By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Thank you for the article on Laudenslager's macaques. Studies on orphans in Romania and elsewhere tell us enough about maternally and socially deprived orphans. I would like to see the NIH take the generous funding it allocates to this useless primate research and put it where it would do the most good--to care for the human orphans of the world.
If medical researchers really want to "reduce, refine and replace," they will pioneer in the area of non-animal research. Researchers probably don't care about the means to the end so long as the funding is there; they have to make a living, too. I can't imagine all of them are sadistic enough to enjoy damaging the minds and bodies of the animals they deal with every day. What I don't understand is why they don't confront the NIH and insist that things change. I can't believe that as technologically advanced as we are, a substitute for animal testing can't be found.
What can be a more horrible line of work to be involved in than animal research? Slaughtering in a meatpacking plant, maybe.
Also, thank you for Robin Chotzinoff's August 29 article, "Shaft's Big Score," with Ted Nugent's theory that shooting arrows into animals can somehow keep us off drugs. It's important for us to be reminded from time to time that dinosaur brains are still among us. The likes of Nugent make it clear that as a species, we are still in a state of spiritual poverty.
It is perhaps overkill to call Mark Laudenslager a Himmler running an Auschwitz for monkeys in his lab at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. After all, he doesn't kill the baby monkeys. They may go crazy or die of heartbreak, but that's just the animal-research business. Shit happens.
On the other hand, Mark is guilty of a little overkill himself. Wouldn't you think that after twelve years of watching and taking notes as the little monkeys go through the ordeal of "mother deprivation," he might know everything there is to know about the mechanisms of grief and despair and other symptoms of a broken heart? At first there is the "protest" phase with its "increased vocalization" and "active searching behaviors." You and I might use different words to describe what happens when a four-month-old discovers its mother has suddenly and mysteriously vanished. We might say it cries a lot and looks everywhere for her. Then, when the protests and the searching are over, the infant enters the "despair" phase, retiring to the corner of the cage to sit whimpering and staring at nothing. Sometimes it mutilates itself.
Yes, after twelve years and $3 million in tax money, Laudenslager should be ready to move on to the next stage of his experiment. It might be called "mother's desperation." But he probably knows all about that, too. He has seen enough.
Laudenslager is no Himmler, I think we can agree. He is just a simple soldier of science following the orders of his conscience to serve society--at great expense to society. But it seems safe to say he is no Albert Schweitzer, either, and he's not running any Primate Panorama. It's sad to think that the monkeys in his CU lab sit out their lives--fifteen or twenty years--in a basement cage, while their cousins a few blocks north at the zoo swing in the trees of a new seven-acre, $14 million primate habitat. But that's the luck of the draw if you are a monkey in America.
Mark Laudenslager's October 3 response to Perez-Giese's article includes criticism of "animal rights" as an "emotional issue" that prevents appreciation of "immediate impact" of animal studies on health, defense of NIH-granting policy, explanation of protective guidelines for animals in laboratories and justification of his monkey maternal-deprivation studies.
In many areas of government supervision, paper regulations do not necessarily reflect actual operations. The Animal Welfare Act contains guidelines (albeit inadequate) to protect animals in laboratories. Nevertheless, laboratories have been closed by animal activists after passing government inspection--most recently the Ronald Wood monkey experiments at New York University. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is insufficiently funded to provide the requisite inspectors to regularly enforce these guidelines.
The NIH peer-review funding system is inherently flawed and almost guarantees non-innovative research. (Nobel laureate Rosalyn Yalow has said, "The truly imaginative are not being judged by their peers. They have none.") The NIH leadership prejudicially favors animal research as the "gold standard." The "panels of experts" are too often composed of myopic animal experimenters apprehensive about the funding of their own animal-research projects. Finally, once funded, a grant is easily renewed by changing a few inconsequential variables. A truly discriminating system would result in rare rather than commonplace experiments that are repetitive, duplicative and irrelevant.
Dr. Laudenslager's experiments are quite peripheral to AIDS. Psychoneuroimmunology does inform that separation-induced immunosuppression alters disease, but the stress experienced by HIV-positive teenagers (i.e., substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, chronic illness, physical trauma and markedly disordered family life with possible emotional, physical and sexual abuse) is hardly related to two weeks of separation from Mother.