Sunday, April 23, 2017

They all operate the same way.

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The 2017 March for Science

People gathered all over the world yesterday in support of science.

In the U.S. at least, their motivations were mixed. In the U.S., the main impetus was Donald Trump’s election and the subsequent official denial of human-caused, or anthropogenic, climate change, in the face of compelling evidence that we are changing the global environment in ways that will cause dramatic and severe problems in the not too distant future. The scale and severity of the impact of our activities could be and likely will be cataclysmic and may already be irreversible. Government’s denial of the body of evidence and the opinions of the majority of scientists studying the matter was the catalyst for the marches. The Trump administration seems decidedly opposed to limits on industry’s freedom to pollute, seems opposed to preserving undeveloped lands, and seems altogether made up of ignorant self-centered greedy bigots. There is plenty to be worried about.

But at least some of the marchers were walking for other reasons. Some of them are motivated by money. Here’s a nice chart from Science.

In broad terms, U.S. funding for science in order of the amounts in billion of dollars (2016) looks like this: NIH-$32, NASA-$19, NSF-$7, NOAA-$6, DOD/DARPA-$5, FDA-$6.

Much of that money finds its way to universities. It keeps a university and its labs up and running. It pays salaries and buys equipment. The flow of tax dollars from the NIH and the NSF has become the life-blood of the large universities; it has led to a system that has turned its back on science. The system is controlled by those whose livelihoods are dependent on the system; conflicts of interest and bias are inevitable and widespread.

Science is a very large umbrella. In common usage, it includes a wide array of activities, not all of which are based on the classic scientific method, but they do have things in common. One of those things is the belief that decisions and research directions ought to be based on what is believed to be likely, or better yet, has been proven. A decision driven by personal interests and desires isn’t science.

When decisions are made by scientists about their and their colleague’s work that seem to ignore a preponderance of evidence, it seems reasonable to infer that something has displaced the dispassionate consideration of evidence, which is at the heart of science. My interpretation of the dismissal of evidence, in the area of science I know best, is that the main goal of these scientists and their universities is securing funding.

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn pointed out in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that scientists are constrained by the status quo in their field of study. It is apparently almost impossible for a scientist to think outside the box. They spend their time trying to make new data fit into their shared beliefs, even when it can’t actually be squeezed into the box, or paradigm in Kuhn’s terms. They sometimes literally can’t see what is directly in front of them. Kuhn points to examples like Galileo’s observations of the motion of a pendulum which are not seen today. Galileo saw the world though a different lens than do today’s observers.

Kuhn argues convincingly that it takes a crises before scientists are able to begin operating under a new paradigm. A crises usually arises slowly as a result of the current paradigm being increasingly unable to explain observable data and unable to offer ideas that lead to successful new tools for solving the problems being encountered. At some point the working model is supplanted with a new view of the world that does a better job of explanation. That’s the way science has generally progressed over the years. But that was before money got mixed into the pot. Money has served to retard notice of a crisis and to forestall the development of new paradigms.

In years past, when a scientist’s work was judged on its content and consequences, he or she was forced to try something new, to abandon failed methods, and to rethink problems if what they were doing wasn’t working. But not anymore. Today, the work conducted by a scientist working in a university NIH-funded lab doing basic biomedical research is judged solely on their ability to attract funding and the frequency of their publications.

You might imagine that those making decisions about what projects to fund would look at a scientist’s success at generating information that led to some clinical benefit, but that’s not so. The NIH study sections that make the determinations are themselves staffed by others receiving NIH grants for projects that also have been funded without an evaluation of clinical benefit.

Kuhn’s ideas were the result of having to teach a class on the history of science; he was particularly focused on the physical sciences, and he was writing in the early 1960s. If he had seen into the future, he might have written about the consequences of massive financial support for scientists working in a system that does not demand success. Revolutions are unlikely, progress stalls.

The dominant paradigm in taxpayer-sponsored biomedical science today is that discoveries in mouse biology will lead to human benefit down the road, at some later date. To the degree that this isn’t true, then the degree to which mouse-based research continues to be supported by NIH is a rough measure of how off course science can go when influenced by a funding system that dispenses money to scientists who will certainly publish only data of no consequence and of no use to medical practitioners or patients. Less than 30% of NIH grant dollars go to clinical research -- research using humans. That’s telling. (Rubio, Doris McGartland, Ellie E. Schoenbaum, Linda S. Lee, David E. Schteingart, Paul R. Marantz, Karl E. Anderson, Lauren Dewey Platt, Adriana Baez, and Karin Esposito. "Defining translational research: implications for training." Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges 85, no. 3 (2010): 470.)

