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Long-tailed macaques, photo by Sarah Kite

Take Action on Behalf of Non-human Primates

2 March 2021: Oxford University and KU Leuven deliberately brain damage monkeys

Rhesus macaque used in brain research, KU Leuven, Belgium; photo credit Canvas documentary 'Dieren als instrumenten'
Rhesus macaque, brain research, KU Leuven, Belgium
photo credit Canvas documentary 'Dieren als instrumenten'

Action for Primates and Animal Rights have joined forces to raise awareness about collaborative non-human primate research involving the University of Oxford in the UK and the KU Leuven in Belgium. The research, which involves macaques being deliberately brain damaged, looks at how the non-human primate brain processes, categorises and memorises visual information. It demonstrates the cruel and inhumane use of non-human primates in this area of research; the psychological and physical suffering endured by the macaques is immense.

This recently published research was carried out at the University of Oxford (1). It also involved researchers from KU Leuven as well as other UK institutions (University of Cambridge and University College London), and Canada (University of Toronto and Rotman Research Institute). The work was approved by the University of Oxford Animal Care and Ethical Review Committee and was supported by the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust. The stated aim of the research was to understand the neural mechanisms that support the learning of visuospatial information (a person's capacity to identify visual and spatial relationships among objects).

Rhesus macaque in another laboratory; photo credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International
Rhesus macaque, brain research, another laboratory
photo credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International

Eight male rhesus macaques were used. Four comprised the experimental group and four the control group. Each group was housed together. The experimental group ...received extensive training on a complex visuospatial task for an average of 17 months to master the rapid learning of new visuospatial information during each testing session. The method of training was not described, but the monkeys were in a transport box fixed to the front of a large touchscreen colour monitor. Food rewards were used when an individual did the task correctly. Many trials were carried out each day, over many days.

The macaques were also subjected to surgery to deliberately damage their brains. This involved anaesthesia and a craniotomy (going through the skull to access their brains). The brain-damaged monkeys were then subjected to further behavioural testing. The brain damage had caused them to become mentally impaired and they had difficulty remembering and learning new things. The four monkeys in the control group were subjected to surgery to have a head post implanted onto the skull, to control and force them to remain in a fixed position.

All the macaques were subjected to several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans before, during and after the experiment, during which they were placed in a stereotaxic frame in the scanner. At the end of the experiment, those monkeys who had been deliberately brain-damaged were killed by anaesthesia followed by perfusion with a fixing agent through the heart. Their brains were removed.

Oxford University ethics statement on using non-human primates in research:

On its Website, the University of Oxford provides the usual platitudes about using non-human primates in research in an effort to reassure the public that such use is humane and necessary:

The University is aware of the sensitive nature of research work that involves non-human primates... It is accepted that the use of non-human primates is likely to remain necessary for certain limited and clearly defined purposes; however, any proposal to use non-human primates will continue to receive close scrutiny in the preparation and ethical review process to determine whether the objectives could be achieved by using other species or alternative technologies. The University undertakes to reduce the use of non-human primates wherever possible to the bare minimum to achieve research outcomes and to ensure the maximum benefit to medical and research knowledge whilst ensuring the minimum cost to the animals involved.

The study we are reporting here, however, makes it clear that such a statement is completely contrary to the reality of the situation. The minimum cost to the macaques included not only major brain surgery, but also loss of their lives! Would Oxford consider it ethical or humane to do to humans what they regularly do to non-human primates? We have no idea what Oxford's definition of ethical is, but it appears not to be consistent with the understanding that it means to adhere to moral principles.

Further, the authors concluded, relative to their findings, Understanding how these networks function together in the normal primate brain has the potential for earlier detection of brain changes in neurodegenerative disorders that affect reward-guided learning and memory-guided decision-making abilities and identify specific targets for more effective treatment options in the disrupted brain. But such research is highly speculative and the findings with respect to the brain function tested can only be reliably applied to rhesus macaques. The authors also stated, Bilateral fornix damage, as predicted, significantly impaired rapid learning of new visuospatial discriminations in the monkeys. Instead of inflicting harm and suffering on macaques, human volunteers and patients could be used in ethical studies. For example, morally defensible studies using people who have similar naturally or accidentally occurring damage could be carried out, as is done routinely in neuroscience. How does learning about a situation artificially produced in macaques, leading to information only applicable to macaques, conform to the University's assertion of bare minimum use of non-human primates and only for maximum benefit to medical and research knowledge?

