The Primate Experimentation Scandal:
The Primate Experimentation Scandal:
What happens to primates during experimentation?
While the specific procedures utilized during many different kinds of experimentation vary based on the individual project, some equipment and procedures are common to different types of experimentation. Primate restraint chairs are utilized in many different types of experimentation including projects in both drug addiction and neural information processing (brain mapping).
Many different studies often confine primates to restraint chairs (see pictures of restraint chairs on our website www.saenonline.org ). Restraint chairs vary in design, but are typically constructed out of metal tubing and/or Plexiglas. One part of the restraint chair confines the primate around the neck and another part of the device restrains the primate around the waist. The restrained primate has little freedom of movement. Some projects confine primates in this way for as much as 104 consecutive hours (see appendix A). This confinement procedure can be severely stressful for primates.
Many experiments of a psychological nature (i.e. behavioral projects) employ different methods to coerce the primates to participate in the experiment. Food deprivation is a common method of persuasion (see appendix A). Another questionable motivational method involves water deprivation (for as much as 20 hours – see appendix A). When food or water is used as a reward to re-enforce experimentally desirable behavior the primate is deprived of food or water during non-experimental periods. In other words, on a typical experimental day the primate may only be given food or water during the short period of participating in the experiment. If the experimental period is 1 – 3 hours in length the primate may be food or water deprived for as much as 23 hours per day.
Surgically implanted intravenous catheters are often utilized in addiction experiments as a means of drug delivery. These catheters are often the sites of significant bacterial infections that significantly compromise the health of the primates used in the experimentation (see appendix B).
Many different kinds of experimentation involve the attachment of devices to the skulls of the primates utilized in the experimentation. These devices are attached to the skulls of primates with steel screws and place electrodes directly into the brain. Attachment of such devices often leads to bacterial infections, and even septicemias. These pathological conditions endanger the lives of the primates and potentially invalidate the experimentation in which they are involved (See Appendix C).
The isolation of primates is another significant problem in their utilization for experimentation. Social animals, such as primates, are significantly stressed by isolation. According to a recent USDA report (APHIS Animal Care Report – Winter 2002) 13% of all primates used in experimentation have no contact with other primates. It is generally accepted (1,2) that as much as 10% of socially isolated primates are so severely stressed by the lack of contact with other members of their own species that they begin to engage in self-injurious behavior. In fact, studies are underway to attempt to address this problem with drugs such as tryptophan and benzodiazepines 3. It is safe to assume that if 10% of isolated primates are so severely stressed as to drive them to engage in self-mutilation then the other 90% of the isolated primates are sufficiently stressed as to alter their bodily chemistry and potentially invalidate many experimental protocols.
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