People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals held a protest last week at JFK International Airport to bring awareness to the fact that Egyptair is one of the only airlines in the US that allows the transport of monkeys for what can only be called cruel and inhumane experiments.
Dr. Alka Chandna, PhD, Vice President, Laboratory Investigations Cases responded to our questions about the animals and the experiments they are subjected to. These answers are followed by PETA’s release about the event.
1. When PETA says “monkeys,” is that as the colloquial term for primates, where it could include chimpanzees, baboons, etc, or is it a specific species that your release was referring to?
To our knowledge, EgyptAir is strictly importing long-tailed macaques (also known as crab-eating macaques) into the U.S. These monkeys are used extensively by the pharmaceutical industry and contract testing laboratories—even though both the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration admit that 95% of new drugs that test safe and effective in animals are found to be either unsafe or ineffective in human beings. Chimpanzees are no longer used in biomedical experimentation in the U.S. (please see: https://www.peta.org/blog/victory-everything-is-about-to-change-for-chimpanzees-in-laboratories/). Baboons are still used in U.S. laboratories; however, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, baboons are not commonly imported into the U.S.
2. Can you tell me about some of the evidence of the sentience, intelligence, feeling of pain, etc for the primates that are delivered to research organizations here via JFK?
Macaques are primates, like us, and it is well documented that they experience pain, suffering, joy, and fear. They are known to be highly intelligent and profoundly social and gregarious animals. Macaques are Old World monkeys who, in their natural homes, live in large family groups. Female macaques stay with their mothers their entire lives, and males stay with them for several years. They play, eat, and explore together. Monkeys have learned to use cameras and iPhones to look at themselves, because they’re self-aware. They’re also empathic often risking their lives to help others. In one notoriously cruel experiment, macaque monkeys were given food only if they pulled a chain that electrically shocked another monkey. Nearly all the monkeys preferred to go hungry, and one macaque starved himself for 12 days. Monkeys who had previously been shocked were even more reluctant to pull the chain and subject another individual to such punishment. Commenting on this experiment, astronomer Carl Sagan asked, “If the circumstances were reversed, and captive humans were offered the same deal by macaque scientists, would we do as well?” [The Milgram experiment showed that if the roles were reversed, humans would torture other humans if ordered to do so by an experimenter, without reward or promise of reward, as one of our editors reminded us].
Tragically, the sentience of macaques is acutely evident when we look at their treatment in laboratories. It is well established that when monkeys are deprived of companionship, sufficient space, and sufficient environmental complexity, they experience chronic stress and develop behavioral abnormalities, including stereotypic and self-injurious behaviors.
The scientific literature is replete with evidence that the current manner in which monkeys are held in U.S. laboratories—in universities, contract testing firms, and private companies—is wholly inadequate for ensuring the psychological well-being of monkeys.
Published journal articles document a grim reality for monkeys in laboratories. For example, stereotypic behavior indicative of psychopathology—including pacing, rocking, swaying, and self-clasping—is common in individually housed macaques. Self-injurious behaviors such as hair-pulling and self-biting are also prevalent in laboratories.
3. Are there any current legal challenges by PETA or other organizations you are aware of advocating for the rights of primates in specific states in the US or nationally?
Yes, PETA is waging campaigns focused on several large institutions that experiment on primates.
We are working to close down the seven federally-funded National Primate Research Centers ; and have been focused particularly on the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC); and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.
With each of these campaigns (and others), we routinely submit legal complaints to federal agencies. For example, after unearthing a raft of horrors at WaNPRC, PETA submitted formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health. In monitoring the transport of monkeys across the U.S., we documented violations of laws governing such transport; and we filed a complaint with the USDA and also alerted the Department of Transportation
Banner at EGYPTAIR Counter to Blast Monkey Shipments Into JFK