For Immediate Release:
October 18, 2022
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Boston – Please see the following statement from PETA neuroscientist Dr. Katherine Roe regarding Harvard Medical School’s attempt to defend experimenter Margaret Livingstone’s indefensible experiments on infant monkeys. For 40 years, Livingstone has been depriving infant monkeys of their ability to see the world, allegedly to try to understand visual processing. Her experiments include removing infant macaques from their mothers at birth and then sewing one or both of their eyelids shut or never allowing them to see a face in order to determine how this affects the visual cortex. For example, the “Materials and Methods” section of this 2019 paper states, “Two of the hand-reared monkeys (M5 and M6) were raised under conditions of visual form deprivation via eyelid suturing for the first year.” In a 2020 paper, the “Materials and Methods” section reads: “Four of the hand-reared monkeys (M12, M13, M16, M17) were raised by laboratory staff wearing welders’ masks that prevented the monkey from seeing the staff member’s face.” Livingstone’s own website states, “[W]e prevented the development of face domains by raising monkeys while we wore welders masks so the monkeys never saw faces.”
Photos from one of Livingstone’s own papers are posted at the top of PETA’s webpage on these studies. For perhaps obvious reasons, Livingstone has released neither videos nor photos of the monkeys whose eyelids have been sutured shut. PETA posted its iconic video—clearly labeled as such—of Britches, the blinded infant monkey who was taken from a California university laboratory in 1985. That case along with several others involving abusive monkey laboratories led to significant amendments to the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Margaret Livingstone and Harvard Medical School are profoundly ignorant about who monkeys are and how their brains develop. Now they’ve resorted to lies to excuse her atrocities. The information on PETA’s webpage, including the photos at the top of the page, comes from Livingstone’s own publications that are available in the public domain. Don’t be fooled by her sanitized language: “Hand-rearing” means that infant monkeys have been permanently removed from their mothers, “monocular deprivation” means that one eye has been sewn shut, and “binocular deprivation” means that both eyes have been sewn shut.
Livingstone’s 40-year track record—paved over the bodies of dead cats and monkeys—demonstrates that she doesn’t understand that taking baby monkeys from their mothers has a profound effect on the developing brain, rendering any data questionable. It is impossible to draw meaningful, translatable conclusions about vision without taking into account the development of the brain. Not only are the experiments cruel, they are also scientifically flawed.
Harvard should shut this atrocious laboratory down now and release all photos, videos, veterinary-care records, and necropsy reports related to the monkeys immediately.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.