The University also presents its work on hon-human primates in a way that implies the animals are willing participants who somehow enjoy (implied by using games and stimulating) what they must endure:

...typically spend a couple of hours a day doing behavioural work. This is sitting in front of a computer screen doing learning and memory games for food rewards. No suffering is involved and indeed many of the primates appear to find the games stimulating. They come into the transport cage that takes them to the computer room entirely voluntarily.

This attempt at trivialising and glossing over the trauma, psychological and physical suffering endured by non-human primates is shameful and misleads the public about the inhumanity of what is being done to the animals. Non-human primates used in such brain research are held in captivity, sometimes for many years, deprived of their freedom, subjected to a 'training' regimen that may involve some control over their food or water intake to 'motivate' them to do things, purposefully brain damaged, forced to sit in front of a screen (often further restrained using a head post surgically implanted into their skull) while carrying out multiple repetitive tasks.

Please take action and speak out for these monkeys:

Animal Rights is holding a demonstration at the KU Leuven on the 4th of March 2021. Please support them by signing and sharing their Animal Rights petition: https://www.animalrights.nl/save-ku-leuven-monkeys

Cited reference:

  1. Pelekanos, Vassilis; Premereur, Elsie; Mitchell, Daniel J.; Chakraborty, Subhojit; Mason, Stuart; Lee, Andy C.H. and Mitchell, Anna S. 2020-10-07. "Corticocortical and Thalamocortical Changes in Functional Connectivity and White Matter Structural Integrity after Reward-Guided Learning of Visuospatial Discriminations in Rhesus Monkeys" The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 40(41):7887-7901.

26 February 2021: Indonesia to allow capture and export of 2,070 monkeys for biomedical research during 2021

Young long-tailed macaque trapped in Indonesia; photo credit Pramudya Harzani
Trapped long-tailed macaque
photo credit Pramudya Harzani

Action for Primates is appalled to learn that Indonesia is to allow the capture and export of 2,070 wild long-tailed macaques during 2021 for biomedical research. Not only is this a breach of Indonesian wildlife legislation, that was introduced in the country in 1994 and prohibited such exports of wild macaques, it is also a huge backward step at a time when there is widespread global condemnation of the trapping of wild non-human primates, especially because of the cruelty and suffering caused by the forcibly removal from their natural habitat, social and family groups.

The resumption of capturing and exporting wild long-tailed macaques by Indonesia is an alarming development. Several official bodies and organisations recognise the suffering involved in the capturing of wild non-human primates. For example, the International Primatological Society has stated:

...the capture of nonhuman primates from the wild is stressful for the animals and increases the suffering, risk of injuries, spread of disease and even death during capture, storage and transport
Long-tailed macaque trapped in Indonesia; photo credit Pramudya Harzani
Trapped long-tailed macaque
photo credit Pramudya Harzani

The European Union recognised that the capture of non-human primates from the wild is highly stressful for the animals concerned and carries an elevated risk of injury and suffering during capture and transport. In order to end the capture of animals from the wild for research, including for purposes of breeding, the European Union Directive (2010/63/EU) introduced provisions with the objective of moving towards using only non-human primates who have been bred in self-sustaining colonies, from parents who themselves have been bred in captivity. The implementation date for these new provisions has been set for 2022.

Long-tailed macaques are indigenous to Indonesia and are part of the rich and diverse ecosystem, contributing to the country's unique biodiversity. The species is listed under Appendix II on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Further, there has been a new global assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species for the conservation status of the long-tailed macaque. The species has now been listed as 'Vulnerable' with a decreasing population trend.

Long-tailed macaques trapped in Indonesia; photo credit Pramudya Harzani
Trapped long-tailed macaques
photo credit Pramudya Harzani

The reason often cited by authorities for allowing the capture of long-tailed macaques is that the animals are coming into 'conflict' with residents and farmers in local communities. An ever-increasing expansion and encroachment into wildlife habitat by people is the primary cause for these 'conflicts', not the fault of the macaques. Rather than allowing wild macaques to be trapped and exported for research, Action for Primates urges the authorities to resolve the issues that lead to negative interactions, such as deforestation and disposal of food waste that results in macaques being attracted to human settlements.

