Opinions over the use of nonhuman primates in research among Indonesian students
- Joakim Hagelin
Dept Neuroscience, Div Comparative Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 14 (2004), 95-97.
The use of nonhuman primates in research remains a controversial issue across many countries in the world. Nonhuman primates are used in many areas of medical research, e.g. behaviour, neuroscience, infectious diseases and vaccinology (King 1988). The main reasons for using nonhuman primates is their close evolutionary relationship to humans, which ensure high fidelity models with the highest discriminative abilities. The opinions over primate research vary from country to country (Goodman and Check 2002). In opinion surveys, the use of nonhuman primates in research have consistently had lower proportion of acceptance compared to phylogenetically lower ranking species, e.g. small rodents (Hagelin et al. 2003). Nonhuman primates are still common in the fauna of Indonesia. There are several issues of concern related to nonhuman primates for individual people and for the country as a whole. Among them are ecotourism (Fuentes 2002), crop raiding behaviour (Fuentes 2002), conservation of extinct species (Hiddleston and Smith 1982), and breeding centres for laboratories and zoological gardens (Bowden and Smith 1992). As far as I know, there has not been any opinion survey published about the use of nonhuman primates in research in Indonesia.
The aim of the present study was to elucidate opinions to the use of nonhuman primates in research among Indonesian students. Gender, age, contact with animals and experience of animals in research served as dependent variables.
Materials and methods
A total of 600 students filled in a questionnaire. The questionnaire used was a slightly modified version of a questionnaire used previously, and can be found in Hagelin et al. (1997). The context was biomedical research. Subjects were from Faculty of Animal Science (n=131), Faculty of Veterinary Sciences (course: Veterinary Medical Technician) (n=103), Faculty of Forestry (course: Forest Resource Conservation) (n=13) at Bogor Agricultural University; Faculty of Animal Science (n=111), Agriculture Technology (n=84), Electrical Engineering (n=49), and Department of Tourism Faculty of Letters (n=42) at Udayana University (Bali); Management (n=34) at Indonesian Manajement University (Handayani - Denpasar - Bali), School of Dentistry (n=33) at University of Mahasaraswati (Denpasar - Bali). There were 286 females and 314 males. Their mean age was 20.7 years (SD=2.0). Subjects were classified in two groups according to age in the results section: < 21 years and ³ 22 years. Even though the intention was that all respondents should answer all items of the questionnaire, not all respondents did answer all items and therefore the number of responses vary slightly. This may be exemplified by that 598 out of 600 individuals answered the question on acceptance of species in Figure 1, but not all of those stated gender. Therefore percentages may differ slightly in the results. SPSS version 10.0 was used for statistics. The likelihood ratio was used to measure differences between subgroups.
Overall, a proportion of 61% accepted the use of nonhuman primates in research (Figure 1 - at end of paper).
Description of respondents
A proportion of 26% was brought up in the countryside, 36% in small town (population <100 000) and 38% had an urban background. Furthermore, 5% were vegetarian, and 6% stated that they were animal rights activists, and 5% had at some point of time signed a petition against the use of animals in research. A proportion of 14% reported practical experience of the use of animal in research through teaching, and 60% had regular contact with animals. A proportion of 78% found it morally acceptable to use animals in research, and 86% found animal research of significant importance to be able to treat human disease. There were no differences in accepting the use of nonhuman primates in research according to upbringing (rural, small town, city) and eating habits.
Table 1. Comparison of respondents accepting vs. not accepting the use of nonhuman primates in biomedical research. Percentages.
Category: Accept; Do not accept; probability (p) of significant difference
Gender - Females 57.6/61.0; Males 42.4/39;. NS
Years of age (SD): 20.9 (2.2); 20.5 (1.6); 0.046
Regular contact with animals: 60.7; 60.3; NS
AR-activist 5.8; 7.7; NS
Petition, action against AR 4.3; 6.3; NS
Morally accept animal use 94.1; 58.6; 0.000
Treating human diseases 91.0; 82.1; 0.006
Educational experience 17.2; 7.7; 0.001
There was no difference according to gender on the items about contact with animals, animal activism, treating human disease, practical experience of animal research. A higher proportion of males than females had signed a petition against animal research (p<0.01). A higher proportion of females than males found animal research immoral (p<0.047), and disagreed with the statement that "the typical animal researcher cares about laboratory animals but feels that research is needed" (p<0.033).
A higher proportion of older students than younger students had regular contact with animals (p<0.001). A higher proportion of younger students than older students considered animal research immoral (p<0.003). There was no difference according to age on the items about animal activism, signing petition, treating human disease, experience of animal research and agreeing to the statement: "the typical animal researcher cares about laboratory animals but feels that research is needed".
