22 February 2011

Forced to be fat: Scientists induce morbid-obesity in captive monkeys

Just when you thought science had exhausted all the possibilities for abusing animals in the name of "research," here's a new one. Forcing laboratory primates to become grossly overweight…

A front-page story in Sunday's New York Times offers a glimpse into the lives of monkeys being used to develop weight-loss drugs for humans. Of course, unlike the average American (two-thirds of U.S. adults are classified as overweight or obese), non-human primates don't tend to be fat. So it's up to science to make them that way.

According to the Times, primate species used for these studies include both rhesus macaques and baboons. The animals are made severely obese by being fed "rich, fatty foods" and "sugary drinks," including a special punch containing high-fructose corn syrup intended to "accelerate the development of obesity and diabetes." Many are "kept in individual cages for months or years, which also limits their exercise."

As Kevin L. Grove, director of “obese resource” at the Oregon National Primate Research Center explains, scientists "are trying to induce the couch-potato style" in order to make monkeys suffer from the same illnesses that sedentary, junk-food eating humans face.

"Some receive daily insulin shots to treat diabetes, and some have clogged arteries. One monkey died of a heart attack a few years ago at a fairly young age."

Once the animals are made sick and obese, researchers use them to test experimental weight-loss drugs. Naturally, these tests are financed by pharmaceutical companies—all trying to be the first to develop that elusive "miracle" diet pill.

Other studies, focused less on drugs and more on surgical "solutions" to weight loss, make obese monkeys undergo gastric bypass operations in order to see how they compare to monkeys subjected to "forced dieting."

Still other studies put pregnant monkeys on a high-fat diet and then examine the effects on their offspring, effects which include metabolic and other problems.

New York Times' articles are available free online for only 6 days after initial publication, so if you're interested in reading the full story visit the following link by February 26:

Also highly recommended is an accompanying photographic slideshow, with disturbing pictures of some of the primate research subjects.

Elizabeth Gordon | Facebook
Elizabeth is an Asian-Appalachian writer, activist, and college professor living in north central Massachusetts. Once an avowed carnivore, she was a vegetarian for 15 years before making the conversion to veganism. She is passionate about trying to live a life that lessens, rather than contributes to, the amount of cruelty and suffering in this world. Follow Elizabeth on her Vegosphere blog and Facebook page.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/tomandellystravels