When I say that the mouse model is the dominant paradigm I am using a bit of shorthand. More precisely, it is animal models generally, but the gigantically overwhelming number of animals used in research are mice. The failure and the reasons for the failure of the animal model paradigm has been written about in a scholarly way for at least 30 years, and the evidence continues to amass. For instance:

“... the limitations of preclinical tools such as inadequate cancer-cell-line and mouse models make it difficult for even the best scientists working in optimal conditions to make a discovery that will ultimately have an impact in the clinic.” Begley, C. Glenn, and Lee M. Ellis. "Drug development: Raise standards for preclinical cancer research." Nature 483, no. 7391 (2012): 531-533.

That article has been cited 1,160 times, which means it has been seen by lots of people in the biosciences, but 5 years later, and many similar papers preceding it and following it over the years pointing to the same phenomena, NIH still has at its helm, a mouse vivisector. I suspect that mouse-based research continues to lead the pack in funding and in the number of projects funded.

So, back to the March for Science: in Madison, vivisectors were key-note speakers, as they were at the few other marches I took the time to look at. The animal-model paradigm is a bust; the suffering experienced by the animals is beyond comprehension. And yet, on it goes.

Science has demonstrated beyond any doubt, that animals of numerous other species are emotional, thinking, complex beings. That’s clear. It is a statement based on a large and fast-growing body of verifiable enlightening evidence. And yet.

And yet, the geologists, the chemists, the physicists, the climatologists, the archeologists, the limnologists, the paleontologists say nothing. And yet, federal agencies continue to actively promote the use of animals in extraordinarily cruel projects that have no hope of helping anyone.

Climate scientists have a responsibility as scientists to speak out when they see colleagues doing things in the name of science that are obviously cruel. They have an obligation to try and find out what is being dome to animals in the name of science.

Claims of scientific expertise carry with them responsibilities not borne by non-scientists. One of those, it seems to me, particularly in light the unprecedented call from the scientific community for all people everywhere to stand up in support of Science!, is that they take notice of the work of those they pull to their bosom and take definite steps to stop any and all inhumane practices.

I didn’t march with them. The last thing I needed was to hear primate vivisector and keynote speaker Richard Davidson talking about how Buddhist meditation makes people more compassionate.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Future of Primate Vivisection

A friend and I recently attended a workshop put on by the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service’s Animal Care division (APHIS-AC) and the USDA Center for Animal Welfare (CAW), a part of APHIS-AC. It was titled, “Nonhuman Primate Symposium: Practical Solutions to Welfare Challenges.” USDA-AC is the branch (twig) of the government responsible for overseeing and enforcing the Animal Welfare Act.

The two-day event was held in a large conference room at the USDA Beacon Building at 6501 Beacon Dr. in Kansas City, Missouri. The first presentation was an informal greeting by the facility’s chief security officer who told us that the (crazy) security precautions and presence were due to the building being a “level 4” facility..., whatever that means. One thing it means, according to the security guy, is that the building can’t be photographed. Someone should have told Google:



(Prior to the symposium, the organizers sent an email to all the registrants, inadvertently or unknowingly letting everyone know who else was attending. Maybe security is a one-way street.)

We went because it was open to the public, free, and featured presentations from primate vivisectors. It is very unusual for primate vivisectors to speak in public about their dirty hideous profession.

The intended audience was apparently people with backyard zoos who had monkeys, but it was billed as appropriate for a wide audience.

The presentations were grouped by topic. At the end of each set of presentations, the speakers responded to written questions from the audience. My questions were never addressed. One of the first speakers was CAW director, Norma Wineland, DVM. I submitted a question to her about USDA-APHIS’s deletion of on-line records of inspection reports. The question was handed to her by the woman reading the questions. Dr. Wineland, veterinarian and lamb-producer, chose to leave that can of worms unopened. Wineland raises sheep with her husband and produces "great tasting, local lamb!" It makes perfect sense to me that someone who raises lambs to slaughter would be appointed to head the USDA Center for Animal Welfare.

Three of the speakers were or had been intimate participants in primate vivisection.

Gwendalyn Maginnis, DVM, Nonhuman Primate Specialist, Center for Animal Welfare, Animal Care, USDA, was apparently, the symposium's organizer, She is a good example of the cozy relationship between the vivisectors and USDA-AC. She worked previously at the UC-Davis California National Primate Research Center and at the Oregon Health Sciences University’s Oregon National Primate Research Center She also worked in the toxicology department at WIL Research Laboratories in Ohio (recently acquired by the hideous Charles River Labs.) An acquaintance who worked at the Oregon primate center when Maginnis was there told me that she wasn’t particularly concerned about the monkeys which seems right since serious concern is not compatible with assisting in this Mengele-like thread of the animal holocaust. Maginnis led a workshop at the end of the second day on preparing an AWA-required primate Environmental Enrichment Plan, a pro forma written document statutorily exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and of little impact in the labs, as the videos in a later presentation made painfully clear.

