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‘Chimeric’ monkey research – a dark day for research

News of the world’s first ‘chimeric’ monkeys, created by the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) has caused outrage and concern at ADI USA.

Campaigns Director Matt Rossell knows only too well the suffering that the mothers of these monkeys will have endured by their confinement in the laboratory and the removal of eggs and other procedures required to make these baby monkeys, each with genetic material from six individual embryos.

Matt worked undercover for two years inside Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)’s primate research center as the Behavior Technician in the Psychological Well-Being Department between the Spring of 1998 to the Summer of 2000 and was appalled at what he discovered there.

He said: “This latest so called scientific breakthrough deeply disturbs me and brings back haunting memories from my two years in the lab. What I saw there changed me forever and I came to recognize the social, intelligent monkeys at the facility as individuals, and that they were being treated like little more than furry test tubes.

“This latest ‘advance’ absolutely proves this and these so called scientists should hang their heads in shame – this is a particularly dark day for animal research. What I witnessed was the true suffering experienced by animals which lie behind these type of triumphant headlines.”

At OHSU, in the name of science, Rossell witnessed animals routinely injected with or forced to consume toxins, addicted to drugs, intentionally inflicted with disease, subjected to invasive surgeries and procedures, burned, shocked, starved, deprived of water, isolated and immobilized for hours, weeks, even months on end.

During Rossell’s employment, the US Department of Agriculture visited the facility as rarely as a few days a year, and Oregon’s inspector at the time, Dr Isis Johnson Brown, quit in frustration because her supervisors didn’t support her efforts to enforce the law.

Although OHSU likes to inform the world that its primates are socially housed and well looked after, its monkey census has grown by a stunning 68 percent in the 11 years since Rossell was there, still leaving roughly 1,000 monkeys living alone in stark, stainless steel cages. More than 4,000 remain there today.

Long before any surgery or experiment is conducted, the monkeys at OHSU suffer. As babies, they are ripped from their mothers forever, and as adults they are left alone in cages for years on end. What Rossell witnessed and videotaped were the resulting widespread and bizarre behaviors of that isolation: hair pulling, infant abuse, self-mutilation and depression, all consequences of research that resembles a factory farm for monkeys.

Rossell said: “I personally witnessed maternally deprived one day old babies being bottle fed and cared for—not by their constantly doting, nurturing monkey mother—but instead left alone or paired with other newborns in a sterile incubator, cared for by a Tyvek clad human lab worker, and handled with purple latex-gloved hands as you can see in their media pictures.

“I also saw monkey mothers after having a baby taken away at or near birth, with similar symptoms to human postpartum depression, including lethargy, and loss of appetite. When I brought this up to a staff veterinarian, she immediately dismissed it and said monkeys don’t suffer from depression, which is absolute nonsense. It is quite clear to me that the female monkeys used as the source of the chimeric embryos will have an awareness of what is happening to them and suffer enormous levels of fear and distress.”

To reach their outcome, numerous embryos and animals would have been experimented on and pregnancies aborted by the ONPRC. Those animals that have been successfully genetically modified are destined to a life of pain and suffering inside laboratories. This type of research raises enormous ethical concerns, let alone the monkeys wasted on dubious and ego-driven experiments.

ONPRC has been doing an enormous amount of variances on this type of InVitro fertilization research with rhesus macaques, for a long time, with past so-called “breakthroughs” including Tetra and Andi.

ADI is totally opposed to all forms of animal experimentation and advocates the use of sophisticated non-animal techniques. These experiments are particularly abhorrent because the other primates are so intelligent, emotional and genetically close to humans. Other species of primates demonstrate language, cultural practices, self-awareness and tool use.

To read Matt’s oped published in 2010 in click here.

To view the ‘Chimeric’ monkey story in OregonLive click here.

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