Friday, May 11, 2012



Maternal deprivation -- crushing a monkey’s spirit by raising him or her without a nurturing caregiver -- was invented and promoted by UW-Madison’s Harry Harlow and his students in the 1970s and 80s. Harlow’s experiments with maternal deprivation are widely acknowledged as being profoundly cruel.

Now, well into the twenty-first century, UW-Madison has again embraced the use of Harry Harlow’s cruel and controversial methods.

Recently hired experimental psychologist Alyson Joy Bennett has close professional ties to Harlow’s protégé Stephen Suomi, advocate of the infamous “Pit of Despair” – a device for keeping baby monkeys in profound isolation. Bennett maternally deprives monkeys and then uses them as her research subjects.

Monkeys experiencing these “deleterious early rearing experiences” have abnormally high levels of anxiety and stay huddled in place. They have pronounced cognitive and motor deficits. Emotional problems associated with this rearing method persist into adulthood.

Another UW-Madison researcher, Affiliate Scientist at the Harlow Primate Laboratory, Ned Kalin, has requested permission to take his decades-long monkey fear experiments even further by frightening young maternally deprived monkeys.

This is a giant moral step backwards and a challenge to public sentiments and mores. The UW Madison may have hired Dr. Bennett with the expectation that her research methods would spark public controversy. Maybe they hoped other UW scientists like Kalin would again embrace Harlow’s cruel methods.

Bennett is a leader of Speaking of Research, a group started to "take on animal rights groups" (SourceWatch). She is an outspoken defender of all experimental use of animals – and understandably so given the line of research she has chosen as her specialty.

The Alliance for Animals is asking its members and compassionate people around the world to speak out against this revival of Harry Harlow’s cruel methods by calling and writing Dr. Robert Streiffer, Chair of the university oversight committee responsible for approving these experiments, and urging him to stop them.

For Dr. Streiffer’s contact information and much more detail see:

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