Please join us by calling on the Government of Indonesia to 1) stop the capture and export of long-tailed macaques, and instead to enact legislation that provides protection for this indigenous macaque population and 2) to adopt humane and preventative methods that can be used to resolve 'conflicts' without resorting to the capture and export of macaques for research.

Send polite E-mail to:

18 February 2021: Monkeys subjected to spinal cord damage in Swiss experiment*

Long-tailed macaques in laboratory cage; photo credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaques in laboratory cage
photo SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International

The research, published in January 2021, was carried out at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland (1). Funding was from several sources, including the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and the research was approved by the local veterinary authorities of the Canton of Fribourg. The researchers declared the following Competing interests: three were shareholders and founders of GTX medical, a company producing spinal cord stimulation technologies and who provided part of the research funding, and five were inventors of multiple patent applications and had been granted patents covering parts of this work.

Five long-tailed macaques were used and were subjected to deliberate spinal cord damage. This involved major surgery to remove parts of their vertebrae to implant spinal electrodes as well as to have muscle electrodes implanted. Electrical stimulation was then applied to parts of their spinal cord to study arm and hand movements. Three of the macaques were used in terminal procedures and underwent electrophysiological tests. They were killed before waking up from the surgery. The other two macaques were used for acute procedures in which they were anaesthetised, underwent electrophysiological tests and were then allowed to recover. The researchers state that one of the monkeys had been trained (although they do not describe how) to reach, grasp and pull an object using a robotic framework designed by the researchers.

Human patients with similar spinal surgeries were also tested.

Despite the authors' assertion that All procedures were carried out in accordance to...the principle of the 3Rs...,** essentially similar or at least clinically relevant data were obtained from people who had spinal surgery. The authors also cited numerous studies on people with spinal cord injury, studies that have resulted in considerable knowledge about spinal cord injury in people.

Please speak out for these monkeys by sending polite E-mail to the authority that approved this research. Ask them why they approved research that was scientifically unnecessary and involved deliberate mutilation and suffering in these monkeys. More importantly, urge them to stop approving the use of non-human primates, who are non-consenting and unwilling participants:


  1. Greiner, Nathan; Barra, Beatrice; Schiavone, Giuseppe; Lorach, Henri; James, Nicholas; Conti, Sara; Kaeser, Melanie; Fallegger, Florian; Borgognon, Simon; Lacour, Stéphanie; Bloch, Jocelyne; Courtine, Grégoire and Capogrosso, Marco. 2021-01-19. "Recruitment of upper-limb motoneurons with epidural electrical stimulation of the cervical spinal cord" Nature Communications 12(1):435.

* Readers should be aware that we report only a tiny fraction of the highly invasive and fatal research done on non-human primates. We review dozens of these publications every week.

** The 3Rs stand for Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. The goal is to replace animal experiments whenever possible, use the fewest number of animals (reduction) and minimise suffering (refinement).

8 February 2021: Monkeys subjected to multiple surgeries, demanding physical tasks pulling weights and death to study 'strength training'

Rhesus macaque in cage in European laboratory; photo credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International
Rhesus macaque in cage, European laboratory
photo SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International

The work was done at the Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University in the UK, approved by the Animal Welfare and Research Ethics Board of Newcastle University and funded by the Wellcome Trust and Reece Foundation (1).

The aim of the research was to compare the relative contributions of various neural pathways associated with strength (resistance) training.

Two female rhesus macaques identified as Monkeys N and L, were used. They had been trained to perform a strength task using food rewards, but no further details were provided on the training process. The monkeys were then subjected to two surgeries. In the first, a skull restraint device was implanted and electrodes were implanted into muscles in their hands, arms, shoulders and chest. In the second surgery, two electrodes were implanted into the macaques' brains. Monkey L underwent a third surgery to implant another electrode into the brain in order to stimulate the reward centre to motivate her to undertake the strength training.