The second primate vivisector to make a presentation was Suzette D. Tardif, Associate Director of Research at Southwest National Primate Research Center. According to the The University of Texas Health Science Center's web site, “The Tardif laboratory's activities center on the development of the marmoset monkey as a disease model.” That’s pretty messed up; it seems like an open-ended invitation to hurt these small monkeys in any way she can imagine. In a very recent paper (1), she wrote: “Marmosets given the partial MPTP dose (designed to mimic the early stages of [Parkinson’s disease]) differed significantly from marmosets given the full MPTP dose in several ways, including behavior, olfactory discrimination, cognitive performance, and social responses. Importantly, while spontaneous recovery of PD motor symptoms has been previously reported in studies of MPTP monkeys and cats, we did not observe recovery of any non-motor symptoms." She seems too, to find humor in the things she does to the monkeys.(2)

But of all the sad and disturbing things she said, and didn’t say, the pièce de résistance was her answer to the question: “What do you see being different in the primate labs 50 years from now?” Now, I don’t think like a vivisector, but I think it reasonable to imagine that she might have said something about a possible reduced need for animals given the advances in technology or, if she weren’t quite so sheltered, something about the public’s changing mores, but no, her vision of the future of the primate labs is just more automation. Apparently, robots will be caring for the monkeys.
Wow. Dystopia on steroids. Tardif gave two presentations. She seemed sort of dead in a way to me.

The third primate vivisector was Yerke’s Mollie Bloomsmith. It’s hard to convey how disconnected with what I take as normalcy, she was. Her presentation was titled, “Understanding Abnormal Behavior and Fear-related Behavior in Primates.” In her slides were videos of monkeys exhibiting some of the common severe aberrant behaviors common to rhesus monkeys in the common laboratory colony environment.

She showed both pair-housed monkeys and singly-caged monkeys. It is broadly held that pair-housed rhesus monkeys are somewhat less emotionally disturbed than singly-caged monkeys, particularly males. The very pro-vivisection group, the Association of Primate Veterinarians reports that nearly 20,000 monkeys in the U.S. labs are caged alone.

The pair-housed monkeys were living in two cages with the panel between the cages removed. They had exactly twice the space given to a single monkey. But the walls, floor, and ceiling were still stainless steel panels and mesh.
Their environment was bleak and cold. There was barely room to move, there was no place to hide. Bloomsmith showed a segment and commented that one might not be able to tell the proximate cause of a monkey’s symptoms just by looking at them. In the video, one of the monkeys became very aggressive and held down the other monkey and pulled out clumps of hair on the other monkey’s back.

In other videos she showed monkeys biting themselves, pulling out their hair, poking themselves in the eye, and making stereotyped movements. She commented on one of them saying something like, “We don’t know why they hurt themselves.” I almost choked.

One of the questions that was asked after Bloomsmith’s presentation was how long the monkeys were in those cages and whether the cages in the videos were holding cages of some sort. She fumbled with the answer; it seemed likely to me that at least some people in the audience, maybe many or most, were seeing for the very first time how monkeys are kept in the labs. She chose not to say that those small barren cages are where they spend their lives. The implications and recognized risks associated with the public seeing such videos has led to decades of battles with universities to get copies of them. A good example is the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s destruction of 628 videotapes in order to keep just one from being shown to the public.

All in all, the symposium was informative. I hope APHIS will invite the public to attend many more.

(1)Phillips, Kimberley A., Corinna N. Ross, Jennifer Spross, Catherine J. Cheng, Alyssa Izquierdo, K. C. Biju, Cang Chen, Senlin Li, and Suzette D. Tardif. "Behavioral phenotypes associated with MPTP induction of partial lesions in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)." Behavioural brain research 325 (2017): 51-62.

(2)Phillips, Kimberley A., M. Karen Hambright, Kelly Hewes, Brian M. Schilder, Corinna N. Ross, and Suzette D. Tardif. "Take the monkey and run." Journal of neuroscience methods 248 (2015): 27-31. From that paper; the link below is to a must-see video:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4464801/bin/NIHMS676819-supplement-Supp_1.mp4

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dear America's Scientists

Dear America's Scientists,

I was glad to see that there are some among you speaking up for publicly-funded science at a time when six-day creationists, climate change deniers, and simple greed seem to be ascendant in American politics.



