animal tests in Ireland is on an upward trend, another sign of the Government’s indifference to tackling animal suffering.

Currently, there is very little information in the public domain about the types of animals that could be used in such a facility. However, in general, ‘most safety testing involving mechanically functioning devices is conducted in relatively large animals, such as rabbits, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle and large primates’ according to one scientific review of the field. [3]

CÚRAM’s stated areas of research include cardiovascular, indicating the potential use of sheep and pigs, while the Centre’s interest in devices for diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases points to the unprecedented use of non-human primates in Irish labs, potentially breaching a long-standing government policy against primate experimentation. [4]

The experiments at the proposed lab are likely to include inducing debilitating and lethal diseases in the animals, as well as testing devices for their toxicological and biocompatibility properties. Primate models of neurodegenerative diseases are amongst the most severe due to the extreme physical and psychological suffering endured by the damaged monkeys.

There are also fundamental scientific problems with trying to model human conditions in other species as well as assessing human safety from animal test results. The scientific consensus is moving away from the use of animals towards human-relevant testing methods employing human tissue and computer models based on human data.

Not only would any such new animal testing lab be a moral outrage, it would be a poor investment in an outdated technology. If Ireland wants to lead the way both technologically and in terms of social values, the government needs to change direction and start promoting humane, sophisticated testing methods instead of crude animal testing.


[2] Article 47 of EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

[3] ‘Animal Models in Medical Device Development and Qualification’, McCarthy, TJ.