Written by PETA
You probably know him from his roles in movies such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Traffic, 21 Grams, Sin City (my personal favorite), and many others. He's also won an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and a SAG award. Now actor Benicio del Toro is adding one more bullet point to his résumé: animal defender.
The Puerto Rican actor has penned a letter to the governor of Puerto Rico urging him to halt the construction plans for Bioculture's massive monkey-breeding facility. As you might remember, Bioculture—a company that supplies primates to laboratories—plans to capture monkeys from their homes in Mauritius, hold them captive in Puerto Rico, and then sell thousands of their babies for use in painful and deadly experiments around the world.
You can read Benicio's full letter here. To write your own respectful letter to the governor to ask him to stop Bioculture, please click here.
Written by Amanda Schinke
Sharp-eyed PETA intern Elijah spotted a couple of recent news stories that show (once again) how much we have in common with our primate cousins—monkeys, in this case.
First came word that cotton-top tamarin monkeys can "acquire an affixation rule that shares important properties with our inflectional morphology." Gotta love scientific jargon, huh? Put a bit more simply, they can recognize when a word doesn't have the suffix or prefix they expect to hear. So if you're striking up a conversation with a monkey, watch your language because you're not the only one who knows what "caging" and "killing" means.
Then we learned that rhesus monkeys use the same mechanism—"configural perception" (well, natch)—as humans do to recognize faces. Turns out that monkeys also experience the "Thatcher Effect," which, yes, is named after the former British prime minister. If you don't know what the Thatcher Effect is—I didn't—here's more about it. (If you don't know who Margaret Thatcher is, I can't help you.)
So let's see. Monkeys can recognize Margaret Thatcher upside down. They know prefixes and suffixes, can speak in sentences (and with accents), and can even do math. Heck, they have a stronger skill set than some people I've worked with—although not at PETA, of course. But they're definitely overqualified to be caged and tortured in laboratories at Columbia University or Covance. What really blows my mind is how experimenters can discover all of this and still torture and kill monkeys. Maybe we should be conducting tests on experimenters' empathy instead.
Written by Jeff Mackey
No, you're not experiencing déjà vu. This is the second blog in two days in which we've reported that primates have taken aim at humans—literally. In the latest instance, a monkey in Thailand—fed up with performing the thankless task of climbing coconut trees to retrieve fruit for his owner to sell—apparently launched a coconut at the man's head, killing him instantly. Did we mention that payback is hell?
Like so many animals who are exploited for profit, the monkey, whose name is Brother Kwan, was frequently denied rest and beaten if he refused to climb.
This story comes on the heels of a report last week about a chimpanzee in a Swedish Zoo who collects stockpiles of rocks and then chucks them at zoo visitors.
How much more proof do we need that primates are intelligent animals with the ability to reason, get mad, and fight back? Better watch your back, Castrol.
Written by Jennifer Cierlitsky
Blind and sighted, man or macaque—we all celebrate in the same way. A recent study from scientists at the University of British Columbia and San Francisco State University shows that the "victory dance"—arms raised, chest puffed out—is an instinctive trait of all primates.
You mean I have something in common with Michael Phelps? All right, then!
It turns out that the victory dance closely resembles the dominance displays of chimpanzees and monkeys—"Yes, I'm strong, and I'm bigger than you"—and is universal among all athletes, from all cultures, including blind Paralympians. Since the blind athletes couldn't have learned this behavior from others, the victory dance has to be innate.
Similarly, poses of defeat—heads down, shoulders slumped—are also the same for all primates (and not only primates), with the exception of some sighted athletes from the U.S. and Western Europe. The lead author of the study speculates that "the athletes were intentionally hiding their feelings—consciously overriding their innate urge to signal defeat—because losing is so stigmatized in their cultures." Tellingly, blind athletes from the same countries did exhibit the same defeat poses as other primates—showing again that this is innate behavior.
More and more studies confirm what we already know—that we are all one under the skin. Hopefully, these studies will bring humans one step closer toward having respect for all primates.
Update: The Lehman monkeys—Wanda, Holly, Jada, Sophie, Samantha, and Lilly—have all arrived safely at a sanctuary and are currently living together as a group. In a little while, they’ll be integrated into a larger group of macaques at the sanctuary. Hooray!
Last month, a whistleblower contacted PETA to tell us that six monkeys who were about to be retired to a sanctuary from City University of New York's Lehman College had instead been sold to New York University for invasive neurological experiments.
The monkeys had originally been used in non-invasive learning and memory experiments in an NIH-funded laboratory overseen by one Dr. Karyl Swartz, who drew up a plan and set aside funds for the monkeys to live out the rest of their lives at a primate sanctuary. Enter the villain of this particular story, a lady named Christina Winnicker, who evidently objected to the plan and asked the experimental oversight committee to keep or sell the monkeys for further experimentation, despite the strong objections of Dr. Swartz and her colleagues. As a result, the monkeys were sold to an NYU laboratory for experiments that would likely have involved removing the tops of their skulls and implanting electrodes in their heads.
Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed from the title here, this one has a happy ending: After asking some pointed questions of both institutions, we received confirmation last week that Lehman College had thought better of their decision to sell these animals to NYU where they may have had their brains butchered. They’re now working with NYU to get them transferred to a sanctuary instead.
Which certainly brightened my day a bit.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.