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March 2, 2018

Vincent Price, Ph.D.


President
Duke University
207 Allen Building
Box 90001
Durham, NC 27708-0001
Via email: president@duke.edu

Dear President Price,


I am writing to you on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters to ask that you immediately
investigate the Duke Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee’s (IACUC’s)
misguided approval of former faculty member Michael Platt’s recently published
advertising experiments on monkeys.
In a recent experiment,1 Platt forced ten macaque monkeys to use computer touch-
screens to make selections of popular brands, such as Pizza Hut and Nike, based on a
pairing of the brand’s logo with a picture of another dominant or subordinate monkey or
a sexually receptive female monkey. In these experiments, Platt deprived macaque
monkeys of sufficient water so that they would be motivated to go along with his
protocols in order to receive small drops of fruit juice. Basic information, such as for
how long the monkeys’ fluid intake was restricted, was excluded from the paper’s
methods. Some of the monkeys were housed alone without partners.
The proposed purpose of this study was to show that the animals would develop a
preference for brands that were associated with sex or social status. Importantly, as the
authors of this study note several times, the influence of sex and social status on
advertising to humans is well studied and known. Further, such studies are easily
conducted using humans, without the need for other animals. As macaques do not
possess purchasing power in current society, we have no need to know what influences
their brand preferences.
Concerns with primate fluid restriction
Fluid restriction is sometimes used in behavioral research as a means to compel animals
to perform tasks. Thirsty animals are taught that if they complete a particular action,
they will receive a much-desired liquid reward to relieve their anguish. While these
methods may fulfill the experimenter’s immediate goals, there are serious welfare issues
associated with fluid restriction that can influence animal wellbeing and that have the
potential to compromise experimental aims.

1
Acikalin MY, Watson KK, Fitzsimons GJ, Platt ML. (2018) Rhesus macaques form preferences
for brand logos through sex and social status based on advertising. PLOS One 13(2): e0193055.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.
pone.0193055
Primate well-being
Keeping nonhuman primates perpetually thirsty is obviously cruel, and the physical manifestations are well
documented. Fluid restriction can cause decreased appetite and weight loss, lethargy, feelings of thirst,
anxiety and psychological distress. According to the Association of Primate Veterinarians (APV), “no one
metric or minimum daily fluid requirement has proven ideal for all animals in all research situations.”2 APV
lists a minimum daily intake of 20 ml/kg/day as one possible metric, which has been shown experimentally
to maintain osmotic state. In other words, monkeys maintained at 20 ml/kg/day should be able to maintain all
body functions, but will experience thirst and urges to drink. In Platt’s experiments, the monkeys received 20
ml/kg of water daily, and had the opportunity to acquire more during the tasks. It is unclear how long the
macaques were maintained at the restricted intake of 20 ml/kg/day during the periods in which they are
engaged in the experimental sessions. This level of restriction can become damaging if it continues long
term. It is also unclear if the experimenters are factoring in the provision of fruit in the fluid restriction, or if
the 20 ml/kg/day is the drinking water permitted and fruit is extra.
Individual monkeys’ baseline fluid requirements vary based on gender, body weight, social ranking, health
condition, and individual preferences, assuming similar environment and age. Changes to the environment
can also affect fluid requirements. Upon return to ad lib fluid intake, some animals may overhydrate and
cause electrolyte disturbances such as hyponatremia, which can be life threatening. Monkeys can also
experience uncomfortable bloat due to consuming increased quantities of food when fluid restriction is lifted.
Monkeys who were not being used in tests for more than five days, were given “at least” 50 ml/kg/day of
water. It is unclear how much “at least” means, but to recover hydration status and prevent thirst they should
be given at least 80 ml/kg/day, so fluid restriction continued even on days when monkeys did not participate
in the experiments in which they worked for drops of fruit juice.
Effects of fluid restriction on study quality
Because of the varying effects of fluid restriction on monkey behavior and health, the results of this
experiment may be compromised by this practice. Purposefully denying monkeys sufficient water changes
their behavior during testing in ways that are unrelated to the experimental goals, by having a variety of
effects on how hard they will work for the reward. For example, during periods of experimental fluid
restriction, monkeys will work harder and longer for rewards on days when they are thirstier. Hydration
status can be influenced by factors other than just fluid deprivation, including intake of food, environmental
conditions or changes, social interactions, and health status on any given day. As the experiment progresses
and fluid restriction continues, the actual and perceived value of the reward (which in reality is a basic need
of the monkey) is likely to increase, meaning that during longer periods of fluid restriction, monkeys may
increase their response rate out of desperation, potentially influencing the accuracy of their responses.
Additionally, monkeys on fluid restriction may elect to perform the task only to the level at which they are
able to maintain osmolality and sate thirst,3 even though they may be capable of continuing the task, and
thus, satiety is an important factor that is not considered. Individual preferences also affect how a task is
performed when fluid is restricted. Some monkeys will work harder for juice than others, simply because of
personal preference, and those that don’t work as hard may get more dehydrated. Data may be easily
misinterpreted when these variables are not taken into account, and experimenters may not be measuring the
outcomes they think they are measuring.

