The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent millions in taxpayer dollars conducting psychological torture experiments on primates.

After People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) broke a story last year about cruel experiments on monkeys, the nonprofit watchdog group White Coat Waste Project released a video showing one experiment in which researchers essentially gave monkeys brain damage and practiced psychological torture with fake snakes and spiders.

This picture taken on May 23, 2020 shows a laboratory baby monkey reacting in its cage in the breeding centre for cynomolgus macaques (longtail macaques) at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi. Thai scientists from the centre have begun testing a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate on monkeys, the phase before human trials. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

“In December 2019, White Coat Waste Project (WCW) sued the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after it refused to release videos and other materials related to wasteful and bizarre psychological experiments on primates that have cost taxpayers nearly $100 million just since 2007,” the video’s chyron reads, adding that some of the experiments have been “continuously funded for over 40 years.”

As the watchdog detailed in February 2020:

Never-before-seen videos released to WCW depict distraught monkeys chained by the neck in tiny cages being tormented with rubber spiders and mechanical snakes, objects the primates instinctively fear, just to observe their reactions. NIH “white coats” sucked out parts of these monkeys’ brains or destroyed them with toxic acid to intentionally worsen the primates’ fear. In the video, a callous NIH “white coat” can be heard joking, “Where the hell is the dancing monkey?,” after one of the tests on the terrified monkeys ends.


According to the group, such experiments, which took place at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland, “have cost taxpayers over $16 million since 2007, and $1.7 million in 2019 alone.”

PETA previously called for Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, to be fired. Now that Collins is leaving the NIH, PETA is urging President Biden to not hire another “dinosaur” as the next NIH director.

“The deadly experiments on dogs are proof that Fauci’s boss is stuck in the failed science of yesteryear,” Kathy Guillermo, PETA senior vice president, said:

He is spending billions of dollars on studies that include infecting and cutting up dogs, frightening monkeys, and addicting mice to cocaine that don’t lead to cures or vaccines while humans die from Alzheimer’s, HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and other deadly ailments

Editor’s Note (12/13/2021): References to a different study involving beagles and sand flies has been removed from this story after the report which linked it to NIH funding was corrected. “The US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust did not provide any funding for this research and any such claim was made in error,” reads a note from the publisher. 

Editor’s note: This story was updated to note that PETA broke the story last year about the cruel monkey experiments, and to include that PETA is no longer calling for Francis Collins’ firing now that he is leaving the NIH; rather PETA is urging caution in selecting the next NIH director.