21 January 2021: US researchers involved in inescapable electric foot shocks and more to study 'depression' in monkeys
Young monkeys were deliberately subjected to extremely cruel and barbaric treatment in an attempt to simulate human teenage depression (1). Although this recently published research was done at Chongqing Medical University in China and supported mostly with Chinese funding, there are two US authors, one from Wake Forest School of Medicine (who was supported by a National Institutes of Health grant) and another from Virginia Commonwealth University. The work was approved by the Ethics Committee of Chongqing Medical University, but there is no mention of any oversight or decisions by ethics committees at either of the US facilities. The latter is disturbing in and of itself.
In the research, ten male adolescent long-tailed macaques, some less than two years old, were used. They were housed singly in cages. The 'experimental' group (as opposed to those serving as 'controls') were subjected to chronic unpredictable mild stress for seven days, and then observed for four days. This cycle was repeated four more times. The stressors the monkeys were subjected to, in some cases lasting 24 hours, included:
chronic unpredictable mild stress
Noise: A buzzer with a 100 decibel shrill chirp was placed in the monkeys' room for 12 hours from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM the following day. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noise above just 70 decibels over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing.
Water deprivation: The monkeys were deprived of water for 12 hours from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM the following day.
Food deprivation: The monkeys were deprived of food for 24 hours from 8:00 AM to 8:00 AM the following day.
Space restriction: The cage space of the monkeys was restricted by a push-pull device for four hours from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM.
Cold stress: The monkeys were sprayed with 10°C water for ten minutes. Although long-tailed macaques are known for their affinity for water, the natural conditions do not involve such cold water nor for such an extended period. Further, under natural conditions, the macaques emerge into a warm and usually sunny environment so that they can dry off quickly.
Exposure to stroboscope: Flashing stroboscopes were placed facing the monkey cages for 12 hours from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM the following day. Flicker causes disturbance and can cause physiological effects such as headaches, at least in people.
Inescapable foot shocks: The monkeys were exposed to foot shocks by an electric shock stick from which they could not escape. The shock was 6 volts lasting 10-15 seconds with intervals of ten seconds. The monkeys received 3-4 rounds of this.
Two different stressors were used each day. The macaques' behaviour was observed and recorded, their weight was recorded and certain standard 'tests' were done to see the difference between 'controls' and stressed individuals. The researchers were looking for both depressive-like behaviours and anxiety-like behaviours, such as a huddle posture, self-clasping with head at or below the shoulders.
This is a shocking and damning indictment of the appalling way in which non-human primates are abused in the name of science. The mental anguish and torment these monkeys must have suffered is unimaginable. As a gesture to ethics, the researchers provided the monkeys with an eight-hour window each day when they allowed the animals social contact with each other, toys (already scientifically proven to be of only transient value) and fruit and vegetables (apart from those of food deprivation) ...to meet experimental requirements set by the institutional animal care and use committee..., which they admit may have influenced the outcome of the study.
The researchers were trying to establish a non-human primate 'model' for human adolescent depression, and yet their paper states that ...youth with depression experience more serious impairments in global functioning, an increased risk of tobacco smoking and other substance abuse2. Moreover, suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents; and among depressed youth, 29% experience suicidal thoughts and 11% attempt suicide4. All these depressive behaviours, critical in understanding and helping troubled human adolescents, are not reproducible in non-human primates, rendering the authors' abjectly inhumane 'model' of no relevance.
The researchers stated that they were able to ...induce depressive-like and anxiety-like behaviors... in macaques. By using such terms, however, the authors clearly acknowledge that their 'model' is only superficially similar to the situation seen in adolescent human teenagers. Despite this, the researchers conclude that subjecting macaques to chronic stress provides ...a promising model to study the mechanisms underlying adolescent depression. No amount of artificial and cruel stressors inflicted on macaques can compare with the complex emotional, genetic and environmental stressors that cause mental illness and depression in human teenagers.
