#167- Shrink Rap Radio LIVE#11 – Chumps for Chimps!

photo from cover of book on Nim Chimpsky


Jerry Trumbule, MS, PhD (abd) and I engage in a discussion about the ethics of animal research, with a focus on his experiences working with chimpanzees. Jerry was inspired to go down memory lane by a recent episode on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s All In The Mind. titled,
Apes, legal personhood and the plight of Nim Chimpsky.” In that episode, reference is also made to the new book by Elizabeth Hess, Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human.

A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Rick V.
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    I think the new name should be shrink melt sandwich or the incredible shrinking shrinks or stinking shrinking LOL. Anyway this show caused me to think about the ethics of animal use and treatment in experiments. However I still believe that there is need for a strong biological model in research. I totally dig and respect Jerry because he isn’t afraid to look bad. What I mean is that some folks would have said they went across the street to yell at the barking beagle to make it stop its pesky barking so they wouldn’t look like they were being mean to animal. However, Jerry tells it like it was and like it is now, he wouldn’t hit a dog with a rolled up newspaper now because he knows better now but back then he was not so enlightened. I hope that came out right because it is meant as a compliment of the highest order. If someone is reading this and doesn’t know what I am talking about you will have to listen to the show to find out.

  2. Ken Vallario
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I sent the following email to Dr. Dave, and he asked me to post it, to allow for discussion.

    Hey Dr. Dave,

    I hope you are well. I recently listened to your latest LIVE show, on animals and I was very disturbed by it, the content was very difficult to listen to, particularly because Jerry is a very vivid story teller. anyways, i was expecting a light and witty conversation, and it got very hard to listen to and I was thinking it would have been nice to have a little warning. i thought you might record a little warning at the beginning of that show. these are things that people sometimes assume can’t be happening and to hear someone recount their actual existence is horrifying. without preparation it can feel a little damaging, i found it hard to shake afterwards.

    as an aside, i find it strange that someone could argue for the value of such experiments for military purposes and be so passionate about Zoos.

    anyways, i hope you don’t mind the suggestion. it is, of course, appropriate material for your show, but difficult nonetheless.

  3. Tom Barbalet
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    This was a fantastic episode. The juxtaposition of a youthful Jerry looking to find his way in science and developing an ethical understanding through his work was very moving. It was nice to find a shared primate connection.

    The Bob Dylan SRR song – where can we download that as a promo? I want to put that at the end of my podcasts.

  4. Jo
    Posted August 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Jerry – regarding the conversation about your work involving animal research – thank you for having the courage to discuss these distressing experiences so publicly.

    And regarding the choice of name for “Shrink Rap Radio Live” – I think it is a catchy name, and a good idea, so why not stick with it and remain alert for the opportunity to try the live format again? Possibly when the technology improves, or when just the right circumstances become apparent. If people ask “why call it Live when it isn’t live?”, you know it WAS live, and you want it to go live again 😉

  5. Posted August 24, 2008 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Dave,

    I found the interview to be really impressive and at least for me it was very easy and fun to listen to.
    How to deal with subjects / participants (it does not matter if human or animal) is quite a hard topic to deal with. It is very easy to forget the individual as an experimenter when you deeply feel about the idea of the experiment or the experiment itsself. When I studied medicine we had to dissect human beings. As it turned out almost no one (including myself) was still seeing the individual on the table as everyone had to prepare their region of specialty.
    I (just) guess that at least two mechanism come into play:
    1. Shift of attention to the experiment, therefore a distraction from the actual subject.
    2. As you already indicated in you podcast, there might be something in common with the Stanford Prison Experiment as a higher power gives the command to treat the subjects. There also is a higher goal involved.

    I am therefore not a bit astonished about the reaction with the zoo animals (and I think he is right). Take it a step further: What about all those visitors enjoying the zoo? How evil are they? What are they thinking? Well, probably nothing because they just do not think that much out of the box and visiting the zoo is as well established in society as animal testing was in that time.

    Let me also comment on the idea to put a warning in the podcast:
    Potentially, any poadcast you do can be harmful to a person. This only depends on which ailment he is suffering from. In fact, he might also be inflicted if he watches something on TV which deals with a condition / problem he might have.
    Putting a warning label in front of all the podcasts is as sensefull as putting a warning label that coffee is hot on a coffee pot. Psychology is a very broad field, but part of it are medical conditions or problems people have. One who listens to a psychology podcast should expect to hear things he might not enjoy. It should also be kept in mind that this a global medium and putting a label on each podcast simply sounds pathetic to most non-US folks.

    Greetings from Germany

  6. Jerry Trumbule
    Posted September 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Hello All:

    I checked back in at SRR and was pleased to see that some discussion had resulted from last “Live” show that Dr. Dave and I had on the use of chimpanzees in psychology experiments.

    First let me respond to Ken, who suggested that a warning label should be added to shows such as this one. Actually, a warning label should automatically be added to any show that I participate in, as I am always likely to speak about shocking incidents in my past. If a show is not “shocking” in some way, why bother? We need to hear things that make us uncomfortable, that make us question our own beliefs, and rethink ideas we thought we had settled years ago.

