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August 10, 2005

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» Hilzoy on stem cells and primate pets from Mark A. R. Kleiman
Why Somatic Cell Nuclear Transplant isn't growing babies for spare parts, and why humans shouldn't keep other primates as pets. [Read More]

» A bill to stop interstate traffic of primates from Backseat driving
I found Hilzoy promoting a bill to stop the interstate traffic of primates as pets . . . . And some monkeys seem to even recognize themselves in mirrors, implying some level of self-consciousness. If we know an animal can recognize its own existence... [Read More]

» Hilzoy on stem cells and primate pets from Mark A. R. Kleiman
Why Somatic Cell Nuclear Transplant isn't growing babies for spare parts, and why humans shouldn't keep other primates as pets. [Read More]

Comments

"may pull down drapes, shred cloth, chew wood, spill drinks, steal food, take possession of articles and refuse to return them, damage house plants, torment other household pets, soil or stain furniture, tip chairs, break knickknacks, ink pens or dishes, tear books and papers, get into cleaning fluids or baking ingredients, open drawers, cabinets, unlock or open inside and outside house doors, open refrigerators and windows, remove window screens, open baby proof latches and lids, break glass, push large pieces of furniture over, urinate into television sets or other electronic equipment etc."

But for the Herpes B, sounds an awful lot like my high school prom date. Course she tried to explain away her having "urinated into the television set" with the fact that she couldn't find the proper mixer to go with her tequila, rum and vodka cocktails.

"...the millions of readers who hang on my every word..."

by the way, hilzoy, as a charter member of this club, might i say we are (all of us) in awe of, nay, staggered by, the number of seemingly random and disparate topics you manage to come up with each and every week about which to be so earnest.

(aren't you at least a little charmed by the fact that, were you inclined to do so, you could legally buy a baby rhino at the corner mart in Balmer?)

I seem to remember having read recently about a chimpanzee (or ape, I can't recall) that attacked and killed its owner, chewing off all his fingers. And then there's Moe the chimp (no relation to our beloved founder-in-self-induced-exile), who tore a goodly portion of his owner's face off, and badly bit him in the naughty bits. I guess both these could be the same story, but I thought I recall that someone was killed.

I've worked with animals, and have always thought of myself The Compleat Animal Lover, Aardvarks to Zebras edition.

Until I volunteered to help care for some macaques. They were privately owned, and pretty much regarded as surrogate children by their owners/handlers, a married couple who had many years experience doing "animal outreach." They knew how to handle these guys; I didn't; and they didn't know how to teach me.

The macaques were both male, both young - one was 2 years old, the other 5 or so. They weren't very well socialized, and I didn't know how to discipline them properly. Apparently, when one bit me, I was supposed to either bite him back, or somehow gently get him down on his back on the ground and loom over him, baring my teeth at him and acting scary-dominant. Problem was, he would attack me when I was trying to (or thought I was trying to) help him; I was never prepared, and have a lot of trouble anyway with the idea of hurting an animal.

Plus, they were both so fast, their moods turned on a dime, and they had no inhibitions whatsoever about doing whatever they took it into their heads to do. One of them damn near took my ear off; the other damn near bit through my knee.

I lasted 2 weeks. Would've been one week, but I refused to acknowledge how much they scared me, and how much I disliked them.

And they were just macaques, not-very-large monkeys!

I'm ambivalent about private ownership of wild animals. As a rule, it's unfair (at best) to the animals and just plain crazy on the part of the owners. Private refuges and preserves are okay - if, and only if, they're truly run for the animals' benefit, by people who know what they're doing. There are a number of these I like very much; such as Wolf Haven here in Washington, Cleveland Amory's refuge, and the one for retired actor/lab apes that the NYT Magazine just had a story about.

The private refuges and preserves are necessary, actually. All those wild animal actors, lab survivors, and cast-offs from moronic private owners should have some safe, idyllic place to go. It's the very least we can do for them.

I direct most of my random acts of kindness toward animals and make monthly donations to several refuges and animal rights groups. It absolutely sickens me that people can sell lions, tigers, cougars, bears, elephants and other completely inappropriate animals to private buyers. Some of them end up being killed at canned hunting ranches, many end up in lives of abject misery in cages too small, lonely and demented. Tiger Haven and other refuges do a wonderful job of providing decent living spaces for some of the lucky ones. Thank you Hilzoy for this post.

First, unlike dogs and cats, who have had thousands of years to adapt to us, nonhuman primates have the psyches they need to survive in a jungle or on a savannah, not in a human home

Unconvincing as applied specifically to primates. This applies to most other wild mammals as well as snakes, spiders, etc. Unless you are making a blanket statement that only those animals that have ever been domesticated should be kept as pets, this carries little weight.

Second, they are agile, athletic, clever, inquisitive, and have opposable thumbs.

