Celebrities and scientists, including actress Joanna Lumley and leading primatologist Jane Goodall, have joined a campaign to save 24 monkeys facing “cruel and futile” experiments in Sweden.

They have signed a 40,000-name petition calling on the Karolinska Institute to halt the research and release the animals from the Astrid Fagraeus laboratory.

Joanna Lumley and Jane Goodall.
Joanna Lumley, left, and Jane Goodall (Andrew Milligan/PA/Nick Ut/AP)

Other petitioners include comedian Alexei Sayle, Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan, American pop star Moby, and evolutionary biologist Professor Marc Bekoff, from the University of Colorado.

The 24 rhesus macaques were supplied by a primate breeder in the US for a malaria study.

Claire Palmer, director of the international anti-vivisection group Animal Justice Project, which organised the petition, said: “Whilst we are against all animal experiments, primate experiments are particularly unpopular, as is clear by our celebrity and public support on this campaign.

A Rhesus macaque.
Campaigners are calling for Rhesus macaques to be released from Karolinska Institute (Manish Swarup/AP)

“Animal Justice Project urges Sweden to immediately end the import and use of primates for research and to spare the 24 rhesus monkeys who are earmarked for cruel and futile research.”

The campaigners have accused the Swedish scientists of contravening EU law on the grounds that likely harm to the monkeys far outweighs any potential benefit to human medicine.

Macaque monkeys are largely immune to the common form of human malaria, it is alleged.