Some say monkey research is cruel, expensive and useless
Of the Daily Sun Staff
Reactions from religious persons, veterinarians, animal activists and others around the island and the United States began to arrive Monday after the announcement of the $12 million National Institute of Health grant to the University of Puerto Rico Medical Center to study AIDS immunity through research with monkeys.
The study, which began six months ago and already has confirmed some results, is geared at understanding immune reactions in prostitutes who have unprotected sex with persons infected with HIV, the Human Immunodeficient Virus.
Scientists, including Primate Center Director Edmundo Kraiselburd, claim that there is no other way to arrive at the data to prove their hypothesis, which is that some men contain particles in their semen which could act as repressors to the entrance of the HIV virus into a woman’s vagina.
The most emphatic reaction came from Justin Goodman, associate director of the Laboratory Investigations Department from the People for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
He said: “HIV/AIDS experiments on primates are incredibly cruel and scientifically fraudulent. These intelligent, social, sensitive animals are ripped from their families, locked in cages and infected with a virus that causes them to suffer drastic weight loss, major organ failure, breathing problems and neurological disorders before they die excruciating deaths or are killed.
“In addition to being unethical, HIV/AIDS experiments on primates have been a complete scientific failure. Monkeys do not develop HIP or AIRS and all of the more than 80 vaccines for HIV/AIDS that were developed using animals and brought to human trials have failed. In some cases, they made humans more vulnerable to the virus.”
He took issue with Kraiselburd for saying the animal rights legislature in the U.S. was the strictest in the world.
“Not nearly,” he protested. “[The U.S.] allows animals to be burned, cut open, shocked, poisoned, socially isolated, starved, dehydrated, forcibly restrained, addicted to drugs and brain-damaged.
“No experiment, no matter how painful or insignificant is prohibited. Even when alternatives to animal use are available, experimenters do not need to use them. The law simply does not protect animals in labs.
“It is shameful and dishonest for experimenters to suggest that they have any respect for these animals at all. They use them like disposable laboratory equipment and throw them in the trash when they’re done.
“Billions of dollars are being wasted on these inhumane, dead-end studies while millions of people are contracting HIV and other cases have progressed to full-blown AIDS. There are modern in-vitro and clinical research methods that don’t harm animals and actually hold promised to find effective vaccines and treatments for HIV/AIDS. It is unethical to continue to abuse animals and waste precious resources needed to push forward cutting-edge human-relevant research that really has a chance of helping people.
From the University of California comes a reaction from Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D.. Emeritus professor of veterinary medicine also came out against the study:
“We will not learn how to help people with AIDS by forcing this disease on monkeys,” said the specialist in veterinary ophthalmology in a written communiqué. “It would make more sense scientifically to study the immune system of the people in question to learn the difference between the susceptible group and [the resistant group.] Further studies can be done involving cell cultures of, for example, lymphoid cells from these people. This human-based approach will lead to results ...applicable to people; the monkey studies will not and have never done so to date. In a recent study, scientists used genetically modified human tissue to treat patients and have shown that this is a promising avenue of research.”
Delma Fleming, psychologist/psychotherapist, and animal activist in Ponce, was brief in her comments.
“These experiments fill the pockets of too many; they are unnecessary, irrelevant, possibly repetitive, and a macro waste of taxpayers money,” she said.
Sally Figueroa, founder of PARE Este, an animal rescue organization in Fajardo, also opposes the work on monkeys, which she believes is not even helpful or necessary.
“Besides the outrageous cruelty of using these animals for this research, any conclusions found in studying primates may very well not be pertinent to humans, because primates are not humans.”
Several leaders from the Episcopal church, which has launched a special mission to help animals, objected to the work on animals.
Rev. Aida Alvarez of the Church of the Resurrection in Manatķ had this to say: “It is sad that people consider themselves superior to the animal kingdom which inclines them to use animals to find a cure for humans. If human beings could see completely the value of a life, whether animal or human, they might already have found a better way than taking the life of a little animal.
“They have not yet taken a stand on finding alternative ways, and they don’t seem to respect a little cat or a little bunny who dies to save us.”