Baboons kept in ‘barron prison’
The baboons that escaped in Sydney yesterday are bred for medical researchers who use them to pioneer new treatments for illnesses.
The three primates - one male and two females - managed to get free while being transported to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in the inner west.
The male was on his way to have a vasectomy, while the two females were said to be there to keep him company.
An investigation is now under way after the bizarre incident that left people and authorities scrambling.
A NSW Health spokesperson said the baboons were returned to the breeding colony at Wallacia in Sydney's west late last night and it was understood the vasectomy was not performed.
Animals are bred specifically for animal research at the National Health and Medical Research Council baboon colony in Wallacia.
A spokeswoman from the Sydney Local Health District told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2016 that the baboons were used for research on treatments for conditions like pre-eclampsia, complicated diabetes, kidney disorders and vascular diseases.
But the article voiced concerns that "Frankenstein-like surgical experiments" were being done on primates that may have included an apparent cover-up of a kidney transplant from a pig to a baboon.
PETA's Emily Rice said like human prisoners of war, the baboons seized the moment to break free and run.
"But unlike human wars, this is a one-sided affair where the baboons have done nothing but exist and we have locked them up, denying them any semblance of a real life," she said.
"These intelligent, aware, feeling beings deserve to be retired after this bid for freedom, not incarcerated again.
"Hundreds of monkeys are bred and used for experiments in Australia every year.
"They may be poisoned, cut open, electrocuted, or infected with deadly diseases in barren, windowless prisons."
Animal Justice Party upper house member Emma Hurst told news.com.au the three baboons that escaped represented the "hidden faces behind animal experimentation".
"I think all medical experimentation is problematic, you are essentially forcing painful procedures on animals against their will," Ms Hurst said.
"But we know how intelligent primates are, and how close they are to human beings, and to think about the fear they were probably feeling, even when they escaped, is really quite tragic."
Ms Hurst said many of the experiments were "thoughtless and irrelevant" and came from a belief in human domination over animals.
"We do whatever we want to their bodies against their wills, it's just hideous," she said.
There is also little information on how many animals are being experimented on and what happens to them.
"The use of animals in experiments has to be one of the most hidden industries," Ms Hurst said. "We are left to use our imagination as to what these animals are being forced to go through."
Humane Research Australia CEO, Helen Marston, said taxpayers were funding the research through the National Health and Medical Research Council.
"Not only is this a cruel and unethical industry, it is a huge waste of precious resources - funding and time that would be better spent on research methods that are applicable to humans - not a pseudo-model of a human that is more likely to lead to erroneous data," she said.
NSW Health has been contacted for comment.