The Silver Spring monkey controversy: changing cultures of care in twentieth-century laboratory animal research


In September 1981 police raided the Institute for Behavioral Research (Silver Spring, Maryland, USA) seizing a number of macaque monkeys in response to accusations of animal cruelty against the neuroscientist Edward Taub. Over the following decade a volatile battle was fought as Taub, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the nascent animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), contested the claims and decided the monkeys’ fate. In spite of the monkeys having been surgically altered so as to be incapable of feeling pain a loose alliance of veterinarians, ethologists and animal advocates argued that they nonetheless suffered. Whilst this episode is often seen as a polarized confrontation between science and society, this paper argues that the Silver Spring monkey controversy saw two historically distinct cultures of laboratory animal care meet resulting in the development of new approaches to animal welfare in biomedical science.

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