June 30, 2005

CU gets flak over monkey study
Organization blasts ongoing research into alcohol abuse
By Clayton Woullard

There was monkey business at the University of Colorado Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, but it wasn't on the agenda.

Members of the Committee for Research Accountability showed up at the meeting with one member, Jan Mitchell, in a monkey costume. They were there to protest the use of monkeys in research experiments at the CU Health Sciences Center.

Group leader Rita Anderson said there are at least 34 monkeys who have been used in experiments at the center since the 1970s.

Anderson said the monkey costume was a way to make sure the regents noticed the group and keep their cause in mind.

"We're being very serious when we bring the monkey suit out," Anderson said. "I think the people that know what's going on know that we're serious."

According to Anderson, and confirmed by Health Sciences Center spokeswoman Sarah Ellis, monkeys are being used in a five-year study to determine if poor mothering in monkeys leads to alcohol abuse in teen monkeys.

"There are no human lives that are going to be saved by this," Anderson said. "There's no way you can justify the money that taxpayers are paying for this, and there's no way to justify the cruelty to the monkeys."

Ellis said Health Sciences Center researchers are following all of the protocols and guidelines for the federally funded study in regard to animal care.

"We're involved in animal research, and we have been for many years. It's not going to stop," Ellis said. "We feel that animal studies are valuable in treatment of human disease and seeking answers to various human medical problems."

Anderson said the results of the current study, being led by researcher Mark Laudenslager, would be insignificant for human health because alcohol abuse in human youth is caused by environmental factors that monkeys in cages do not experience.

"Even if there are maybe some minor physiological studies they could get out of this, it's not worth the money and it's not worth putting these monkeys to torture," Anderson said.

While neither she nor Ellis could pinpoint the cost of the study, Anderson said a previous study led by Laudenslager using monkeys cost $7 million. That study, which ended in 2003, examined the effects of maternal separation on monkeys.

"Whatever it takes legally to get something done, then we'll do it," Anderson said. "If it means standing on our heads in the middle of the room, then we'll do that."