I hope the March for Science Mission Statement will be widely embraced by scientists and everyone else:
The March for Science champions publicly-funded and publicly-communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, non-partisan group to call for science that upholds the common good, and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest. This group is inclusive of all individuals and types of science!
I hope you will do all in your power to resist the sequestration and censorship of information needed by the general public in order for us to make educated and informed decisions. I am writing to you today to suggest one proactive step you can take that will demonstrate that you stand for the pursuit of truth and are champions of informed decision-making.

On February 3, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed from its website thousands of documents regarding its oversight of compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The agency says it deleted the records because it was concerned about privacy.

AWA compliance inspections of universities, colleges, and private research companies are conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a part of the USDA. During an inspection, Veterinary Medical Officers document any violations they find and cite specific language in the federal regulations that stipulate the standard that is not being met.

Repeat violations of the AWA can result in fines and in a few cases of apparent willful violation or the inability to correct serious problems have resulted in a facility's closure. This was the case with Santa Cruz Biotechnology and Harvard University's New England National Primate Research Center, respectively.

In both cases and many others, it took repeated complaints from citizens alarmed by what they learned was occurring at these facilities before any meaningful action was taken by the USDA. They learned about these violations and government's lack of action by examining the inspection reports.

The USDA's decision to expunge these records was not driven by a concern for privacy, because no personal data is included in inspection reports. The USDA deleted these records in an effort to shield universities and animal breeders from public watchdogs. They tried this in the early 2000s as well, but a threatened lawsuit caused them to capitulate and restore some of the deleted data.

The use of animals in ways that harm and kill them is a small slice of science. Those working in this area have traditionally resisted efforts by members of the public to bring their practices to the light of day. The USDA's decision to hide evidence of federal violations from the public helps no one but those committing the violations.

You have an opportunity to prove that you are standing up against those who are working to deny the facts and potential and real problems associated with climate change, pollution, overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, and all the rest of the realities that inconvenience certain industries and investors. I know that many of you agree that we have a right to know these things.

The USDA's ad hoc sudden public censorship of its records will not go unchallenged, but you can take direct action right now. Your silence will be seen by the government as an endorsement of its actions. Now is the time to step up and speak up for truth, honesty, and public access to information.

Tell your institution's administrators to place all its correspondence with government agencies concerning compliance with the Animal Welfare Act on a publicly accessible web page and let the public know that it has done so.

I urge you to stand with those who believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Continued Responsible Oversight - Part 1

A look at the NIH workshop "Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates"

https://videocast.nih.gov/launch.asp?19835

Part 1.
The Back Story

The National Institutes of Health held a "workshop" on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, titled, "NIH Workshop on Ensuring the Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates." It was a sham.

Here's the reason for the NIH show: In 2014, in response to their public records requests, Peta received hundreds of hours of video footage from Stephen Suomi's lab at the NIH. They publicized some clips on their website and successfully lobbied some members of Congress to ask NIH to evaluate the ethics of using monkeys in its funded research.

Stephen J. Suomi had been the Director of the NIH Laboratory of Comparative Ethology and the Section on Comparative Behavioral Genetics for many years. Suomi's work has never helped anyone (not counting himself and his staff.) Suomi was trained by Harry Harlow who discovered and demonstrated repeatedly that infant monkeys taken from their mothers at birth and kept in a profoundly bleak environment were likely to go insane. Harlow began publishing in 1963, and worked with graduate students such as Suomi for nearly two decades devising endless ways to emotionally devastate baby monkeys.

A sampling of titles of papers documenting Suomi's earlier work:

1971 - Social recovery by isolation-reared monkeys.
1973 - Surrogate rehabilitation of monkeys reared in total social isolation.
1974 - Induced depression in monkeys.
1975 - Depressive behavior in adult monkeys following separation from family environment.
1976 - A 10-year perspective of motherless-mother monkey behavior.
1978 - Effects of imipramine treatment of separation-induced social disorders in rhesus monkeys.
1983 - Shuttlebox avoidance in rhesus monkeys: effects on plasma cortisol and beta-endorphin.
[Note: The shuttlebox is a device with two side-by-side compartments and a removable wall between them. The floor of each compartment is wire mesh which can be electrified. When the floor of the compartment holding the monkey is turned on, the monkey receives a shock and escapes by "shuttling" to the other compartment by jumping over the wall.

Once the monkey has learned that she can escape from the shock, the other floor is turned on and the first turned off. So now she learns that she can shuttle back to safety. The next step is to turn on both floors simultaneously. She will continue jumping from side to side hoping to escape. Finally, the clear plexiglass wall is placed between the compartments and the floor is turned on. After repeated tries she learns that she cannot escape and lies on the floor quivering and convulsing. She is now classified as "helpless."]

