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February 24, 2011

Victory! NASA Cancels Plans for Monkey Radiation Experiments

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    Squirrel monkeys are intelligent and social animals who would have suffered tremendously if exposed to high doses of radiation. iStockphoto

Following public outcry, the nation's space agency backed down from plans to expose male squirrel monkeys to high doses of radiation.

On December 8, 2010, it was announced that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had officially withdrawn its proposal to carry out the experiments.

NASA had proposed the biomedical research experiments to measure how much damage a one-time, high dose of radiation would cause monkeys. Oddly, the experiments were an attempt to learn how humans in space might react to long-term exposure to low levels of radiation.

With help from animal lovers, we and other animal protection organizations, such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, pressured NASA for over a year to cancel plans to carry out the experiments.

No good reason

"We are delighted that NASA has decided not to move forward with these experiments," said Kathleen Conlee, director of program management for Animal Research Issues at The HSUS. "These monkeys would have suffered greatly and for no good reason. We already know the horrible effects of radiation on monkeys."

Arguments against the experiments included:

  • the likelihood that the radiation exposure would cause these highly intelligent and social animals to suffer severely with symptoms such as vomiting, hair and tooth loss, lethargy and self-mutilation
  • the overwhelming amount of research already done on the subject
  • the discrepancy between exposing monkeys to a one-time, high dose of radiation versus how humans might react to low doses of radiation over an extended period of time
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