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Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals

A Primate Scientist’s Ethical Journey

The National Institute of Health recently announced its plan to retire the fifty remaining chimpanzees held in national research facilities and place them in sanctuaries. This significant decision comes after a lengthy process of examination and debate about the ethics of animal research. For decades, proponents of such research have argued that the discoveries and benefits for humans far outweigh the costs of the traumatic effects on the animals; but today, even the researchers themselves have come to question the practice. John P. Gluck has been one of the scientists at the forefront of the movement to end research on primates, and in Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals he tells a vivid, heart-rending, personal story of how he became a vocal activist for animal protection.

Gluck begins by taking us inside the laboratory of Harry F. Harlow at the University of Wisconsin, where Gluck worked as a graduate student in the 1960s. Harlow’s primate lab became famous for his behavioral experiments in maternal deprivation and social isolation of rhesus macaques. Though trained as a behavioral scientist, Gluck finds himself unable to overlook the intense psychological and physical damage these experiments wrought on the macaques. Gluck’s sobering and moving account reveals how in this and other labs, including his own, he came to grapple with the uncomfortable justifications that many researchers were offering for their work. As his sense of conflict grows, we’re right alongside him, developing a deep empathy for the often smart and always vulnerable animals used for these experiments.

At a time of unprecedented recognition of the intellectual cognition and emotional intelligence of animals, Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals is a powerful appeal for our respect and compassion for those creatures who have unwillingly dedicated their lives to science. Through the words of someone who has inflicted pain in the name of science and come to abhor it, it’s important to know what has led this far to progress and where further inroads in animal research ethics are needed.

360 pages | 18 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Animal Lives

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology

Psychology: Developmental Psychology


"A very honest tale, harrowing at times, told clearly and with great integrity.”

Literary Review

“Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals is a brave book, because there is something in it that will anger those on different sides of the animal rights debate. . . . Any argument about the use of animals in research has to consider both the harms and the benefits involved. What Gluck gives us is a better understanding of the harms. He tells us that even with the best intentions, we sometimes inflict unnecessary pain; we sometimes start to cut open the skull of a monkey who isn’t fully anaesthetised. Even with the protections of the Animal Welfare Act, Gluck argues, the contemporary practice of working with animals fails to guarantee that we respect their interests. To have the frank and open ethical conversation that Gluck thinks we should have, we need to have the curtain fully drawn back, so we can see both the array of harms and the array of benefits. Reasoning fails in the dark.”

Times Higher Education

“His book comes at an opportune time. A constellation of factors—insights into monkey intelligence, the refinement of computational and tissue-culture-based research methods, concerns about how lab-animal stress could potentially skew data—have put primates again in the public eye; questions raised about chimpanzees are being raised about other species, too. It promises to be a difficult discussion, and perhaps a necessary one.”

Chronicle of Higher Education

 “This book recounts one scientist’s ‘journey’ from animal researcher to animal ethics activist. Gluck paints a picture of psychology’s changing attitudes related to behavior and the lives of research animals and gives readers a clear look at the old-boys'’world of science in the second half of the last century. . . . This is a thoughtful and sensitive account of one person’s journey from an uncaring user of animal subjects to a quiet advocate who recognizes the debt that he and the entire scientific world owe to these animals. Recommended.”


"The heart of Gluck's book describes his shift from primate research to bioethics, his emergence from the dark forest where the straight path was lost. Like Dante's, his own story must have been painful to tell. Emotional callouses were not easily chafed away and professional pride not easily surrendered. . . . Gluck's career shift came at a great cost. The respect of his peers, perhaps now lost, had meant the world to him. They didn’t read his scientific papers, or not nearly as closely as he’d once believed, and they might ignore his book. Even so, there’s plenty here for the layman. While Gluck remains a scientist at heart and a master of its cold prose, he writes here like a real writer. His preface and epilogue, describing the euthanising of three stump-tailed macaques, and a passage in the book’s guts describing the week-long 'sacrificing' of about 20 rhesus monkeys, are rendered without a sniff of mawkishness. At his best, his thoughtful style and ­patient working of difficult ideas recall the writing of great nature essayist ­Edward Hoagland."

The Australian

Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals is a powerful appeal for human respect and compassion for those creatures who have unwillingly dedicated their lives to science. Gluck tells a vivid, heartrending, personal story of how he became a vocal activist for animal protection.”