1983 - Therapy for helpless monkeys.
1991 - Nonhuman primate model of alcohol abuse: effects of early experience, personality, and stress on alcohol consumption.
1991 - Rationale and methodologies for developing nonhuman primate models of prenatal drug exposure.
1994 - Responses of free-ranging rhesus monkeys to a natural form of social separation. - Parallels with mother-infant separation in captivity.
1995 - Biobehavioral comparisons between adopted and nonadopted rhesus monkey infants.
1996 - A nonhuman primate model of type II excessive alcohol consumption. Part 1. Low cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid concentrations and diminished social competence correlate with excessive alcohol consumption.
1998 - Crowding stress and violent injuries among behaviorally inhibited rhesus macaques.

And on and on. As recently as 2016 he was still publishing, for instance: OPRM1 genotype interacts with serotonin system dysfunction to predict alcohol-heightened aggression in primates. Driscoll CA, Lindell SG, Schwandt ML, Suomi SJ, Higley JD, Heilig M, Barr CS. Addict Biol. 2016 Aug 3.

In any case, the videos were evidence that much of what was going on in the NIH lab was beyond the pale, they exposed the sort things a certain sort of people in animal labs are doing to animals when they think no one is watching. NIH's knee-jerk reaction was to defend Suomi. (NIH defends monkey experiments. Director Francis Collins says the agency has changed how it conducts controversial studies, but argues the work is necessary. Sara Reardon. Nature. 28 January 2015. ) But the evidence of science gone mad was hard to dismiss; a little less than a year later in a transparently face-saving capitulation, NIH reversed its decision, but claimed that it was doing so for financial reasons. (Decision to end monkey experiments based on finances, not animal rights, NIH says. David Grimm. Dec. 14, 2015. Science.)

Unfortunately, Peta made a fatal tactical error when they (I assume) advised members of Congress to ask NIH to evaluate itself. They should have asked them to look for a less aligned third-party evaluation like the Institute of Medicine's evaluation of the use of chimpanzees. (See: Raising the Bar: The Implications of the IOM Report on the Use of Chimpanzees in Research. Jeffrey Kahn. Hastings Center Report.)

I think it very likely that the shut-down of the Suomi lab, the Congressional interest, and the NIH decision to put on a show for a few members of Congress, frightened the primate vivisecting community. I think it likely that they lobbied aggressively to be included in the "workshop" committee. But it had probably been intended all along to be exactly what it turned out to be.

Part 2: The Big IACUC

Continued Responsible Oversight - Part2

A look at the NIH workshop "Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates"

Part 2. The Big IACUC

https://videocast.nih.gov/launch.asp?19835

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees are the cornerstone of the oversight system in the United States. They meet the requirements set forth by both the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Frequently Asked Questions about the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals) and the Animal Welfare Act (Animal Welfare Act Quick Reference Guides).

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs or ACUCs) main, sometimes only role, is to verify that a project using animals is legal. In order to be legal, the project leader(s) must fill out a form that explains what they intend to do to animals and why. Among other things, they need to state the number of animals they want to use, the species, and what if anything they will do to address any pain or distress they imagine the animals might or will experience. They can do anything they choose to do so long as they explain their scientific reasons and the ACUC approves it. As long as the ACUC approves, they don't have to provide any pain relief or much of anything else.

In some cases, the University of Wisconsin, Madison is one example, researchers are provided with some of the text they need to enter on the form.

ACUCs apparently struggle at making sure an approved protocol will pass muster if a USDA inspector happens to looks at it. Inspectors sometimes respond to public complaints about specific projects and occasionally spot-check approved protocols if they see something odd, if they are one of the inspectors who happen to give a damn. But other than more or less assuring that the project is legal, ACUCs are not consistent, and are pretty haphazard and arbitrary in their decision-making. (See the only peer-reviewed evaluation of the system: Study Finds Inconsistency in Animal Research Reviews, 2001.)

So it comes as no surprise that the NIH workshop was such an abject failure with regard to meeting its charge of openly and honestly evaluating the ethics of primate vivisection. The workshop was just a very big IACUC. There were two public members, Tom L. Beauchamp, Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and Jeffrey Kahn, Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. From the video, it appears that there were about 30 people at the table. No roster has been produced. Other than Beauchamp and Kahn, it appears that everyone else was financially and professionally vested in the use of monkeys.

Generally speaking, regulations require a minimum of three people on an ACUC, an institution official, a veterinarian familiar with the use of animals in research, and a non-institution- affiliated member of the public. In practice, ACUCs are usually larger. One survey found that just half of all regulated institutions had 6 to 10 people on their committees, and only 10% had fewer. In every case I am aware of, larger committee have proportionally fewer non-aligned members. The added members are almost always institution employees and usually vivisectors.

