In "My Monkey" (05/15/2009), primate center director Joe Kemnitz and veterinarian Buddy Capuano dismiss Bill Lueders' questions about rhesus monkey r04040's diarrhea by saying wild monkeys also have diarrhea. They must be either unfamiliar with the literature on this serious widespread problem in primate laboratories, or else were being less than forthcoming.
In peer-reviewed journals, their colleagues have noted that: "Chronic enterocolitis [diarrhea] is the leading cause of morbidity in colonies of captive rhesus macaques.... In colonies of nonhuman primates, recurring diarrhea is the leading cause of animal morbidity requiring veterinary care."
The primate vivisectors may not want to discuss this problem because, if they can't cure diarrhea, how likely is it that they will cure AIDS?
Said George Bernard Shaw: "It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect for the sake of science will hesitate to lie about it afterwards to protect it from what he deems the ignorant sentimentality of the laity."
Thank you, Bill, for your courage to report on this issue. It's because of your 2004 article, "Inside the Monkey House," that I became aware of the primate research done here in Madison, and especially at my alma mater, the UW-Madison - which remains unwilling to address the questionable scientific value or ethics of this research.
We taxpayers have every right to know what goes on behind the closed doors of the UW labs. If this research is so beneficial to us, let us be included in the discussion.
There is ample evidence that animal testing fails to protect us. The FDA's own statistics reveal that 92% of drugs found safe and therapeutically effective in animal tests fail when they get to human clinical trials and that, of the 8% that get to market, half are recalled or relabeled because of unexpected side effects. What kind of reliability is that?
Animal research continues only because the public is kept unaware of it and because we are constantly told that without it, cures for human disease will not be found. We need more investigative reporting of the experiments done on animals in the name of science.
Thanks to the Chimpanzee, Health, Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act (CHIMP Act), there is federal funding available for chimpanzees to retire from research facilities into more naturalistic environments, at primate sanctuaries around the country.
But monkeys are not covered by the act, so there is no federal funding available for them. Chimpanzees and monkeys are both intelligent primates whose continued use for research is justified by the research community because of their similarity to humans. But the 1,200 laboratory chimpanzees have the chance to get the retirement they deserve while the nearly 69,000 monkeys housed in research facilities across the country do not.
There are researchers who would like to retire their primates, if not for sanctuary capacity or funding issues. Let's amend the CHIMP Act to include all research primates and establish a private nonhuman primate retirement foundation.
Amy Kerwin, Primates Inc.
I appreciate Isthmus' continuing coverage of animal welfare and treatment issues. The story on the Thanksgiving turkey ("To Kill a Turkey," 11/21/07), for instance, and "My Monkey."
My partner and I are involved in animal welfare organizations, including Primates Inc. (Amy Kerwin's sanctuary group) and some national organizations. I am interested in continuing the dialogue on animal welfare, including research animals as well as farm and companion animals. We've got a long history to review and change!
Bill Lueders is a good writer. He presented monkey research at the UW with the kind of detail most of us didn't know. I wish he would cover more of the story in the future, perhaps writing about painful, long-term experimentation and the consequences of housing primates in too-small cages and keeping families apart from one another.
Every so often I read or hear something that transcends ordinary experience, and the uplift can carry me for days, even weeks. It can be a song, a poem, or a novel, but rarely an investigative report in a newspaper.
"My Monkey" is one of those rare investigative reports. Pertinent, informative, insightful, fair, compassionate and even tender, the story had me riveted from start to finish. It will likely win a prize or two.
As for animal experimentation, the justifications are curiously similar to the arguments in favor of torture of human beings: It is necessary in order to protect our citizens; the suffering isn't so bad; if we didn't do it, there would be dire consequences. What this attitude bespeaks is a callousness in regard to the suffering of others.
Kudos to Isthmus for exposing UW Madison's intentionally secretive Primate Research Center. I worked in the primate lab for one day as a "caretaker," and Bill Lueders' honest, articulate article elicited many haunting memories for me.
Using nonhuman primates for research in an institutional setting is inhumane and immoral. I cannot fathom how the researchers cannot feel empathy and sadness for the emotional and physical pain they are inflicting on these beautiful animals.
At the very least, let's support Amy Kerwin's efforts to build a sanctuary for retired monkeys in southwestern Wisconsin.
I have been an advocate for all animals for some 25 years now. I was first introduced to animal research cages when, by mistake, I wandered into a lab area. It was a revelation -- I was an art student. Like most normally mentally healthy people, I am appalled at the notion of keeping wild animals in cages in order to inflict pain upon their bodies and minds.
While I acknowledge that human beings may reap the benefits of anguish, pain and death of experimental animals, I still find the concept distasteful in every sense -- moral, ethical and practical.
Thank you for your revelatory article -- let us hope that it opens some minds and hearts to making life better for these victimized creatures.
Elaine Livesey-Fassel, Los Angeles, Calif.
Western society is sick, and the sickness has led to the theft, confinement and cruel abuse of primates.
The use of primates to find "cures" for what many researchers, scientists and medical professionals understand are self-induced diseases due to nutritional illiteracy, a toxic food system and political failure, is immoral. It only confirms that in this country, those in power in the CDC, FDA and USDA work to protect jobs in the biomedical, pharmaceutical and animal industry sectors, all tied to human disease creation and disease maintenance.
The torture of primates is unforgivable evil and part of the larger evil that allows nutritional ignorance to sicken millions of people.
Laura Slitt, Bartlett, N.H.
