Stop the Funding Increase to Animal Torture Labs

In 1997 I traveled to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to participate in a demonstration against the sadistic torture of animals at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, a 25-acre compound on the Emory campus. More than 10,000 animals, mostly monkeys and small apes, are held captive there, and inflicted with some of the worst pain and abuse humans can dream up, including removing the top of living animals’ skulls to expose or extract the brain, and infecting them with diseases such as malaria, herpes, and AIDS. The motivation is not legitimate scientific research but simply morbid curiosity – how much pain can a monkey endure, for example, before he dies of stress and despair? To hide this chamber of horrors from the public, the Yerkes Research Center is built like a fortress; visitors are definitely not welcome.

As my husband and I and 200 others marched along a road behind the Yerkes Center, we were tracked by a police helicopter while dozens of policemen in full riot gear set up a barricade. When the marchers reached the barricade, the police began spraying them with mace and launching tear gas cannisters. As a clinging, searing cloud of gas spread across the road, demonstrators pushed aside the barricade to escape. That was the signal for the gas-masked police to wade into the crowd, swinging clubs and making arrests. Going into nurse mode, I did what I could to help the fallen until I, too, was blinded by the burning gas and fell along the roadside. A woman came to my aid, pouring her water bottle out over my eyes. Once I was able to see, I searched the chaos and confusion for my husband. I found him lying blinded in the road and, borrowing a bottle of water from someone, flushed his eyes. Fighting for justice comes with risks and free speech often comes at a price. Still, our temporary suffering that day was no match for the horrors inflicted every day on the animal prisoners at Yerkes.

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center and six other taxpayer-funded centers just like it are still up and running, blazing a trail of agony, torment, and death for the animals imprisoned in their laboratories. The trail they haven’t blazed is the one toward marketable vaccines, treatments, or cures for the illnesses that plague humans. The FDA admits that 96% of new medications and vaccines developed in animals fail in human studies (Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, October 2015). Decades of experiments on monkeys at these institutions have also failed to produce promised vaccines for HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and the Zika virus.

Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, the companies that developed the COVID-19 vaccines, have publicly acknowledged that animals are not useful models for vaccines, that mRNA vaccines work very differently in animals compared to humans, and that not a single monkey bred at any of the NPRCs was used to bring those vaccines to the public. Think about it: American taxpayers have been funding the torture, mutilation, and killing of animals at these NPRCs for 60 years, yet when a vaccine was desperately needed to protect the public from a deadly pandemic, not one animal or scrap of data from the NPRCs was used in its development. from the NPRCs was used in its development.

Congress is considering a proposal right now to boost funding of the NPRCs by 27% for fiscal year 2022, an increase of nearly $30 million. Suffering animals need your help immediately. Please urge your representative in Congress to vote against this disastrous proposal. It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, red or blue, is this how you want your tax dollars spent?

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

Torturing Primates Is Anything But Monkey Business

In an episode of “Space Academy” called “Monkey Business,” a solar mirror at an agricultural lab fails and only Jake, a chimpanzee, can climb the tower to make the repair. Guided by telepathic instructions from Laura (my role), Jake scales the tower and saves the day.

It broke my heart to work with Jake. When the poor chimp was not on the set, he was locked in a cage barely larger than he was. He looked so sad, and even when he was on the set, he still looked sad and confused. He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about climbing the “tower” (really a succession of props that, when the shots were edited, created the impression of a tall tower). Apes and monkeys are not stunt performers and shouldn’t be forced to be.

The plight of primates (apes and monkeys) is so much worse than simply being forced to grin and perform on Hollywood sets. At this moment, thousands of primates are languishing in cages, living in fear, and being denied everything that’s natural and important to them. These complex, intelligent, and sociable animals will be tortured and killed in crude, cruel, and useless experiments conducted in university, government, and private laboratories.

Numerous investigations have found that in order to abduct primates from their homes in the wild, trappers often shoot mothers from trees, stun the animals with dart guns, and then capture the babies, who cling, panic-stricken, to their mothers’ bodies. Some wildlife traders catch whole primate families in baited traps. The animals are packed into tiny crates with little to no food or water and are taken to filthy holding centers, where they await long and terrifying trips in the cargo holds of passenger airliners. Their destination: laboratories like Covance or Charles River Laboratories, laboratory dealers like Primate Products, Inc., or primate breeding centers.

Torn from their families and social groups, these traumatized primates are typically confined to barren steel cages—a far cry from the lush forests and savannahs of their native habitat.  At home, nonhuman primates travel for miles, foraging for a variety of foods, socializing with family and friends, climbing hills, swinging from vines, swimming in rivers, scampering across fields, and cavorting with their companions. In laboratories, these animals have barely enough room to sit, stand, lie down, or turn around. The rich days full of sensory stimulation that they should be experiencing are replaced by days that are devoid of color, scent, and almost every other type of environmental enrichment. At most, the primates in laboratories are given cheap plastic toys, scratched mirrors, and the occasional slice of apple or banana. Research shows that 90% of primates in laboratories exhibit abnormal behaviors caused by abuse, stress, and social isolation. Many go insane, rocking back and forth, pacing endlessly in the cages, and engaging in repetitive motions such as back-flipping. They even engage in acts of self-mutilation, including tearing out their own hair or biting their own flesh.

Besides having their most fundamental needs and desires disregarded, primates imprisoned in laboratories are subjected to painful and traumatic procedures, including having tubes forced up their nostrils or down their throats so that experimental drugs can be pumped into them. The National Institutes of Health, it should be added, reports that animal tests have a 95% failure rate in predicting the safety and/or effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, making them pointless as well as cruel.

Rhesus monkeys are given infectious diseases and then used as test subjects for experimental vaccines. Even though decades of these experiments on primates have failed to produce effective vaccines for humans, monkeys are still infected with HIV-like diseases that cause them to suffer acute weight loss, major organ failure, breathing problems, and neurological disorders before they die excruciatingly painful deaths or are killed.

In recent experiments conducted by the military, primates were exposed to anthrax and infected with botulism and bubonic plague. In archaic chemical casualty training exercises, squirrel monkeys were poisoned with nerve agents that caused them to convulse, even though human-patient simulators exist and provide more effective training.

Monkeys are torn from their mothers in order to cause psychological trauma and examine the harm that results. After 50 years of these studies, don’t we know enough already about the effects of maternal deprivation?

In invasive brain experiments, monkeys have holes drilled into their skulls, metal restraints screwed into their heads, and electrodes inserted into their brains. Experimenters at Columbia University caused strokes in baboons by removing their left eyeballs and using the empty eye sockets to clamp critical blood vessels leading to their brains. Some animals have portions of their brains destroyed or removed to impair their cognitive function or cripple them. These sensitive, intelligent animals then have their bodies immobilized in restraint chairs and their heads bolted into place as they are forced to perform a variety of behavioral tasks while their brain activity is recorded. In order to coerce the monkeys to cooperate, they are sometimes deprived of water for up to 24 hours at a time. When the experiments conclude, most of the animals are killed and their brains are removed and dissected.

Experiments on primates, like those performed on any animal, are cruel, painful, and ultimately deadly. Some primates differ in DNA from humans by only 3%. You could say they are our closest relatives on this planet. So why do we insist on torturing and killing them?

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!