, Research Paper
Animal Experimentation at New York University
Using animals for medical experimentation and education is a controversial subject that often leads to a heated debate. The issues are complex, but the suffering and waste involved in animal experimentation are painfully obvious. Vivisection, the act of cutting into a live animal, has led the nation down countless scientific dead ends, while detracting funds and attention from more applicable scientific research. The practice of animal experimentation at NYU continues, not because it has been proven to be an accurate and reliable means of research (which it has not) but rather, because of tradition and promotion from those with strong vested interests (i.e. Lynne Kiorpes). These values have caused a number of recent protests and investigations at an institution named New York University.
On October 10, 2000, a protest in Washington Square Park rejuvenated an issue that NYU has been dealing with since late 1997, a debate that the university wrongfully uses Macaque monkeys for scientific research. An excerpt from the University Press read: “Kelly Osborne and Shawnee Alexandri rappelled down the west side of the main building, displaying a huge banner that read, “NYU’s Labs are Making a Killing””(Amon 1). The students claim that the research,
headed by Lynne Kiorpes, tortures baby monkeys and yields no breakthroughs that will save or even improve human lives (Animal Testing Labs Come Under Fire Again 1). Dr. Marjorie Cramer described Lynne Kiorpes’ work as “outdated, using antiquated techniques” (Gazzola 1). Her research was quoted by an editor of the Washington Square News as “insignificant and destructive” (1).
Lynne Kiorpes, head of the research laboratory at New York University, conducts research on Macaque monkeys to study the development of visual function. For fourteen years she and her students have attempted to find a cure for Amblyopia, an eye disease that occurs in infants (Animal Testing Labs Come Under Fire Again 1). The vision of infant monkeys, ranging from ten days to two months old, is surgically damaged and altered. As Lauren Gazzola, writer for the Washington Square News, stated, “Lynne Kiorpes’ strabismus experiments are a prime example of the unnecessary, cruel experiments being conducted on 50,000 animals in hidden laboratories every year at NYU.” (Animal rights and the University 1). The federal government for over a decade has in part, funded the research project. Lynne Kiorpes has spent over $1.5 million on her experiments, paving the way for weak claims and insignificant research.
Edward Taub, director of the Natural Science department at New York University, acquired his advanced degree from NYU and now conducts studies at the Laboratory for Experimental Research and
Surgery in Primates (Guillermo 38). Taub began experimentation on monkeys before they were born. The pregnant monkeys were anesthetized and the infants were cut from the uterus. The nerves were cut out, a plastic prosthesis was inserted to replace removed vertebrae, and they were placed back into the womb. Eighty percent of the infants died (37).
The experiments conducted in New York University’s research laboratories are cruel and the details are horrendously graphic. Researchers intentionally mutilate the eyes of the baby Macaque monkeys, forcing them to comply with overbearing demands, sometimes for months, and sometimes for merely one experiment. Either way, the monkeys are killed and their brains are dissected (Day 1). In order to coerce the monkeys to participate in testing trials, fluid deprivation is a method used more often than not. The reason that this reliable method is used is because it keeps the animals dehydrated and motivated. For each correct response, the baby monkey is given one-fifth of a teaspoon of apple juice (7). For the next experiment, the babies are drugged and placed in stereotaxic frames. Holes are drilled into their skulls and microelectrodes are inserted into their brains. Eighteen hours of electrophysiological recordings then take place. Other monkeys in the laboratory have contact lenses inserted to “defocus” their vision for seven to ten months (8). The experiments are, obviously, conceptually unsound. In this day in age, with all of the non-invasive scanning techniques available to the research community, it is inconceivable that an individual would be so callous as to take infant monkeys away from their mothers, damage their eyes, drill holes into their skulls, and insert microelectrodes into their brains.
Every year, NYU experiments on over 50,000 animals, collecting over $100 million in federal funding for Biomedical research. They have had nearly 400 violations of the Animal Welfare Act and were assessed a fine of $450,000, one of the largest fines ever issued by the USDA (Finsen 3). New York University has given over $2 million and nearly 100 chimpanzees to Fred Coulston, an infamous toxicologist known for his inhumane treatment of the primates imprisoned at the Coulston Foundation (4). They have been unresponsive to any attempts to replace animal research with non-animal methods, such as epidemiological studies, computer modeling, artificial tissue sampling, human-skin cultures, autopsy, and non-invasive imaging (Lawlor 1). Recently, New York University waged a cover-up to hide the construction of a new animal lab funded by taxpayers. Equally disturbing are NYU’s efforts to punish students and faculty members that have come forward with information on the abuses in the university’s animal laboratories (Finsen 42).
Scientific facts can be taught to medical students by use of demonstrative techniques. New York University’s medical school, which allows students to “practice” on live, healthy animals may be teaching future physicians to be devoid of compassion. Doctors are considered caring individuals, but vivisection during the training process can desensitize them to the pain they cause and teach them to put ethics aside. There is no reason for NYU to use monkeys for the purpose of experimentation and demonstration. Acceptable alternatives are available and should be implemented, saving lives and millions in federal funding, paving the way for a humanitarian society.