Video shows rare footage from inside Europe's largest animal testing lab

Monkeys are used for experimental drug tests at the Biomedical Primate Research Center in the Netherlands (VICE News). Source: VICE News

Documentary team get rare access to controversial animal testing facility in the Netherlands where monkeys are used to test new cures for human diseases.

The ethics of using primates to test experimental medicine has come under question, as rare footage from inside a Netherlands testing facility shows the pain and suffering inflicted on the animals. 

The ethics of using animal testing for medical research into diseases like HIV and cancer has been a controversial area of debate for many years.

Scroll down for the video.

The footage from a documentary from VICE News goes inside the Biomedical Primate Research Center (BPRC) in Rijswijk, a facility where scientists are trying to develop cures to human diseases by testing new drugs on monkeys.

The BPRC is the largest of its kind in Europe, and uses 200 monkeys each year for experimental drug tests. However it is largely considered progressive and forward-thinking in its approach to animal testing.

Outside the facility at the same time is a movement that has been protesting practices at the lab for the past 20 years. The VICE documentary shows demonstrators outside the facility shouting "blood on your hands, bastards" and holding signs saying "free the apes".

"Look, imagine if your were in one of those cages," one of the protestors said. "Imagine you're a testing animal."

"It's just unacceptable, it is just inhumane to think that people think we can just do this."

Monkey's are breed on site, and once taken into the laboratories are shaved and anesthetized before being subject to the tests, which can take several months and invariably end with the animal on an autopsy table.

Managers and scientists at the facility say they are committed to animal welfare and finding a way to balance it with their obligations to find cures to disease.

"Primates are necessary for certain questions," Jan Langermans, deputy director of BPRC and head of its animal science department told VICE News.

"Primates are the only animals that show the same characteristics as humans when they have HIV [SHIV in primates] and with tuberculosis for example, the characteristics of the disease, the pathological consequences, everything you see correlates exactly with what you see in humans.

The centre also says it is making strides in alternative trials aimed at finding ways to perform medical testing on non-human subjects, but have been unable to put a timeline on it.

Watch the full VICE News documentary Experimenting on Animals: Inside the Monkey Lab here:

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