The Wake Forest School of Medicine claims that the goal of their Animal Welfare Program ...is to ensure that animals at Wake Forest are always treated ethically and humanely. Virginia Commonwealth University states that their Animal research program places ...the ethical treatment of animals as a primary responsibility and the founding principal [sic] of our animal care and use program and that they employ the ...ethical mandates, known as 'The Three Rs' of animal research (Reduction, Replacement and Refinement). Did these institutions approve the involvement of their representatives in research that was not only extremely cruel, but also of no scientific merit? Would they consider the research they endorsed, albeit indirectly, to be 'humane'?
Because we were concerned that there was no oversight mentioned in the article for allowing US-based researchers to take part in this abjectly inhumane experiment, Action for Primates wrote to each institution (Wake Forest School of Medicine; Virginia Commonwealth University), asking for clarification. Neither institution provided any information. It is important that these institutions are contacted, so that they can appreciate the level of concern by the public.
Please take action for these monkeys by contacting the US-based institutions and ask whether they provided any oversight on allowing their faculty to perform the above research and, if they did, how they could have approved a situation that clearly was contrary to their stated policies. Politely urge them to prohibit their researchers from participating in any future collaborative research with China involving depression research on non-human primates.
...to meet experimental requirements set by the institutional animal care and use committee...
...youth with depression experience more serious impairments in global functioning, an increased risk of tobacco smoking and other substance abuse2. Moreover, suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents; and among depressed youth, 29% experience suicidal thoughts and 11% attempt suicide4.
...induce depressive-like and anxiety-like behaviors...
...a promising model to study the mechanisms underlying adolescent depression.
...is to ensure that animals at Wake Forest are always treated ethically and humanely.
...the ethical treatment of animals as a primary responsibility and the founding principal [sic] of our animal care and use program
...ethical mandates, known as 'The Three Rs' of animal research
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
15 January 2021: Squirrel monkey tails immersed in hot water in pain research
An unknown number of male squirrel monkeys were used in this publicly funded research at the McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, USA (1). The monkeys were subjected to what is called the tail withdrawal latency assay to look at behaviour and the effect of opioids in blocking the detection of pain.
The monkeys had the last ten cm of their tails kept shaved of hair to provide a surface that would be more readily impacted by the hot water. They had been trained using a fluid reward (sweetened condensed milk) and had to respond to lights to get the reward. The monkeys were restrained in Plexiglas devices with their tails hanging freely behind them. The shaved ends of their tails were immersed for up to ten seconds in water that was heated to 50°, 52° and 55° Celsius (122°, 125.6° and 131° Fahrenheit, respectively). The authors even stated that 55° Celsius was very hot. Water at such a temperature would be painful for a person's hand, can lead to second degree burns in 17 seconds and third degree burns in 30 seconds.
The test was to see if the opioid drug the monkeys were given would alter the time before the monkeys withdrew their tails or how it would otherwise affect the response of the monkeys to the 'task' they had to perform in order to get a reward.
Squirrel monkeys (possibly the same individuals used in the hot water tail immersion tests) were also acclimated to small, round, plastic chambers and exposed to air or a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) to see what effects the drug had on their breathing under these circumstances. The animals experienced respiratory depression (hypoventilation; a breathing disorder characterised by slow and ineffective breathing).
The authors stated there was no visible damage to the animals. Nevertheless, it is unquestionable that immersing the monkeys' shaved tails into very hot water would have resulted pain. There is no information provided on the fate of the squirrel monkeys.
Harvard University claims they ...ensure that animal research is held to the highest ethical standards.... We strongly disagree that this study was consistent with such a policy.
Please speak out for these and other monkeys being used at Harvard University. Send polite E-mail to voice your objection to such inhumane and pointless 'research':
tail withdrawal latency assay
...ensure that animal research is held to the highest ethical standards...
Action for Primates letter to Harvard University IACUC
Article freely available under Creative Commons license link.
