22 October 2010

Bob Barker urges NASA to cancel squirrel monkey experiments

Animal rights activist Bob Barker is radiating over NASA’s plans to expose 27 squirrel monkeys to high levels of radiation.

Researchers plan to observe the neurobehavioral effects of radiation on the monkey’s health and task performance when traveling to planets such as Mars. The effects of human radiation exposure is still fairly unknown.

In Bob Barker's letter he addresses NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as follows:
Dear Gen. Bolden,

My friends at PETA tell me that NASA plans to fund a cruel radiation experiment on squirrel monkeys at Harvard's McLean Hospital and New York's Brookhaven National Laboratory. These scientifically invalid experiments squander $1.75 million of taxpayers' money and cost animals their health and freedom, so the price isn't right on any count.

The sensitive, intelligent squirrel monkeys who would be blasted with radiation in this experiment would no doubt suffer from brain damage, cancerous tumors, blindness, and a loss of motor control. Following the exposure, these social animals would spend the rest of their lives isolated in barren laboratory cages and subjected to years of behavioral experiments.

I am not alone in this opinion: Former astronauts, the European Space Agency, scientists, physicians and compassionate people around the world agree that these cruel experiments would not help protect astronauts traveling to deep space and violate our evolving relationship with other species.

I urge you to cancel this ill-advised plan.

NASA is fully aware of the harm these tests can do to squirrel monkeys, but are still persistent about using these helpless animals for radiation tests. Side effects from being exposed to radiation can cause tumors, cancer and brain damage just to name a few.

According to a November article in Scientific American, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) wrote a petition to Bolden explaining that the experiments "would be one giant leap backward for NASA." Calling the proposal "unnecessary" and "cruel," the organization stresses that the research would violate NASA's principles regarding animal ethics— a policy that was established in 1996—and states that "the minimization of distress, pain and suffering is a moral imperative."

Barker is far from alone in his fight to force NASA to stop pursuing monkey experiments. He joins PETA and other celebrities and agencies such as the European Space Agency (NASA's European equivalent), Bill Maher, former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, and former NASA engineer April Evans (who resigned in protest of the experiments).

Additionally Sir Paul McCartney wrote in a letter to Bolden, "I believe NASA has the ingenuity to investigate the health effects of space travel without confining and experimenting on animals.”

Alicia Silverstone has also expressed her disdain for this issue on her website and urges her readers to write to Congress.

You, too, can help save squirrel monkeys from enduring NASA’s radiation tests by joining PETA’s fight to put this project to rest.

Jodi Truglio
Jodi has a degree from UNLV in Journalism and Media Studies. She has been a vegetarian for 15 years and now a strict vegan for two years. In Jodi's spare time when she enjoys yoga and pilates.

Photo credit: PETA