A Moment of Realization for Primate Researcher John Gluck

Mike Ryan, November 7, 2018

After years experimenting on primates in a laboratory, Dr. John Gluck witnessed something that changed his perspective forever. Here’s that moment, in his own words:

“A month earlier, I had been in one of the animal colony rooms checking out a lameness that had developed in one of the monkeys. My attention was drawn to G-49, or Moose, one of the monkeys who had come with me from the University of Wisconsin. She was running from one side of her cage to the other, freezing momentarily when she got to a wall that was made of solid stainless steel.

“I couldn’t understand why she was holding still at that location. I moved slowly to one side so I could see her more clearly while she faced the cage wall. After a few minutes of observation, I could see what she was doing. The wall, which was removable, had one missing bolt, and this left a small hole.

“If Moose held her head at a very specific angle, she could see through the hole a bit of several monkeys normally occluded completely from her view. She would look at the monkeys through the hole, back away from the wal, make a social signal of some kind, and then return to the hole to see the response. Of course the other monkeys had no idea that she was sending any social messages through that half-inch hole.

“In that moment I was overwhelmed with the realization of the dreadful life she was leading and had been for years. Her soft, strong body and curious individuality were encased in a hard metal box, and yet she struggled against its restrictions, working to keep alive some semblance of a monkey social life. Her attempts to project her facial expressions and body language through a hole at a few animals similarly restricted were excruciatingly pitiful. In those moments a connection was established between Moose and me – an emotional connection forged by simple, uncomplicated concern for her welfare. That connection had been there briefly when I first met her as a graduate student but had soon been buried beneath the desire to use her life for discovery.

“I started to look at the other animals in the room, and the circumstances of their crushed and distorted lives rushed at me.”

This is a short excerpt from Voracious Science & Vulnerable Animals: A Primate Scientist’s Ethical Journey.

It’s an incredible book by a brave, conscientious scientist who we at NEAVS admire greatly. You can purchase it from Amazon here, and we hope you do.