In the lush spring of 2010 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, thousands of newly minted graduates walked the stage to receive their diplomas and left campus to begin the next chapter of their lives. Elsewhere on campus that same weekend in May, away from the celebratory pomp and circumstance, a rhesus macaque named Cornelius was born in a barren laboratory at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC). He’s been trapped there ever since.
Cornelius’ decade of life has been defined by loneliness and misery. Like most monkeys born in laboratories, he was taken from his mother when he was just an infant, as his mother was so distressed that she couldn’t even care for him. As a newborn, he was given just an inanimate surrogate—perhaps a piece of fleece wrapped around a block of wood—to cling to for comfort.
As a baby, he suffered from a rash that covered his body and limbs. As a juvenile, he was plagued by persistent diarrhea—a sign of stress in monkeys in laboratories. He’s struggled to keep on weight, and experimenters have observed bald patches all over his body, likely from tearing out his own hair.
Checked out and passed around like a library book to various experimenters, including notorious Ned Kalin, Cornelius has endured a litany of assaults. He’s been subjected to repeated blood draws and put under anesthesia numerous times—a frightening and disorienting experience for any animal.
On multiple occasions in 2019 and 2020, experimenters strapped Cornelius into a restraint chair and painfully electroshocked his penis until he ejaculated so that his semen could be used to breed more monkeys for lives of misery.
Although in nature, highly social rhesus macaques live in troops of up to 200 individuals, Cornelius has spent the last half-dozen years of his life at the WNPRC caged mostly alone. PETA’s undercover investigator observed that he sat constantly hunched over or with his face pressed against the cage bars, apparently having lost his will to live.
Not a minute of Cornelius’ life has been his own—and not a minute more should be spent in a barren laboratory. Take action now to urge UW-Madison to release him to a reputable sanctuary where he can live the rest of his days free of loneliness, dread, and despair.