Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Haley Reading Group: “Of Mothers and Monkeys”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2018)]

In “Of Mothers and Monkeys,” Caitlin Kuehn details the journey of watching her mother battle cancer while she conducts medical research on monkeys. Kuehn struggles with a question of ethics and morals while trying to decipher how much research should be conducted on animals, even for the purpose of medical research that could potentially save someone like her mother.

Kuehn writes, “it is hard to remind myself that medical research has a purpose. Some days it is as clear as cancer. Some days I just do not know” (152). She compares the needles, procedures, and panic her mom endures to the way the monkeys are treated in her medical research facility. Although she is torn about the ethical questions, she settles for the idea of having more time with her mother on earth.

In brief, what’s one question you would now raise as a result of reading this article? How did this article prompt you to raise that question?

54 comments:

Alexis Taylor said...

This article prompted me to raise the question, What would be the most ethical treatment of animals after they are done being used for medical research? In the article they said that it is normal protocol to euthanize the animals when we are done with them. This seems wrong to me. We should be celebrating them instead and providing them all with a loving and comfortable place to retire to.

Marina T.

Unknown said...

One question I have after reading would be, Why do we use animals for medical research? I understand it is much harder to get approval of studies through the IRB if you administer a treatment on humans, but medical treatments can have different effects on animals. It's neither ethical nor practical to do medical research on animals.

Madalynn M.

Justin Jubert said...

One question I would raise is, do we base our ethical treatments on the consciousness of the animal? I raise this question because if we believe life is intrinsically valuable, on the same level as humans, then we would not kill or test on any animals, including insects or small rodents. However, if we come to the consensus that using animals for research that could potentially save millions of lives, then that would place humans on a higher level only because of increased consciousness.

Kenisha Townsend said...

After reading this article, I would ask, "If research of this sort can be done on animals, how is it that there are still ethical considerations regarding the use of human embryos for stem cell research?" The article influenced this question due to the fact living, breathing organisms are being used for medical research in this study. They don't have a say in the matter just like embryos, but they have emotions and responses similar to humans. However, embryos aren't breathing organisms with the ability to feel and show behavioral traits like cats and monkeys. In other words, they are basically less alive than the animals used for medical research despite the fact that the stage at which embryos are considered to be alive is still up for debate.

LaTrina Brown said...

One question that I would raise after reading this article is, "What makes monkeys different from humans when it comes to medical research?" The article influenced me to raise this question because the author compare her mother's situation to the monkey's situation a lot. Monkeys have a lot of human like characteristics and should be treated no differently than humans.

Aleeya Barrolle said...

One question that arose after reading the article is; why do we try to understand and explain all things? This question came up when I read “Yet, for months, I have been consulting Wikipedia and Google Scholar, hunting for everything I can find on infiltrating ductal carcinoma and Taxotere” (156).

-Aleeya B.

Caleb Abernathy said...

Post reading the article, the main question I would raise is, "Where is the line drawn?"

More specifically I mean, to what lengths will we continue to conduct medical research on animals? Also, does the research just stop with medical related issues. It is a rather tough line to define, but one that at some-point needs to be clearly stated. People seem to forget that in simplest terms, the main difference between humans and most animals is our well-defined communication. Animals also have parents/children, siblings, etc. and we continue to put their lives at stake for that of our own.

The point in the article that made me raise this question was this quote: "This is an image I hold, despite my not being there to witness it--big Mama in all her imposing girth staring calmly at her caretakers while her tiny child lies on the floor bleeding out."

This quote really hits home if you think of it from a human point-of-view. Personally, I think we need to reconsider doing doing research that benefits us, on animals.

Samantha A. said...

From reading this article, the question that occurred to me is, "why do people continue harshly test on animals?" There was obviously a negative effect on Big Mama psychologically from awful treatment as she stared "calmly at her caretakers while her tiny anxious child lies on the floor bleeding out" (Kuehn, 150). A normal, healthy monkey would care for her young child, but Big Mama and Domingo were unable to have that healthy relationship due to the harsh treatment and being encaged.

-Samantha A.

Linda H. said...

One of the questions I thought of after reading this article was how could we make research animals more comfortable and be treated more humanely during their stay in research facilities. That may include giving them plenty of space or attempting to keep the animals as pain-free as possible. Is there a limit on the tests that can be performed on animals, or some lines that should be drawn?

Linda Hawkins

Alexis S. said...

One question that I raise is why do humans use animals for medical testing knowing the harmful affects of it? We wouldn't put humans through this so why put animals through it? This article prompted my question because the author discussed the moral dilemma of testing on animals and compared the testing to her mother's chemotherapy which is very tolling on the body.

