So, what did you do today?
Last week the American Society of Primatologists met in Boulder. One question that came to mind was how many thousands of animals are these (and other) researchers responsible for keeping alone in small cages, subjecting to horrible experimental treatments (infecting them with diseases, tinkering with brains, ripping apart youngsters from care-givers to study once again the development of parent-infant bonds and socialization, and get this studying the effect of different types of music on chimpanzees housed alone) and, yes, "sacrificing" = killing them "in the name of science."
It was no surprise that the music study was done at the Coulston Foundation in Alamogordo, New Mexico, a ghastly research prison that's been repeatedly found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act. To be fair, there were some very interesting studies on cognition and various aspects of the behavior of free-ranging wild primates.
I also wondered how these researchers tell others about what they do in the course of a normal day. I imagined the following scene. A child asks of a parent: "So, what did you do today?" After getting rid of all the jargon and fluff, her parent's response boils down to: "Oh, I took a monkey from his mother and sibs to see what would happen," "I killed chimpanzees to study drug reactions," "I blinded cats to learn about vision," or "I trained rats first to avoid shock and then didn't allow them to do it, and watched them go berserk, squeal for help, give up, and passively accept the shock." Well, I sure wouldn't miss those mealtime conversations.
Numerous studies have shown how smart and emotional many animals are, and how they deeply suffer from anxiety and pain, so how in the world do some people do what they do rob animals of their spirits and souls and then go home and eat? Ah, they're helping humankind. Hmm, do unto others...Oh, I just wonder...
MARC BEKOFF, Boulder, June 28, 2000