A local business management consultant and seminar leader told a University of Wisconsin crowd Tuesday that testing on monkeys in UW research centers is immoral and unethical in all regards.
Speaker Rick Marolt promoted attempts to abolish experimentation on primates, addressing why these have not been more prevalent at UW.
Marolt added he believes there would be no immediate negative ramifications to termination of this research.
“If the UW-Madison stopped experimenting on monkeys tomorrow, I guarantee you nothing bad would happen,” Marolt said. “It is not necessary in any absolute sense.”
Marolt described all of the characteristics of various monkey species that make them similar to humans, including monkeys’ ability to learn from mistakes, experience empathy, lie, think hypothetically and show love.
Upon listing these human-like correlations, Marolt was critical of the current rational for experimentation on monkeys, underscoring the ridiculousness of the notion that people will do painful, invasive experiments on a species similar to their own.
He said UW lacks logical and moral clarity because it thinks the best way to learn about one species is by studying another species.
Marolt said he sees experimenting on monkeys as morally unethical as experimenting on people. He argued any difference that could be identified between the two species that might justify experimenting on monkeys could also be used to justify experimenting on some people.
He added as an example, if one justified experimenting on monkeys because they are less intelligent than people, this logic would also justify experimenting on humans in a vegetative state or with severe mental handicaps.
Marolt also described the uselessness of caloric restriction research at UW, saying even the research center’s press release acknowledged conclusive evidence of effects on diet may never be known, thus the research center is keeping monkeys captive for nothing.
Richard Weindruch, professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health who does caloric restriction research, promoted the high level of safety and health regulations applied to the center’s primate testing. He added experimentation and living conditions of the monkeys must meet federal regulations.
“The animals in my study are very closely monitored for health status,” Weindruch said.
Weindruch added his research deals with making animals, and possibly people, healthier and able to live longer. Therefore, there is very little invasive or harmful experimentation done to animals, since he is focused on how long they live and remain healthy.
UW physiology professor Joseph Kemnitz, an expert on biomedical research using nonhuman primates, said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald he was confident in the morality of primate research at UW, saying humane research on primates is ethical.
Kemnitz noted the animals used for research testing are able to interact with their neighbors and kept in rooms set at comfortable temperatures corresponding to that of their natural habitats.
Also, he said the test subjects are provided with fresh, clean water and nutritious diets along with prompt medical care as needed, and they have good relationships with their caregivers.