Maternal Deprivation: The Cruelest Research Continues

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on January 30, 2013

The University of Wisconsin is at it again with the renewal of horrific "maternal deprivation tests." Recently in hot water for their horrendous experiments on cats, the UW’s psychological tests on monkeys top the list of sadistic treatment of sentient beings.

What do the tests do?

Infant monkeys are immediately removed from their mothers after birth and kept in total isolation. They will be given "surrogate" materials known to provoke heightened anxieties. For 42 days, the confused infants will be subjected to relentless fear and panic-inducing tests while totally isolated. These tests include being intentionally terrified by human researchers, being left alone with a live King snake, and being left alone in a strange room with a strange monkey. They will then be killed and dissected.

Haven’t we done this before?

A 10-year study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has already determined that isolating infant monkeys leads to self-mutilation. Surely we could establish this common-sense observation without tormenting monkeys. Mammals, particularly primates, rely upon their mother for safety and nurturance crucial to their psychological well-being. One only needs to observe humans, or animals in the wild, to see that distressing experiences, while deprived of one’s mother, are terrifically destructive. There is no justification for continually frightening baby monkeys and depriving them of basic care.

In the late 1950s, Harry Harlow’s infamous University of Wisconsin tests, in which he psychologically tortured baby monkeys by separating them from their mothers, caused a public outcry. Yet, here we go again.

By law, all university research must undergo approval by review committees, called Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUCs). These review committees are supposed to rigorously review research protocols to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Yet, according to Lori Gruen, the University of Wisconsin’s IACUC almost never denies a research plan, no matter how brutal the proposed test. Instead, they wonder whether they even have the authority to question NIH-approved research. They not only have the authority to do so, but they are legally required to ensure all research complies with the AWA, including NIH-funded research. Review committees are obligated to ensure that alternatives to the use of animals in experiments are thoroughly explored and that pain is minimized. And they are obligated to deny research protocols when these conditions are not met.

Are the experiments cruel?

These tests will cause serious psychological torment to baby monkeys. That is the entire goal of these unnecessary experiments. Even among those researchers who support animal testing, these tests are highly controversial and consistently called into question by leading scientific authorities. Yet the University of Wisconsin proceeds, without listening to anyone.

ALDF thinks it is time that they do listen, and we hope you will make your voice heard.

Take Action

  • Contact the University of Wisconsin’s IACUC (politely) to ask them not to allow the cruel and unethical maternal-deprivation of primates, as these tests bring the university into disrepute.
  • Spread the word–ask everyone associated with the University of Wisconsin to sign the pledge from Not In Our Name against this most horrific exploitation of baby monkeys.
  • Alliance for Animals is organizing an alumni pledge that promises to withhold donations to the university until this cruel testing is stopped.

Further Actions

  • Contact your alma mater and urge it to adopt humane teaching methods without animal testing.
  • Contact local medical schools and ask that they drop the use of animal testing in their labs.
  • Educate others on the cruelty of animal testing and the dangers it poses to scientific validity.
  • Avoid commercial products from companies that test on animals. Use animal-free alternatives.

13 thoughts on “Maternal Deprivation: The Cruelest Research Continues

  1. Maggie says:

    I have aggregated all the vet and primate researchers emails into one place to make it easy to email them, and the first address is for the director of the school. This is sickening. You can copy and paste these into your own email program.;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

  2. Rick Bogle says:

    Just to clarify:

    The monkeys will be isolated for between three and four weeks (up to 42 days) and then will be paired with another infant who was similarly isolated. Then, over a year’s time, they will be repeatedly frightened and undergo brain scans and one or two spinal taps. Then they will be killed.

    A copy of the approved protocol is available at the UW-Not In Our Name Website:

  3. Bijou says:

    Some of us are very concerned who do not go to UW. I appreciate the links to emails above and will definitely send them all off right now.

    Is anyone considering starting a petition that anyone can sign? This pledge is for UW students only, past and present. I think that would be a great starting point to collect a large number of signatures. Any takers? I feel like this should come from someone familiar with this story.