7 January 2021: Renewed call to Carlsberg Foundation to stop funding high altitude and other cruel experiments on non-human primates
Action for Primates has received a response from the Carlsberg Foundation, following our recent highlighting of the disturbing use of monkeys in high altitude research carried out in China, in which one of the authors was funded by a grant from the Carlsberg Foundation. The response did not express concern about supporting such cruel research in which the monkeys suffered substantially. Further, they stated: ...we do not have our own policy on animal experiments but always expect our grantees to abide by the rules of the institution at which the grantee is employed. If you have not already done so, we urge you to write to the Carlsberg Foundation and politely call on it to adopt a policy and to stop funding high altitude and other cruel experiments on non-human primates. Thank you to everyone who has already written.
In the research, long-tailed macaques were subjected to hypobaric hypoxia that simulated travelling rapidly up to 7,500 metres (over four miles), which reduced the concentration of available oxygen. Hypobaric hypoxia is a condition where the body is deprived of oxygen, causing severe brain injury and abnormal behaviour. They were held at this high 'altitude' for 48 hours and then killed.
Please send polite E-mail:
...we do not have our own policy on animal experiments but always expect our grantees to abide by the rules of the institution at which the grantee is employed.
Click here to see our original alert on this issue.
5 January 2021: Call for action to be taken by Jakarta police against monkey tormentor on YouTube
Sickening videos showing monkeys being cruelly treated and abused are regularly posted on YouTube channels, and other social media platforms, to 'entertain' viewers. One such YouTube channel (Abang Satwa) is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. The person who runs the channel regularly posts videos in which he torments and abuses captive monkeys he keeps imprisoned at home on chains and in small cages, while asking people to send donations via PayPal. Examples of his cruel behaviour towards the monkeys include spraying them with jets of water, rubbing obnoxious substances such as glue or chilli onto their food, lighting firecrackers and sparklers to scare them and encouraging the monkeys to fight each other by teasing them with food. He posts these videos with sound tracks and commentary. As much as the cruelty and tormenting are shocking, the supporting comments posted by viewers, with suggestions of further cruel things that can be done to the monkeys, are also disturbing.
YouTube has failed to respond to calls to block this channel. The individual running this YouTube channel was also reported to the South Jakarta police by Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN). The Jakarta police have so far failed to take action, despite having previously been involved in confiscating monkeys being cruelly treated by other individuals. We are, therefore, taking our appeal to the Governor of Jakarta to urge him to take this animal cruelty seriously. Please join us in calling on the Governor to 1) confiscate these monkeys and relocate them to a genuine animal sanctuary and 2) ban the individual who runs Abang Satwa from obtaining monkeys and any other animals.
What you can do to help stop this abuse; please be polite when you E-mail these people:
2 January 2021: Monkeys killed to study effects of stress on menstrual cycles
Long-tailed macaques have been used to study the effects of stress on their reproductive function, in an attempt to simulate human female functional hypothalamic amenorrhoea (FHA). The human condition is a type of infertility a sustained absence of normal menstrual cycles linked to stress. The recently published work (1) was carried out at the University of Pittsburgh and approved by their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. It was supported entirely by public funds (NIH).
Twenty-seven female long-tailed macaques aged between 7-13 years were imported specifically for this experiment. They were housed singly. The monkeys were exposed to a combination of stressful stimuli which involved their being moved to a new housing room, where they were surrounded by unfamiliar animals, having their diet reduced by 25% and forced to run for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week on a motorised treadmill. The effect of test drugs on reproductive cycling during two of the 'stress cycles' was also studied. At the end of the experiment, all the macaques were killed so that their brains could be removed for further study.
Previous similar research by the authors, published in 2008, provided details on how the human size motorised treadmills (Precor Model 910e) were used. The treadmills were enclosed by a Plexiglass® box that contained holes for air. The monkeys were initially allowed to walk slowly for about one week. Then they were given a 'max' test to establish the maximum rate which they were capable of running. The treadmill was set for the monkeys to start running at 0.8 miles/hour and speed was then increased 0.2 miles/hour every two minutes until the monkeys failed to be able to keep up with the pace of the treadmill. In this original experiment, the monkeys were forced to run one hour a day, five days a week. In the present experiment, however, the monkeys were forced to run for less time each day ...because several treadmills broke (beyond repair) and no funds were available for the purchase of new treadmills.
