Animal Defenders International Calls for Traumatic Monkey Separation Experiments to be Halted

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Animal Defenders International Calls for Traumatic Monkey Separation Experiments to be Halted

Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling on the University of Wisconsin at Madison to halt plans to revive traumatic and needless research that will see newborn monkeys torn from their mothers and subjected to a series of stress tests to measure factors leading to the early risk of suffering from anxiety disorders and depression. It has been more than 20 years since the widely opposed tests, funded by the taxpayer but considered a poor model for studying such conditions in people, were conducted at the University.

ADI President Jan Creamer said: “ADI urges the University of Wisconsin to halt plans to revive its outdated maternal deprivation experiments which teach us nothing about the human condition and will cause profound suffering and irreparable trauma to the baby monkeys and the mothers from whom they will be torn.”

For the experiment, researcher Ned Kalin will remove 20 newborn rhesus macaque monkeys from their mothers and keep them isolated in an incubator for 3-6 weeks. The infant monkeys will be paired up aged 3-5 months, and then at 6 months the pairs will be split and given a new cage mate. All animals will be exposed to a series of “stress inducing tests”, one of which will involve a live snake.

Meanwhile, another group of 20 infant monkeys will be subjected to the same tests, but will not be separated from their mothers until 6 months old. Instead, their mothers may be anaesthetized as required to prevent them protectively defending their babies, when researchers take them for testing. Blood samples, skin biopsies and cerebrospinal fluid will be taken from the young monkeys for which they will be anaesthetized or restrained, in addition to brain imaging. Once the tests are complete, the infants will be killed at 1-1½ years of age and their brains removed for analysis.

There is no indication that the influence of gender based differences on research results will be taken account. Similarly, there is no mention that ketamine, used for anaesthesia, can act as an antidepressant and has been linked to brain cell death in rhesus macaques, with animals less than 5 days old being more sensitive. In addition, restraint devices, which will be used during the course of the experiment, are known to cause fear and distress in monkeys, further influencing results.

Harry Harlow conducted similar maternal deprivation experiments at the same university from the late 1950s which continued for decades.

There is little recognition of the devastating psychological effect that separation from their mothers will have on the infant monkeys, although the possibility of self-injurious behavior and diarrheal illness is mentioned. Separation from the mother is the most profoundly stressful event a young macaque can experience and rearing primates in isolation is known to cause abnormal behaviors including self-clasping and self-aggression.

The use of animals as a model for human depression and anxiety has been questioned by experts. The complexity of human anxiety disorders, which affect about 40 million adults in America, may include genetics, environmental and social factors, which cannot be replicated in animals. It has been stated that “the chance of creating animal models which consistently reflect the human situation is quite poor.”

Jan Creamer states: “There is absolutely no justification for bringing back these archaic and horrific monkey deprivation experiments. We urge the University of Madison to consign them to the past where they belong and use the hundreds of thousands of dollars instead to focus on helping the many millions of Americans who suffer from these disorders.”

Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogotá, Animal Defenders International rescues animals in distress worldwide and campaigns to protect animals in entertainment, replace animals in experiments, end wildlife trafficking, promote vegetarianism, end factory farming, pollution and conservation. ADI-gathered evidence has led to campaigns and legislative action all over the world to protect animals.

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