It is no surprise that they rarely refuse to approve a project; almost everyone on the committees use animals in their own work or else are part of the institutional apparatus for hosting and supporting scientists using animals. The money that comes with the use of animals is the life blood of many if not all of the large universities.

So, either by design or out of willful ignorance, NIH chose to emulate the ACUC model as a means of examining the ethics of using monkeys in harmful usually fatal publicly-funded projects. In this case the ratio of those with a clear vested interest in the outcome to those with no financial interest in the outcome was about 28 to 2. The outcome was foregone.

Part 3. Some Interesting Bits and Pieces

Continued Responsible Oversight - Part 3

A look at the NIH workshop "Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates"

Part 3. Some Interesting Bits and Pieces.

https://videocast.nih.gov/launch.asp?19835

The "workshop" was kicked off with a greeting from NIH Director Francis Collins. He is certainly in the running for making the most outlandish comment. He said, "Looking around the room, I am impressed to see the diversity of expertise presented here...". It's true that there were people sitting around the table who were doing different horrible things to monkeys, but calling them a "diverse group" was laughable. He continued with the joke that "we need lots of perspectives from the various views that are represented around this table...." But there were only two views; one represented by 28-ish vivisectors and their crew and the other by 2 outsiders. Jeez.

Then we heard from the main moderator, Carrie Wolinetz, Associate Director for Science Policy at NIH. One thing she said was particularly interesting to me. (Quotations are in capital letters because that is how they appear in the closed captioning file. The paragraphing is mine.)

Wolinetz: ... IT'S INTERESTING, HAVING READ SOME OF THE COMMENTS IN ADVANCE, TWO STRIKING THEMES THAT I THINK ARE RELATED TO THE STRUCTURE OF OUR WORKSHOP CAME TO ME. ONE, THERE WERE A LOT OF COMMENTS THAT SAID, WELL, YOU'RE TALKING TOO MUCH ABOUT THE SCIENCE, THEREFORE, THIS REALLY ISN'T A REVIEW OF THE ETHICS, AND THEN THERE WERE THOSE WHO SAID, YOU'VE GOT A SESSION ON ETHICS, THEREFORE, YOU'RE SOMEHOW COMPROMISING THE SCIENCE. AS IF THESE ARE TWO COUNTER VEILING FORCES, SCIENCE AND ETHICS, THAT ARE TOTALLY ANTAGONISTIC.

I THINK THAT IS SOMETHING THAT WE REJECT, THAT ETHICS AND SCIENCE REALLY GO HAND IN HAND, THE BEST SCIENCE IS INFORMED BY GOOD ETHICAL THINKING, AND AS WE THINK ABOUT PROTECTION OF ALL OF THE ORGANISMS USED IN RESEARCH, WHETHER IT'S HUMAN, ANIMALS, OR BACTERIA IN A PETRI DISH, CERTAINLY THAT IS INFORMED BY OUR BEST UNDERSTANDING OF THE SCIENCE OF THOSE SPECIES. THEY PROVIDE THE EVIDENCE BASE FOR MAKING SURE WE'VE GOT THE BEST WELFARE STANDARDS IN PLACE.

It isn't at all clear that ethics and science go hand-in-hand. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was a statement of an ethical position; the authors and signatories did not consult a biology text nor did they need to in order to proclaim that we are all equal. No amount of scientific benefit (that's code for any published paper) would be sufficient to tip the balance toward harmful experimentation on humans who do not consent, to breeding them, to keeping them in cages, or killing them to collect "needed" tissues. What science textbook should we consult to help us decide whether we should unleash more Josef Mengeles on unprotected populations?

The moderator for the first orchestrated section was UW-Madison primate vivisector David O'Connor who has recently cashed in on Zika. He has a track record of hitting NIH-paid jackpots. He currently has four funded projects together receiving over $3 million a year in NIH grants.

It is worth noting that the "workshop" lasted just over six and a half hours. The first part, moderated by O'Connor was a series of talks by vivisectors extolling their work and promising the world to those they imagined were tuning in, lasted for about 4 hours and 40 minutes. It concluded with a primate veterinarian promoting pro-vivisection trade groups and saying how supportive the Association of Primate Veterinarians is for the continued use of monkeys.