I fail to see how the fact that some pets make bigger messes than others dictates that we should take away the freedom of people to make a bad choice. Shall we restrict humans from deciding to have children when we are not certain they know what they are getting into?

Third, they are not very trainable

A hundred bucks says I can teach a monkey to fetch more quickly than you can teach a cat. At least the cats I'm familiar with.

As a result, most people who own them end up keeping them in cages. This is really dreadful for very intelligent, very social, emotionally complicated animals

If it could be shown that a species of pig were more intelligent than a species of primate, would you be more likely to decide it was ok to keep the primate as a pet or that we should outlaw eating pork instead? I don't accept that intelligent animals deserve better treatment than others. Would you apply the same standard to humans? Is it less immoral to wrongly imprison a mentally handicapped person than a genius?

I think there is a good case to be made that taking a wild animal - smart one or dumb one, very social or very antisocial, emotionally complicated or not - and keeping that animal in a cage away from its habitat is an immoral act in the absence of overriding necessity. For example in the case of an animal who is in danger of extinction. But most of your justifications that single out primates raise more questions than they answer.

Felix: the bill singles out primates, not me. I am generally opposed to keeping wild animals (= animals w/o a history of being domesticated) as pets, and what 'generally' means here is that I don't know enough about all the animal species in the world, and so leave open, in principle, the possibility that members of some species might be just fine as pets. But I'd need to be convinced.

I oppose the freedom of people to make the bad choice of owning a nonhuman primate because it brings needless suffering to the animal, poses a public health hazard, and is usually not in the best interests of the owner.

It's not victimless, as many stupid choices are. And the decision to have kids doesn't pose a public health problem, constitutes a fundamental right (which I take it you wouldn't argue owning non-human primates does), and is also a lot less predictably dumb. Nor is it easy to tell which parents will be dreadful parents in any obvious way, let alone a way I'd be inclined to entrust to the government.

I'm all for it. My one reserve is the way that Americans tend to pay vastly more attention to the plight of animals than to that of homeless humans.

That one bothers me nigh endlessly and constantly. Billions get raised for the former, over the latter.

I'm just saying. It bothers me endlessly.

Felix: Another point at which you attribute something to me that I just did not say is this:

"I don't accept that intelligent animals deserve better treatment than others. Would you apply the same standard to humans? Is it less immoral to wrongly imprison a mentally handicapped person than a genius?"

As you note, what I said was:

"This is really dreadful for very intelligent, very social, emotionally complicated animals"

I did not say that it was not dreadful, or even less dreadful, for other sorts of animals. I wasn't discussing other sorts of animals at all, since (as I noted) the bill only concerns primates, and so I did not say anything about the morality of keeping them in cages.

Moreover, suppose I had said that it was worse to keep intelligent, social, emotionally complicated animals in cages than to keep unintelligent, solitary, emotionally uncomplicated ones in cages. This would not imply that it was OK to keep them there at all. One might argue that it's worse to steal money from a poor person than from a rich one, on the grounds of decreasing marginal utility; or that it's worse to kill a twenty year old than a ninety year old, on the grounds that at least the ninety year old has had a chance to live a full life. Suppose, for the sake or argument, that these arguments worked: it would not in any way follow that it was OK to steal from the rich, or to kill the very old. It would not begin to follow.

Likewise, the view you attribute to me does not follow even from the claim that it's worse to cage primates than mice, still less from anything I actually said.

In the last comment, in the para. beginning "I did not say that it was not dreadful...", the 'them' in the last line refers to other sorts of animals, not primates. Oops.

Gary: yeah. But most of the effort goes to abandoned cats and dogs. This one seemed to me likely to die without anyone noticing, which is why I wrote about it.

I oppose the freedom of people to make the bad choice of owning a nonhuman primate because it brings needless suffering to the animal, poses a public health hazard, and is usually not in the best interests of the owner.

I don't agree with the second two justifications. The way to deal with public health hazards is the same way we deal with the real threat of attacks by domesticated dogs and other animals. And I think the owners are best suited to determine their best interests, not you.

I would disagree that the decision to have kids never poses a health problem, and I would note that it is no harder to tell which parents would be dreadful parents than it is to tell which primate owners would be dreadful primate owners.

I think the bottom line here is the near absolute immorality of removing wild animals from their habitat for purposes of amusing humans, and many of the justifications you have brought up have made your argument weaker in my eyes, though perhaps stronger in the eyes of some who reject the near-absolute position.

I did not say that it was not dreadful, or even less dreadful, for other sorts of animals

Let me suggest a way to rewrite the sentence that would avoid my confusion on the point:

"This is really dreadful for animals".

Clear and concise.