Deliberately treating non-human primates as disposable 'things' by placing them in these stressful situations including forcing them to run on treadmills, depriving them of food, scaring them with strangers and then killing them is any rational person's definition of cruel treatment. It is not only morally unconscionable, it is also a clear contradiction to the three Rs the research community claim they follow: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. The issue of reproductive disorders in people has been and is continuing to be studied in people, providing the only source of information directly applicable to people.
Please speak out for the monkeys, by sending polite E-mail to the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (Animal Research Protections) which ...oversees the university's animal programs, facilities, and procedures insuring the appropriate care, use, and humane treatments of animals being used for research, testing, and education, urging it to stop approving this research:
'max' test to establish the maximum rate which they were capable of running
...because several treadmills broke (beyond repair) and no funds were available for the purchase of new treadmills.
...oversees the university's animal programs, facilities, and procedures insuring the appropriate care, use, and humane treatments of animals being used for research, testing, and education
29 December 2020: Long-tailed macaques in Angkor Park in Cambodia
Action for Primates has been alerted to a situation involving long-tailed macaques in Angkor Park in Cambodia. A news outlet has reported that APSARA, the Cambodian management authority responsible for protecting the Angkor Archaeological Park, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, will capture and relocate some of the macaques because of conflict issues with visitors to the park.
We are concerned about the fate of the captured individuals, and the ongoing issue of human-monkey interaction, which tragically rarely works out well for the monkeys. There is an urgent need for a humane management plan to be put in place, part of which should include a strict prohibition of people interacting with and feeding the monkeys.
We are also concerned about reports of videos that are appearing on YouTube and other social media platforms, in which people are faking rescues of infant monkeys in Cambodia, sometimes by killing their mothers, in order to raise funds through their followers on YouTube. The baby monkeys are then kept as 'pets' with footage of them in inappropriate and often distressing situations regularly uploaded onto YouTube channels often named after them.
Please send polite E-mail to APSARA and the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries requesting that 1) any monkeys they remove from Angkor Park are treated humanely and relocated, rather than killed; 2) no one should be allowed to feed or otherwise encourage the monkeys; 3) any conflict situations that continue are resolved humanely; and 4) action is taken against the individuals who are exploiting and deliberately mistreating the macaques in Angkor in order to film and make money from the cruelty.
27 December 2020: Disgraceful research that forces baboons to become addicted to alcohol and nicotine
Not satisfied with forcing baboons to become dependent only on alcohol to try to simulate human behaviour and addiction, these researchers are now using baboons in an attempt to mimic human nicotine and alcohol co-use and to look at the effects of the drug varenicline on such use (1).
The work was done at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, was ...approved by the Johns Hopkins University Animal Care and Use Committee and paid for entirely with public funds (NIH).
Five adult male olive baboons were used, housed individually in cages which also were the experimental chambers. Each individual was fitted with a harness and tethered inside the cage. Each also had a catheter surgically implanted in a vein with an infusion pump attached so that nicotine could be injected. The baboons were 'trained' to self-administer alcohol and nicotine, and subjected to testing sessions that lasted six hours each day, seven days a week. They were anaesthetised every 2-3 weeks in order to examine them and clean the cages. These unfortunate individuals self-administered alcohol in amounts exceeding the legal limit for people driving while intoxicated and self-administered nicotine that exceeded the amount found in ten cigarettes per day.
The researchers then looked at the self-administration behaviour for three of the baboons after a test drug (varenicline) was injected under their skin for five days. Varenicline is an FDA-approved medication that has already been studied in people for smoking cessation and is now under clinical investigation for alcohol use disorder treatment. The authors acknowledge this and further state that what occurs in people may not be entirely consistent with what was found in the baboons.
There was no description of the effects of the alcohol and nicotine on the baboons; in particular, what signs of withdrawal the baboons might have shown when the alcohol and nicotine were withdrawn at the end of the experiment. The fate of the baboons was not stated. It is likely, however, that the animals were kept alive to be used for more studies. The authors state that the baboon 'model' is a ...valuable tool for further investigation... despite the fact that there are species differences between people and baboons.
