House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Petition: Importation of Primates

7:06 pm

Photo of Mike SymonMike Symon (Deakin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I present to the House a petition signed by 10,364 petitioners that requests that the House take action to impose an immediate ban on the importation of primates to Australia for research purposes. This petition was considered by the Standing Committee on Petitions on 12 October this year and has been certified as being in accordance with the standing orders as per the letter issued by the committee secretariat on that date.

Ms Helen Marsten, the CEO of Humane Research Australia, met with me on 7 September at my office in Mitcham to discuss their call to end the importation of primates into Australia for the purposes of medical and scientific research. Humane Research Australia has advised me that Australia is already home to three government funded primate-breeding facilities. These are the National Marmoset and Macaque facilities at Churchill in Victoria and the National Baboon Facility in Sydney, all of which breed animals specifically for the purpose of being used in research. The concern of the petitioners is that since the year 2000, despite the local facilities, eight permits have been granted to import primates into Australia for research.

Data obtained from the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, also known as CITES, to which Australia is a signatory, showed that in the period 2000-2009 a total of 324 pigtail macaques were imported from Indonesia for research purposes. Pigtail macaques are classified under appendix II of CITES, meaning 'although not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival'.

In April 2009, the British Union Against Vivisection published a report on its undercover investigation titled Indonesia: the trade in primates for research. The BUAV believes that there is misrepresentation of the source of the many thousands of macaques who are exported from the so-called 'breeding islands', such as Tinjil, a facility owned by Bogor Agricultural University and which has been identified as the source of Australia's imported monkeys. The CITES Management Authority in Indonesia considers 'island breeding' to be just another type of breeding operation and therefore exempts these macaques as 'animals born in captivity' rather than 'wild caught'.

Humane Research Australia has real concerns as to whether the export of primates from Tinjil Island is a breach of Indonesia's ban on the export of wild-caught primates for research and Australia's ban on the import of wild-caught primates for research. Humane Research Australia also advises that Macaca Nemestrina, pigtail macaques, the species which Australia has imported from Indonesia, is now subject to an import suspension in the EU, as in the view of their scientific research group the off-take of this species took place in a manner that would be harmful for the survival to the population of that species in the wild. In light of these concerns, Humane Research Australia considers it to be unethical and irresponsible to continue to allow the importation of these animals for research purposes, particularly as they are already bred within Australia.

The policy of the National Health and Medical Research Council on the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes governs the importation of primates into Australia for the purposes of scientific and medical research. The policy states:

Non-human primates imported from overseas must not be taken from wild populations and must be accompanied by documentation to certify their status.

Humane Research Australia believes that there is considerable evidence that primates imported to Australia from Indonesia are taken from wild populations.

This petition is calling for a complete ban on importations on the grounds of these concerns and the fact that Australia's local breeding facilities can supply primates for research.

Humane Research Australia make the point that a ban on primate importation would end the suffering of individual animals being captured and transported to Australia and would send an important message to the international community that Australia does not partake in or support the unethical trade in primates for research. I present the petition to the House.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This Petition of certain residents of Australia points out to the House that, despite the existence of three primate breeding facilities in Australia (objectionable in itself), primates are still being imported for research purposes.

Overseas organizations have uncovered horrific accounts of many animals being wild caught, and even those purpose-bred for research suffer the distress of long air journeys around the world.

Your petitioners therefore request the House to impose an immediate ban on the importation of primates to Australia for research purposes.

from 10,364 citizens

Petition received.