Moreover, suppose I had said that it was worse to keep intelligent, social, emotionally complicated animals in cages than to keep unintelligent, solitary, emotionally uncomplicated ones in cages. This would not imply that it was OK to keep them there at all

Nor did my example imply that saying keeping a mentally handicapped person wrongly imprisoned is less immoral than keeping a genius wrongly imprisoned meant that one thought wrongful imprisonment was OK. I do not understand your point here.

Ban Interstate Traffic In Nonhuman Primates? Hell, I'd be satisfied if we could just stop electing them President.

Barry freed, good point,but if you ever saw a chimp masterbating in it's cage you would have to wonder what President you're talking about.

As I recall, there is already Federal legislation that bans the transportation of *human* primates across state lines for immoral purposes. Called the Mann Act.

So this law should be called...?

Well, I'm convinced. Guess I'll call up Apes 'R' Us and cancel that order.

Out of curiosity, how broadly or narrowly written is the bill? I could support most of what you're saying, but would be warry of a law so broadly written as to rule out, e.g., scientists who are studying primates and do know what they're doing (and at least sometimes raise the primates in their home, I believe.) On the other hand, I can imagine writing it narrowly would be difficult on e.g. equal protection grounds...

Here's who's exempt from the law:

"A person is described in this paragraph, if the person—
(A) is licensed or registered, and inspected, by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or any other Federal agency with respect to that species;
(B) is a State college, university, or agency, State-licensed wildlife rehabilitator, or State-licensed veterinarian;
(C) is an accredited wildlife sanctuary that cares for prohibited wildlife species and—
(i) is a corporation that is exempt from taxation under section 501 (a) of title 26 and described in sections 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of such title;
(ii) does not commercially trade in animals listed in section 3371 (g) of this title, including offspring, parts, and byproducts of such animals;
(iii) does not propagate animals listed in section 3371 (g) of this title; and
(iv) does not allow direct contact between the public and animals; or
(D) has custody of the animal solely for the purpose of expeditiously transporting the animal to a person described in this paragraph with respect to the species."

nonhuman primates make really, really bad pets. They are destructive and at times vicious, and, as I said, they bite hard.

I'm pretty sure you don't need the "nonhuman" there.

nonhuman primates make really, really bad pets. They are destructive and at times vicious, and, as I said, they bite hard.

I'm pretty sure you don't need the "nonhuman" there.

I red your interesting concepts.
Can I have a link of yours into my blog?
carlos (Editor)

I always find it worrisome that so many people wish to ban what they disagree with. The funny thing is, these same people claim to pride themselves on being "open minded".

Your argument is flawed, and I am about to present the facts to clearly prove this.

Primates cannot be imported into the United States, so most all of the monkeys in private hands are captive born. They are not bringing in diseases if they are coming from animals already in the USA. There are many thousands of primates(15000 acording to you) living in private homes across the USA. If they were such a disease risk, we would be hearing about people getting terribly sick left and right. I keep 4 monkeys in my living room, and I have never gotten sick from them. The only way a captive born primate is going to get sick is if a human gives them a disease. These facts prove that the "public health argument" is not valid.

Next up is the idea that primates are physically dangerous to humans. Some primates can cause damage, like chimps and other apes. Very few people keep apes, and because they are indeed capable of injury, they should be highly restricted. There has never been an incidence of death caused by a monkey or lemur in the United States. Most monkeys that are commonly kept, such as squirrel monkeys, marmosets, etc, are not even able to cause mild injury. Capuchins and macaques could cause an injury, though not a life threatening injury. The fact that no deaths or critical injuries have occured ever by monkeys or lemurs invalidates the "primates are dangerous idea".

Next is the idea that monkeys arent suited for "pets". Most people who pay the 2-10 thousand dollars that a monkey or lemur costs, will make a good faith effort to protect their animal and money invested in it. Small monkeys do very well and seem very hapy in large cages, as long as they have a companion in the form of another monkey or human. Most people who keep monkeys keep more than one. It is simply the opinion of some that monkeys "should not be kept in captivity". This is OPINION, and you dont make laws based on opinion. If everyone tried to ban everything they disagreed with, homosexuality, tattoos, etc would be banned.

"I think the bottom line here is the near absolute immorality of removing wild animals from their habitat for purposes of amusing humans, and many of the justifications you have brought up have made your argument weaker in my eyes, though perhaps stronger in the eyes of some who reject the near-absolute position."


All of the primates in private hands today are produced from animals that are already in captivity. Many are several generations captive born. It is already highly illegal to import monkeys and lemurs from the wild. This new bill aims to keep people from selling, trading, or moving their own captive bred animals from one state to another, and as I pointed out the only justification is the opinion that "primates dont need to be pets". As if we need someone to tell us what we do and dont need to keep as pets. For those who have this opinion, the another person above asked a good question: why are intelligent animals in need of more protection than less intelligent animals(i.e., dogs and cats)?

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Whatnot


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