NOT IN OUR
Student and alumni members of the Harvard Animal Law Society are deeply concerned and disturbed by the recent revelation of experiments on monkeys and their babies being conducted at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Dr. Margaret Livingstone.
Join us in demanding an end to these cruelties.
Open letter to Harvard administration:
Student and alumni members of the Harvard Animal Law Society are deeply concerned and disturbed by the recent revelation of experiments on monkeys and their babies being conducted at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Dr. Margaret Livingstone. We are equally concerned by the University’s defensive response to objections from the global scientific community condemning these experiments.
Monkeys held in Livingstone’s laboratory for research have been subjected to eye suturing (sewing their eyes shut), maternal deprivation, and facial recognition deprivation, among other cruelties.
An exposé by PETA following the publication of Livingstone’s research revealed the disturbing experiments occurring in her lab. After being separated as infants from their mothers, monkeys were subjected to horrifying sensory deprivation experiments. At least one infant monkey was strangled to death after she pushed her head through a hole in a piece of cloth serving as her surrogate “mother.” Other infant monkeys have had their eyes sewn shut and were prevented from viewing any faces by having handlers wear welder’s masks. Monkeys in this lab have been subjected to gruesome surgeries in which head posts are affixed to their skulls and eye coils or electrodes are implanted in their skulls.
Infant monkeys in these experiments suffer irreversible harm by continuing to be separated from their mothers, despite decades of research by primatologists confirming the importance of the mother-infant bond in nonhuman primates. It is deeply troubling that in 2022, such research has been approved by Harvard ethics committees and even more troubling that it is being defended by our University.
This is not a condemnation of Dr. Livingstone’s lab specifically, nor of her integrity as a researcher, and we do not support any form of bullying or intimidation. We highlight the research Livingstone is conducting to illustrate that it is a symptom of a broader problem. The lab is operating within an archaic system that needs to change: Experimenting on primates is objectively cruel and outdated. It has no place at an institution like Harvard.
Livingstone claims this research helps humans and that maternal deprivation is an incidental outcome, rather than the main aim of her work. While it is true that experimentation on primates may provide some potential benefits to humanity, it raises serious ethical concerns. Observations of primates in their natural habitats have shown that they mourn their dead social partners and form long-lasting attachments to their offspring – even after death.
How can we justify the abuse and exploitation of other sentient beings for the uncertain potential of saving our own? There must be an ethical ceiling to scientific research. Monkeys do not have the ability to consent to be experimented on. Given their high level of capacity to experience pain, joy, and suffering, we have a significant obligation to consider the ethical implications of conducting such cruel experiments on them.
Harvard University is the world’s preeminent research institution and, as such, bears a great obligation to act justly and beneficently. Our motto is VERITAS. Truth. The truth is that there are available alternatives to the use of primates in research, some of them being developed right here in the Harvard ecosystem. We must pursue truth. And Harvard must hold itself to a higher standard.
The USDA’s June 2022 inspection confirms there are currently 49 macaque monkeys being used by Harvard Medical School for scientific research. As students and alumni, we find it shameful and unacceptable that our dollars are supporting experiments on nonhuman primates, regardless of what those experiments entail.
We call upon the University to terminate all Harvard-affiliated and funded research involving nonhuman primates, and we demand greater transparency around lab protocols for all future animal research.
The Harvard Animal Law Society
Images of cruelty
The images on this page are taken from figures in a recent publication by Harvard's Dr. Margaret S. Livingstone, Triggers for Mother Love (PNAS, 2022), in which she details cruel maternal deprivation experiments incidental to her research.
Scientists object to this unethical research
"We were disturbed to discover that in 2022 a University ethics committee approved any experiments that required isolation of pregnant mothers and maternal separation so soon after birth."
- Excerpted from a letter to PNAS signed by 250 scientists and graduate students, including primatologists with over 100 years of cumulative research experience.