|Marmoset. Credit: BUAV
|"The monkeys could be seen crying out, twisting
frantically, retching or desperately trying to escape"
|"All the experimental monkeys would be killed
by injection, their tiny bodies dissected and their brains cut out
and placed in jars"
The Cutting Edge
For 10 gruelling months, an investigator from the British Union for
the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) worked undercover inside what claims
to be one of the UK's leading academic brain research centres, Cambridge
Day after day, she secretly filmed and recorded the miserable fate of
hundreds of marmoset monkeys imprisoned inside small, barren cages for
their entire lives and deliberately brain-damaged for a mixture of basic
research (curiosity-driven and aimed at simply 'finding out about' the
brain) and applied research (trying to develop a marmoset 'model' of human
illness such as Alzheimer's stroke and Parkinson's disease).
[Full report, PDF format]
The marmoset's natural habitats are the jungles, swamp forests and tree
plantations of Brazil. At Cambridge University the marmosets were cruelly
deprived of the space, social contact, enrichment, diet and complex environment
essential to satisfy their biological, psychological and behavioural needs.
They were deprived of any natural light or any serious attempt to provide
even a moderately enriched or stimulating environment. Some monkeys were
even caged on their own.
In the weeks before brain damage, monkeys were trained to perform behavioural
and cognitive tasks. After brain surgery, these poor monkeys were made
to repeat the tasks again, to see how far the brain damage had affected
their ability to perform them. Water deprivation and/or food restrictions
were often used to coerce monkeys to obey. That meant depriving the animals
of water for 22 out of every 24 hours, with intermittent respite, for
up to the entire length of the experiment. One test (for Parkinson's disease)
involved shutting monkeys in a tiny Perspex box for up to one hour at
a time to see how often they would rotate (an effect of the brain damage);
injections of amphetamine or an apomorphine made them rotate faster or
in the opposite direction. The monkeys were often clearly distressed and
bewildered; they could be seen crying out, twisting frantically, retching
or desperately trying to escape.
All the experiments included the deliberate infliction of brain damage
(once, twice or even three times) by cutting or sucking out parts of the
brain or by injecting toxins. A typical surgery involved placing the monkey
under anaesthetic, holding the head in a stereotaxic device (which clamps
the head firmly at the tongue, eyes and ears), cutting open the scalp,
scraping away the muscle layer attached to the skull and then cutting
drilling open the skull with an electric saw in order to inflict brain
damage. One of the researchers callously described this as 'like taking
a lid off'.
The immediate post-operative effects of the brain surgery included pain,
distress, bleeding from head wounds, fits, vomiting, tremors, swelling
and bruising, loss in body temperature, failure to eat and drink, abnormal
body movements such as head twisting and body rotation, the loss of use
in one arm or the whole side of their body, loss of balance and visual
Long-term effects included physical disabilities, learning and memory
impairment, weight loss and lack of self-care. Many monkeys appeared confused
with blank expressions on their faces, their bodies uncoordinated. One
monkey's confused state was described by a researcher as 'watching the
At the end of their ordeal, all the experimental monkeys would be killed
by injection, their tiny bodies dissected and their brains cut out and
placed in jars. Their mutilated bodies were stored in the laboratory freezer
before being disposed of like laboratory waste.
Remarkably, despite the obvious severity of the procedures these monkeys
had endured during their short lives, the Government classified the experiments
under the category of causing only 'moderate' suffering.
Humane alternatives >>
For more information about the investigation, see BUAV's
Cutting Edge website at www.buav.org/zerooption.