- Alexis S.

Mackenzie Cohoon said...

Reading this article made me question how the line is established that says when it's okay to take a life. On page 155 the author states that she rarely knows why they have to put down an animal. While she states that's a lie, it still makes me wonder who said that it is our job as humans to say when an animals life is no longer worth living.
-mackenzie Cohoon

Isaiah J said...

I have to wonder why this harsh treatment of animals is viewed as acceptable. No one should have to kill an animal, and especially not for the reasons the monkeys in her lab are killed. It is especially distressing to know that part of the training for her job involves being tossed a dead monkey, as if they are completely worthless. There is definitely something wrong when the only way to work that job is to become desensitized to the life of a living being.

-Isaiah J.

Thomas Siganga said...

The question that rose from me is, when do humans cross the line? For every step taken, people always question their own moralities. I'm not saying that the death of an animal, in this case for lab experiments, is a fair thing. What I am saying is that this article just made me think of how people use others whether they are humans or animals for their benefits. Also, the question that rose to me is what alternative would scientists use for animals to gauge it as something harmful to humans?

-Thomas Siganga

Unknown said...

The question that this article is why do us as humans use animals for testing for medical research? I get that most of the time that before we use a drug or anything on a human we want to make sure that it is not going to kill them. I even understand that for some people that it is not as bad to use animals than it would humans. For the first part of the research there is a big possibility that the animals will die which is just torturing them. I don't understand how anyone thinks torturing any human life is okay.
-Tara T.

Brandy Collier said...

The question that I have is, why test animals if it still does not give sufficient information? In the article, on page 153, Kuehn talks about her mother having breast cancer and asking her questions that she does not have the answer to. They test animals for medical research but that does not help answer the questions about humans and human illnesses.

-Brandy Collier

Anonymous said...

One question that I have in mind is, "Should we use the same treatment procedures for each different animal?" It seems that there would be different responses for each animal depending on who it is and what is being done. I can see different animals inheriting a similar response if you use a different treatment based on the nature of the animal.

-Ronald A.

Kyla Tinsley said...

After the reading, one question that came to mind was "how far is too far?" While we need to make medical advances in order to save the lives of others, the fact that it comes at the expense of testing on animals and possibly killing them is something that should always be asked by researchers. If hundreds of animals - a species that we view as lesser than us - must die in order to save thousands of humans, is that a fair ethical tradeoff? I honestly don't have an answer to this question, but just the thought of it makes me cringe.

Kyla T.

Jovahna Williams said...

A question I have from this article is where should the hierarchy of life begin and when do living beings become equivalent on this scale. Becoming desensitized to the value of life is part of the training of a medical researcher obviously. But when did it specifically become morally ethical to do research testing on animals instead of people. In all reality shouldn't testing be done on humans instead? Since humans are the ones destroying the earth and it is overpopulated anyway, shouldn't the value of human life be less than that of an animal anyway? Shouldn't the organism that harm their own environment for their own survival be the first ones to be killed off? And since there are already so many, wouldn't the value of a human life be less than that of a less abundant species? These questions were raised from the fact that valuing life is something that this article brought up. The life of a human in society is worth more than that of an animal because humans are more intelligent than animals. But considering all other factors intelligence seems like such a small aspect of the bigger picture.
Jovahna Williams

Anonymous said...

One question that I have after reading this article is why is what alternatives do we have other than testing on animals? I recognize that extremely harsh treatment of animals is immoral but after multiple tests are done in labs without living animals, what are we supposed to do next. I agree that labs should not drastically hurt animals in testing labs, however I do believe that we need to test on animals before we test on humans until a better alternative is found.
Fatima Bashir

Alexis H. said...

Alexis H.

One question I would raise is how many animals have been tested on? I know animals have been being tested on for a while, but I wonder what number is it around. The reason I'm curious about this is because in the book on page 150 Kuehn talked about how they were already giving an Big Mama ketamine, but they did not know she was pregnant. This made me think that they did not care for the animals lives, which led me to my question.

Ivyanne B. said...

In all honesty this passage didn't really raise any questions for me. Yes i could ask the question of why they use animals for testing but I already know the reasons behind testing on animals. While readying this it opened my eyes on human emotions and how some day everything makes sense but the next day it isn't and that we can't really explain whats going on. This passage also shined light on how animals and human are similar but also vastly different. So I guess if i had to come up with a question it would be can we link human emotions to animal emotions? Sow similar are we on a mental and emotion spectra?
-Ivyanne B.