Previous research published by two of the authors involved male baboons (15 to 18 years) who ...had histories of chronic alcohol self-administration...(1 baboon had 3 years, and 4 baboons had 13 to 15 years of alcohol self-administration). They 'trained' these baboons to self-administer alcohol seven days a week and turned into binge drinkers.
There is enough human misery and suffering associated with alcohol and nicotine consumption without inflicting the same on others. Scientists routinely try to assuage public concern for the considerable suffering and death they inflict on sentient beings by arguing it is only done when absolutely necessary. Addiction, however, is a purely human condition, one that can be controlled and treated completely satisfactorily if the person is willing. Regardless of one's views on whether we should be doing harmful research on non-human primates at all, it surely is the height of immorality to subject these unwilling individuals to conditions that already have solutions.
Please take action on behalf of the baboons who are lingering in this laboratory. Send polite E-mail to the following individuals at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Animal Care and Use Committee urging it to stop approving alcohol and nicotine research involving non-human primates:
...approved by the Johns Hopkins University Animal Care and Use Committee
...valuable tool for further investigation...
...had histories of chronic alcohol self-administration...(1 baboon had 3 years, and 4 baboons had 13 to 15 years of alcohol self-administration)
23 December 2020: Outrage as 27 monkeys killed by US laboratory
There has been an outcry over the decision to kill 27 older non-human primates at a NASA research facility in California, rather than releasing them to a sanctuary. Reported by The Guardian and New York Post, the killings took place in February 2019, but have just come to light following a Freedom of Information request by US animal group Rise for Animals. US House representative Kathleen Ric has written to NASA demanding an explanation for the killings.
It is shocking and unacceptable that these non-human primates, having been used in experiments, were not afforded the compassion and consideration and given the opportunity to live out their remaining years outside a laboratory setting, with others of their kind in an enriched environment.
Please send polite E-mail to the NASA Ames Research Center, to protest the killing of these 27 individuals; maybe public outcry will guide them to a humane approach in the future:
16 December 2020: Marmosets subjected to threats in order to study stress in people
In an attempt to mimic stress-related disorders in people, such as depression and anxiety, marmosets were subjected to surgery, held in small boxes and confronted with threatening situations, including a rubber 'snake' (snakes are natural predators of marmosets), a human intruder and threatening sounds (1). Drugs were given to see the effects on the animals' behaviour.
The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC) and took place at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Seven marmosets were subjected to three invasive surgical procedures, two involving major surgery. Each had their abdomen opened up under anaesthesia and a measuring device was implanted into the main aorta (the major blood vessel in the body) and sutured into place. Cannulas were also implanted into the brains and access ports implanted into the jugular veins for drugs to be injected.
All marmosets were killed at the end of the research and their bodies dissected.
In this bizarre and cruel research, marmosets were subjected to major surgery before being confronted with stressful situations. Regardless of any superficial similarities between people and marmosets with respect to responses to stress, such research is only relevant to the study of marmosets and its only value would be for the researchers to continue to use marmosets as 'models' of stress. Critically, however, such research is simplistic and fails to address the extreme complexity underlying human disorders such as anxiety and depression. More importantly, the kinds of evaluations that were carried out in the marmosets (heart rate, stress hormones in saliva, the changes in the brain as elucidated by positron emission tomography [PET]) could easily be done in morally defensible studies in people and lead to information that will be of importance in treating people.
Similar research involving frightening marmosets with rubber 'snakes' has taken place at Cambridge University for years, and it is likely that such research, responsible for the suffering and death of marmosets, will continue into the future. In their publication, the authors state: This work lays the fundamental groundwork for several exciting future avenues exploring prefrontal contributions to stress-related disorders.
Please write polite E-mail to the following individuals at Cambridge University, calling for an end to this research:
This work lays the fundamental groundwork for several exciting future avenues exploring prefrontal contributions to stress-related disorders.