Publishers Weekly

"Is an animal used in scientific research an 'it' or a 'who'? This is the core theme of this gentle but powerful book. Gluck, a former primate researcher trained by Harry Harlow at the University of Wisconsin in the 1970s, who later transitioned to a career in clinical psychology at the University of New Mexico, offers a brief in favor of a massive reduction in our use of animals in experimental research, especially in psychology (though details on how precisely this is to be done are scant). . . . This brief, however, does not come in the form of a sustained philosophical argument a la Peter Singer or Tom Regan. It is not a work of formal ethics leading to a battery of 'shoulds.' Instead, the book is a memoir. . . . Artfully crafted insights. . . . An engaging narrative. The memoir format makes an important contribution to the history of psychology, offering firsthand recollections of Harry Harlow and other researchers at the University of Wisconsin. Gluck, like Browne, also has an eye--trained by scholarship in science studies--for how institutions, personalities, facilities, and other 'external' factors shape scientific knowledge production. . . . A brilliant, forceful meditation, generous in its self-reflexivity, compassionate toward animals and scientists alike, and profound in its insights."


"At once a personal journey and an historical journey through the animal research field of experimental
psychology. The book is carefully and thoughtfully written. . .It is an ideal read for those new to the field in considering their own awareness; it is also refreshingly candid."

Journal of Mammalogy

“A gem and a most timely work.”

Psychology Today

“Well written, easy to read, and transparent in its motives. . .Voracious Science will inevitably be part of the conversation about the morality and ethics of NHP research.”

The Quarterly Review of Biology

“This book is an open and engaging account of Gluck’s ethical struggle to reconcile his own research with his conscience, and he makes clear that there are no easily solutions. . . .Gluck interweaves the personal and professional, and addresses this controversial topic from the perspective of someone who is immersed within it. . . .Gluck’s compelling narrative is accessible reading for the public, and can provide readers with an insightful window into the ethical struggles that primate researchers experience.”

Primate Eye

“Gluck’s writing demonstrates that he is an exceptionally perceptive person, and he carefully walks readers through his thought process as he begins life as someone finely attuned to the well-being of animals, later suppresses these feelings in the pursuit of science aimed at alleviating human suffering, and finally has a moral revelation that leads to a thorough critique of current research ethical protections in the United States. The book raises valuable questions for anyone with an interest in animal research and ultimately anyone interested in seeing both the challenges and rewards of living a life deeply informed by ethical questioning.”


“Gluck’s Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals is a deeply personal and courageous book about his awakening and transitioning from long-time researcher and ‘sacrificer’ to savior of the sentient nonhuman primates with whom he had the privilege to work. It should be required reading for all people who study nonhumans or who are pondering a research career in which other animals are used and abused ‘in the name of science,’ which really translates to ‘in the name of humans.’ This book will make everyone think hard about how science is done and the ethical questions that must be discussed. Gluck’s frank and principled message will result not only in better treatment for the animals but also in better science, a win-win for all.”

Marc Bekoff, author of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals

“After years experimenting on monkeys in a research lab, Gluck vowed to develop ‘a thinking heart’ about the terrible costs he was asking animals to pay in the name of science. In this he has succeeded brilliantly. Gluck’s memoir moved me as no other book about animals has in years. His refusal to hide behind the claim that ethical guidelines today protect primates, dogs, rabbits, and other animals used in biomedical research—they don’t, he’s absolutely right—offers a way forward in bringing about the changes we owe to our fellow sentient creatures.”

Barbara King, author of How Animals Grieve

“In this beautifully written and erudite volume, Gluck tells the story of his career-length journey from a young, mainstream primate researcher to a public advocate for his former research subjects.  Written by someone with an unusual command of both the science and the ethics of animal research, the chapters unfurl with several of the virtues possessed by their author: eloquence, intelligence, depth, compassion, and fairness to all concerned.”

David DeGrazia, author of Taking Animals Seriously

“Gluck tells the compelling story of how his thinking about human uses of primates in research evolved. His story is one of a professional psychologist learning to think beyond the value of his scientific research by incorporating thinking about the circumstances and points of view of the animals involved in the research. Gluck assesses how human beliefs about valid and necessary research with animals can easily be incoherent with basic moral standards. This gracefully written book is a beautiful read filled with insights about how we should and should not treat animals in research.”

Tom L. Beauchamp, coeditor, The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics

Table of Contents


1. Erosion
2. Induction
3. Practice
4. Awareness
5. Realignment
6. Reconstruction
7. Protection
8. Reformation


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