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The Physicians Committee



Victory! NASA Forced to Suspend Cruel Monkey Experiments

monkeyFor more than a year, PCRM has worked to block NASA’s planned radiation experiments on live squirrel monkeys. With your help, the experiments have been canceled.

In 2009, NASA announced a $1.75 million grant to Dr. Jack Bergman of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., to study the effects of deep-space radiation on human astronauts by dosing squirrel monkeys with heavy-ion radiation. The experiments would have been conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility.

But NASA recently announced its intention to “undertake a comprehensive review of the agency’s current research and technology development plans to see how they align with the president’s plan for human spaceflight,” the findings of which “will inform [its] decision making moving forward.”

These experiments would not have yielded useful data because of the basic anatomical, biological, and physiological differences between squirrel monkeys and humans. PCRM has led the criticism of these experiments.

Here’s a timeline of highlights leading up to last month’s victory:

  • November 2009: In a federal petition, PCRM asks NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. to halt the planned experiments because they violate the NASA Principles for the Ethical Care and Use of Animals.
  • February 2010:
    • PCRM submits a legal petition urging NASA's Office of the Inspector General to halt the experiments.
    • Political satirist Bill Maher writes NASA asking it not to spend $1.75 million to blast live squirrel monkeys with dangerous levels of radiation.
  • June 2010:
    • “Belmont, we have a problem: Don’t nuke the monkeys”: PCRM billboards and train station ads bearing that message alert commuters in Belmont, Mass., to controversial radiation experiments taking place at McLean Hospital.
    • PCRM leads a peaceful demonstration in front of McLean. The hospital is presented with pledges from primate sanctuaries willing to provide homes for the monkeys.
  • July 2010: April Evans, an engineer for NASA’s International Space Station, makes public her decision to leave NASA because of the agency’s refusal to address her concerns about its misguided plan to irradiate squirrel monkeys.
  • October 2010: Newly released documents indicate that that Brookhaven National Laboratory’s director and the Department of Energy have made a decision regarding the experiments.
  • December 2010: NASA and Brookhaven National Laboratory announce the cancellation of the experiments.

Because of your hard work, these monkeys will not be irradiated. And we have sent a powerful message to all federal agencies that ethical research is the best way to move science forward.



 

PCRM Online, January 2011

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