Scientist: We Still Treat Baby Monkeys Cruelly

Barbara King: Behavioral experiments from the 1950s still in use
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2015 6:58 PM CDT
Scientist: We Still Treat Baby Monkeys Cruelly
This photo provided by the California National Primate Research Center shows a nursing rhesus macaque monkey.   (AP Photo/California National Primate Research Center, Kathy West)

Back in the 1950s, psychologist Harry Harlow conducted famous experiments in which baby rhesus monkeys were taken from their mothers and observed as they "self-mutilated, rocked, and showed other signs of deep depression and anxiety," writes anthropologist Barbara King in Scientific American. Sadly, similar experiments are still taking place more than a half-century later, she writes. At Maryland's LCE lab, for example, babies are taken from their mothers within hours of birth, kept isolated for 22 hours a day, and intentionally frightened while alone to see how they'll react, writes King, who cites studies showing the trauma is long-lasting.

Proponents say such experiments are necessary to better understand human behavior, an argument that King rejects. She also scoffs at the line that such experiments must be approved by review boards, noting that these boards are "disproportionately composed of the very people who derive their livelihood from continuing these experiments: animal researchers and institutional veterinarians." Changing their makeup is one place to start. "It is not necessary to be against all biomedical research on nonhuman primates to see how outdated and misguided some research is," she concludes. "It is time to end Harlow's cruel legacy." Click for the full column. (More monkeys stories.)

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