Scientists Decry Cruel and Worthless Monkey-Fright Tests

Primatologists, Professors, and Others Join PETA in Condemning Government Experimenter’s Torment of Brain-Damaged Monkeys

For Immediate Release:
May 27, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


Scientists have joined PETA in condemning National Institutes of Health (NIH) experimenter Elisabeth Murray’s painful and deadly “psychology” experiments on nonhuman primates—in which sensitive monkeys are inflicted with traumatizing and permanent brain damage and then terrified with fake snakes and spiders.

Excerpts from some of the expert statements, which are available in full here, follow:

  • “A major flaw of Dr. Murray’s research is the assumption that macaques held in a laboratory are useful models for human behaviors …. It is likely that the stresses inherent in living in a laboratory environment modify the monkeys’ responses to the testing paradigm, confounding the results obtained.”

—Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., professor emeritus of animal ethology at the University of Colorado–Boulder and former Guggenheim Fellow

  • “It is concerning that given the limited benefits of the data obtained from these studies relative to the considerable harms we know are being inflicted on the research subjects, these experiments continue at the nation’s most prestigious research facility.”

—John Gluck, Ph.D., former primate experimenter, professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico, and faculty affiliate at The Kennedy Institute of Ethics

  • “I strongly urge NIH to stop all funding for this research, which, in addition to being immeasurably cruel, lacks both scientific merit and appropriate study design.”

—Lisa Jones-Engel, Ph.D., primatologist who has studied the human-primate interface for 35 years

Murray has received more than $36 million in taxpayer funding in the past 13 years alone for these studies, even though they’ve never led to the development of a single treatment for humans. In addition to the fright experiments, she also subjects monkeys to multiple invasive surgeries, leaving them permanently brain damaged; implants permanent metal “head posts” into their skulls so she can keep their heads immobilized for some experiments; cuts a chamber or hole into their skulls so she can inject toxins directly into their brains; and straps them into a restraint chair for hours at a time. Eventually, she kills the monkeys, removes their brains, and dissects them.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

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