Jasmin Smoot said...

It's seems as though the author is drawing this link between her mother's experience with cancer and the treatment of living features, which got me thinking. It must be a horrible feeling to be probed daily. If I could ask any question, it would be: Are researchers willing to sacrifice the opportunity to learn about and test possibly life changing theories in order to reduce the number of experiments done on animals?

Michael Dade said...

Topics like these are a tough subject because everyone's humanity is different. For some this can be seen as a more sensitive matter because they feel empathetic for the animals, as they should. Others might have tougher skin and things like this don't phase them as much. This article makes me raise the question if not them, than what? What's an effective alternative that we could switch to? Or do we risk testing each other and how humane is that? Either way, it's hard to answer.

Miles Wadlington said...

While I appreciate the opportunity to delve into the minds of these diverse authors in this blog, I think we could get a better understanding the importance of these readings by having in-person discussions. When we speak to our peers we put a face with the statement. We ask how they came to the conclusions they did, and we build connections and understanding. We build community. And is the importance of building community not one of the many important messages that our namesake, Professor Johnetta Haley, has passed on to our generation? I know that this hasn’t much to do with the present topic, but I think we would get more out of a live stimulating conversation with our peers rather the blog post. I wonder what my fellow Johnetta Haley scholars think about hosting 30 minute small group discussions?

Email me your thoughts: mwadlin@siue.edu

Now on to the topic at hand...

I’ve asked myself a series of questions of morality in my personal life. “What is your stance on same-sex marriage?” “What is your stance on abortion?” “How do you feel about capital punishment?” As a Christian, I my idealistic first confidant is God. I ask him to find answers with me alongside my scholastic and biblical research. For the believers among us, I suggest that we go through this process with whatever questions trouble us, and act how we feel is honorable in the eye of the Lord. With that, it is easy to support malicious action with scripture. Extremist groups like Westboro Baptist Church and ISIS skew the meaning of religious texts to support their heinous acts, so how can we trust our own convictions when supported with theology of religious text? I feel that this is the point where belief really kicks in. But, I don’t know for sure. If anyone would like to respond on this blog or in a personal email , please feel free to continue this discussion there. Here’s my email: mwadlin@siue.edu

- Miles Wadlington

Jordan R. said...

Is testing on a mouse model more ethical? It may be difficult testing on monkeys because they share behavioral traits with humans. So, maybe mice-testing would have been less difficult.

KaelynB said...

My question would be where is the line? of course a mother is someone most everyone holds close to their chest, but where is the line where it is okay to test on all of these animals before there is a possibility for results. And if there was another way, of course we would use it but what is the number of animals it is okay to test on before it is "too many". This article prompted the question because there is an unwillingness to give up testing, which can be admirable in some aspects, but when it comes to this, it is too much?
Kaelyn Blunt

Jeremiah T said...


I don't know much about science and medicine, but the article raised questions about the progress of finding the cure to cancer and what the next steps are. I hear a lot about the horrors of animal testing but I don't know of any recent significant developments as a result of it.

Adejoke Adanri said...

The question I raise after reading this article is why do we continue to do research on animals. The quote used in the article on page 151 “what animal first shared with my mother that sudden fear of a throat closing in”. I think the way the author compared her mothers cancer treatments with the treatment of animals was so much more powerful, because its something people can relate to going through or seeing someone they love go through.

Zuriah Harkins said...

After reading this article, several questions come to mind. One question that I would raise is, "What are other more effective ways to perform medical research?" It's obvious that medical research is an integral part of the developments that we've made in medicine, and therefore, is basically a necessity in the medical field. But are the lives of animals so unimportant to us that we think there is nothing wrong with using them as a mere tool or resource?

It's clear that the animals and Kuehn's mom are both suffering. We're able to sympathize with Kuehn's mom because she is human, but we should show just as much sorrow for the animals that are dying for us to make improvements in medicine.

Zuriah H.

Anonymous said...

I understand some people do not like animal testing and some testing can be cruel and unnecessary. But why do we use animals for medical testing? Why not have people with either terminal illnesses or volunteers do the testing. Some of these tests can go great for animals but end up being horrible for humans for one reason or another. I also understand being upset for having to kill an animal but it is better than having them suffer or end up in worse conditions.
Breann Walton

Dasmin W said...

One question that I have after reading this article is, Is there really limit on animal researching? In the article, the author struggles between animal research and her mom, who has cancer. What if, in one of the labs, one of animals had a mutation to cancer cells and they found out. How far would they go to do experiments on that animal? Would they be willing to sacrifice animal lives to possibly learn more about cancer? If so, what does that say about our race?

