Posted by Dr Katy Taylor on 1st April 2016
Don’t be fooled by animal research
Experiments are no practical joke for animals in laboratories
Did you know countless animals are forced to suffer in ridiculous experiments which we think are highly unlikely to benefit human health?
This April Fool’s Day, we are highlighting outrageous and sometimes frivolous animal experiments carried out in laboratories worldwide.
Here are just a few examples of recent animal experiments conducted in the UK, USA and Asia:
- In an effort to try and simulate risky decision making associated with gambling in humans, rhesus macaque monkeys were surgically implanted with head-holding devices and restrained in ‘primate chairs’ positioned 30cm away from a computer screen. They were then forced to participate in a ‘gambling task’ thousands of times over for a period of several weeks to receive a drop of juice, which indicates that they had been starved of water to ‘motivate’ them. (University of Cambridge, UK).1
- To find out if monkeys are able to learn and understand language in the same way that humans do, rhesus macaques had posts implanted in their heads so that their heads could be completely immobilised as they were held in ‘primate chairs’ to prevent them from moving during each two-hour test session. They had been deprived of water to encourage them to perform. The monkeys had to focus on a computer screen placed 60cm away from their faces and listen to sounds coming from the speakers in order to receive a drop of juice. (Newcastle University, UK).2
- In an attempt to mimic human anxiety disorders, marmoset monkeys were used in a series of experiments designed to make them feel scared and threatened. The marmosets were trapped inside plastic boxes and blasted with unpredictable periods of loud noise (105dB which is approximately the equivalent of a chainsaw from 3ft away) and placed inside cages containing a rubber snake. Some of the marmosets were also subjected to invasive surgery to take fluid samples from their brains. (University of Cambridge, UK).3
- To investigate if loneliness makes people more susceptible to viral infections, researchers studied the behaviour of a group of captive rhesus macaques to find out which ones appeared to be the most ‘socially isolated’. The monkeys were repeatedly captured and forced to watch videos of either an aggressive adult male monkey or a young calm monkey. They were then infected with simian immunodeficiency virus, which is similar to HIV in humans, and subjected to repeat blood and urine sampling. (University of California, USA).4
- To determine if blueberries can be used as a treatment for post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD), rats were fed blueberry extract mixed in with their diet before being exposed to cats for an hour to simulate traumatic conditions. The rats were forced to repeat this experiment once more ten days later. At the end of the experiment, all of the rats were killed so that their brains could be dissected for further analysis. (Louisiana State University, USA).5
- To discover if rats will help save other rats from drowning, rats were placed in a special cage that had two compartments separated by a clear plastic door. One rat was placed in the dry compartment while the other rat was placed in the compartment filled with cold water. The researchers observed the animals to see if the ‘helper’ rat would open the door to save the distressed rat from drowning. (Kwansei Gakiun University, Japan).6
- To find out if an extract from a Chinese softshell turtle can help improve exercise performance, mice were force-fed the animal extract every day for a week before being subjected to repeated tests to measure their grip strength. In these tests, the mice had to hold onto a metal net while their tails were being pulled. The animals were then sedated so that blood samples could be taken from the veins in their faces. (Pukyong National University, Korea).7
These experiments showcase the disturbing and ridiculous lengths some researchers will go in an attempt to mimic human illness and behaviour – when there is already far more reliable human data available. It also belittles the complexity of human conditions which are affected by wide-ranging variables such as genetics, socio-economic factors, deep-rooted psychological issues and different personal experiences.
Claims made by the animal research industry that animal experiments are only conducted for vital medical research, and only as a last resort are simply not correct.
Sadly, for the animals who were made to suffer, this is no practical joke.
- Economic choices reveal probability distortion in macaque monkeys. Journal of Neuroscience 35: 3146-3154. 2015.
- Mixed-complexity artificial grammar learning in humans and macaque monkeys: evaluating learning strategies. (2015). European Journal of Neuroscience, 41(5): 568-578.
- Serotonergic, brain volume and attentional correlates of trait anxiety in primates. (2015). Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(6): 1395-1404.
- Myeloid differentiation architecture of leukocyte transcriptome dynamics in perceived social isolation. (2015). PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514249112.
- Blueberries show promise as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. (2015). The American Physiological Society Press Release: http://www.the-aps.org/mm/hp/Audiences/Public-Press/2015/9.html
- Rats demonstrate helping behaviour toward a soaked conspecific. (2015). Animal Cognition, 18: 1039-1047.
- Oral administration of a hot water extract of the softshell turtle (Trionyx sinensis) improves exercise performance. (2015). Preventative Nutrition & Food Science, 20(2): 133-136.