In a move that hasn’t occurred for decades, NASA is about to start conducting radiation tests on live squirrel monkeys. The space agency recently approved the $1.75 million experiment as part of their attempts to understand the effects of interplanetary travel.
In response, comedian Bill Maher has written NASA administrator Charles Bolden, urging him to drop the experiment and find other, less cruel ways to conduct their research.
“Squirrel monkeys are tiny but intelligent primates who live in large colonies with strong social structures,” he writes. “If this experiment goes forward, these highly intelligent animals will be sent to Brookhaven National Laboratory, where they will be exposed to radiation that will produce physical and likely mental damage. They will then be turned over to cognitive experiments to a researcher in Boston who commonly uses monkeys in protocols that involve electric shocks and other inhumane practices.”
The researcher in question is Jack Bergman — who, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has used squirrel monkeys for 15 years in addiction experiments that have involved applying electric shocks, withholding food, and completely immobilizing the animals in restraint chairs for extended periods.
In his letter, Maher points out that past experiments conducted by NASA and the Air Force using radiation on monkeys did not reveal any answers — and he’s doubtful these new tests will achieve anything new. “Don’t turn turn back the clock,” he concludes. “Cancel this cruel exercise in futility.”