Anonymous said...

This article makes me raise the question of "Why do some people have no problem drawing a line of what animals should be tested on?" There are people who would say testing on animals helps humans to survive better or understand a subject more, but it becomes a problem for them if you mention their favorite kind of animal. I can sort of understand why people don't like testing on humans, but it seems strange that they feel like they deserve to decide what animals are used for testing. I believe either no animals should be tested on or any animal should be fair to be used depending on how pertinent they are to human medical cases.This article made me think of this because of cases like Domingo. He wasn't directly a test subject, but he had to deal with the effects of his Mom being tested on.

-Marcus U.

Kelsey McNeil said...

While reading this article, not many questions came to me. I was very interested in the storyline between the author's personal life and her work life. I noticed that many people were asking why some find it okay to test on animals rather than humans and why some disagree with that practice. While I am also curious about that, I think I would be more inclined to ask what happens to the animals after they are tested on? I feel like that is something rarely discussed and talked about so it would be my question.


Kelsey McNeil

Brandon Nichols said...

I just found the aspect of relationships between humans and animals interesting. The author's mother is a deeply emotional medical tale that the author struggles with, while the monkey is another tale that evokes a similar emotion. In a way, it shows that the bonds are similar. Obviously, the bond between mother and child will always be stronger than any other bond, but the question still remains: Where is the line drawn between human relationships and animal relationships?

Phoenix Johnson said...

This article made me think about the question I always think about which is at what cost of the world does human happeniness take? I am strong believer in how are constant plastic consumption causes marine animals to die and water pollution for ages. This article made me think this because the daughter is costing monkeys safety for her happiness to keep her mom alive.

Nia Piggott said...

The one question I would raise as a result of reading this article would be what are some options for testing that does not involve using animals? Although I recognize the benefits of testing in regards to medical advancements , I still feel a certain sadness knowing the pain that the animals have to deal with in order to get to that point. I hope that new testing measures are being introduced into the medical field to eventually eliminate the need to test on animals.

Alliyah M. said...

The one question that I would raise after reading this article is that is it even possible to ethically test animals. This situation has been a controversial topic for years and from how Kuehn detailed what she had to experience when testing animals, it seems like not much has changed in making animal testing possibly ethical and that testing won't change anytime soon. I think at this point, people should attempt to find a different way in testing other than using animals and if this isn't possible, change how we test animals to a more ethical way.

Zaria Whitlock said...

The one question I would raise after reading this article would be: if we no longer did medical research on animals how would we test different medicines and procedures that may help with diseases plaguing humanity? Although many people are opposed to animal testing, I had wondered if a different and valid alternative has been identified. This article prompted me to raise this question because I am personally opposed to animal testing; however, when I considered my stance I also considered the solutions I could come up with for the issue and I wondered if there were genuinely any other options that make sense. Hopefully someday there will be an alternative that is effective and does not require harming any animal as of now I am not sure what the safe and harmless solution would be to this dilemma.

Zaria W.

A. Robinson said...

A question that keeps running through my mind during reading this article is, "What is in store for the animals once their time is over?" They live their whole lives as test animals, being poked and prodded for the betterment of human beings but how are they thanked for helping with serious scientific advancements? What comes next for them after life in the lab? It seems like a sad life they will live.

A. Robinson

dgeeter said...

My question is how does an animal recover from this? I plan to be a veterinarian in my near future, and I am really interested in the psychological damage done to these animals. The animals never had a chance to live as anything but test subjects, which is really heartbreaking. I understand there have been ground breaking advancements from animal testing, but I truly believe wholeheartedly that there should be STRICT limitations!

Jayla Pierce said...

This article makes me question how many of the things that we have discovered are at the expense of other living creature to further human life and experience. “Some days it is hard to remind myself that medical research has a purpose.” That purpose is the benefit of human life. How can you better human life at the expense of another living beings life?

Samontriona P. said...

The one question that I would raise after reading this article is, "If we did not test these different medical procedures on animals then how would we find out any information about the human body?" Also another question is, "What would you recommend humans do to for medical research in order to find cures if they cannot test it on animals?" This article prompted me to raise this question because many times she felt bad about her decision to move forward with the medical research. That is very understandable, but if we did not find ways to test medical treatments and things of that nature then medicine wouldn't be as advanced as it is today. Although I do not fully agree with these animals being test dummies, I think it is something we have to do until we can figure out a better alternative.

gabby said...

