Controversy surrounding a study on maternal bonding in macaques

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Controversy surrounding a study on maternal bonding in macaques

Mother monkeys separated from their newborn babies sometimes find comfort in stuffed animals, as shown in the work of neuroscientist Margaret Livingstone.

Mother monkeys separated from their newborns sometimes find comfort in stuffed animals The discovery, based on a Harvard University study, sparked a fierce controversy last September and reignited the ethical debate about the animal experiments.

This article, titled Triggers for Mother Love, by neuroscientist Margaret Livingstone, went almost unnoticed when it was published in the September issue of PNAS.

However, once posted on social media, the study received a barrage of criticism and 250 scientists signed a letter asking the journal to retract.

Associations Animal rights groups have accused Margaret Livingstone of temporarily stitching the eyelids of baby monkeys to study the impact on their cognitive faculties in the past.

We can't ask monkeys for their consent, but we can stop using, publishing and, in this case, actively promoting cruel methods that we know cause extreme suffering, wrote Catherine Hobaiter, primatologist at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

This scientist, co-author of the letter to PNAS, explained to the x27;AFP await a response from the journal before commenting further.

Harvard and Margaret Livingstone, for their part, strongly defended the study.

Findings from this study may help scientists understand maternal bonding in humans, which could help better support women after a miscarriage or stillbirth, among other things, said said Harvard Medical School in a statement.

In a separate text, Margaret Livingstone said she joined the ranks of scientists targeted and demonized by opponents of animal research, who want to ban life-saving research on all animals.

She said she did not initially seek to study the maternal bond, having made this discovery in the context of another research.

C&#x27 This is an argument to which critics respond by saying that the researcher still intentionally separated mothers from their children and that her observations on the comfort obtained from soft toys do not advance science.

Such work regularly arouses the anger of associations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), hostile to any form of experimentation on animals.

< p class="styled__StyledLegend-sc-v64krj-0 cfqhYM">Protesters against slaughterhouses. (Archives)

Notably, however, this controversy has provoked strong reactions within the scientific community, said Alan McElligott, researcher at the Municipal University of Hong Kong.

Margaret Livingstone appears to have replicated a study conducted by famed American psychologist Harry Harlow, he told AFP. His work, considered groundbreaking in the mid-20th century, may also have contributed to the rise of the animal rights movement.

For some scientists interviewed, this case is representative of a larger problem in the field of animal research: questionable studies continue to be published in prestigious journals.

Alan McElligott cited a much-criticized 2020 paper that touted the effectiveness of certain traps in capturing jaguars and cougars for scientific study.

More recently, experiments on marmosets that included surgical operations have also created controversy.

The team from the University of Amherst, Massachusetts, which is behind this work, claimed that studying these small monkeys, whose cognitive abilities decline at the end of life, is essential for a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease in humans.

However, for the opposing camp, the results are rarely applicable to #x27;one species to another.

When it comes to animal drug testing, the tide is clearly turning.

In September, the US Senate passed legislation to end drug testing. ;requirement of animal testing before any human trial for experimental drugs.

The vast majority of drugs that pass animal testing do not pass animal testing. stage of human trials, while new technologies make it possible to avoid this stage.

Opponents say big grants to universities and institutes – $15 billion a year, according to the White Coat Waste Project – perpetuate a system in which animals are seen as resources for labs. p>

Those who conduct animal experiments are the goose of these institutions because they bring in more money, said primatologist Lisa Engel-Jones, who now works for PETA.

There is a financial incentive to continue what you are doing and try to publish as many articles as possible, added Emily Trunnell, a neuroscientist who has conducted experiments on rodents and also works for PETA.

Most scientists do not share PETA's position on the stopping these experiments altogether, preferring a more measured approach in order to reduce the use of tests s about animals.

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