By Evelyn Kimber
In Episode 0905 of The Moth Radio Hour, Ari Handle tells his story of eight years of experimenting on primates as his PhD project on brain function. It is a horror story of sadism and cruelty in which Ari depicts himself as sharing in the suffering along with his first monkey subject, Santiago, because he had times when he felt badly about it. Ari determined that his feeling badly was Santiago's fault, which made him so angry at the monkey that he would pull on Santiago's ear until he screeched, deprive him of fluids to create great thirst, then drink sweet beverage while staring at him, and give juicy treats to his fellow monkey inmates but only dry crackers and nuts to Santiago.
We hear peals of laughter from audience
members throughout the telling of this story.
Ari recognized when he had broken the spirit of Santiago, who then ceased his protest and performed his tasks roboticaly. Ari felt a little badly again, and lost his gusto for brain research, but used his experience to more efficiently break his future monkey research subjects for the next eight years. We learn how "sensitive" Ari is when the dedication page of his 264 page (useless) PhD thesis is to the memory of Santiago.
This was an extraordinary view into the mind of this primate researcher, his emotional conflict and sense of something wrong, yet his twisted and cruel responses and continuation for eight years, and ultimately still not appearing to object to the overall practice of using monkeys for PhD projects.
It feels as if Ari thinks the dedication of his thesis to Santiago is his absolution for what he did to Santiago and all the others. Bizarrely entitled "Don't Fall in Love With Your Monkey," this is a disturbing story of inhumanity that is not at all about love.
Listen to it here (15 minutes):