Following our seven-month undercover investigation, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) strongly disagrees with your claim that the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany, has done a “good job” on its website in explaining its neuroscience research on macaques (see Nature 513, 459–460; 2014).
Our investigation of the macaques' treatment and conditions was undertaken with SOKO-TS, a German animal-protection organization. The BUAV goes to enormous lengths to check facts and is extremely careful only to publish allegations that it believes are demonstrably true.
After rigorously scrutinizing footage and documentation from this investigation, the leading German television station Stern has called into serious question claims and images posted on the Max Planck Institute's website. For example, the institute makes what in our opinion is the bizarre claim on its website that the animals do not suffer.
Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist, says she has seldom seen such sickening experiments. They have no place in a civilised society.
Following the Stern broadcast, the institute has identified a need for improvement in terms of staff organization and agreed to introduce overnight care for the animals following surgery and to improve veterinary attention.
We consider that the use of macaques in these experiments is unnecessary: the continued creative and ethical use of imaging techniques on patients and volunteers is, we believe, far more likely to produce improvements in neurological health.
It is not better PR that animal researchers need, as you argue, but a paradigm shift in thinking, a better appreciation of the suffering they cause animals and a commitment to genuine transparency.