Tipu Aziz

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Professor Tipu Aziz

Tipu Aziz is a professor of neurosurgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and a lecturer at Magdalen College, Oxford and the Imperial College London medical school. He specialises in the study and treatment of Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, dystonia, spasmodic torticollis, fixed abnormal posture of the neck, tremor, and intractable neuropathic pain. [1] [2]

Aziz came to public prominence in the UK in February 2006 when he spoke out in favour of the use of animals in medical research to several hundred demonstrators during a rally held by Pro-Test, a new British group set up to promote the construction by Oxford University of a new biomedical centre in which research on animals will be conducted. [3] Aziz is one of two Oxford neurosurgeons who sit on the Pro-Test committee. [1]

He came to public attention again in March 2006 when he defended the use of animals in cosmetics testing, which is banned in Britain. His comments were described as "unfortunate" by one colleague. [4]

Early life and education

Aziz was born in East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh into what The Guardian called a "medical dynasty." [5] He arrived in Britain at the age of 17 with just three O-levels, but after passing A-levels, he studied neurophysiology at University College, London, where he became interested in deep brain stimulation.

He went on to study for a doctorate at Manchester University, where he began his research involving animals.

Research interests

His work involves inducing Parkinsonian symptoms in monkeys, either surgically or using drugs, then switching off the symptoms using electrodes he has implanted in their brains. During development of his techniques he admits to having used around 30 monkeys in tests over 20 years, and believes that as many as 40,000 people around the world have benefitted from the techniques. [2] The technique, which Aziz pioneered in the UK, has been shown to alleviate symptoms in human sufferers of Parkinson's disease and dystonia. Patients have electrodes permanently implanted in their brains, wires are attached under the skin to a brain pacemaker, and a battery inserted into the chest.

The Guardian writes that some patients have described the surgery as "miraculous." In a 2006 BBC Two documentary Monkeys, Rats and Me: Animal Testing, animal rights philosopher Peter Singer described Aziz's research as "justifiable" on utilitarian grounds. [3]

Aziz has said that his future research interests will focus on viral, gene, and stem cell therapy to treat Parkinson's and similar movement disorders.

Animal testing

Animal testing

Main articles
Alternatives to animal testing
Animal testing
Animal testing on invertebrates
Animal testing on frogs
Animal testing on non-human primates
Animal testing on rabbits
Animal testing on rodents
History of animal testing
History of model organisms

Biomedical Research
Animal rights
Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act
Animal welfare
Great Ape research ban
International trade in primates

Controversial experiments
Cambridge University primates
Pit of despair
Silver Spring monkeys
Unnecessary Fuss

Charles River Laboratories, Inc.
Covance · Harlan
Huntingdon Life Sciences
UK lab animal suppliers

Americans for Medical Progress
Foundation For Biomedical Research
Boyd Group · BUAV
Physicians Committee
Primate Freedom Project
Pro-Test · SPEAK
Research Defence Society
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty

Colin Blakemore · Carl Cohen
Simon Festing · Tipu Aziz

Animal testing
Animal rights
Animal welfare

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Aziz has been vocal in support of animal testing and his criticism of the animal liberation movement, calling them "misinformed and sometimes illiterate anti-vivisectionists who adopt terrorist tactics" and who "[undermine] the process of democracy" through "intimidation." Britain has "probably the most violent and absurd animal rights movement in the world", he told The Guardian. "The problem with British society is it has a humanoid perception of animals that's almost cartoon-like." [6]

On February 25, 2006, he spoke out in favour of animal testing at a rally in Oxford organized by Pro-Test in support of the construction of a new biomedical research center, which will conduct experiments on animals, including primates. Pro-Test was formed to counter SPEAK, an animal rights organisation aiming to end vivisection in the UK.

In an interview published on March 4, 2005, Aziz controversially spoke out in favour of testing cosmetics on animals, a practice banned in the UK since 1998 and due to be banned across the European Union by 2009. He said that to argue cosmetics testing is wrong is "a very strange argument," and that "[p]eople talk about cosmetics being the ultimate evil. But beautifying oneself has been going on since we were cavemen. If it's proven to reduce suffering through animal tests, it's not wrong to use them. To say cosmetics is an absolute evil is absurd." [7]

Other scientists who use animals in research have "distanced themselves" from Aziz's remarks. Clive Page, a researcher at the University of London, said: "I don't think we can justify using animals for cosmetics research. [Prof Aziz], like myself and a few others who talk out about this have worked very hard to try and explain to the public why we do medical research on animals and why it's still necessary. To muddy the waters by bringing back an issue of using animals for something that's not actually approved in the UK is perhaps unfortunate." [8]

Simon Festing, director of the pro-vivisection lobby group Research Defence Society said of Aziz: "He's not involved in cosmetic testing himself, [Britain's] not involved in cosmetic testing, it's been banned here. There's no movement from the scientific community or the cosmetics industry to have it brought back in. I can't see it being particularly relevant apart from being his personal view." [9]


  1. "The Pro-Test Committee", Pro-Test website, retrieved May 16, 2006
  2. Adam Wishart, "What Felix the monkey taught me about animal research", Evening Standard, November 25, 2006.
  3. Gareth Walsh, "Father of animal activism backs monkey testing", The Sunday Times, November 26, 2006.