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A Throng of Lost Souls
By Michael Budkie

Our society mass produces many things such as cars, television sets, and computers. Often the things that we produce and consume are inanimate objects and so the way in which they are treated during production has no ethical consequences. However, our society also mass produces many living things that have emotions, are capable of feeling pain, of suffering.

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The ever increasing gravy train of federal funding which sustains animal experimentation has produced an ever escalating demand for more victims, more souls to be lost and ground to pieces in the machinery of our nation’s laboratories. Because they are so like us, primates are in high demand for producing fallacious “models” of human diseases. Also, because primates are so like us they have an extremely high ability to suffer. Their psychological complexity makes them even more capable of victimization.

And so, there is a demand for a seemingly endless stream of primates to flow into the labs. This living tide of sentient beings pours into dozens of laboratories only to flood out as so much biological waste, bereft of everything that made them unique.

This unending demand for suffering has brought about the “monkey farm” – a kind of facility that looks like a laboratory and may even perform experimentation on a small scale, but whose real purpose is production. These places are assembly lines for maiming.

Our government supports many of these facilities. The National Primate Research Center system, a set of 8 laboratories that do both breeding and experimentation, collectively imprisons 28,000 primates. Other facilities like the multiple locations of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) laboratories incarcerate 7500 primates. The SNBL lab of Everett (WA) holds 3000, and the New Iberia Research Center of Louisiana imprisons 6000 primates.

Despite the fact that the New Iberia lab locks up many if its prisoners in outdoor enclosures, they are often no better off than others who are held captive inside concrete buildings. The documented information about this facility is fairly sketchy about the primates themselves. After all, there is little time for details; the staff here is responsible for 6000 lost souls.

Many of the inmates at New Iberia are born into bondage, never knowing the kind of life that they should have had in their true environment. They know only concrete slabs, wire mesh, and perches. Many that are conceived don’t survive past the first year of life. One colony within this facility has an infant mortality rate of 33%. One out of every three pregnancies ends in death. Maternal neglect and abuse of offspring is also common, apparently they have learned something from us humans.

Disease is very common within this prison camp. Depending on which group of primates is discussed, the rate of disease/injuries varies from 9% to 26% per year. The most common pathology is enteritis/colitis which accounts for as much as 80% of all clinical conditions. Enteritis/colitis is a debilitating condition involving severe diarrhea, loss of weight, loss of appetite, dehydration, and eventually death. In fact, 42% of the primates that are afflicted with this disease die. It has become so much of an everyday occurrence at New Iberia that the post mortem records for these animals are sprinkled with statements like: “Chronic colitis is a common syndrome in captive macaques.” Maybe this is because monkeys are not designed to live in concrete floored, wire mesh walled enclosures. They have been designed by thousands of years of evolution to roam freely over miles of treed environments. Their forced adaptation to the laboratory has not been successful.

Primate 97P015 is an excellent example of what this enteritis/colitis does to a monkey. This twelve year old monkey is described at death as being “ . . . on treatment for poor condition – very thin, generalized alopecia.” And “Very thin animal, no fat stores.” This monkey should not have been allowed to reach a point of such severe debilitation that there was no body fat whatsoever present. This primate had a recorded weight of 9.35 kg (roughly 20.6 lbs) on June 14, 2007. The body weight had decreased to 8.5 kg (18.75 lbs) by June 11, 2008. By January of 2009 his weight had plummeted to 6.3 kg (roughly 13.9 lbs), which represents an overall decrease of over 32%, with the majority of this decline occurring in the six months from June of 2008 to January of 2009. This is a precipitous drop, similar to a 150 lb human losing 48 lbs.

The task of caring for this many animals is surely overwhelming. And so, sometimes things are missed. Occasionally, the assembly line misfires. Several New Iberia primates that developed severe illnesses were not noticed until they were simply described as “down,” which can only mean that these animals were so utterly sick and debilitated that they had collapsed. Septicemias, severe life threatening infections which course through the bloodstream, develop without any knowledge of where they came from and are diagnosed only when the animal dies. Other macaque monkeys are allowed to reach such an exaggerated point of debilitation that they are listed as emaciated – skin and bones only, they resemble victims of a concentration camp. That is surely what they are.

The ending of these plagues is that every two days 3 - 4 primates die at New Iberia, not counting experimental deaths. These mortalities come only from disease and trauma. If this lab buried their dead, the cemetery would stretch on for miles, adding two new graves every day. They would likely need an additional cemetery for the victims of experimentation.

The death toll is not limited to New Iberia. In 2008, 32 macaque monkeys were literally cooked at the Charles River laboratory in Nevada when a heating system malfunctioned and the staff didn’t respond to alarms. The USDA imposed a penalty of $10,000. Apparently the USDA thinks that killing a single primate through negligence is serious enough to require only a penalty of $312.50. In 2007 a monkey was boiled alive inside a cage washer at the SNBL laboratory in Washington. These accidents are only the ones that made the newspapers. Assembly line misfires.

The pictures which creep into my mind are the stuff of nightmares -- monkeys collapsing from disease. Emaciated, dehydrated, incapable even of digesting food.

They shamble around their enclosures barely able to walk. They simply waste away – death comes to New Iberia every day. This is not a few animals -- over 600 die annually – lost souls that never had a real life. Denied their natural environment, they have been thrown into an endless stream of anguish and they drown in a tidal wave of agony.

Then I see mothers caring for their young, sometimes. Some apparently don’t know what to do, because they were taken away from their own mothers too early. They have looks of utter amazement as their babies die in their hands – victims of an artificial environment. Others bite and tear at their infants – both mother and child are victims of the insanity that plagues captive primates. Caring and nurturing have been turned to abuse and neglect.

The “lucky” survivors get shipped to the NIH.

Places like this, assembly lines on the way to oblivion, can’t care for animals. They can’t even notice imminent death. They can’t promote health or well-being. After all, that is for living creatures. The animals at New Iberia are only the inventory.

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See also: University of Louisiana, Lafayette, LA

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