Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Torturing Monkeys. Everyday.

In humans, forms of ill treatment during captivity that do not involve physical pain appear to cause as much mental distress and traumatic stress as physical torture, according to a report in the March 2007 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

A news release from JAMA explained that the researchers interviewed 279 survivors of torture from Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luka in Republica Srpska, Rijeka in Croatia and Belgrade in Serbia between 2000 and 2002. The survivors were asked which of 54 war-related stressors and 46 different forms of torture they had experienced. Researchers then divided events into seven broad categories: sexual torture; physical torture; psychological manipulations, such as threats of rape or witnessing the torture of others; humiliating treatment, including mockery and verbal abuse; exposure to forced stress positions, such as bondage with rope or other restrictions of movement; loud music, cold showers and other sensory discomforts; and deprivation of food, water or other basic needs.

JAMA summarized the authors' conclusions:
[A]ggressive interrogation techniques or detention procedures involving deprivation of basic needs, exposure to adverse environmental conditions, forced stress positions, hooding or blindfolding, isolation, restriction of movement, forced nudity, threats, humiliating treatment and other psychological manipulations do not appear to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the extent of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanisms of traumatic stress and their long-term traumatic effects. These findings do not support the distinction between torture versus “other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Although international conventions prohibit both types of acts, “such a distinction nevertheless reinforces the misconception that cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment causes lesser harm and might therefore be permissible under exceptional circumstances. These findings point to a need for a broader definition of torture based on scientific formulations of traumatic stress and empirical evidence rather than on vague distinctions or labels that are open to endless and inconclusive debate and, most important, potential abuse.”
(Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64:277-285.
At least 25% of the rhesus monkeys in US laboratories mutilate themselves. Research suggests that 10% wound themselves so severely that they require veterinary intervention. This has been the subject of some research due to the added costs of having to care for these animals. See for instance: Tiefenbacher S, Fahey MA, Rowlett JK, Meyer JS, Pouliot AL, Jones BM, Novak MA. The efficacy of diazepam treatment for the management of acute wounding episodes in captive rhesus macaques. Comp Med. 2005 Aug;55(4):387-92.

Among the listed forms of "inhuman and degrading treatment" in the JAMA report are many that are routine in the monkey labs: deprivation of basic needs, exposure to adverse environmental conditions, isolation, restriction of movement, threats, and witnessing the torture of others.

Claims that the monkeys in the nation's labs, and in labs around the world are treated humanely is debunked by this report in JAMA. An accompanying editorial is titled: "No difference between torture and other forms of abuse."

Don't hold your breath waithng on the primate vivisection community to draw attention to the implications of this study.

See too, the ScienceDaily article.

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