Philosophy of AR > Animal Testing - Index > Anti-Vivisection Index

May 29, 2006
The monkeys wearing glasses to improve children's eyesight


Controversial experiment: The two baby rhesus monkeys cling together in their cage in China

It is a picture that cuts to the heart of the debate on using animals for medical research.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=387660&in_page_id=1770

Two baby monkeys in goggles cling together for comfort in a cramped cage. To opponents of animal testing, it reaffirms the needless cruelty of the practice. But to the scientists involved, it is a necessary experiment that could help millions of young people.

The two baby rhesus monkeys were fitted with the headgear by scientists researching the causes of short-sightedness in children.

Each pair of the specially-fitted goggles has a lens designed to ease myopia over the left eye and a zero-powered lens over the right. The animals are living in cramped conditions so they have to look at objects close up.

The researchers at Zhongshan University in China are using the monkeys to investigate the idea that most young people become short-sighted from spending too much time reading books up close, working too closely on computer screens or staring at televisions only a small distance away.

Yesterday Andrew Tyler, director of the UK national campaign group Animal Aid, said: 'This is thoroughly distressing and stressful for the monkeys. They wouldn't know what's happening to them and it must be enormously traumatising.

'Being obliged to wear that contraption on their heads would be stress enough, but they are also being forced to endure interference with their vision which is likely to make them suffer nausea and mental confusion.

"The monkeys will know from looking at each other that something awful has been done to them."

He added: "There is little evidence of that and that such experiments are not even relevant to human medicine."

But Dr Simon Festing, a director of the Research Defence Society, which explains on behalf of doctors and researchers why animals are used in medical research, said: "You cannot study vision in a test tube or on a computer.

"You can study vision in a human but you are restrained as to what you can do because you cannot restrict the development of people's eyesight.

"That is why animal research has been fundamental in all aspects of medical treatment of eye problems.

"Nobel Prize-winning research carried out into cats, which involved sewing up one eyelid under anaesthetic, led to treatment that saved the sight of many children with a squint.

"I am not familiar with this particular research from China, but I would hope it leads to a greater understanding of short-sightedness."

Myopia affects about 20 per cent of British teenagers but some 70 per cent of Chinese teenagers suffer from it.