The Silent Monkey Victims Of The War On Terror
By Peter Aldhous, July 7, 2015, BuzzFeed News
They are the unsung heroes of the war on terror — or its hidden innocent victims, depending on your point of view.
They have been deliberately infected with deadly bacteria and viruses, including plague, anthrax, Ebola, and smallpox. Some have been dosed with nerve agents. Others have been lethally irradiated. Many died during these experiments, or had to be euthanized after becoming severely ill — some found collapsed in their cages, others suffering from seizures or hemorrhaging into their guts.
They are research primates — mostly rhesus macaques, long-tailed macaques, and African green monkeys — acting as our surrogates in experiments designed to develop and test new drugs and vaccines against biological, chemical, and radiological weapons.
In 2001, starting just a week after 9/11, two senators and several journalists received letters containing deadly anthrax spores. Five people died from the exposure, and 17 were sickened. Since then, the U.S. government has poured billions of dollars into developing drugs and vaccines to fill the Strategic National Stockpile — an enormous medicine cabinet that will be opened in the event of mass exposure to biological or chemical weapons or the detonation of a nuclear device or “dirty” bomb.
This massive research investment, which is unique to the United States, has been steeped in controversy. Government scientific advisers have criticized it for slow and erratic progress. And earlier this year, a USA Today investigation revealed a series of embarrassing incidents in which deadly pathogens were accidentally released from secure containment, putting scientists — and in some cases, the public — at risk.
The U.S. government’s push in biodefense has also taken a heavy toll on research monkeys — a cost that has not been publicly tallied until now.
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