For Immediate Release:
February 10, 2023
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Boston – Neuroscientist Dr. Katherine Roe, PETA’s chief of science advancement and outreach, explained why animal experiments impede advances in human health during a panel discussion at Harvard University this week examining the use of primates for experimentation. The panel was prompted by concerns over the sensory deprivation experiments of Margaret Livingstone, who has sewn the eyelids of baby monkeys shut. A recording of Feb. 8 panel is here and on YouTube here.
The discussion tackled the question, “Should we still be using nonhuman primates in medical research?” and was hosted by Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic and also included Harvard affiliated scientists Dr. Christine E. Webb, Dr. Larry Carbone, and Erin Sharoni.
PETA has raised serious animal welfare concerns about Livingstone’s experiments, and federal reports have recently documented the strangulation death of an infant monkey in her laboratory at Harvard Medical School. The young macaque was taken from her mother, who was replaced by a cloth-covered device—called a “surrogate mother”—to which baby monkeys cling. The infant ripped a hole in it, then stuck her head through the hole and strangled to death. It’s unclear whether this was one of the monkeys Livingstone had blinded or used in other visual deprivation procedures.
“It’s deeply concerning that archaic experiments that inflict irreversible harm on infant primates are permitted at Harvard Medical School at all, let alone allowed to occur for several decades,” says Roe, who exposed Livingstone’s experiments to the public. “PETA is urging Harvard to adopt an across-the-board policy against such inherently flawed activities.”
In a recent paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Livingstone recounts how she removed infants from their mothers and replaced them with plush toys, noting how the distressed mothers interacted “maternally” with the toys—something that seems like a matter of common sense.
Livingstone has collected $32 million in taxpayer money since 1998 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but her experiments haven’t produced a cure or treatment for humans in 40 years. PETA thought blinding monkeys by suturing their eyelids had ended in 1985 when activists liberated baby Britches, whose eyes had been sewn shut, from the bowels of a University of California laboratory.
This week, more than 380 scientists, including primatologist Jane Goodall, conservationist Ian Redmond, and Harvard’s Dr. Richard Wrangham, joined Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic in urging NIH to end funding for Livingstone’s “cruel monkey experiments at Harvard Medical School.”
That action follows a letter last September from 261 scientists to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asking it to retract Livingstone’s publication.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.