Monkeys Denied Water in Ridiculous Experiment That You Paid For

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Experimenters at Duke University purposely kept 10 macaque monkeys thirsty–—likely for days—in order to force them to cooperate in an experiment on… (wait for it)… sex and power in advertising.

monkeys abused in experiment
Image: Acikalin, et al., "Rhesus Macaques Form Preferences for Brand Logos Through Sex and Social Status Based Advertising," PLoS One 13.2 (2018)

In this federally funded fiasco, experimenters made the monkeys use computer touch screens to select brand logos—such as those of Pizza Hut and Nike—based on their pairings with pictures of a dominant male monkey, a subordinate male, or the hindquarters of a sexually receptive female. In order to compel them to perform this absurd task, experimenters first deprived them of sufficient water so that they would be thirsty and therefore desperate for the small drops of fruit juice that they received as a "reward" for their "cooperation."

This experiment—which the National Institutes of Health thought was a fine use of tax dollars—concluded that associations with sex and power sell products, something we've known is true for humans for decades. And human volunteers could easily have been used instead.

Duke University's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approved this shameful experiment. A school's IACUC is supposed to reject foolish proposals like this and to oversee "care" for animals who are held in laboratories. In other instances, this fluid-restriction method has been rejected by IACUCs on the grounds that such deprivation is cruel.

It should have been rejected in this case, too.

We've advised the president of Duke University to investigate the IACUC's misguided approval of this experiment immediately.

Will you add your voice to the call for an investigation?

You're welcome to use our template letter, but remember that putting the subject line and message into your own words will help draw attention to your e-mail.

Price, Ph.D.
Duke University

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