June 2000


Shamrock (GB) Ltd, Britain's only primate importation and quarantine facility, announced on 10 March that its primate facility would be 'permanently closed in the coming weeks'. Shamrock has been the target of animal rights activists for more than two decades and the focus of a particularly intense 15 month campaign that began in November 1998.

Established in 1954, Shamrock supplied monkeys to vivisection laboratories across Europe. During its 40 year history, it traded in many species including baboons, macaques, grivet, patas and squirrel monkeys. It was Europe's largest supplier of primates for vivisection, holding up to 350 monkeys at any one time.

Until January 1993, Shamrock dealt mostly in wild caught primates. Then, public outcry generated by an undercover investigation by the BUAV, led the company and its owner, Charles River, to announce that they would stop importing wild caught animals and would deal only in those captive bred. From this point on they imported macaques from breeding centres in China, Mauritius and the Philippines, although no laws exist in these countries to prevent restocking from the wild. For up to two months the monkeys held under quarantine at Shamrock would be subjected to x-rays, weighing, injections and tests for contagious diseases, before being sold to laboratories. Customers have included Huntingdon Life Sciences, SmithKline Beecham, GlaxoWellcome, Porton Down and the Universities of Glasgow, Oxford, Manchester, London and Cambridge. Over 2,500 monkeys a year passed through Shamrocks gates and on to vivisection laboratories.

Shamrock's closure will have a dramatic effect on the number of macaques used in vivisection in Britain. Although some labs import directly from the country of origin and quarantine on site, many facilities simply do not have the space or resources to do so. Most of the 2,467 macaques used in British laboratories in 1998 came through Shamrock. As the number of monkeys used in research has declined for many years, most labs will be reluctant to spend research money on constructing primate quarantine facilities. The demise of Shamrock does not mark the end of the vivisection industry, but it is another chip in its weak foundation. We must use this victory to fuel the fight for the total abolition of vivisection, knowing we are one step closer.

Tony Vernelli of Save the Shamrock Monkeys campaign.


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