4 December 2020: Monkeys deliberately deprived of oxygen in grotesque high altitude research
Eighteen long-tailed macaques were subjected to hypobaric hypoxia when forced into high altitude research that simulated travelling rapidly up to 7,500 metres (over four miles), thus reducing the concentration of available oxygen (1). Hypobaric hypoxia is a condition where the body is deprived of oxygen, causing severe brain injury and abnormal behaviour.
The monkeys were held at this 'altitude' for 48 hours and then killed. Six additional 'control' monkeys were also killed after three days. Some of the monkeys received drug treatment to see if it altered the effects of lack of oxygen.
The monkeys suffered substantially. The authors reported that monkeys ...lost their balance and lay prostrate with limited body movements and that All six monkeys in the [untreated hypobaric] group displayed anorexia, vomiting, motor deficits, and ataxia.
There was an acknowledgement by the authors as to how dire the situation was for the monkeys with the statement: Because of safety concerns for the experimenters, the altitude was decreased from 7 500 m to 6 000 m for blood collection and drug administration... [emphasis added]
The authors also acknowledged that the findings in monkeys were already known in people: In this study, we demonstrated that cynomolgus monkeys exposed to acute [untreated hypobaric] exhibited various symptoms, including anorexia, vomiting, motor deficits, and ataxia, as observed in human patients suffering acute high-altitude diseases and which are mostly attributed to pathological changes in the brain (Wilson et al., 2009).
The work was done at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, and one of the authors was funded by a grant from the Carlsberg Foundation (the principal shareholder in Carlsberg A/S - the global brewing group).
It is appalling that these animals were deliberately subjected to such cruel research resulting in considerable suffering and distress deliberately prolonged for 48 hours.
Please write polite E-mail to the Chairperson of the Carlsberg Foundation calling on the Foundation to stop funding high altitude and other cruel experiments on non-human primates:
...lost their balance and lay prostrate with limited body movements
All six monkeys in the [untreated hypobaric] group displayed anorexia, vomiting, motor deficits, and ataxia
Because of safety concerns for the experimenters, the altitude was decreased from 7 500 m to 6 000 m for blood collection and drug administration...
In this study, we demonstrated that cynomolgus monkeys exposed to acute [untreated hypobaric] exhibited various symptoms, including anorexia, vomiting, motor deficits, and ataxia, as observed in human patients suffering acute high-altitude diseases and which are mostly attributed to pathological changes in the brain (Wilson et al., 2009).
1 December 2020: Join call to AirBridgeCargo to stop transporting monkeys for research
Action for Primates and One Voice have been contacted concerning two shipments of monkeys flown during November by AirBridgeCargo, a Russian cargo airline part of the Volga-Dnepr Group. Our source at a Moscow airport stated that the monkeys, destined to be used in experiments, were flown as cargo on flights RU/ABW748 and RU/ABW738 on 2nd and 23rd November from Cambodia to Sheremetyevo Alexander S. Pushkin International Airport in Russia and then transferred onto flight RU/ABW701 to the USA, a total distance of over 15,000 kilometers.
We are informed that the monkeys were imported by US companies Envigo and Charles River, both major importers and suppliers of non-human primates for research. Recently, a plan to expand Envigo's non-human primate breeding facility in Alice, Texas, was reported in the news media.
Cambodia is a major exporter of long-tailed macaques to laboratories, primarily in the USA and Japan. Between 2017-18, it exported 15,530 monkeys for research. During air transportation, monkeys are packed into small crates and travel in the cargo hold. They will suffer extreme stress that may lead to distress and death, as they are forced to endure long journeys around the world.
As a result of public concern and opposition, many airlines and cargo carriers, including American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines, South African Airways, Delta Airlines, Eva Air, Air Canada and China Airlines, made the decision to end their involvement in the cruelty and suffering caused by the international trade in non-human primates by refusing to transport these animals destined for the research industry.
Please take action by sending polite E-mail to AirBridgeCargo urging it to join the other airlines and stop transporting non-human primates: