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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 10 Aug 2008 Issue

Life In A Box

By Michael Budkie

During 2006 over 62,000 non-human primates were the victims of experimentation in the United States. These primates are spread out between dozens of universities, contract laboratories and government facilities. One of the most common varieties of experimentation involves drug addiction experiments. This experimentation often subjects squirrel monkeys, rhesus monkeys, baboons, or others primates to decades of isolation, confinement, and agony.

It is difficult to comprehend what the lives of these victims are like. The enclosures in which these monkeys are housed are listed by medical journals as being 83.3-cm long by 76.2-cm wide by 91.4-cm deep which translates into 33 inches long by 30 inches wide by 36 inches deep. To put yourself in their place you must imagine that your life consists of confinement in a small enclosure which only allows you to take at most one or two short steps in any direction and with just enough height to stand upright. You never have the opportunity to see the sun or breathe fresh air.

This enclosure is barren, made of stainless steel to facilitate cleaning. It contains only a seat of some variety, and a rubber toy. There is nothing else to pass the time, nothing to occupy your mind. The partially open front of this box does not allow you to leave, but does let you see that others like you are in similar rooms nearby. You can talk to, see, and possibly smell them, but you cannot interact with them in any other way.

The loneliness is devastating. You have no interaction with friends or family. You never even have the opportunity to touch another human. You often feel like you are losing your mind. Many of the others that you can see and/or hear behave as though they have lost their minds.

This is your entire life. It ends only when you become ill, likely from septicemia, or some other condition which is a result of the experiment that has totally consumed your life. When death finally comes, it provides your only possibility of escape.

This is the brutal reality of what a monkey experiences in a laboratory. One such laboratory is the University of Michigan. The experiments at this facility have been underway for decades – literally consuming the lives of hundreds of primates. Two University of Michigan researchers, James Woods and Gail Winger, are currently performing drug addiction experiments on macaque monkeys. According to National Institutes of Health websites, these two researchers have squandered over $13 million in federal grants in just the last five years. However, Winger has been federally funded since 1976 and Woods has been funded since 1971.

Almost every health record for the primates at the University of Michigan which was used in addiction experiments lists a time period where the monkeys are ripping out their hair, or worse. Several actually mention multiple incidents of severe self-mutilation. One primate at the U of M is listed as having weight loss due to constant activity relating to psychologically abnormal behavior. Other primates are listed as requiring the amputation of their tails due to lacerations.

Scallywag, one of the U of M primates, is listed as losing weight from the constant activity associated with psychologically abnormal behavior. Another Primate named Clash is listed as having a 12% weight loss of unknown origin. Another rhesus monkey is listed as declining from 6.8 kg to 5.8 kg (15 pounds to 12 ¾ pounds) a 15% weight loss in just 3 months. This animal also has constant muscle contractions, and is hypothermic. It almost sounds as though she is experiencing drug withdrawal. Yet another primate named Data had a weight loss of 10.5% in a short period.

Harpo is listed with 4 incidents of self-mutilation in 5 days during 2006, this after a long history of self-destructive behavior. Eminem wears “long sleeved jacket due to history of self-mutilation.” Scallywag exhibits abnormal behavior when people are in the room. The list goes on and on.

In addition to the social isolation that comes from solitary confinement, these rhesus monkeys wear a nylon jacket to cover a surgically implanted intravenous catheter, which is used to administer addictive drugs. The catheter exits through a site on the primate’s back and is connected to a metal spring arm which is affixed to the rear of the cage. This further limits the ability of the primate to move freely. It is not surprising that these monkeys can be trained to self-administer addictive drugs. Addiction is the only way that they can fight the mind-numbing boredom.

It is clear that laboratory captivity has made these animals psychologically abnormal. The applicability for human medicine of a psychological experiment on a different species of primates is questionable at best when the primates are healthy. Clearly the primates at the University of Michigan in the labs of Winger and Woods are anything but psychologically normal, making these projects essentially meaningless. This is likely due to the conditions in which they live. However, there may be yet another cause.

Many of these animals come from other laboratories that also perform psychological experiments on primates. These facilities include the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU aka Medical College of Virginia), Yerkes Primate center (connected to Emory University) and the National Institutes of Health itself. Emory and VCU also perform drug addiction experiments. It is possible that these primates were used in addiction experiments at other facilities, and were already severely psychologically stressed when they arrived at the University of Michigan. The researchers at the NIH from whom the monkeys were shipped to University of Michigan perform maternal deprivation experiments and alcohol experiments on primates. It is entirely likely that these unfortunate animals suffered through conditions within these other labs that were sufficient to cost them their sanity, and then were transferred to the University of Michigan, and continued in similar or worse experiments. The lives of these primates are long, some have now endured psychological and addiction experiments since at least 1990. They have undergone decades of drug addiction and psychological agony.

Please join our effort to end the abuse of these animals before any more monkeys lose their lives to the abysmal loneliness and psychological devastation that results from life in a stainless steel box.

Source: saen@saenonline.org 

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