Experts Agree: NIH ‘Monkey Fright’ Experiments Both Useless and Cruel

Experts agree with PETA: Elisabeth Murray’s “monkey fright” experiments—in which she deliberately inflicts traumatizing and permanent brain damage in monkeys and terrifies them with fake spiders and snakes—are completely useless in helping us understand human health.

Here is a small sampling of condemning remarks that numerous experts—including primatologists, medical doctors, mental-health experts, and animal ethologists—gave about Murray’s horrific tests on monkeys:

“Dr. Murray’s scientific work seems pointless. Monkeys are harmed, kept in totally barren environments, [and] tortured with surgically and chemically inflicted brain lesions to see how they react to threats such as rubber snakes. As a taxpayer I am outraged that my hard-earned money is supporting seemingly useless experiments of no discernible value on suffering monkeys. If the ‘Golden Fleece Awards’ were ever resuscitated, it is experiments like this one on brain-damaged monkeys that would certainly be nominated. The world has marched on and left unimaginative repetitive studies of no particular value, like Dr. Murray’s, behind in the dust.”

 


—Biruté Mary Galdikas

President, Orangutan Foundation International
Full Professor, Simon Fraser University

 

“In my work at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, I have developed and advanced simulation technology to replace animal use for the instruction of students and healthcare providers in physiology, pharmacology, and patient safety. Animal-free technology in science and medicine is advancing rapidly, and the National Institutes of Health risks being left behind if it does not redirect resources invested in archaic experiments like Murray’s to more promising, advanced, and humane non-animal studies.”

 

—John Pawlowski, M.D., Ph.D.

 

Sy Montgomery“Far from willingly allowing humans into their lives, [the monkeys in Elisabeth Murray’s laboratory] have been forced to participate in ours, trapped in small cages where they are unable to engage in the most normal and natural of behaviors or exercise any control over their environment. … I find it difficult to believe that any significant findings—about macaques or humans—could come from housing primates in such an artificial, impoverished environment. A monkey deprived of normal social, cognitive, and emotional stimulation, as it would seem monkeys are in this laboratory, is no more useful a model of human behavior in the “real” world than a human locked in a closet alone from birth. … I am certain that rhesus macaques … are extraordinary creatures who suffer deeply from being confined to a laboratory cage.”

—Sy Montgomery
Naturalist and New York Times bestselling author

 

Shirley McGreal“Rhesus monkeys come from Asia and are revered in India. They run wild and free. The thought of them living in tiny cages or restraint chairs and undergoing multiple brain surgeries gives me nightmares. And to think this has been going on for decades at taxpayers’ expense! Also offensive is the use in the reports of the term ‘euthanasia’ which means the putting to sleep of a suffering animal. To use the correct word, these poor monkeys are killed. I am also shocked that any veterinarian would participate in these cruel experiments.”

—Shirley McGreal, O.B.E., Ed.D.
Founder and President Emeritus, International Primate Protection League

 

“Macaques naturally live in heterogeneous environments in large multigenerational, multi-sex groups. These monkeys are clever, observant primates with high levels of social intelligence; they have to be, given that they have spent millennia living in close association with humans who often view them as competitors or resources. To assume, as NIH experimenter Elisabeth Murray has, that macaques removed from their social groups and confined within laboratories to tiny, barren cages are appropriate biomedical models of neuropsychiatric disorders is absurd and counter to everything that we know about how physiological states have a significant bearing on psychological health and response … I strongly urge NIH to stop all funding for this research which, in addition to being immeasurably cruel, lacks both scientific merit and appropriate study design.”

—Lisa Jones-Engel, Ph.D.

 

“As a researcher who once made extensive and invasive use of nonhuman primates for many years while studying the effects of early experience on cognitive development, I eventually came to appreciate many of their unique intellectual capabilities, social needs, and the emotional complexities of these animals. … [I]t has become urgently clear that many animal models typically fail to successfully mimic the complexities of human neuropsychiatric disorders or to provide clear and meaningful direction for successful clinical interventions. My review of Dr. Murray’s experiments indicates that even after three decades they have yet to result in any clinical applications. It is concerning that given the limited benefits of the data obtained from these studies relative to the considerable harms we know are being inflicted on the research subjects, these experiments continue at the nation’s most prestigious research facility.”

