Sunday, May 9, 2010

Experimentation on Monkeys

Whether the life of a human is worth more than the life of an animal has always been a heated topic that has been debated for years. The topic is taken to an even higher level when it is monkeys being experimented with verses when it is a mouse or rat because monkeys are evolutionarily close to us. At one United Kingdom University that doesn’t want to be named for privacy reasons, students and scientists are studying monkeys up close, performing a delicate surgery on their brains. In this surgery holes are drilled into the skull of the monkey and up to eight lesions are made, where small quantities of toxins are injected to destroy parts of the monkeys’ brain. This helps scientists discover what parts of the brain monkeys use to do different things and because of the similarities between humans and monkeys this helps make advancements in human medicine.

This can help identify several human brain disorders including Schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD, and Depression. In this laboratory monkeys are kept in cages that try to stimulate their environments if they were living in the wild and monkeys are kept with up to fifteen other monkeys to provide interaction and play time. According to researchers the monkeys seem generally excited about testing, and are even disappointed on days they don’t get to be tested. In this specific scenario a monkey is brought out of his or her large cage and is put in what is known as a Perspex box. Then the monkey is given two options and presses a button, if the monkey chooses the correct button he or she is rewarded with a banana milkshake. If the monkey is wrong he or she will experience a short period of darkness in the Perspex box. Most of the monkeys are not stressed from this and don’t even seem disappointed when their light is turned off.

This brings up the next issue. Animal rights extremists think that because an animal might answer the questions wrong, the scientists are starving the animals until they get it right. At the institute in the article this is not the case. The scientists say that the food the monkeys are getting is just extra treats; the monkeys are still being served a healthy diet, even similar to the fruits they would be able to find in the wild. In a counter argument in this article, famous Primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, stated that the amazing human brain should find other ways of experimenting that does not involve the use of beings that have feelings and are capable of suffering. Although the author expressed both sides of the argument in this article it is evident that the author was leaning towards the idea that animal research, when done in a healthy and safe environment, is okay. The overall debate of this article is whether the testing of monkeys or for that matter animals in general should be allowed if the experiments could in the future lead to advances in human medicine.

Based on the information I have read in this article I take the side of the scientists that support animal testing. As long as the animal testing centers take the required steps to make the testing safe and provide an environment for the animals that is similar to what they would be experiencing in the wild. I agree with what the scientists at this United Kingdom University are doing because they are safely, without harming the monkeys, trying to study the brain in a way that could not otherwise be studied, which would provide crucial information for possibly creating life changing medicine in the future. I think that animal rights extremists are trying to make the institutions that support this research look bad most of the time, but it is my hope that animal extremists will continue what they do in order to discover other institutions that maybe aren’t treating their animals as they should be treating them and hopefully they can report them. After reading this article I was able to open my mind to animal research and realize that even though there are many institutions out there harming animals there are also a handful of institutions and universities that are doing important studies to better the human race at little or no expense to the animals whatsoever.

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