The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and animal activists have taken issue with NASA’s plan to study the long-term effects of radiation exposure in monkeys.
In November, PCRM sent an appeal to NASA administrator Charles Bolden asking him to suspend the project, which would involve exposing 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys to radiation and periodically testing them to see how exposure affects their performance in a variety of previously learned tasks to uncover what effects humans will suffer from trips to deep space.
PCRM is calling this project “one giant leap backward for NASA,” arguing that it’s cruel, unnecessary and in violation of NASA’s ethics policies, which state that “the minimization of distress, pain and suffering is a moral imperative.” Not to mention it will cost taxpayers $1.75 million.
PCRM recently obtained a research protocol through the Freedom of Information Act, which reveals the “disturbing details about how monkeys will be treated in the experiments, as well as a lack of scientific validity and the researcher’s reliance on discredited experimental principles. Lead Researcher Jack Bergman submitted the protocol to Brookhaven National Laboratory, where the monkeys will be irradiated.”
Last week PCRM filed a formal complaint with NASA’s Office of the Inspector General in an attempt to halt the project, which would be the first NASA funded experiment on primates in more than 30 years.
Many studies show that captivity and restraint can impair brain function in primates, making it nearly impossible to assess the effects of the radiation, according to PCRM.
It would be impossible to separate the indicators of this stress from the effects of the radiation exposure. Additionally, this type of research can’t adequately predict the type of environment an astronaut would actually encounter in deep space, making it completely pointless.
While NASA wants to be prepared for what astronauts will encounter in deep space, the cruelty of such studies does not fit humankind’s leaps for knowledge.
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