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Nameless research monkey re-captured for breeding ; is it really necessary?

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After 16 years of successful breeding for Wake Forest University's primate research center, you would think they would care enough about this poor macque to give her a name when she escaped from the center on June 29th.

But no, she was just another number , loose somewhere in Winston Salem, North Carolina or the surrounding area. Come to find out she was re-captured several days later near Clemmons which is not too far from the research center.

There are laws in North Carolina that don't even allow breeding a female dog on a chain over and over again. Why? it's inhumane. But that's a dog and we love dogs , only a few ever list monkeys as their favorite pet. Maybe that's a story. What has the breeding life of this monkey contributed to? Surely it would be significant enough to warrant a story, especially if posing for the camera does.

Perhaps the saddest part of this whole story is the attitude and comments of the public and apparently the local media. Television station, WGHP, Fox 8 had this title on the monkey's escape on it's website " Wake forest baptist monkey poses for the camera." (http://myfox8.com/2012/07/09/wake-forest-baptist-monkey-sighted-on-frye-bridge-rd/) Really? Is that a story? And in the body of the story this statement was made by the staff writers, "The university uses monkeys for medical testing of some of the major causes of death in our country."

It made me wonder , "When and what was the last major cause of death discovered by the researchers at WFU ? I know that for 16 years this monkey sure hopes they have found or will find something. Otherwise why should she even care if she lives or dies?

An article titled, "End of Primate Research at the University of Toronto?"(http://speakingofresearch.com/2012/02/22/end-of-primate-research-at-ut/ had this comment about the opinion of the university veteranarian, "Across the country, Dr. Harapa has watched the appetite for research primates waning...the main reason is that people have just adopted other animals for their experimental needs – mostly rats and mice." He also goes on to say the need for primates is just not there. "We stopped using dogs and cats a few years ago too. We can do so much research now by genetically modifying a mouse,” said Harapa. “Under a sector microscope you would hardly know the difference between a human heart and that of a mouse."

Of course Wake Forest or other research institutions are not going to stop using primates any time soon, but this does call to mind several questions that have been asked but need to be re-asked again and again as we develop more and more sophisticated methods of research. Do the beneftis of using this type of animal so close to humans in genetics really outweigh the costs?

IF you are not one to care about other species of life on the planet except your own, then the answer is simple, yes it is worth it. You also trust "authorities" to make sure nothing really too bad is going on in those facilities. Sadly, this attitude is what makes it hard for change to be demanded in many researach institutions. From an academic stand point I would think that much of primate research is; nonessential, replicated , unreliable, and in the eyes of nature and natural laws, inhumane. But its done to keep those grants flowing into the University coffers.

The Winston Salem Journal did post comments from Justin Goodman, associate director of laboratory investigations for PETA. (http://www2.journalnow.com/news/2012/jul/04/2/peta-protesting-studies-on-primates-after-monkey-e-ar-2408054/)

"Being inside a primate center is a miserable existence for a monkey," ..."The mothers have very strong bonds with their babies, and they live in social groups. Wake Forest is forcing these mothers to conceive, and then tearing their babies away from them and shipping them off. And when they can no longer breed, they are killed." He goes on to say, "They feel joy and sadness and pain. They want the companionship of others. If it's wrong to do those things to humans, it's wrong to do those things to our primate cousins."

It then follows that we should as a public know what's going on at this university. On the Wake Forest University website, http://www.wakehealth.edu/Research/WFUPC/Primates-at-WFUPC.htm, under WFU primate center, it says , "Currently funded grants support active research protocols totaling 18 million dollars in direct support from NIH and other sources."

On a prior page under research activities, http://www.wakehealth.edu/Research/WFUPC/Research-Activities.htm; they list the diseases their research has contributed to. But, if you really want to know specifically what those primates did to help that disease you won't find it there on the primate research site. Instead, you are invited to look at the resumes of their faculty (no doubt a laundry list of scientific legaleze articles that no lay person would understand). If I'm going to treat these primates to a life of misery and research, naming their specific research contributions to the longevity of the human race might be a novel idea.

The story of the nameless monkey will soon be forgotten as will she, when her breeding life ends. It takes a daring escape to make some of us, including me, ask a few questions about the cost benefit ratio of using these animals, so perfect and so human in many ways, in these times of incredible strides in research . May nameless monkey identified only as 16 years old and weighing 8 lbs, know that her life was not given in vain.

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