    There was some self-censorship on my part. The stories I told were the most mild in my memory kit bag. I’ve learned from experience that most people do not want to hear the worst stories. They are too sickening.

    And Ken, regarding the military use of animals vs. the zoo use, for me the question is resolved upon consideration of the outcome. I am no apologist for the military. But if it is a given that we will have armies, navies, and air forces in the future, and that these “services” will be tasked with the survival of their members in times of war, knowledge gained from animal experiments to save human life may be defensible.

    On the other hand, while some knowledge may be gained in zoos from the incarceration of animals, I doubt its value. In the past, the argument for zoos centered around entertainment and education of young children. Perhaps a youngster, upon seeing a real-life incarcerated ant-eater, will become inspired to spend a lifetime studying ants or ant-eaters. Could be, but with evolving display methods, a film or video experience (holographic?) may be nearly equivalent. Imagine a Disneyland safari.

    More importantly these days, the zoo argument used is one of conservation, i.e., humans have destroyed habitat and decimated populations of animals, so now, in order to preserve a species, we must incarcerate some individuals to use for breeding purposes and the continuation of the endangered species. Maybe, but here in Denver, this argument is being used to add 3 Asian elephants to a global zoo population of over 3000 individuals. How many jailed animals do we need? And further, will the offspring of psychotic (jailed) individuals be a good foundation for the perpetuation of the species?

    Let me again thank Dr. Dave for creating these great podcasts, which serve the greater good by giving us insight into real psychology as practiced by real psychologists. Let the sunshine in!

    Dr. Dave’s occasional sidekick,

    Jerry Trumbule

  7. Reinhard, booklover
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I have to take the side of Ken Vallerio on this one. Your really should put a spoiler in the shownotes. This show really pissed me of….

    What’s the sense in retelling all this old cruel stories about animal experiments in minutious detail? Maybe it has a redeeming value for Jerry himself, but for personal catharsis we have a tool called psychotherapy.
    There’s a difference between self-disclosure and just “letting it all out”. If you want to just let it all out, you don’t care if your hurt or offend anyone. Hey! What the heck! The most important thing is that _I_ got it off my chest, deal with it!

    So, potentially listener, if you read this commentary, let _me_ put a SPOILER here for you: This show is mainly about how animal experiments were conducted in the past, with all the cruel details involved in the process. If you listen to the first ten minutes or so and you think: Ok, this is the bad stuff, the good (informative, entertaining, and so on) part is yet to come, you are mistaken!
    It only gets worse. In the last part Jerry tells us how the millitary experimented with dogs. This sounded to me like a kind of “dog concentration camp”.
    So if you listen to the first 10 minutes and you are already pissed of (as I was), don’t bother to listen further, it doesn’t get “better”…

    I also was really amazed and quite shocked to hear Jerry chuckle now and then…. Was it really this funny to watch the chimpanzees in theses little boxes?

    If you want to read more about interesting facts concerning chimpanses, check out Marc Ian Barasch’ book “Field Notes on the Compassionate Life: A Search for the Soul of Kindness*.
    There’s one fascinating chapter in it about the bonobos (little chimpanzees). It’s incredible how social and even how compassionate these creatures are. A bonobo will only be happy if all bonobos in his “tribe” are happy. If one bonobe is disturbed or “sad” or hurting, the other ones will not rest until the one “unhappy” bonobo has gained some relief, it’s amazing. If you wanna read more about this, checkt out Barasch’ book.

    On a last note: I really like most of the shows you put out, Dr. Daves and I’m really grateful to you for putting them out for us.
    But concerning this one: If I had produced this show and if I had listened to this show afterwards I wouldn’t have put it out on the net, in the “public” so to speak.

    For a private conversation this content may be ok (if both parties agree that they are not offended by it), but listenting to this show had for _me_ the same redeeming value as watching a “mondo cannibale” film…

    Nevertheless, all the best for you and Jerry!
    Reinhard form Austria

  8. PC Leong
    Posted December 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Contrary to the opinions of a couple of the commentators, I’m glad that neither a warning label nor censorship was affixed or practiced. To do so would have been to impose a personal judgement and an imposition of a certain kind of behaviour – this is too shocking/disgusting, etc for everyone else – on the rest of us. As it is, I got to listen to this podcast some years later, and to make up my own mind about it. I thought allowing the podcast to be posted – warts and all – was consistent with respecting the intelligence and the rights of others to deal with the world as they can/wish. Having one’s sensibilities shocked or offended is not a good enough reason to impose the kind of actions that have been suggested.

    Personally, while I did find some of what was said quite difficult to take, which I do not necessarily take to be a bad thing, I never felt that there was anything gratuitous about what was said. I found the conversation to be intelligent and honest, and thus insightful. I heard Jerry remarked several times about his increased awareness and appreciation of what was being done, his part in it, his growing aversion and his eventual stand, and I think that we may find that’s how we learn and grow; grow and learn in our personal journey. I heard the chuckles, but I felt that it conveyed more his incredulity that this had happened, and not amusement. I’m not presuming to speak for Jerry, but to offer my take on what I heard and felt, and this is my interpretation.

    Thanks again, Dave and Jerry, for a scintillating ‘down memory lane’. And thanks to the comments above, I listened to this podcast with even more attention than I might otherwise have.


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