There was very limited discussion about ethics. Jeffrey Kahn makes a few comments at about 2:37:50, and continues briefly at about 2:41:36. Then, at about 5:10:00 into the program Tom Beauchamp spoke up. His entire comment is worth listening to, even if few others at the table understood him. He said, "... I CAN SEE FROM A NUMBER OF COMMENTS AROUND THE TABLE THIS MORNING THAT THERE'S STILL DEEPLY EMBEDDED [in] SOME FOLKS AROUND THE TABLE, THAT SCIENTIFIC NECESSITY IS THE KEY ISSUE. IF YOU CAN SHOW IT'S NECESSARY TO USE THE ANIMAL THEN IT'S JUSTIFIED TO DO THE RESEARCH. THAT'S JUST WRONG." A little later he gets into an interesting back-and-forth with Kathy L. Hudson, the Deputy Director for Science, Outreach and Policy at the National Institutes of Health, who says she thinks NIH is very open to change. She might have a career as a stand-up comic.

At about 5:15:00 into the meeting, the moderator of the section on oversight, Margaret (Mimi) Foster Riley asks how ACUCs assure that "ethical analysis" is represented on the ACUC? That's a crazy question from someone who ought to be well informed. (See my discussion Animal Research Ethics. 3/2012.)

Even crazier is the response from the top NIH watchdog, the Director of the misleadingly named Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), Patricia Brown (about 5:26:30): "SO FEDERAL AGENCIES THAT SUPPORT RESEARCH WITH ANIMALS, FORMED A WORKING GROUP IN THE LAST TWO YEARS AND HAVE PROVIDED JOINT FUNDING TO DEVELOP A NEW TRAINING PARADIGM USING ACTIVE LEARNING PEDAGOGY TO HELP DEVELOP IACUC TRAINING TO IMPROVE IACUCs SO THEY'RE THE HIGHEST FUNCTIONING IN TERMS OF ALL OF THE TOPICS THAT THEY ARE REQUIRED TO LOOK AT. NOT JUST FOCUSING ON THE ETHICS. BUT FOCUSING ON ALL THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES AS AN IACUC, BECAUSE IT GOES BEYOND JUST LOOKING AT IS IT ETHICAL TO USE THIS PARTICULAR MODEL OR THAT PARTICULAR MODEL."

One of the IACUCs at UW-Madison was chaired by an ethicist. He was hard pressed to point to an ethical evaluation of any proposed project that came before his committee. Pushed on the question he claimed that an ethical consideration perfuses the system, that it happens all along the way, from the initial application, to the NIH study section's deliberations, and throughout the ACUC's evaluation. But the minutes of his ACUC's discussions rarely included any record of such a consideration. The study sections certainly can't be relied upon because of members' clear biases. (See The "Best Science". November, 2009. See too: Animal Research Ethics. March, 2012.)

To her credit, Brown admits that the ACUC system hasn't been evaluated by NIH. But to the detriment of her credibility is the plain fact that OLAW could somewhat easily evaluate the ACUC system if or she cared to do so. USDA/APHIS inspection reports sometimes include citations for failures of ACUCs to meet the letter of the law. It would not be too difficult to quantify the reported ACUC violations and to sort them by type. The needed information is readily available to Brown; she simply doesn't look at it.

Jeffrey Kahn makes a few comments at about 2:37:50, and continues briefly at about 2:41:36. Then, at about 6:06:00, additional discussion with Kahn occurs, apparently because of on-line viewers questions, and runs more or less to the end of the session.

All in all, in the six-and-a-half hours, there were only a few minutes where the larger overarching questions were raised; the participants were primarily primate vivisectors and senior members of their federal support system. Peta has pointed out that in a workshop purportedly intended to address the ethics of using monkeys, a workshop filled with presentations about the claimed benefits of using monkeys, there was not a single presentation from an ethicist, a critic of any sort, nor from anyone who wasn't professionally or financially vested in the status quo. It is wildly far-fetched to imagine they might have had someone speak on behalf of the monkeys. In fact, in keeping with a common pattern, almost no monkeys were seen during the many hours of talks about using them. (See: "Forum" Keeps Details Hidden. October 2011. Particularly the observations by Susan Lederer.)

The general inability of the attendees to understand questions raised by Kahn and Beauchamp was the same sort of blindness or deafness that I have seen in other vivisectors. It appears to be a common characteristic. (One example, coincidentally also involving Jeffrey Kahn: Moral Similarities Continue to Confound Vivisectors. October, 2014.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bioethics at NIH

It seems that NIH supports a robust effort to ensure that human subjects being used in its supported research are treated humanely and in accordance with the spirit of documents like the Belmont Report. It also appears that NIH is alert to potential harm to human subjects that could arise from emerging technologies and works to ensure that the potential harms are identified and carefully evaluated. NIH seems to support ongoing work on the ethical side of its supported research with human subjects. But when the research involves the use of animals, nothing similar occurs.

Instead of being at the leading edge of research and thought on the ethics of hurting and killing animals for human gain, NIH is reactionary at best. This does not speak well for those in the NIH Department of Bioethics. Their near uniform silence on the matter suggests something less than should be expected from anyone claiming to be a bioethicist.

