One of my favorite things about being a part of the Care2 community is seeing our incredible members get behind issues they really care about. Take for example Care2 member Mary Elizabeth who recently launched a petition to stop the torture of baby monkeys in a new anxiety and depression study being conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
When you read the details of the experiment, it’s hard not to cringe. First, 20 infant rhesus macaques will be separated from their mothers within 24 hours of birth. For the next month, the infant monkeys will be raised alone is a shoebox-sized incubator with their only comfort being a cloth-covered inanimate object. Known as “surrogate peer-rearing,” this technique has been widely known for creating heightened anxiety in young monkeys.
At approximately two-weeks-old, the babies will then only be removed from their solitary existence to be frightened by various stimuli including human intruders, unfamiliar monkeys and live snakes. At six weeks of age, each baby monkey will then be paired with another isolated monkey only to be ripped from their new companion whenever they are exposed to frightening stimuli to further traumatize them.
In order to track the effects of their ongoing experiments, which have been known to cause monkeys to cry out, cower and clutch the back of their cages in fear, the babies will be forced to undergo stressful and painful medical tests. The study ultimately ends with the 20 initial baby monkey subjects and 20 other mother-raised monkeys of the same age, being given a lethal injection before their first birthday so their brains can be analyzed.
Not surprisingly there has been a flurry of controversy over the merits of the study and its use of torture. Even the school’s bioethicist Robert Streiffer says he “wasn’t convinced that we will learn anything useful” from the animals’ suffering. Pascaline Clerc, senior director of Animal Research Issues at The Humane Society of the United States, is also against the study saying:
Countless maternal deprivation studies have been performed in various species…and whatever human benefits came from these experiments was at far too high of a cost in animal suffering. Anxiety disorders and depression are serious conditions that need to be studied and should not be left untreated. However, I am extremely skeptical about the scientific value of maternal deprivation experiments for the development of new therapies.
Clerc instead advocates for”brain-like” computer chips, like the latest SyNAPSE program, that allow scientists to better understand the human brain without relying on cruel animal studies like this for brain research:
If the United States wants to remain a world leader in research, we need to rethink the way we conduct scientific research, and this starts by investing in innovative approaches such as SyNAPSE program, and by ending the funding of painful, distressful and unnecessary animal experiments.
If you want to help stand up for these helpless baby monkeys, please join Mary Elizabeth in sending a clear message to UW-Madison that torturing baby monkey for research has no place in modern science.