NASA Drops Cruel Monkey Radiation Experiments – After A Little Persuasion from PETA US

Posted by on December 16, 2010 | Permalink

© iStockPhoto / fpm

I am actually old enough to remember watching the moon landings as a kid, and for those of you who missed it, the Tom Hanks film Apollo 13 does a pretty good job of recreating the mood of excitement and inspiration that space exploration had back then. For me, NASA (the US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has always seemed to be an organisation full of heroic and brilliant people, at the forefront of science. Last year, I was disturbed to learn that this was not necessarily the case and that NASA was planning to perform deadly radiation experiments on monkeys as preparation for a possible manned trip to Mars.

The experiment they planned involved exposing dozens of squirrel monkeys to a harmful dose of radiation and confining them to small cages where they would be subjected to years of behavioural experiments to measure the damage caused by the radiation – likely to include brain damage, cataracts, cancerous tumours, loss of motor control and early death. It certainly changed my feelings about NASA. PETA US immediately went into action and launched a hard-hitting campaign to get these tests stopped. Following scores of protests and more than 100,000 letters, phone calls and e-mails from PETA US supporters – including some high-profile allies, such as Sir Paul McCartney, Alicia Silverstone, members of the US Congress and even a former NASA astronaut and engineer – the space agency has quietly called off its plans. They aren’t yet giving their reasons, but belated recognition of the scientific futility of these experiments could well be playing a part. The European Space Agency publically voiced its disapproval of NASA’s plans, stating that it “declines any interest in monkey research and does not consider any need or use for such result”.

This is a stellar victory and a giant leap forward for ending the abuse and misery of monkeys in the vivisection industry. Getting a high-profile government agency to abandon a project it had vigorously defended is no easy task. So, congratulations to our friends at PETA US – and those of us who have never quite outgrown wanting to be astronauts can perhaps go back to being starry-eyed about NASA.

Check out our issues pages to find out more about how animals are abused in the vivisection industry. You’ll also be able to watch “Testing … One, Two, Three“, a film on animal experiments, and take our pledge to never support companies who abuse animals.