A report issued earlier this month by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., blasts 100 “questionable,” “mismanaged” and “poorly planned” stimulus-funded projects, including an especially pointless and cruel experiment that the report aptly calls “Monkeys Getting High for Science.”
The study in question is being conducted at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, a Winston Salem, N.C.–based facility that was awarded $71,623 in stimulus funds to feed cocaine to monkeys.
“I think all of (the projects) are waste,” McCain told ABC News. “(S)ome are more egregious than others but all of them are terrible.”
Hooking monkeys on coke definitely falls into the “more egregious” category.
Unfortunately, this study is just a drop in the proverbial crack pipe. Wasteful and cruel addiction studies on animals are currently being conducted all over the country — and most are simply slight variations on experiments that have been conducted for years. Often the “results” have been known for years as well.
For example, it has already been well established that smoking harms developing human fetuses. But that hasn’t stopped the federal government from funneling more than $10 million to Eliot Spindel of the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Spindel impregnates monkeys and then continuously injects them with nicotine to cause damage to their unborn babies’ lungs. The preterm babies are then cut from their mothers’ bodies and killed so that their organs can be cut out and dissected.
Other experiments on animals could easily be conducted on willing human volunteers.
At Yale University, experimenter Marina Picciotto has squandered nearly $10 million in taxpayer money from the National Institutes of Health for nicotine, amphetamine and cocaine addiction experiments on monkeys, mice and rats. The stated goal of one such experiment was to determine how long one should wait after ingesting nicotine before brain imaging is done.
But rather than using actual human smokers who were enrolled in a clinical study, Picciotto isolated monkeys in cages and fed them nicotine-laced Kool-Aid for eight weeks. One monkey received a dose of nicotine each day that was equal to the amount of nicotine found in 17 packs of cigarettes (far more than even chain-smoking humans consume), and the monkeys had to suffer through the distress and discomfort of nicotine withdrawal.
Some addiction experiments appear to be almost sadistically pointless. At Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital, Jack Bergman has conducted federally funded experiments on squirrel monkeys in which they were isolated in steel cages, addicted to methamphetamines and cocaine, strapped in restraint chairs and given electric shocks.
Bergman now wants to spend an additional $1.75 million of public money from NASA to blast squirrel monkeys with radiation and then cage them for the rest of their lives to see how it damages their brains and bodies — even though four decades of government-funded radiation experiments on primates have not produced any results that are relevant to humans.
A NASA space station engineer who resigned in protest over the experiment says she believes that the agency’s resources would be better spent devising ways to prevent radiation from entering spaceships rather than trying to figure out what to do after it does.
While it is always unethical to confine, poison, mutilate and kill animals for experimentation, it is especially egregious that experimenters are trying to use animals to model addiction, which is in large part caused by social, psychological and even economic factors. Studies on animals can’t resolve these issues.
Furthermore, vast fundamental biological differences between humans and other animals make the results of such experiments difficult if not impossible to extrapolate to humans. Data from mice, rats and monkeys who are trapped in a laboratory and forced into an unnatural and involuntary addiction are of no relevance to humans suffering from drug addictions.
Federal tax dollars would be much better spent funding cash-strapped addiction treatment centers and studying drug addictions in humans in a clinical setting rather than torturing animals.
Alisa Mullins is a research specialist for The PETA Foundation.