FEB 06, 2014 10:00 AM PST

Social housing of non-human primates: can it become the norm internationally?

  • Head of Research Management and Communications, Animals in academia, Non-human primate welfare, National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), U
      Mark oversees research funding and communications at the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) - the UK's major funder of 3Rs research. He also leads on the Centre's work to embed the 3Rs in the policies and practices of public funders of bioscience research. Mark trained as a zoologist and primatologist, and has almost 20 years research experience in primatology and animal welfare science. He has authored over 35 articles on the behaviour, care and use of non-human primates. He serves on the Advisory Board and Ethical Review Process of the Centre for Macaques, the Captive Care Committees of the Primate Society of Great Britain and International Primatological Society, and the PLOS Animal Ethics Advisory Committee. He is an Impact Assessor for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, an Honorary Research Associate of the Scottish Primate Research Group, and an Honorary Member of European Primate Veterinarians. Previously, he was a member of the Animal Procedures Committee, the Bateson Committee which reviewed 10 years of publicly-funded research using non-human primates, and Expert Working Groups redrafting Convention ETS 123 and Directive 86/609.


    It is well documented that social housing is fundamental to good welfare for non-human primates (NHPs). Despite this, many laboratory NHPs around the world continue to be singly housed, though usually with visual, auditory and olfactory contact with conspecifics. Most relevant legislative texts and professional guidelines stipulate that single housing should be used only when justified on strong scientific or animal health grounds. However, the interpretation of strong grounds by practitioners, regulators and ethics committees/IACUCs clearly differs between countries and research facilities. This is evident from the peer review of research proposals that the NC3Rs performs for the major UK research funding bodies. In the UK single housing is truly exceptional for NHPs; whereas overseas NHPs are often housed singly for reasons that would not be acceptable or necessary in the UK. The NC3Rs has been able to challenge these reasons and work with funded researchers and facilities to enable social housing. This short presentation will outline some of the factors that facilitate successful social housing, and invite some discussion of these with the audience.

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