Monday, February 21, 2011

Making Monkeys Obese

The NYTimes reports on a series of experiments that keeps highly social primates in isolation cages to fatten them up to test obesity drugs, among other things. These are long-term studies and the article reports that there are additional obesity studies being done in baboons at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. Another researcher at the University of South Florida has been doing experiments with fat monkeys for forty years. (Hasn't the human obesity epidemic emerged within those forty years?) The Times reports that such studies costs "several million dollars."

Dr. Kevin Grove, a researcher at the Oregon National Primate Center who defends socially isolating the macaques he makes fat, has learned that in humans "eating a healthy diet during pregnancy reduced troubles in the offspring." What a finding! Perhaps spending a few more million dollars and causing countless primates more suffering will eventually lead doctors to tell pregnant women to eat well while pregnant. Oh wait, doctors already tell pregnant women that.

This article raises a very important ethical question -- are there any experiments with animals that experimenters are prepared to condemn? Their credibility depends on their being able to critically reflect on the ethical issues associated with using other animals in research and to recognize that some experiments cannot be justified.

When federally funded after school programs and other social services aimed at curtailing human obesity are being cut, spending millions of tax dollars to make monkeys obese raises serious questions.

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