  4. Debi Persing says:

    I think these researchers are serial killers getting away with murder because their victims are “only monkeys”. NO REASON IN THE WORLD that these tests have to be repeated. They shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

  5. Dona says:

    Maggie, thank you so much for the invaluable information that you took the time to compile. I just sent off an e-mail to ALL!

  6. Amber Adams says:

    I am from a small town in Iowa and I help any animal I can, this is terrible and this horrible stuff she be done to the men and women who are doing this to those poor baby monkeys. Please let me know what I can do!

  7. Julie McDonough says:

    I just sent my email to all as well. Thanks for the information.

  8. J.A. Faulk says:

    Thank you Maggie for all the work you did getting all the relevant emails into one convenient spot. I also posted them on my FB page. I wrote the following letter to all of them:
    To Whom It May Concern,

    Passion for science is not an acceptable substitute for compassion for all sentient beings. You will prove NOTHING with your proposed Maternal Deprivation study. It has been done before. We already know exactly how it all will end. You are making a terrible mistake as organizations are creating campaigns to discourage donations from anyone and everyone that donates to your university. You are denigrating both science and your own academic reputation. Why don’t you study veganism and why it is that this form of eating can actually reverse cancer that is already in the promotion stage? Read The China Study and let’s have some studies that actually ameliorate the public’s health. Use your own students as N for vegan and non-vegan subjects. Show us you really have something to offer the world. In fact include your entire faculty in the study.


    Josephine Faulk, MPH

  9. Beatrice Smith says:

    This college is full of sociopaths, in my opinion, who are too self righteous to admit they are wrong. Stop animal cruelty including testing under the cloak of looking for cures!

  10. joanne says:

    i too posted to all that you have listed-remember thier is power in numbers, we have seen this over the years. lets keep up the pressure for these poor suffering beings.

    I am appalled that in this day and age this depravation study is still allowed. The human race has inflicted years and years of horrific pain and suffering to lab animals, rabbits, rats, dogs , cats and the monkey-chimps. What we have done to them is unconscionable .Years and years of neglect , separate from their own species in unsuitable cages, with no stimulation and pain n torture inflicted every day !! I hate YOU and what you stand for -I hate YOU for the endless days and night of unimaginable suffering these animals have endured. It has been proven conclusively that these “science experiments” are flawed and needless. You defend yourself by saying many break thru’s have come from these years of well thought out inhumane , barbaric treatment. I also truly believe that what goes around comes around, and my hope is that one day you “in the name of science people” suffer 1/4 of the pain n neglect you have inflicted on those that lived to die at your hands ! Most of the world has seen and understands that we need to respect all that lives and shares the earth with us, we want to see it stopped ! Many labs have closed and have sent the remaining living animals to sanctuaries to live out the remainder of their lives . What you do here will have great affect on animals and people. Please have you become so ignorant of that which is not facing you everyday. GO to the lab and allow your self to look ,really look at what you have done -and ask yourself who has appointed me to inflict such suffering in the name of science ?

  11. LLowe says:

    I don’t know why Wisconsin bothers with all these experiments, all they have to do is look at their states residents to know that something went terribly wrong. They ought to trying to fix the so called humans that reside there!

  12. Katja says:

    This is the mail I send to the above given e-mails…

    Dear All,

    This is a small reminder from me to you, how Albert Einstein was thinking about compassion for all living creatures….
    Please take just 5 Minutes and think about it…

    “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from rest. A kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

    Thank you & Best regards

  13. Gina K says:

    Thanks Maggie. I too sent to all on your list the following note:
    Stop this cruelty! These are sentient beings! They feel pain and fear. No amount of data could possibly make up for the barbaric treatment of conscious beings that are put through this torture on purpose.
    Find another way to study this. There are enough situations where this has naturally occurred. Go in the field and study it there!
    This is the ultimate in arrogance and laziness.
    Better yet study yourselves. What would cause humans to perform these types of barbaric acts? What would cause the rest of you to condone it and sit back and not protest? You have spent so much time using your head you have become insensitive and forgotten to feel. That is a study worth doing. What gives academia the right and the belief that this is acceptable practice? That study of humanity’s depravity is a better subject. Go put yourself in isolation and see what happens to you.
    Shame on you.

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