Ethical Dilemma of Using Monkeys

Animal research in Tokyo should be gone off-shore

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

At small private universities in the Tokyo area, I taught international business until 2019. The class consisted of a variety of students from Asia. They were Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnam, and Indonesia. To broaden the scope of research, I gave them a research topic with their own choice and most students turned in 10-page research papers. During last decades, I noticed that young university students aged 18 to 20 became intensely interested in beauty care. They spent a good portion of time investigating cosmetic firms such as Shiseido, an established beauty giant, in Tokyo.

Upon receiving a research paper, I asked the class if they were aware of animal-testing laboratory to develop a new cosmetic. Most cosmetic R&D facilities use money for a skin test. My students became silent as if it had been around for decades so it is sort of negligent. Should it be banned?

Last July, it came to my attention that in America and Europe, research on monkey for biomedical testing is increasing unpopular. The Economist, a British magazine, published a story of “Primate Research, Monkey business” on July 24, 2021. Researchers and campaigners in Western countries debate on whether primate research is permissible. The story raised the discussion point, if the use of genetically modified monkey is ethically and legally permissible.

In America and Europe, animal-rights activists argue that no animal should be used for a medical research. Firstly, they are not given informed consent. Any testing procedure accompanying a possible suffering with side-effects should be done in consensual trials. Second, the number of monkeys in research has been flat or declining for the last five years because of the activist movement. Imports control of primates from China to the United States dropped the number from more than 20,000 at peak in 2016 to near zero by the end of 2019. The EU has promised to end all animal research. American lawmakers encourage scientists to move away from reliance on animals. The third supporting argument is on the alternative to the use of animals. The testing can be substituted by a combination of in vitro studies, computer simulations, and human trials, Julia Bains, a scientist in an activist group, suggests. Allyson Bennett, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, the use of animal with no set goal has little value. Which side should the city of Tokyo take, ban or continue?

There is a lab in Kawasaki near Tokyo, the Central Institute for Experimental Animals. Researchers at the lab developed a line of genetically modified marmosets and along with a scientist from RIKEN Center of Brain Science, they are testing on the higher cognitive functions and the neurodegenerative diseases. The testing should be banned and tnimal experiment on primate should be moved to off-shore, possibly to China.

The public is diverging to the attitudes animal rights protection in Tokyo. There are at least three reasons to support this. Four years ago, I attended a cyber security seminar at a small university I worked for in Chiba, adjunct prefecture of Tokyo. The university administrated hosed a presentation of the Chiba police department on cyber-security. An animal activist from an unspecified country attacked a whale harbor of Tateyama, a most southern part of Chiba. The computer system of the whaling NPOs had been shut down for a while. This is a realistic threat to disturb the public.

The EU has pushed a Japanese farmer to protect chickens for better facility and modernize the feeding trays for their nutrition. A group of farmers didn’t want to spend the extra money so they consulted with a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Agriculture. Farmers bribed an ex-lawmakers at the Ministry with $20,000. He should be punished for public scrutiny.

Thirdly, Japan, as well as Europe and the United States, can buy the medical products from China. If China develops a proven biomedical drugs and treatment, the rest of the world can treat illness such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Neuroscientific outcome should be similar among humans whichever the country develops it first.

By looking outside the windows of my study room, I reflect the time with students to reconsider the animal testing on cosmetics and at the present day neuroscience and disease. WHO estimates that neurological disorders affect at least a billion people worldwide. The testing is going on with accordance to the domestic norms in ethical and legal boundaries. If unethical and illegal, it should be move off-shore. The untolerable use of monkey will be meeting a severe critic from animal-rights protectionists.

Taught marketing @ universities in Tokyo for a decade, ex-I-banker & mgmt consultant @ Kurt Salm (Accenture Technologies now), Georgia Tech educated