Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jan. 8, 1 p.m. 350 Bascom Hall, UW-Madison. Be There.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Rick Marolt: Monkey experimentation meeting timely
Wednesday, January 6, 2010 4:55 am

Dear Editor: On Friday, Jan. 8, at 1 p.m. in 350 Bascom Hall, the All-Campus Animal Care and Use Committee at UW-Madison will take up the question: “Is experimenting on monkeys ethical?” Members of the public may attend but not participate in this meeting unless invited to.

The question is important because researchers themselves have revealed deep similarities between monkeys and people. For example, monkeys have advanced cognitive abilities: They make rational decisions, are capable of symbolic reasoning, can count and add, and can use vocabularies to communicate. Some UW-Madison researchers base their research explicitly on monkeys’ ability to experience fear, anxiety and depression. There is evidence that monkeys have compassion and altruism, empathy, the ability to see the world from another’s point of view, and a sense of fairness and right and wrong. Some primatologists even say that monkeys love.

If monkeys think, feel, and relate to each other much as people do, and they are so similar to people that researchers expect their research findings to apply to people -- not just in physiology but in thought, feelings, and social relationships -- then a serious question must be asked: How is it ethical to do something to a creature that is very much like a human when it is not ethical to do the same thing to a human? Even supporters of experimenting on monkeys must agree that the experiments raise a serious ethical issue.

This question has been important for decades. It is particularly important now because UW-Madison, which has long wanted a $160 million expansion of its primate labs so that it could experiment on twice as many monkeys, has requested at least $17 million dollars in stimulus funding (public money) to renovate and expand its primate labs.

Rick Marolt


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