An Open Letter to the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Posted by Kelsey Eberly, Litigation Fellow on October 7, 2014

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When ALDF and online petitioners trained a spotlight on the maternal deprivation research being conducted on newborn rhesus monkeys at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), the University defended the studies and alleged that these critiques contained “falsehoods and exaggerations.”

The University contends that Dr. Ned Kalin’s current study “bears no meaningful resemblance” to Harry Harlow’s infamous research subjecting baby monkeys to psychological torture. Today, UW says, “young monkeys are raised by human caretakers and alongside monkeys of a similar age.” Dean Robert Golden of the School of Medicine and Public Health says that “maternal deprivation” is an “intentionally shocking catch-phrase of the animal rights movement.”

ALDF believes the facts speak for themselves. According to Dr. Kalin’s research protocol, 20 infant macaques will be permanently removed from their mothers on their first day of life and kept in an incubator box for roughly six weeks with only a stuffed “surrogate” for comfort. Twenty additional mother-raised primates will act as the control group. The maternally-deprived monkeys are not “raised by human caretakers,” but removed from their incubators only for feeding and to clean the incubator. The University’s Standard Operating Procedures specify that “infant monkeys should not be handled unnecessarily to minimize the possibility of inappropriate attachments to humans.” Indeed, the protocol is designed to induce acute stress through maternal deprivation—not, as the University disingenuously suggests, to pair human-reared monkeys with playmates.

After this isolation, the motherless monkeys are paired with another young monkey, so that the confused babies can “raise” each other. This “rearing” model has been widely reported to cause tremendous anxiety, often triggering “self-injurious behavior” (i.e., self-biting and -mutilation) as the monkeys get older. At a recent public meeting, UW-Madison Associate Professor of Bioethics and Philosophy Robert Streiffer quoted a prominent primate researcher who said, “Harry [Harlow] discovered that if you rear two infants together, it’s almost as bad as total isolation. Nobody in their right mind who knew Harry Harlow’s work would raise rhesus babies in pairs.

Dr. Kalin notes in the protocol, “rhesus monkeys have been selected because their similarities to humans in social behavior, emotion, hormonal responses and brain structure make them the best model for examining human emotion regulation as well as the risk to develop anxiety and depression.” In other words, baby monkeys are suitable because their emotional vulnerability and capacity for anguish mirrors our own.

During the experiments the baby monkeys will be repeatedly subjected to tests intended to trigger terror and anxiety, including live snakes and unfamiliar “human intruders.” These fear-inducing tests will begin at the earliest stage of the animals’ lives, when they are just weeks old. During the experiments the infants’ blood and cerebrospinal fluid will be harvested repeatedly. They will be subjected to skin-punch biopsies and numerous brain scans, requiring physical restraint and chemical sedation. Before the monkeys are 18 months old, the researchers will kill all 40 monkeys and dissect their brains.

The University asserts that this research is aimed at a better understanding of anxiety and depression disorders in humans. As Dr. Kalin contends in the protocol, “understanding the involvement of brain chemicals that have never before been implicated in anxiety, will allow the field to begin to search for medications that affect these newly identified systems”—i.e., for drugs to give vulnerable children. According to pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Sujartha Ramakrishna, this “amounts to ordering a pre-emptive chemical strike on the developing brains of at-risk children.” As Dr. Ramakrishna explains, “pediatric psychiatry is an art as much as it is a science…Kalin’s attempts to attribute the development of mood and anxiety disorders to a few specific physiological changes in the brain are based on a gross oversimplification of the complexities of a developing human mind.”

The University also asserts that the research was undertaken after “thorough consideration and approval granted by campus animal research committees.” What the University does not say is that under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) committees may approve any research, however painful or invasive.

Dr. Kalin’s research has cost many millions of taxpayer dollars over the last 25 years. ALDF will continue to criticize research that torments sensitive infant primates and kills them before their second birthday, all on the taxpayer’s dime.

More than 300,000 people have signed Dr. Ruth Decker’s (a UW alumna, who holds both a medical degree and a law degree) Change.org petition to cancel these cruel tests, and we urge you to do the same.


64 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the University of Wisconsin-Madison

  1. Dinah says:

    This is a clear violation of animal rights.

    1. Kathy Straedey says:

      Human lack of compassion for other sentient beings proves to me humans need to stop breeding. There’s something wrong with the human brain.

  2. jane livingston says:

    What will future generations think of us ? There have to be alternatives but I guess animals are cheap:0(

  3. Mrs James Martin says:

    please end this now

  4. anna ransome says:

    Can your institution actually withstand this kind of negative publicity without huge economic consequences??

  5. Lee says:

    It is time that we stopped abusing animals. This testing is absurd and unnecessary.

  6. Beth Morrell says:

    Simply:
    It is not ethical to take a baby away from his/her mother.

    I am against Dr. Ned Kalin’s proposed research.

  7. Margaret Riley says:

    There’s no need for abuse of any animal.

  8. Mark Jennerjohn says:

    This is a cruel and barbaric practice that must end.

