Isolation Driving You Nuts? Monkeys in Labs Spend Their Lives This Way

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2 min read

As COVID-19 continues to spread and the world methodically shuts down, millions have been forced to reckon with the daily reality of social isolation. Businesses are closed. Streets are empty. Your dining room table now doubles as your office, because for the duration of this pandemic, you’ll be stuck at home. All. The. Time.

Isolation is difficult. We, as primates, aren’t wired to be alone. It can make you a little nutty.

Most monkeys in laboratories (setting aside for the moment the fear and pain of being experimented on) have been sentenced to a lifetime in a cage—and they were suffering from isolation long before it became a hashtag.

Monkeys, like human primates, have an inherent need for social and physical contact with members of their own species. This video shows just a sliver of what a lack of it does to them:

An analysis by PETA scientists published in the journal Perspectives in Laboratory Animal Science shows that in laboratories across the country—including those of the horrific National Institutes of Health and Primate Products—experimenters continue to lock intelligent, sensitive primates inside barren metal cages alone, in apparent violation of federal guidelines and laws, causing them physiological and psychological stress, in addition to the trauma of being experimented on.

As many as 89% of singly housed monkeys exhibit abnormal, stress-induced behavior such as incessant pacing, rocking, hair-pulling, and even self-biting. They’re also more likely to suffer from heart disease and depressed immune function. The drive for social contact is so great that in one set of tests, hungry capuchin monkeys chose companionship over food.

The footage above, obtained by PETA from a federally funded university, documents the damaging effects that social isolation and an impoverished environment have on primates in laboratories.

Federal guidelines and regulations require that laboratories cage compatible primates together (in “social housing”) whenever possible. However, PETA’s  analysis shows that more laboratories are getting away with singly housing many and even all the primates locked inside their facilities without cause. Moreover, in an apparent response to PETA’s inquiries, the government is now shielding these laboratories from scrutiny by removing a long-standing requirement that laboratories report the number of primates who are singly housed and the reason why they are kept that way.

What You Can Do

Air France is the only major airline in the world that still ships monkeys—who’ve either been bred on squalid factory farms or kidnapped from their homes—to laboratories. Tell this shameful outlier that its participation in this cruel trade must end.

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