After the surgeries, the macaques underwent strength training protocols that were done five days a week for 12-13 weeks. The animals were restrained inside a cage (see article photo of monkey in test chamber) by their head using the skull headpiece implant and a collar placed around their neck. A further restraint was attached to their left arm to prevent it from being used. A pulley system with weights was used and the monkeys had to pull on a handle, through a hole in the cage, using only their right hand. Recordings were made while the macaques did the task.

Testing chamber for monkey; https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1923-19.2020
Testing chamber for monkey

The weights were gradually increased day by day until the weights were equivalent to the macaques' own body weight. The macaques were forced to carry out 150 trials on each day.

After the 12-13 week strength training period, the monkeys continued for another three months, carrying out 20-30 trials 5 days per week. They were then subjected to further surgery, involving a craniotomy (the surgical removal of part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain) and a laminectomy (the removal of part or all of the vertebral bone to expose the spinal cord). New electrodes were inserted and the animals were kept alive under terminal anesthesia while more recordings were made, before finally being killed and their bodies dissected.

This was pure basic science research with no clinical applicability cited, and no suggestion of treating a human disease, nor can the data be uncritically applied to people. Further, the authors admitted that, The human strength training literature has used noninvasive techniques to investigate the neural changes associated with strength gains. There is no question that similar data, using electrocardiography, electromyography, functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography – procedures routinely done in people for diagnostic and research purposes – could be derived from human volunteers. Instead, the researchers subjected two sentient beings to multiple surgeries and physically demanding tasks before killing them. They seemed to be proud that they ...provide the first report of a strength training intervention in nonhuman primates.

Newcastle University claims that they are ...committed to the principles of the 3Rs. These involve Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. The University also claims a ...policy of using animals in research only if there are no realistic alternatives and in projects of major importance. UK standards of care are among the highest in the world, and we strictly enforce them. Replacement, as defined by Newcastle University, is to use ...methods which avoid or replace the use of animals. We believe strongly that the principle of Replacement and their stated policy were violated by this study. Sophisticated and humane methods of studying the phenomenon of strength training have been and can continue to be studied in human volunteers. There is no need for subjugating, causing to suffer and killing non-human primates.

We hope you will send polite E-mail to the Newcastle University Animal Welfare Ethical Review Board (AWERB) and express your concern for the suffering and waste of life approved by them:


  1. Glover, Isabel S. and Baker, Stuart N. 2020-07-22. "Cortical, Corticospinal, and Reticulospinal Contributions to Strength Training" The Journal of Neuroscience 40(30):5820-5832.
  2. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

1 February 2021: Monkeys rescued from YouTube channel animal abuser

Confiscation of monkeys by DKI Jakarta Government Officials and members of JAAN
Confiscation of monkeys
DKI Jakarta Government Officials
members of JAAN

Action for Primates is delighted that, following our work with Jakarta Animal Aid (JAAN), the three monkeys who were abused and filmed for 'entertainment' by the YouTube channel Abang Satwa (previously called 'Monkey Raging') have been confiscated by the Indonesian authorities. The three long-tailed macaques, called Boris, Monna and Boim, are now safely at the JAAN rescue centre and can begin their new life free from the torment and cruelty to which they were being subjected daily. See our News page for photos of these three individuals in their temporary quarters at JAAN.

Confiscation of monkeys by DKI Jakarta Government Officials and members of JAAN
Confiscation of monkeys
DKI Jakarta Government Officials
members of JAAN

Examples of this person's 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.

We are grateful to Dr Anies Baswedan, Governor of Jakarta, Satpol PP South Jakarta Administrative City, the local government / pemda DKI and others who responded and confiscated these monkeys.

Thank you to everyone who took action and sent E-mail on behalf of these abused monkeys. Animal cruelty in the guise of 'entertainment' must never be tolerated and it is shameful that YouTube and other social media platforms continue to allow such content to be posted.

What you can do to help in this success story:

29 January 2021: Indonesia resumes export of long-tailed macaques for research purposes

Long-tailed macaques in Indonesian research facility; photo credit Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaques, Indonesian research facility
photo credit Cruelty Free International

Indonesia has re-started the export of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) to be used in experiments. According to data submitted by Indonesia to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), 1,500 monkeys were exported to China and 69 to Denmark during 2019. This follows a four-year period (2015-2018) when there were no exports recorded for long-tailed macaques from Indonesia. In 2017 and 2018, Indonesia recorded the export of 160 pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) to the USA.