2
Association of Primate Veterinarians. Guidelines for use of fluid regulation for nonhuman primates in biomedical
research. Available at https://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/food-and-water-deprivation
3
Yamada H, Louie K, Glimcher PW. (2010) Controlled water intake: A method for objectively evaluating thirst and
hydration state in monkeys by the measurement of blood osmolality. J Neurosci Methods 191(1): 83-39.
The experience of thirst is universally undesirable. Behavioral protocols using fluid restriction in an effort to
motivate animals to work exploit this reality. The animals are working precisely to avoid or rid themselves
of this aversive state. In particular, “[p]rolonged unrelieved thirst is an animal welfare issue; the continuing
failure of an animal to meet its water requirements, despite directing its behaviour toward finding water, can
be seen as a chronic stressor.”4 In fact, fluid restriction protocols have been rejected by IACUCs on grounds
that such deprivation would cause “unjustifiable mental suffering,” that the experiment under investigation
had no relevance to thirst, and that “[a]lternative methods exist to induce animals to perform tasks.”5 These
alternative methods include preferred rewards, variable-ratio schedules, and conditioned reinforcers. Did the
Duke IACUC require Platt to try these more humane methods first, before resorting to water
restriction? Did the IACUC not question this experiment given that it could so easily be done with
humans, yielding more human-relevant results?
Social housing of primates
Platt states that all five male macaques were housed individually during the timeline of the experiment
because of “difficulties finding compatible pair mates,” while the five females were socially housed.
Primates have complex social systems and cannot simply be thrown together in the hopes that they get along.
Rather, successful pair and group housing requires time-consuming assessments for compatibility by
experienced staff members.6 The United States Animal Welfare Regulations state that an institution’s
environment enhancement plan for nonhuman primates “must include specific provisions to address the
social needs of nonhuman primates of species known to exist in social groups in nature.”7 What investment
was made by the investigators and/or the IACUC in attempting to find compatible cage mates for the
male macaques involved in these experiments? There is ample scientific support for the benefits of social
housing in nonhuman primates,8,9,10 and the differences in stress levels and overall well-being between
socially housed females and singly housed males may have skewed data in this experiment.
Platt’s ill-conceived experiments not only cause unnecessary suffering in monkeys, but also squander
resources that could be better spent on studies that are relevant to human society and not simply based in
curiosity. We ask that you investigate the IACUC’s approval process, reconsider Duke University’s support
for these cruel and wasteful experiments, and instead commit Duke’s resources to humane, non-animal
studies that produce useable results.

Ultimately, what images of sex and power are chosen by thirsty, caged monkeys who have been deprived of
companionship and nearly all freedom of choice has no value to science or to the public that funds it.

May we speak soon about these urgent concerns? You may reach us at the email addresses provided below.

4
Prescott MJ, et al. (2010) Refinement of the use of food and fluid control as motivational tools for macaques used in
behavioural neuroscience research: Report of a Working Group of the NC3Rs. J Neurosci Methods 193(2): 167-188.
5
Orlans FB. (1991) Prolonged water deprivation: a case study in decision making by an IACUC. ILAR Journal 33: 48-
52.
6
Truelove M. (2017) Assessing behavioral compatibility in macaque pairs: 4 th Symposium on Social Housing of
Laboratory Animals, May 1-2, 2017. Atlanta, GA.
7
9 C.F.R. § 3.81
8
Chandna A, Niebo M, Lopresti-Goodman S, Goodman J. (2015) Single housing of primates in US laboratories: A
growing problem with shrinking transparency. ATLA 43(3): 30.
9
Dettmer E, Fragazy D. (2000) Determining the value of social companionship to captive tufted Capuchin monkeys
(Cebus apella). JAAWS 3(4): 293-304.
10
DiVincenti L, Wyatt JD. (2011) Pair housing of macaques in research facilities: A science-based review of benefits
and risks. JAALAS 50(6): 856-863.
Sincerely,

Emily Trunnell, Ph.D.


Research Associate and IACUC Liaison
Laboratory Investigations Department
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
501 Front Street Norfolk, VA 23510
EmilyT@peta.org

Ingrid Taylor, D.V.M.


Research Associate
Laboratory Investigations Department
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
501 Front Street Norfolk, VA 23510
DrTaylor@peta.org