Contact with animals
A higher proportion of those who reported regular contact with animals also stated that they were animal activists (p<0.007). There was no difference according to contact with animals for the items about signing a petition, believing animal research is immoral, treating human disease and agreeing to the statement: "the typical animal researcher cares about laboratory animals but feels that research is needed".
Practical experience of animal research
A lower proportion of those who reported experience of animal research believed animal research was immoral (p<0.004). There was no difference according to experience of animal research for the items about animal activism, signing petition, treating human disease, and agreeing to the statement: "the typical animal researcher cares about laboratory animals but feels that research is needed".
The use of nonhuman primates in research differs from the use of most other species used on a number of factors: taxonomic status, they have a long lifespan and spend long time in captivity, many are re-used in multiple protocols throughout
their lives. Moral and legal obligations require that nonhuman primates are used in research only when necessary, and when used they should be treated as humanely as possible. In practice, it is however difficult to determine whether all research conducted is scientifically justified, since there currently is no generally applied formula for such ethical decisions. These decisions may depend on factors like culture, economics, religion, and tradition. These factors differ between geographic locations. Peoples' moral judgment is a result of tradition and mature reflection. The openness for the needs of others and the ability to answer to them depends on the relationship between humans and animals which has been built for a very long period of time. This will in turn create an intuitive feeling of what can reasonably be done to humans and animals. The ability to make ethical and moral decisions is based upon this experience. When considering ethical concerns about the use of nonhuman primates in research one can distinguish between i) fundamental moral objections to the human use of animals generally, or ii) concern about the use of primate species due to their phylogenetic closeness to humans.
The present results suggested that there was a higher proportion found animal research of importance to treat human disease, than who morally accepted the use of nonhuman primates in research. This result is in line with the result of a recent NOP poll (NOP 2003), where some respondents who agreed that nonhuman primate experiments could be reliably applied to people nevertheless did not find experimentation on nonhuman primates morally acceptable.
A higher proportion of those who reported practical experience of the use of animals in research accepted the use of nonhuman primates in research and found animal research morally acceptable. More training may however not automatically result in a more positive view of the issue of concern, but lead to a more decided and differentiated opinion.
The proportion of acceptance among Indonesian students on the use of nonhuman primates in research was somewhat lower compared to Swedish and Kenyan medical and veterinary students (Hagelin et al. 2000). There was a difference according to age and gender about morally accepting animals in research. These reported differences was in line with what has usually been the case in previous surveys (Miller and Kimmel 2001, Hagelin et al. 2003).
The present study suggested that a number of factors may influence the opinions of people. There may also be other factors that should be assessed in further studies. Quantitative opinion surveys may frame the way subjects respond. In depth studies may confirm whether the reasons behind people's attitudes represent the full diversity of ethical issues raised by the use of nonhuman primates in research for people in Indonesia.
Bowden, D.M., Smith, O.A. (1992) Conservationally sound assurance of primate supply and diversity. ILAR News 34: 53-56.
Fuentes, A. (2002) Monkeys, humans and politics in the Mentawai Islands: No simple solutions in a complex world. In: Fuentes, A., Wolfe, L.D., eds. Primates face to face: conservation implications of human-nonhuman primate interconnections. pp 187-207. (New York: Cambridge University Press).
Goodman, S., Check, E. (2002) The great primate debate. Nature 417: 684-687.
Hagelin, J., Carlsson, H.E., Hau, J. (1997) Medical students' views on the use of animals in biomedical research. Scandinavian Journal of Laboratory Animal Science 24: 151-160.
Hagelin, J., Suleman, M.A., Carlsson, H.E., Hau, J. (2000) Swedish and Kenyan medical and veterinary students accept primate use in medical research. Journal of Medical Primatology 29: 431-432.
Hagelin, J., Carlsson, H.E., Hau, J. (2003) An overview of surveys on how people view animal experimentation: some factors that may influence the outcome. Public Understanding of Science 12: 67-81.
Hiddleston, W.A., Smith, O.A. (1982) Report of World Health Organization (WHO) mission to determine the feasibility of establishing a primate breeding programme in Indonesia. Unpublished.
King, F.A., Yarbrough, C.J., Andersen, C., Gordon, T.P., Gould, K.G. (1988) Primates. Science 240: 1475-1482.
Miller, J.D., Kimmel, L.G. (2001) Biomedical communications: purposes, audiences, strategies. (New York: Academic Press).
NOP (2003) NOP poll commissioned by Animal Aid, April 11-27. Available at: http://www.animalaid.org.uk/press/0306prim.htm
Figure 1: Accumulated proportional acceptance of use of different species in biomedical research based on phylogenetic rank. Percentages. N=598. (as pdf figure)
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