Fifth Estate Home > Issue 319, Winter, 1985 >
This year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of animals will die preparing human beings for World War III.
Because their overall physiological and psychological make-up is so similar to ours, monkeys are favorite victims of experiments designed to measure the effects of radiation from neutron bombs and the toxicity of chemical warfare agents.
It started in 1957 through 1958 as part of Operation PLUMBBOMB. Ten tubes, each containing eight monkeys, were placed at varying distances from ground zero during atomic testing. Some monkeys in the outer tubes survived and were subsequently transferred to Yerkes Primate Center in Georgia, where they developed various cancers.
Today, people at the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas continue to perform radiation experiments on primates. Some of the most painful experiments are conducted in the Oculothermal Burns Section. The actual irradiation of the eyes does not hurt; it takes two weeks for the monkeys’ agony to start. Acute irritation and discomfort last several months and eventually cataracts and blindness result. These studies concern the effects of radiation on the performance of dying, irradiated pilots. Monkeys are taught to fly platforms which climb, dive, and otherwise simulate aircraft. Then the monkeys are irradiated and tested for their ability to keep the “planes” level, while suffering from radiation sickness.
In 1979, Dr. Donald Barnes, a researcher at Brooks, wrote: “I can no longer perform experiments with animals doomed…to a very early death, pain and suffering. The shock generators deliver 50 ma at 1200 volts. I couldn’t guess the number of times I’ve seen units used at full power to punish a slow learner: well into the thousands…Frustration leads to self-destructive behaviors, e.g. biting hunks of meat from an arm or hand.”
For Barnes, the worse part of his duties was the death-watch: “I was ordered to keep watch on these irradiated monkeys, which meant, quite simply, to see what happened until they died. Do you have any idea how miserable it is to die of radiation injury? I do, I’ve seen so many monkeys go through it.”
At the US Army Armament Research and Development Command Chemical Systems Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland, monkeys are exposed to two types of chemical warfare agents: incapacitants or “knock-down” agents, and lethal agents, such as SOMAN, an organophosphate or “human insecticide.” The pain suffered by monkeys in these laboratories must be unbearable.
The Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) in Bethesda, Maryland, specializes in high-dosage radiation studies. Here again, the point of the experiments is the deathwatch, so no therapy is ever attempted. Monkeys are put in a treadwheel, able to avoid shock only by miming. Once a monkey has “learned” to run for several hours (ten minutes running, five minutes rest), he is irradiated and put back in the wheel to run his way into eternity.
A watching psychologist counts the number and duration of each monkey’s “incapacitations” (periods when the hapless monkey crumples into a vomiting mass on the treadwheel floor, accepting repeated shocks rather than trying to continue running for his human masters).
Just as we defend the rights of all human beings, not just white ones and male ones, let us always remember that we who desire peace on this planet, desire it for all animals, not just those of our own species. Other animals are not inferior, just different from us. Human warmaking begins with the exploitation of other species, and culminates in the destruction of our own. We should think twice before using the expression “human rights” for “animal rights” is part of the same single quest for the respect, consideration and understanding that makes peace on earth.
Join Us: People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals, Box 56272, Washington, D.C. 20011. (202) 726-0156.