This article was very interesting yet hard to read as it focused on the debate using animals for research/testing purposes in order to gain more evidence as to how we can use these findings in order to save humans. After reading this article, I would pose the question, “Do us as humans base treatments/testing done on animals because we feel as if the life of humans hold more value/purpose? Is this due to our higher level of consciousness? Or for means of survival? Which would make sense, but also these beings that are being tested on, haven no say in what happens to them but they indeed have similar mannerisms as humans.

Anonymous said...

The article has caused me to ask, what other options do we have for testing? As a vegetarian and animal advocate, its hard for me to read about testing on animals. I know that research is super important when it comes to the medical field, but I also believe that the well being of all living creatures is super important. So this makes me want to know if there any other ways we can do research.

-Jada Baker

Jazsmine Towner said...

My Question after reading this article is: Does the good out way the bad? Is this a “means to an end?” I understand the author's perspective on why she continues to do the research on animals and how it can impact the lives of humans drastically but is it worth the lives of animals. I don’t think it’s a clear answer to this question, it’s purely subjective and in the eyes of the beholder. All in all, does the author feel justified in her actions
-Jazsmine Towner

J'kolbe K. said...

This article lead me to raise the question of how many animals are lost per year on testing. On page 149 the author states, "Acute neuropathy, localized necrosis, lameness, and atrophy can all be the permanent fallout of a poorly aimed injection." If these are possible consequences of a badly placed sedative imagine what could go wrong when they actual begin testing.

Devin Ellis-Martin said...

One question that arises for me is how far are we ethically, as a people, allowed to take medical advancement. We are approaching a time where medical advancement is beginning to cross a fine line with what people find ethically acceptable. Whether this concerns ex vitro pregnancy, biological advancements, or something as common as abortion, this is an important question to raise.

Cheniya A. said...

The question that came to mind after reading this article was, "How necessary are some forms of research?" I say this because I have read many articles on research that seem like they were done more so out of curiosity than the need for a cure to serious diseases like cancer. In saying this, the medical research that is conducted should be monitored very closely and have a limit on what subjects may be researched and how based on how urgent a matter might be. I'm not saying that we should stop testing on animals, but I think there are more humane ways to go about using them as test subjects.

Anonymous said...

The question I have after reading this article is what alternative tests can be done to take animals out of the project? If scientists are testing for a new drug to help a human disease, shouldn’t the tests be done on humans? Animals can not consent to being test subjects. Humans can. Animal testing can be extremely hard on whatever animal is being tested and life after is normally nonexistent or in a cramped cage. At least with humans there would be proper car administered if the testing were to go wrong. - Jasmyn K

Anonymous said...

In brief, the major question that comes into my mind after reading "Of Mothers and Monkeys" is, why are these animals being locked in cages to be treated worse than they would on their own? From what I took away from Caitlin Kuehn's writing is that most of these animals are being taken away from their natural setting and then being injected and tested with different drugs and techniques. I feel as if the animals deserve to live a life outside of the laboratory and that the way these animals are being treated makes it extremely hard to justify whether or not these studies being conducted are ethically correct towards the well-being of our nature and its animals. - Kobi P

Youssef H said...

This article made me ask, does the experiments get easier the more connected the experimenter is to the subject. I asked this question as the author was describing what she went through as she was treating Domingo, one of the monkeys being tested.

Sydney O said...

A question to ask is what would you do if you had to make the choice of what is the best ethical option for medical research? A lot of people get upset with working with animals but do not realize a lot of their loved ones are still alive today, or even they are alive today, because of the extensive research that is done on animals. Where do we draw the line on ethical and unethical?

Sydney Oats

Crystal R. said...

The question that came to my mind is why is it more, and is it really more, "ethical" to do testing on animals than humans? In the article, Kuehn said her mother said, "I was trying to think of why I am doing this...It's for you guys...Your sister and you are why I need to keep fighting. I love you both so much," (154). It just seems like people find it more ethical for animals to be tested on because they can't talk and tell us why they are enduring whatever it is to keep fighting to stay alive like her mother said which was for them, her children. Even though animals can't talk, I'm sure they too probably have their reasons, but we will never ever know what it is.

Crystal Rice

Anonymous said...

The question I would ask is "How do you decide where to draw the line when it comes to ethics"? Animals feel pain like humans and experience emotions like humans as well, so how do scientists decide what's ethical and what isn't? Testing products is necessary, it prevents companies from producing faulty products. However, I don't think it is more ethical to test on animals rather than humans.