Thank you so much for the article titled "My Monkey." It has certainly shed light on a very dark and secretive subject. It is almost unbelievable in this day and age that we are still taking live, feeling beings and doing dreadful, unspeakable things to them.
It truly is time to stop all "experiments" on animals in the name of science and to use alternatives.
Wendy Cleaver, Fonthill, Ontario
"I'm a veterinarian," your article quotes Dr. Capuana saying. "I took an oath to protect animals."
Capuano hides behind a degree in veterinarian medicine to conduct monstrous and medically useless so-called research on primates. Many doctors and researchers recognize that animal experimentations are macabre and invalid but dare not challenge vivisectors. Why? It's a cash cow, and they would risk being fired.
Animal experimentation is strictly a cash grab. The law says drugs must be tested on animals. Yet had we relied on animal experimentation, penicillin would not be available. It kills guinea pigs and is not effective in rabbits.
Claiming validity in animal research is preposterous and dangerous. Real and valuable research gets only a fraction of the dollars that animal researchers get. It is such a waste.
Catherine King, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Thank you for a good article about monkey research at UW-Madison. I'm also of the belief that that is wrong. I hope you can do more animal rights articles.
Please read my favorite quote, attributed to Moby, the musician: "There are viable (and usually better) alternatives to the use of animals for food, sport, clothing and experimentation. I beg you to discontinue any actions that might cause or condone animal torture, abuse, or destruction."
Roy Rendahl, Las Vegas, Nev.
Bill Lueders' article is, like all reports on the hideous, unnecessary, immoral experimentation on powerless animals, heartbreaking. Humans can and do justify any atrocity in the name of benefit to the human species. No other species on the planet is so arrogant.
Kathryn Dalenberg, Valley Head, Ala.
Thanks for the inside look at Madison's monkeys. I note with interest the lack of medical claims resulting from the substantial expense of keeping the animals in confinement. A white paper recently surfaced demonstrating that no significant achievement has resulted from experiments on primates.
John Winston, Hillsboro Beach, Fla.
Thank you for your enlightening article on primate research. The public needs to know.
Roberta Claypool, Miami, Fla.
Thank you for this article and for highlighting the intense suffering that we humans inflict on nonhuman primates. I think it's shameful.
Nandita Shah, Highland, Md.
My heart breaks for all the innocent prisoners who cannot be free to live as nature intended.
Aurora Cooney, Akron, Ohio
Thank you for your article revealing the lives of primates in research. This is done for the large monetary rewards by the NIH, and animal experiments are totally unnecessary in the 21st century.
What a waste of intelligent animals' lives and our tax dollars. This was a very revealing article and hopefully will inform the public of the horrendous and totally unnecessary suffering of these primates, when there are now alternatives that bring more accurate results.
Charlene Shumate, Prairie Grove, Ark.
Nothing good comes out of animal research. The means do not justify the ends. Millions upon millions of tax dollars are spent to torture sentient creatures.
I subscribe to the Abolitionist Approach by Prof. Gary Francione. Those who torture the animals and thus avoid true research in prevention of disease are considered part of science. Hopefully the public will wake up to the small minority of people keeping us all in the dark ages.
Ricky Setticas, Gardner, Kan.
Thank you for bringing this issue to the public's attention. What a shame these intelligent animals are subjected to wasteful research, while others, like "your monkey," simply languish for years in that prison they call a research lab.
I hope I live to see the day when animal research is finally ended, but that's a long shot. There's too much money and control involved. Meanwhile, animals suffer, as well as the humans who are supposed to be helped -- by recalled medicines, prolonged, inefficient testing, money going for repetitive experiments instead of patient care.
Maureen A. Schiener, Amherst, N.Y.
It's very encouraging to see coverage of animal welfare issues, as it seems to have been considered a fringe issue for many years. This isn't surprising, since the most vocal defenders of animals tend to be the most extreme. But many more people care about the welfare of the animals used for this purpose. I think more will care, as they become educated about it.
Julie Dunagan, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Kudos to Bill Lueders and Isthmus for a great article. By sharing the heartrending story of this particular primate, you have shed light on the similar fate of so many others in research labs around the country.
Dan Fields, Framingham, Mass.
Thank you, Bill Lueders, for the in-depth, thought-provoking story on UW's primate research facility. We need more reporters like you to reveal the ugly, sad truth about animal research. You are the catalyst for bringing about change and sparing more animals needless, painful probing, solitary confinement and conditions no human could ever endure.
There are better ways, and these researchers know it. But they are fueled and driven by all the money NIH throws at them.
Linda Robertson Adosini, Springboro, Ohio
Thank you for this article. It was disturbing. I am against animal research and this just confirms the horrors of it. Please continue to follow up with additional reports on r04040. Who knows? Maybe they will be shamed into releasing him to a sanctuary.
Jane Shakman, Ossining, N.Y.
Edwards, wrong about everything?
I knew John Edwards was only in it for himself when he failed to support medical marijuana, even with his wife undergoing treatment for terminal cancer ("The Undoing of John Edwards," 5/15/09). But Edwards reached full weasel status for me when asked about marijuana decriminalization during a debate in October 2007. He opposed it "Because I think it sends the wrong signal to young people, and I think the president of the United States has the responsibility to ensure that we're sending the right signals to young people."
Edwards spoke these words while concealing his marital infidelity from supporters and the nation he sought to lead. Talk about wrong signals!
Gary Storck, Madison NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)