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Celebrities Speak Out Against NASA’s Monkey Radiation Experiments

February 18th, 2010 by Barbara Stagno

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This is Baker, a squirrel monkey who was one of the first animals to survive a NASA spaceflight.  Photo Credit : NASA

This is Baker, a squirrel monkey who was one of the first animals to survive a NASA spaceflight. Photo Credit : NASA

On Tuesday, IDA released letters from seven celebrities opposed to upcoming animal experiments funded by NASA. The experiments are part of a study entitled “Long-term Effects of Space Radiation in Nonhuman Primates” and they would involve irradiating squirrel monkeys at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), a Department of Energy facility in New York State.

The celebrities signed on to the IDA-drafted letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr., and Brookhaven National Laboratory Director Dr. Samuel Aronson. Those who have signed to date include Alicia Silverstone, James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto, Allison Janney, Woody Harrelson, Kristen Bell, Emily Deschanel, and Elizabeth Perkins. Click here to send your own message to Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Department of Energy.

NASA’s proposed experiment would expose these tiny monkeys – only a foot tall – to one massive burst of gamma radiation equal to a three-year journey to Mars and back. Since the 1950s, thousands of monkeys have been exposed to various dosages of radiation, including radio frequency, microwave, X-ray, gamma, electron, proton, neutron and other particle radiation. Scientists have already shown that gamma radiation can cause depressive behavior, immobility, hyperirritability, convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, hair loss, open sores, skin hemorrhages, and even death.

Previous research has also proven that animals of different species – even of different strains of the same species – react differently to radiation, which calls into question the proposed experiment’s scientific value for human astronauts. These objections and more were included in an official complaint to NASA and BNL sent jointly by IDA and the International Primate Protection League (IPPL). IDA’s anti-vivisection team worked with Shirley McGreal of IPPL on the complaint – challenging the experiments on scientific grounds and citing fatal flaws, such as redundancy, species differences, and available alternatives already in use.

NASA has already committed $1.75 million in taxpayer money to the experiment. BNL is expected to conduct the radiation portion of the experiment, but BNL has not yet made the final decision on whether it will do so. According to conversations with PR officials at BNL, the experiment is currently being reviewed by BNL’s safety, science, and animal welfare committees. If you have not already done so, please take the time to send a letter condemning these experiments to Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Department of Energy.

Thanks for standing with us against these experiments. We will provide updates when we know more.