—John Gluck, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico
Faculty Affiliate, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University

 

Ingrid Taylor“In my opinion as a veterinarian, the monkeys in Elisabeth Murray’s NIH laboratory experience unrelenting isolation, psychological torment, and physical pain and discomfort. They endure multiple painful and invasive surgeries, the infliction of debilitating brain lesions, drug injections, and frequent restraint. They likely experience chronic pain and suffering as a result of these experimental manipulations. These monkeys, who are intensely social and rely on the community of other monkeys for their well-being, are housed alone in metal cages, unable to touch or interact with others of their own species. Monkeys who are isolated experience anxiety, frustration, and mental distress, and they often express this anguish through self-injury and abnormal repetitive behaviors. Monkeys are sentient beings who experience joy, grief, fear, sadness, and loneliness. There is no justification, scientifically or ethically, for these cruel experiments.” Read the full statement here.

—Ingrid Taylor, D.V.M.

 

Marc Bekoff“A major flaw of Dr. Murray’s research is the assumption that macaques held in a laboratory are useful models for human behaviors. The monkeys used in these experiments are housed in impoverished environments, deprived of normal social, cognitive, or emotional stimulation. These conditions are known to negatively impact their social, emotional, and cognitive development and function. Primates in laboratories often exhibit signs of extreme psychological distress—that may manifest as self-mutilation, pacing, rocking, and head-twisting. Some monkeys will bite their own flesh and others will pull out their own hair. It is likely that the stresses inherent in living in a laboratory environment modify the monkeys’ responses to the testing paradigm, confounding the results obtained.”

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado Boulder

 

“In human psychiatry, we are already well aware that traumatized and neglected people run higher risks of developing mental illnesses such as depression[,] anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. There is no need to repeat that experiment on gentle, sentient primates. … Terrifying these piteous brain-damaged monkeys is nothing more than sadistic.”

—Jaymie Shanker, M.D.

 

“[A]rtificially inducing brain-damage in severely stressed captive primates and forcing them to repeatedly perform oversimplified behavioral tasks cannot simulate the complex and variable causes and symptoms found in human neuropsychiatric patients. Individuals with most neuropsychiatric ailments do not suffer from the type of brain damage being inflicted on primates in Murray’s laboratory.”

—Pradip Sahdev, M.D., F.A.C.S., R.P.V.I.
Medical Director, Vascular Access Center, Brandywine, MD

 

“As a neuropsychiatrist, I was appalled by the video footage of the reprehensible “experiments” at National Institutes of Health (NIH) experimenter Elisabeth Murray’s laboratory. Damaging the brains of monkeys [and] then terrifying them with snakes and spiders is the stuff of horror movies and has no place in a government laboratory. The abuse of hundreds of monkeys over 30 years, costing more than $36 million of taxpayer money (including my own!)[,] has predictably failed to produce any benefit, much less a treatment[,] for humans. … Instead, money, time, and resources should be redirected into cutting-edge, human-relevant non-animal research.”

—Carol A. Tavani, M.D., M.S., DLFAPA
Executive Director, Christiana Psychiatric Services



“I have been a clinical psychologist for nearly 30 years. There is not an iota of information or knowledge that has derived from animal experimentation that has guided or assisted me in the conduct of psychotherapy with patients. I believe it is time to abandon the abhorrent treatment of animals when so little of clinical utility is produced by the inhumane procedures. I hope [NIH Director Francis Collins] and [his] colleagues will seriously reconsider funding these outdated and barbaric experiments in favor of more humane, more clinically-relevant research methods. The anthropocentrism of this type of torturous research should go the way of racism, sexism, and other shameful modes of unfair and injudicious domination and disregard.”

—Brent B. Geary, Ph.D.

 


Murray’s “research” has amounted to 30 years of monkey torture. This is not who we want to be as a species. This is not how we succeed.

How You Can Help Monkeys

PETA is demanding that NIH close this laboratory, end these tests, and redirect funds to superior, non-animal research methods that benefit humans. We also want the surviving monkeys surrendered to sanctuaries. You can join our campaign by clicking on the button below and telling NIH to end these experiments.

 

End Elisabeth Murray’s Monkey Fright Experiments

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