When I first read the news that NASA was going to start experimenting on monkeys with radiation to study the effects of deep space travel, my heart sunk. As an anthropologist who has studied non-human primates I have seen up close the emotions, the feelings, and the physical qualities we share with our evolutionary cousins. My mind went back to shooting chimps into space, not caring if they lived or died. To cruel (and now illegal) experiments of all kinds performed on our closest living relative.
Now NASA is planing to irradiate squirrel monkeys. Scientists are particularly interested in studying how the radiation impacts the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviors over time. Messing with the monkeys brains. Oh great!
As I kept reading the article though, I started to see that maybe we have made some progress after all. For the new study, 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys will be exposed to a low dose of the type of radiation that astronauts traveling to Mars can expect to encounter. Low dose… well maybe that isn’t so bad.
The animals, which will not be killed, will remain at McLean Hospital, where they will be overseen by veterinarians and staff. They will not be killed. This is really quite amazing considering our past with not a care in the world if the subjects of our human animal experiments lives or dies.
NASA stated in an email:
“McLean Hospital is responsible for the lifetime care of the primates, no further research is planned for them at this time.”
So the animals will be cared for once the experiments are done, but this leaves the questions: what kind of conditions will the animals be living in once the experiments are done? Should they have been taken away from their natural environment in the first place? Are these studies worth it?
So, I leave you with the question. Have we as a culture made progress in conducting animal research to the point at which it is acceptable, or are these still just horrible animal experiments?
Source: Discovery News
Image Source: floridapfe on Flickr