Tear At The Jacket
I don’t want to write this. I’ve known about it for months. I’ve
known that it had to be done. No one else can do this and it has to be
done. No one else knows.
Finding the truth has a price. Knowledge can be power, but it can also
be pain. But mainly knowledge carries with it responsibility. The
responsibility can be shirked for awhile, but it can’t be escaped
Sometimes there is a name; usually there is at least a
number, or some identification. But sometimes all identity is lost.
The Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University (MCV)
is one of many laboratories that use rhesus monkeys in drug addiction
experiments. One of the projects at MCV is among the oldest in the U.S.
– dragging on for 30 consecutive years and currently squanders over
$400,000 per year.
According to USDA reports filed by MCV, the rhesus monkeys used in this
experiment suffer from unrelieved pain and distress because they often
experience the throes of drug withdrawal. Yet, this is not the only
agony that they endure.
Internal documents from MCV reveal that these innocent animals
experience such severe stress that they often become self-abusive.
Rhesus monkey M1390 endured a lifetime of suffering at MCV:
Arrived years ago and from the
beginning had difficulty adjusting to the lab. Throughout the years
several attempts were made to address his behavior problems using
enrichment and various experimental protocols. He would show
improvement for a period but would return to bouts of stereotypic
behavior including aggression and self injurious behavior. Due to
recent indications that his behavior had worsened, the PI opted to
remove the animal from study and request euthanasia.
Others have less detailed descriptions. Monkey 1463 died on December 28,
2007, “nose was pressed into his face may have died from suffocation.”
These two monkeys are not the only ones that suffered at this lab, but
the others have been robbed of the minimal uniqueness of a name or
number. In their quest for secrecy the officials of this lab removed
many details from the documents which describe the animals whose lives
play out inside MCV’s cages. I can tell you what happened, and even
when, but I can’t say where or to whom. The statements which are
scattered through the pages of these monkeys’ lives are unidentified and
so apply to either none of these primates, or to all of them. I can’t
The words used to describe one primate: “cage is covered, lots of
banging, chewing on Jacket. Gums bleeding. Startles very easily.” Other
phrases are no less disturbing: “took too much amphetamine agitated.”
The seemingly endless days of addiction experimentation roll on for one
monkey: “12/1 not working well, 12/3 not working well, 12/10 plucking on
arm; 12/11 plucking on arm not working well; 12/12 pump malfunctioning
dripping onto monkey; 12/18 not eating; 12/19 not eating; 12/20 not
eating.” And the records for another animal are no less troubling: “12/3
threw up; 12/4 agitated during drug session; 12/6 loose in cage, zipper
broken 12/7 loose in cage again no IV line sedated, throwing up post
sedation; 12/10 plucking tail.”
These words do not fully describe the kind of life that primates should
have. There are no trees. There is no sunshine. There is no play, no
companionship, no real life. These things have been replaced by
addiction and suffering. Intelligent, sensitive animals have been
reduced to the status of laboratory apparatus. They have been made into
devices to measure the effects of addictive drugs.
How do these animals react to this insanity that we have visited upon
them? How do they respond to losing everything that is natural to them?
What do they do when trees, leaves, and sunshine are replaced by
stainless steel, fluorescent lights, and IV catheters? Natural plant
foods are replaced by monkey chow. Natural sources of water like lakes
and streams are replaced by automatic watering systems. And the most
unnatural aspect of this environment is the jacket that these animals
are forced to wear. This device is used to protect the apparatus that
delivers the addictive drugs. How do they react?
“Hair plucked from side of head . . . again plucking hair on head . . .
keeping head and side of neck plucked bald.” “Banging, shaking cage,
tearing at jacket. . . . Ripping jacket.” The picture that these words
conjure up is an animal that is raging against the cage, fighting the
pain, not giving up. This monkey is still trying to end the suffering.
This animal still has hope.
Not all are so lucky. Years of confinement can break the spirit of even
the strongest. When addictive drugs like amphetamines are forced upon
these victims, their minds are distorted beyond a point of no return.
They lose their minds, their will to fight, they lose hope. They have
nothing left. The words that describe these animals are quieter, less
fierce, inactive. They have surrendered.
“Holding tail and lying down. . . . Holding tail and lying down. . . .
Still holding tail. . . . Lying down. . . . Lying down. . . . Lying
down.” There is no hope here, no will to live, no fierceness. Life
continues without living. We have taught them despair, misery,
desolation and hopelessness. We have shared our mental illnesses with
them. The only thing that we haven’t taught them is suicide. I suppose
that we want to ensure that their suffering is inescapable.
We have visited our self-abuse on them and now they return it to us.
Their psyches are so deprived, their suffering is so absolute, their
minds so tortured that we have even destroyed their ability to move.
“Holding tail and lying down.” They try vainly to give themselves some
comfort. They hold onto the only thing available to them that is not
artificial – themselves. This is abject victimhood.
Now you know. This information, these horrible words, these terrifying
facts all come from one lab in Virginia. This lab is not unique. Monkeys
– rhesus, squirrel monkeys and others are subjected to the throes of
these and other addictive drugs at Harvard, Wake Forest, McLean
Hospital, University of Michigan, on and on and on. Tens of millions of
dollars, hundreds of monkeys, decades of despair.
And now we have something in common – you and I. We have a choice to
make. Which monkey will you be? Either choice could be justified. Action
or desolation, anger or depression, giving up or fighting back. We can
either lie on the floor or we can tear at the jacket.
Knowledge has a price. The choice is not easy. These words are painful.
The images that they conjure can sap your will. They can bring up rivers
of tears. They can drown your soul in waves of desolation. We can become
another set of victims, shipwrecked in our pain for these animals. But
desolation will not empty these cages. Despair will not lead to freedom.
Anguish will not result in liberty.
But anger will. Tear at the jacket.
If you can only write, send letters to the people who visit this pain on
these animals. You have a right to express your opinion, because your
tax dollars pay for these experiments. Demand that the experiments end.
Insist that the funding be directed to clinical research. If you need to
do more – protest. Organize activists to take to the streets. The
vivisectors that perpetrate these abuses do not enjoy seeing their names
on picket signs. If you can do more, do so. Investigate labs, find the
truth, and expose it. Speak up. Be a voice for the animals. Give voice
to their suffering, and the pain that it brings to you.
The choice is yours. Cling to hope or give up. Fight for what is right,
or allow the suffering to spread. Stand on the sidelines or take to the
Lie down, or tear at the jacket.
donation will help us to continue fighting for the freedom of these
If you want to help us save primates from this kind of
torture, please join us as we fight for the freedom of all non-human
primates, and all animals in laboratories. Write letters, send
emails, organize protests – express your outrage in whatever way you
can. All of us that care must act, for we are their only hope.
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