Primate Experiments

Page last updated: 06 October 2016

In Australia, the state and territory governments are responsible for regulation of animal welfare, including the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes. Any use of animals for scientific purposes (including research) must be in accordance with relevant state and territory legislation.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has developed and published the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (the Code) since 1969. All states and territories have taken up the Code in their legislation. The Code sets out the common framework for each Australian state and territory for ensuring the ethical, humane and responsible care and use of animals used for scientific purposes. The use of non-human primates in NHMRC funded research must comply with the Code, relevant Commonwealth and state and territory legislation, and NHMRC’s Principles and guidelines for the care and use of non-human primates (2016) .

The use of non-human primates for scientific purposes raises special ethical and welfare issues. The NHMRC recognises that there are differing views in the community about the use of non-human primates for scientific purposes. The NHMRC seeks to ensure that any non-human primates used in government funded research are used ethically and treated humanely and only used when there is no valid alternative.

The Commonwealth is responsible for regulating the importation of non-human primates with respect to biosecurity and compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. These responsibilities are exercised under the Biosecurity Act 2015 by the Department of Agriculture and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 by the Department of Environment. Under state and territory legislation, an animal ethics committee must approve the source of any non-human primates used for scientific purposes, and must be satisfied that any importation of the animals is necessary. The NHMRC’s Principles and guidelines for the care and use of non-human primates (2016) requires non-human primates to be obtained from colonies in Australia or, if importation is essential, from captive-bred populations.

A Senate Committee recently conducted an inquiry into a Private Member's Bill that sought to ban the import of live non-human primates for the purpose of research. The Committee considered that the evidence received did not point to a need for a ban on the import of non-human primates for research. In addition, the evidence indicated that there will be significant effects on biomedical research in Australia should a ban on imports be implemented. Given this, the Committee recommended that the Senate not pass the Bill.

Reviewed: 16 March 2017