All this week, Slate has been running a five-part series on animal experiments. The series starts out by telling the story of a dog named Pepper who was stolen in 1965 and who “changed American science.” As the author, Daniel Engber, points out, the fall-out from Pepper’s story led to the 1966 passage of the Animal Welfare Act—the first federal law protecting animals in laboratories.
In today’s installment, Engber describes the time he spent as a grad student working on a macaque named Clayton in a university laboratory. He describes how he returned to the lab years later to find that, while his life has moved on—and out of the laboratory—Clayton is still imprisoned, his whole world limited to just two rooms:
In all the time I’d been gone, Clayton had lived in the same room, on the same feeding schedule, and with many of the same neighbors. … Every day or two, he’s carted off to a room painted all in black, and his head is fixed in place by the post that still protrudes from his skull. He sits there as always, staring at targets on a computer screen. When he moves his eyes the way he’s supposed to, he gets a droplet of Tang as a reward.
Engber also talks about PETA’s famous Silver Spring monkeys case, which was the impetus behind sweeping changes made to the Animal Welfare Act in 1985, including the creation of oversight committees that we are currently hounding to do their jobs.
While the series of articles focuses on the use of dogs in experiments, it also describes what is done to rats and mice. That’s because no discussion of vivisection can rightly avoid the elephant (or, in this case, mouse) in the room—which is the fact that most of the whopping number of animals used in experiments are these small mammals, who, for no reason other than prejudice and convenience, are still specifically excluded from the Animal Welfare Act.
Written by Alisa Mullins