New Greens bill to ban importation of live primates for research

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The Australian Greens have a new bill to ban the importation into Australia of live primates for research designed to address the cruel and inhumane trade in intelligent, live primates caught in the wild and sold to a booming research market. 

Animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon will introduce the bill into the Senate today and was joined at a media conference with Helen Marston, CEO of Humane Research Australia.

A detailed background paper on the bill is here.

"It is negligent of Australia not to have closed and locked the gate to the importation of primates caught in the wild for research, particularly now Australian breeding facilities already supply enough primates for this purpose," Senator Rhiannon said.

"While no primates have been imported to Australia for research since 2009 a ban in law is needed so the trade cannot start up again.

"A major undercover UK investigation confirmed serious concerns about the trade, so it is important that Australia show leadership and sign off on a ban.

"The Gillard government should back this bill and show the international community that Australia does not condone the unethical global trade in primates for experimentation.

"A ban will also underline how important it is to end the global trade in wildlife which is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity.

"Some Labor MPs have also highlighted the animal cruelty concerns and ecological dangers of this issue in parliament and with the Trade Minister.

"The Greens are campaigning alongside groups like Humane Research Australia, Animals Australia and the Humane Society Australia to change the law," Senator Rhiannon said.

Background

Between 2000-2009 Australia imported:

  • 331 pig-tailed macaques listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable to extinction (from Indonesia)
  • 250 long-tailed macaques listed on the IUCN Red List (from Indonesia)
  • 71 owl monkeys listed on the IUCN Red List (from the US).

It is recognised most of these primates are born to wild-caught captive monkeys in Asian facilities set up as lucrative money making facilities. They effectively 'launder' wild caught monkeys and sell them as captive breeds. These monkeys are caught in barbaric ways, kept in filthy crowded conditions and transported inhumanely.

Australia is signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which commits to ensuring international trade in flora and fauna does not threaten a species' survival.

Further, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) policy on non-human primates for scientific purposes  states that "whenever possible investigators obtain non-human primates from National Breeding Centres" and "non-human primates imported from overseas must not be taken from wild populations and must be accompanied by documentation to certify their status."

The Greens' bill does not ban the use of primates for research or the importation of primates for other purposes, for example for zoos.