  9. Veronica Gallucci says:

    I am disgusted by this practice and so is my entire family who lives in Eau Claire. They just pulled my sister out of this university because this is what was going on. They were going to send my step brother there next September – not anymore. !!!!!!

  10. Eileen Honan says:

    There is nothing scientific about this crcruel horror show.

  11. Linda kohut says:

    We. As the human race are above the barbaric practices.Shame on this state and facility for supporting this.
    I have written to my Congressman to cut this facilities funding as well as that og NI H.
    MONIES SHOULD BE USED FOR LEGITIMATE RESEARCH.

  12. Joy says:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

    Please end this cruel & inhumane practice now.

  13. Lily ghomeshy says:

    please stop this horrible animal cruelty

  14. Carolyn Repeta says:

    Shame on you….I will never stop sharing.

  15. Dawn Bacallao says:

    This Cruel and inhumane practice must end!!!!!

  16. Cindy Phillips says:

    This is cruel, inhuman and needs to end, it is outdated!

  17. Karlene Dancingwolf says:

    Maybe people are depressed because we live in a world where “researchers” torture and kill baby animals to try to learn more about why peopleare depressed.

  18. Jayne Morris says:

    This is barbaric and shocking what in gods name is wrong with these peolpe there is no excuse for this what gies them the write to be so cruel this has to stop

  19. Darby Atler says:

    Stop animal cruelty shame on you shame shame have you no morals, standards? Your Devils

  20. Muriel Gourlez says:

    Shame on you for doing this to poor babies, this must come to an end, we won’t let you go on with so much suffering

  21. Wynne E. Moore says:

    There are literally countless studies on the effects of cruelty and deprivation and,or, the results of them on humans available already. If you are choosing monkeys that are so similar to humans or further research, then it is first of all redundant, and secondly knowing and willful torturing of an innocent. In our future more evolved society people like you would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and rightly so!

  22. Denise says:

    As a clinical psychologist I am familiar with Harlow’s research and I support valid research related to anxiety and depression. This research does not appear to differ much from Harlow’s and I wonder what contribution the researchers believe they can make. On the surface it appears to be legalized bullying of helpless sentient beings and I am appalled by it.

  23. Nadine Buckman says:

    Your claim of doing these atrocities in the name of research is a joke! Any logical person is not shocked or surprised by the outcome and yet it is continued.

  24. Erika Becerra says:

    Ask the National Institutes of Health department to defund the university and call the university’s costumer service. I called earlier and the operator listened. It is likely that they don’t want to lose money over this.

  25. Jeri says:

    They think we’re all just uninformed and uneducated for denouncing this study. When in reality it is they who won’t acknowledge that they are the ones fooling themselves. They know this doesn’t contribute to science or human understanding. They just want taxpayer dollars, and we all know it. They should find another way to support themselves and end all animals studies immediately. Then people would stop protesting them and they could sleep better at night. AND there might be research that actually benefits humans.

  26. Martha Gonzalez says:

    This research is not only appallingly cruel, but also bad science.

  27. Ellen Schorsch says:

    It is so obvious that this is a violation of animal rights, for no valid reason. This is old research – leave these poor ritters alone!

  28. Maryellen McGinn says:

    This is so ridiculous , I think we know in this day and age that depression and anxiety occurs because of separation. Why do this to these beautiful animals – the babies and their mothers. It is so sad that we as humans need to do this to innocent creatures. It is out right cruelty and is not necessary. How do people live with themselves when knowing the torture they inflict upon others. What a waste of time,money and especially these poor monkeys.

  29. Monica Daniel-Marshall says:

    It is past the point of tolerance. Either shut down the programs that facilitate the barbaric treatment of animals or boycott and close down an institution that has outlived its validity in this country,” A wasted life is a wasted fortune, indeed.”

  30. Joy Houghting says:

    This is sadistic and apparently funded opportunities for psychopaths to get their ‘rocks off’. I wouldn’t want one of these humans living near me or my children – if one is capable of performing this cruelty, what else is one capable of?? They will lie to try to calm the public. Of course they will. Research on animals has been found to be ineffective and has to be trialled on people anyway. I don’t believe any ‘benefit’ gained from this is worth it (and I’m not naive – I’ve lost loved ones; and am not young, and I know the pain and loss of illness and death). Ultimately I believe we are causing more harm to ourselves as a species through this sadistic barbarism.

  31. Nancy Newman says:

    Stupid study – answer aready known.
    Cruel
    Grant money driven not need to know.

  32. Sue Blair says:

    This is disgusting and totally unnecessary, stop this abuse immediately. Animals have rights which you have robbed blind. How would you like your children to go through this sort of cruelty?

  33. Margaret Britt says:

    So very sad that this continues in the name of science. How can you people sleep at night? Do you have no conscience? Has history taught us nothing about barbaric, inhumane acts of cruelty? Please stop!

  34. Marlis wachli says:

    Inhumane and cruel in the name of research.

  35. Marlis wachli says:

    In humane and cruel and that in the name of science.