Action for Primates is concerned that the monkeys, reportedly exported for 'trade' purposes, were either used in research or for breeding to produce offspring to be used in research.

Long-tailed macaques are indigenous to Indonesia and are part of the rich and diverse ecosystem, contributing to the country's unique biodiversity. The species is not protected under Indonesian law, however, and can be captured from the wild by breeding companies supplying laboratories in Indonesia and elsewhere. There is also a widespread domestic trade in wild-caught long-tailed macaques to be sold at markets and into the 'pet' trade.

Long-tailed macaques are listed under Appendix II on CITES, which means they are considered vulnerable. Further, there has been a new global assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species for the conservation status of the long-tailed macaque. The species has now been listed as 'Vulnerable' with a decreasing population trend. The resumption of exporting long-tailed macaques by Indonesia is an alarming development, one that will further negatively impact this species.

Please take action on behalf of the monkeys by joining our call to the Government of Indonesia to enact legislation that protects the indigenous long-tailed macaque population from exploitation for research, entertainment and the 'pet' trade.

Send polite E-mail to:

21 January 2021: US researchers involved in inescapable electric foot shocks and more to study 'depression' in monkeys

Long-tailed macaques in a laboratory; photo credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaques in a laboratory
photo credit SOKO Tierschutz/Cruelty Free International

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:

Fig. 1: Overview of the experiment protocol; Teng et al; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-01132-6
Fig. 1: Overview of the experiment protocol
Teng et al; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-01132-6

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.


  1. Teng, Teng; Shively, Carol A.; Li, Xuemei; Jiang, Xiaofeng; Neigh, Gretchen N.; Yin, Bangmin; Zhang, Yuqing; Fan, Li; Xiang, Yajie; Wang, Mingyang; Liu, Xueer; Qin, Mengchang; Zhou, Xinyu and Xie, Peng. 2021-01-04. "Chronic unpredictable mild stress produces depressive-like behavior, hypercortisolemia, and metabolic dysfunction in adolescent cynomolgus monkeys" Translational Psychiatry 11(1):9.
  2. 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

Squirrel monkey living freely in Colombia; photo credit Diego Guzmán on Unsplash
Squirrel monkey, Colombia
photo Diego Guzmán on Unsplash

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':

Action for Primates letter to Harvard University IACUC


  1. Wang, Meining; Irvin, Thomas C.; Herdman, Christine A.; Hanna, Ramsey D.; Hassan, Sergio A.; Lee, Yong-Sok; Kaska, Sophia; Crowley, Rachel Saylor; Prisinzano, Thomas E.; Withey, Sarah L.; Paronis, Carol A.; Bergman, Jack; Inan, Saadet; Geller, Ellen B.; Adler, Martin W.; Kopajtic, Theresa A.; Katz, Jonathan L.; Chadderdon, Aaron M.; Traynor, John R.; Jacobson, Arthur E. and Rice, Kenner C. 2020-06-06. "The Intriguing Effects of Substituents in the N-Phenethyl Moiety of Norhydromorphone: A Bifunctional Opioid from a Set of "Tail Wags Dog" Experiments" Molecules : A Journal of Synthetic Chemistry and Natural Product Chemistry 25(11):E2640.
  2. 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

Long-tailed macaques in laboratory; photo credit SOKO Tierschutz and Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaques in laboratory
photo credit SOKO Tierschutz & Cruelty Free International

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:

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

Monkey forced to endure attack on Abang Satwa YouTube channel
Monkey cruelty on Abang Satwa

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 macaque in laboratory; photo SOKO Tierschutz and Cruelty Free International
Long-tailed macaque in laboratory
photo SOKO Tierschutz and Cruelty Free International

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:


  1. Bethea, Cynthia L. and Cameron, Judy L. 2020-12-12. "Neuro-pharmacological reinstatement of ovulation and associated neurobiology in a macaque model of functional hypothalamic amenorrhoea" Human Reproduction (Oxford, England) ePub:deaa296.