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THE MONKEY WARS by Deborah Blum

THE MONKEY WARS

By Deborah Blum

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-19-509412-3
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

 A penetrating look at the bitter controversy between animal rights activists and research scientists over the use of monkeys and chimpanzees in medical research. Given their proven intelligence, asks the author, can a chimp or monkey ``comprehend that it is being used by another species? It is not a question everyone wants to see answered.'' Blum, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the Sacramento Bee articles that led to this book, acknowledges that in tracing the history of primate research- -and she discusses several horrendous abuses--any accounting ``must include the knowledge gained, the human lives saved.'' But some researchers who recognize the animals' suffering and strive for more humane handling, such as Roger Fouts at Central Washington University, find themselves ostracized and refused government funding. Fouts, renowned for his sign language work with the chimp Washoe, has battled the National Institutes of Health for years, finally filing suit to challenge its way of regulating experimental animal facilities. His 1986 visit, along with famed chimpanzee specialist Jane Goodall, to a notorious Maryland laboratory conducting AIDS research brought enough negative publicity to force some changes in the way the animals are caged. Other researchers, like Tom Gordon, director at Yerkes Field Station (a ``monkey farm'' in Georgia), fault both animal activists ``for making the monkeys too human'' and scientists for treating them as mere mechanical objects. Primates' humanlike physiology (a chimp's DNA is 98.5% identical to a human's) renders them perhaps indispensable in AIDS research and other crucial medical experiments. But, as Blum shows, it is their humanlike nature and their intelligence that give rise to important questions about ethics and respect for life. As a solution, Blum has nothing better to offer than a vague suggestion for ``education programs'' aimed at reaching a ``troubled'' middle ground. But she brings the issues into sharp, disturbing focus.