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Monkey World News

Dr Alison Cronin praises makers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Monday 25th July 2011

Monkey World boss Dr Alison Cronin has praised the makers of a Hollywood science fiction film for their sensitive portrayal of animal experimentation.

In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the latest in the Planet of the Apes franchise, scientists searching for an Alzheimer’s cure create a new breed of ape with human-like intelligence.

It has renewed the debate on the ethics of animal experimentation and sparked demands from leading scientists for new rules to prevent humanising animals, amid fears injecting primates with human cells could lead to the creation of monsters.

Dr Cronin, director of Monkey World, praised the film, which stars Andy Serkis, for resisting the urge to use animal actors in the movie and its sensitive portrayal of research on primates.

She also hit out at campaigners who argue primates should be protected because of their similarities to humans, insisting that endangered apes should be protected in their own right.

“The ethical way in which this film was made is unique for Hollywood,” Dr Cronin said. “The makers went out of their way to make sure no animals were used in production, instead relying on CGI.

“We have rescued chimps from Hollywood before and it would have been easy for them to go out and hire orphaned chimps, but they didn’t do that. Andy Serkis is also a friend to Monkey World and does amazing work supporting great apes.

“I believe the film is also quite sensitive in the way it points out the tragedy that primates can face in terms of biomedical experimentation.”

Dr Alison Cronin with a woolly monkey

While talking chimpanzees and gun-toting gorillas are currently confined to movies, academics claim the dangers associated with animal-human experiments are real.

The film coincides with a report this week from the Academy of Medical Sciences, which says society needs to set rules before scientists begin experiments the public would find unacceptable.

Report co-author Professor Thomas Baldwin, said: “The fear is that if you start putting very large numbers of human brain cells into the brains of primates suddenly, you might transform the primate into something that has some of the capacities that we regard as distinctively human.

“These possibilities that are at the moment largely explored in fiction, we need to start thinking about now.”

Last year, more than one million experiments were carried out on genetically modified animals – mostly mice and fish carrying human DNA.

These transgenetic laboratory animals are used to develop new drugs for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, or to investigate the role of individual genes.

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