BUAV welcomes move to stop cruel U.S maternal monkey deprivation experiments


The BUAV has welcomed news that the Dane County Board of supervisors opposes plans by the University of Wisconsin in the U.S to carry out controversial experiments on baby monkeys. It has introduced a resolution calling for the termination of these experiments and is building upon previous attempts by the County Board’s Executive Committee to establish a panel to study the ethics of primates in research.

Concerned regarding reports that researchers at the University of Wisconsin have been granted ethical approval to repeat Harlow’s controversial and inhumane maternal deprivation experiments on baby monkeys, the BUAV took immediate action by writing to the Chancellor of the University and the National Institute of Health, the funding body responsible for funding the research with public funds.

The proposed research involves the removal of 20 new-born rhesus monkeys from their mothers, who will have to be sedated or restrained to enable this to happen. For the first 21 to 42 days of their lives, the baby monkeys will be housed alone inside small incubators with only a stuffed animal to comfort them. They will then be paired with other baby monkeys and forced to endure regular brain scans and blood samples for one year. The monkeys will also be subjected to various behavioural tests designed to deliberately scare them and cause anxiety, one of which involves placing the animals in front of a live snake for up to 90 minutes. At the end of the experiment, all of the animals (including another group of 20 monkeys, used as a ‘control,’ who were allowed to remain with their mothers throughout the experiment) will be killed and their brains dissected.

The BUAV is appalled to hear that this type of out-dated and inhumane research is even being considered let alone now approved by the U.S authorities. Instead of reviving decades-old research, resources would be better spent on studying actual human patients and human social situations.

The issue has gained international attention, and concern has been expressed from inside the University and worldwide. The BUAV is urging the University of Wisconsin Madison to stop this controversial and shocking research.

We believe that public funding should not be given to such controversial and cruel experiments, which is simply replicating outdated research that serves no additional benefit to our understanding of maternal deprivation in humans. We are also urging the National Institute of Health to respond to the widespread opposition and public concern and immediately withdraw its funding for this research.