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The best and the brightest do not do animal experiments. If they were to take a job in such a facility, they would soon quit.


Cruelty in the Ivy League

Animals neglected at Harvard. Animals abused at Yale. Experimenters at the nation’s leading universities breaking federal laws that are supposed to protect the animals in their laboratories. In this issue, we show the violations of law at some of America’s most prestigious universities.

How is this possible? Aren’t the researchers and caretakers at Ivy League schools the best and the brightest anywhere?

The answer is no, they are not. The best and the brightest do not do animal experiments. If they were to take a job in such a facility, they would soon quit.

Years ago, I was given a tour of a primate laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The veterinarian who walked me through the facility seemed nice enough. But as we passed by the rows of cages, I saw a change in his demeanor.

He could see that the monkeys were afraid. Needless to say, they were panicking at the sight of an approaching white coat. Aware that they could not escape and had no defenses, they cried out and rattled their cage bars in a pathetic attempt to scare the intruder away.

The veterinarian looked annoyed. He seemed to take the monkeys’ noisy, frightened displays as a personal affront. As one of the monkeys vainly bared his teeth—hoping no doubt to make his 20-pound frame look slightly more intimidating—the vet reacted angrily. He slapped the cage door with his hand, making a loud banging sound and yelled at the desperate primate inside. Silly as it sounds, the veterinarian did not like to be glowered at by a monkey.

People who take jobs in animal laboratories soon discover that the animals are terrified. And the experimenters do not like it when animals fight back against attempts to pass a nasogastric tube down their noses or a gavage tube down their throats.

Sensitive people do not stay in jobs like that. They quit. Or if they object to harmful procedures, they are forced out. And they leave behind them people who do not flinch at the daily abuse of animals.

If the vet behaved this way in front of me, what would he do when no one was around? Of course, we know exactly how some experimenters behave. Years ago, leaked videotapes from a University of Pennsylvania laboratory showed experimenters—funded by the National Institutes of Health—causing massive head injuries to baboons as part of a research protocol. The experimenters then mugged for the camera as the baboons struggled with terrible brain injuries. Dangling the injured animals by their arms, the experimenters laughed at them and called them names. One experimenter after another looked more like a psychopath rather than a serious scientist.

That particular set of experiments was stopped. But did the university clean up its act? All we know is that it got tighter security and stopped videotaping.

The animals are still there, and the technicians who might have been compassionate toward them very likely fled long ago, leaving the animals in the care of people to whom cruelty does not matter.

Neal Barnard signature
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
President of PCRM

Neal Barnard, M.D.
Neal Barnard, M.D.

Good Medicine Magazine Autumn 2011

Good Medicine
Autumn 2011
Vol. XX, No. 3

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Good Medicine

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