Primates’ sad lives in a cage at NeuroSpin

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Shut up for their whole lives in a cage, which hardly allows them room to turn around, they inevitably get into conflicts with their peers who are imposed upon them, without being able to build the social relationships that they would establish in the wild… Not to mention the experiments that they suffer; we refuse to silently pass over the fact that, quite simply, life in a laboratory is already a torture method for the animals. NeuroSpin is no exception to the rule, and goes even further according to the inspection reports and internal laboratory documents obtained by One Voice. We have asked that their authorisation be retracted; we need them to be closed down and for the animals that are still alive to placed elsewhere.

Regulations themselves are contradictory. On one hand, it says that cages must “offer [the animals] a complex enough environment to allow them to run, walk, climb, and jump”. On the other, it is possible to imprison two adult macaques in a cage measuring 2 square metres with a height of 1.8 metres. Who can understand this?

Is “enriching” the two square metre cages enough to compensate for NeuroSpin’s negligence?

Even these unworthy conditions were not suitable for NeuroSpin, apparently: while the laboratory spent several years getting these cages to the right standards, in 2018, inspectors found cages almost two times smaller. To top it all, some macaques were isolated, despite their profound social needs. The establishment did not even bother to ask for the disgraceful exception that legally allows them to inflict this treatment.

A year later, the situation was a little less morose for the primates. The team were pleased to (finally) have cages measuring the regulatory dimensions and to have added, by way of “enrichment”, simple mirrors.

Image taken from a report from the NeuroSpin meeting on 23 September 2019.

Hell for the others... mainly kept in a cage

Clearly, being kept captive in a laboratory far from responds to the behavioural needs of wild rhesus macaques, who live in groups of ten or more that involve complex matrilineal hierarchies. Obliged as they are to cohabit in more than limited spaces, fights are frequent, whether it be within the same cage or through the bars. This is how it must have been for Simio who was stitched back together in 2020 for “three deep wounds on his right fist” done by Pitikos “through the wire mesh”

Not to mention the errors and the negligence of the staff: in 2021, “following an operating error with the cages’ padlocks”, Simio and Pitikos got out into the laboratory and fought each other. Since“the licence holder was not there, nor the veterinarian on call”, it was a technician who had to solely manage putting the two macaques back in their cages and the “treatment” to provide them. 

A situation among many others considered as “major non-conformities” by the Prefecture’s inspection two months later, with a surreal conclusion: during one year, “the macaques can no longer be used for experiments or for training. They live, however, under the safe custody of NeuroSpin”. The result: more fights, more escapes, bruises, nails ripped off… Pitikos even had to be put under a general anaesthetic “to repair his wounds”!

A few distractions are not enough!

Not content with making primates suffer for experiments, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission [CEA – Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives] (which includes NeuroSpin), did not even envisage sending those who were no longer useful into ‘retirement’. The question was even asked, but after careful consideration, it was decided in 2020 that placing them somewhere was too expensive.

What the Prefecture considered to be “corrective measures” were simply a smokescreen on the laboratory’s part, who had every reason to feel that they were above the law. To put an end to this impunity, One Voice has asked the Versailles Administrative Tribunal to retract NeuroSpin’s authorisation, which would allow the macaques to be rescued and placed into a sanctuary. We are awaiting a hearing date. Until then, you can sign the petition to support our claims and to get this hell closed down.