  36. cheryl hopkins says:

    Please end this horror show, now! End this evil animal experimentation industry! Be progressive & get with the times ! Use non-animal related experimentation methods that are ethical, accurate and cost-effective !This is a disgrace ! Are you that desensitized ? These are crimes against innocent, living, sentient beings.

  37. Eileen Paris says:

    You need to stop. This is totally unnecessary cruelty.

  38. What a waste of our tax money and a horrible study I call this abuse of helpless animals how do we get this stopped

  39. Jeri says:

    you will be judged as to how you treat your animals…forgot who said this…but remember the statement. Animals depend on humans to take care of them. So awful with what’s ok for science to torture animals when there are so many other ways to go. Please, we must put a stop to this.

  40. Pedro says:

    Haven’t we learned anything in the last 50 years? This type of research has to stop!!!

  41. jo lumsden says:

    What is wrong with you people, you are abusing these poor animals for what? Use prisoners, pay people that want money whatever, but leave the animals alone!

  42. Denis Pelli says:

    Let us assume for a moment that we disapprove of this project. What kind of primate research would ALDF approve of? Would it approve the primate research that led to the development of the polio vaccine? If not, it seems that you should state things as they are — you disapprove of all research no matter what it actually is. In doing so, and if successfully preventing the development of a polio vaccine, would you be actually stopping cruelty or promoting it?

  43. Laura Valdez says:

    People who receive a degree from your institution should get their money back, since you cannot teach ethics.

  44. Stefani olsen says:

    Truly disturbing, as a taxpayer I am outraged that my money is being used in a way that violates my most deeply held morals.

  45. Allison Brown says:

    So shocking to read that this university allows, torture, abuse and murder of innocent beings.

  46. christina ford says:

    Cruel and heartless – who does this? Do these soulless people walk among us with their sadistic behaviors unknown? I believe people had better wise up. If you wouldn’t do it to your own child, friend, sibling, parent, spouse then don’t do it to a defenseless animal. Your proverbial chickens will come home to roost and I won’t shed a tear for you.

  47. Jill munn says:

    what needless experiments. Shut them down asap. Cruelty to animals they should be prosecuted.

  48. Jill munn says:

    Needless and cruel experiments. They should be shut down asap.

  49. Rob Smith says:

    It’s all so very simple. If something is unnecessary, and causes harm, it is by definition, cruel.

  50. erika garcia says:

    These “experiments” had been done 30 years ago, and they are NOT needed in this day in age… Medicine and techniques have evolved to the point that this isn’t even going to advance anything.. STOP

  51. Ursula Watson MD says:

    We know all too well what the effect of maternal deprivation is on babies. This is a worthless study and this torture must be stopped. Ned Kalin is barbaric and needs to be fired.The president and entire board should be shamed by the community.

  52. Dori Dumont says:

    This is so wrong, and you know it. To you it’s about the $$ funding for research, and not turning the money down. At what expense? These are lives that parallel human’s in more ways than one. Just because they don’t speak in our language. Their actions tell you all you need to know. Listen to them. Take a stand for kindness. It’s not too late.

  53. Laurie Cole says:

    This study needs to stop NOW. This is cruel and barbaric. Why does the human race feel that it has the right to experiment on animals to improve our lives? I have already signed the petition, and continue to defamate this university for this inhumane research. Based on some of the comments I have read, the university has already lost revenue because of students who have either pulled out or chose not to go there because of this. For the people in this lab that perform these tests day in and day out….SHAME ON YOU. How can you do this and live with yourselves? You sicken me, all of you.

  54. Laurie Cole says:

    And maybe if people like Ned Kalin were prosecuted for animal cruelty, this kind of research would STOP.

  55. Darla Sullivan says:

    stop this cruelty now!

  56. Carol says:

    Horrific! end this barbaric experiment NOW.

  57. Dan says:

    How is this ok? How can anybody think this is ok?

  58. Kari says:

    If we want to help depressed children, we need to give them a kind and nurturing world to grow up in. Our country has all of this money appropriated for torture when it could be given to healthy programs to aid disadvantaged children. The nurturing behaviors and strong family bonds of these precious monkeys could be observed in their own habitat. Then, we humans just might learn something.

  59. Shannon murphy says:

    Truly inhumane and depressing. I don’t need tests to tell me isolating and torturing a baby causes self mutilation, depression, anxiety etc. I think it’s worse to run these tests to study the effects, even if the goal is to help people this is no way to do it!! What century is this? Have a heart

  60. Rebekah Donahue says:

    I believe that anyone who is involved in these kinds of “experiments” must be very sadistic. I don’t see how otherwise, you could do this.

  61. Charyse says:

    What do you think is going to happen to these babies? Get out a medical journal and you can read all kinds of stories about isolating a baby from it’s mother. Come on stop torturing these baby’s. Leave them alone!

  62. Kaylah Marin says:

    THis is not Polio, this is about trying to solve a condition of our society thru further creation of drugs-just band-aides. This experiment is wrong, redundant, unnecessary. They say one of the early signs of a serial killer is the killing of animals.