Basic research on primates in Bremen

Basic research on non-human primates (these include for example macaques, marmosets, vervets and baboons) is a topic of repeated heated discussions.

At the University of Bremen and since 1998, the neurobiologist Andreas Kreiter undertakes reseach on rhesus monkeys (a type of macaques) in order to examine basic brain processes and to make progress in the treatment of epilepsy and in the control of prostheses (so-called neuroprosthetics). From the beginning, his experiments in the context of the research project on “Spatio-temporal Dynamics of Cognitive Processes in the Mammalian Brain” were accompanied by massive protests on the part of animal rights activists.

After 10 years of ongoing research, Kreiter’s regularly required application for continuing his research on macaques was rejected in 2008 by the Bremen Senator for Labour, Women, Health, Youth and Social Matters due to ethical concerns. Kreiter appealed against the decision claiming it was inconsistent with the constitutional right of freedom of research.

The Administrative Court issued a preliminary injunction allowing Kreiter to continue his experiments only until the expiration of two months after notification of the decision on his objection. Moreover, the court decreed that in continuing the experiments, the macaques stock as it on average existed in 2008 (28 animals), and the number of rats allowed in 2005 should not be exceeded.

Kreiter’s objection failed: The Bremen health authority decided in August 2009 in favour of the protection of animals and against the freedom of research, since the distress of animals was too intense for the experiments to be considered ethically defensible. Consequently, Kreiter together with the University of Bremen filed a suit before the Administrative Court against the limitation of the freedom of research and pointed out that the animal welfare standards at the University of Bremen were ideal.

The Administrative Court of Bremen partially accepted Kreiter’s action in May 2010 and held that the approval agency was to decide about it again, based on an examination of the distress of animals and the importance of the research project. In a decree in June 2011, animal testing was permitted preliminary until 30 November 2011. In an appeal hearing in December 2012, Bremen's Administrative Appeals Tribunal came to the conclusion that Kreiter’s animal experiments on rhesus monkeys do not violate the provisions of the German animal welfare act. Ultimately, on 20 January 2014, the Federal Administrative Court dismissed with prejudice an objection against the Appeals Tribunal’s order. Hence, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen would have been obliged to permit the litigious experiments.

Pressemitteilung zum Beschluss des Verwaltungsgerichts Bremen vom 18. Juni 2010 Online Version (German)

Pressemitteilung des Oberverwaltungsgerichts Bremen zum Urteil vom 11. Dezember 2012 Online Version (German)

Pressemitteilung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts zum Beschluss vom 20. Januar 2014 Online Version (German)

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