I wonder why ethicist is deemed insufficient? Maybe putting bio- in front of ethics is politically correct code for self-interest or maybe it just sounds more highfalutin. Maybe bio-ethics gives license to behave in ways that plain old ethics would deny? What isn't open to speculation is that when- and wherever NIH uses the term in relation to its funding of experiments on animals, ethics does not have its commonly implied meaning. In NIH's usage, the word in any connection to vivisection, refers only to its legality.

When NIH or one of its supported institutions or scientists say that their use of animals is ethical, all they really they mean is that it is legal. They seem to think that anything legal is ethical. Moreover, it has to be assumed that animals' pain and suffering is of such little concern or consequence to NIH's bioethicists that they need not even take notice of it.

This narrow meaning of the word has contributed to innumerable events that are universally thought of as having been profoundly immoral. (Slavery, state-sanctioned torture, and mass executions are just the tip of a very large mountain of examples. In many cases, philosophers -- the ethicists of the day -- defended the practices, or as today's NIH crew does, simply ignored them.) This narrow meaning of the word continues to shield immoral behavior and maintains barriers to moral progress on numerous important issues including how other animals are and should be treated by us. It seems that we never learn the lesson that legal and ethical should not be used interchangeably. It might have something to do with moral development. (See W.C. Crain. (1985). Theories of Development. Prentice-Hall. pp. 118-136. )

The NIH and its supported institutions and scientists tend to use ethics and ethical in ways that an unsuspecting reader would naturally and predictably interpret as meaning that the practices being discussed or defended are just or moral.

Consider the upcoming "NIH Workshop on Ensuring the Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates." (Wednesday, September 7, 2016, 9:00am to 5:00pm. It will be videocasted here: http://videocast.nih.gov.)
The NIH Office of Science Policy is organizing a workshop on September 7th, 2016, that will convene experts in science, policy, ethics, and animal welfare. Workshop participants will discuss the oversight framework governing the use of non-human primates in NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research endeavors. At this workshop, participants will also explore the state of the science involving non-human primates as research models and discuss the ethical principles underlying existing animal welfare regulations and policies. NIH is committed to ensuring that research with non-human primates can continue responsibly as we move forward in advancing our mission to seek fundamental knowledge and enhance health outcomes.
The workshop is one result of PETA's successful lobbying effort that led to the closure of Stephen Suomi's lab at NIH. A few members of Congress were appalled by videos of some of the things being done to monkeys in the lab and complained to NIH Director Francis Collins (who not coincidentally is also a vivisector.) NIH followed the standard playbook and denied that the lab closure was due to the dust-up. Honesty is also implied by ethical when the term is used in its more commonly understood sense.

A bit of background about that case: copies of the videos were turned over to Peta in response to its public records requests. NIH could not resort to the usual claim that the evidence had been doctored by animal rights extremists; it was clear that the extremists were the NIH scientists performing cruel and macabre experiments on baby monkeys and their mothers. Suomi was the co-inventor of the infamous vertical chamber that made a name for UW-Madison as far as cruelty is concerned, or in the words of his teacher and co-inventor Harry Harlow, the "well of despair."

NIH has chosen not to name the participants in the workshop ahead of time -- the "experts in science, policy, ethics, and animal welfare." That doesn't seem too ethical to me. I'll wager right now that an overwhelming number of the experts will have obvious financial and professional interests in maintaining the status quo. The title of the workshop makes this even more likely "... Ensuring the Continued Responsible Oversight...". As if.

The workshop is actually just an appeasement to the members of Congress who were alarmed by the NIH's irresponsible sponsorship of Suomi's cruel and worthless very long career.

Given the background of the agency's leadership, it is unlikely that NIH would or even could convene a panel that might fairly evaluate the ethics surrounding the use of monkeys or any other animals in its funded research. An example of the agency's inability to grapple with this issue was seen pretty clearly during another NIH convened workshop, "The NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee" meeting in June, 2014. See: "...an unbearable kind of suffering." (4-15-2016.)

It is interesting and germane to NIH's misuse of ethics and bioethics to note that if one visits the NIH homepage, and searches the site using bioethics, the first hit is The Department of Bioethics, which is part of the NIH Clinical Center. The Department of Bioethics provides an ethics consultation service for researchers, the Clinical & Research Ethics Services. Its stated purpose is to: "... improve the process and outcomes of clinical care and clinical research at times when ethical quandaries arise by addressing distressing concerns and questions, and assisting with identification and analysis of ethical issues."

Try as I may, I have been unable to find anything other than a topic on an obsolete list and a single name that even hints that the NIH Department of Bioethics has ever taken notice of any matter involving the use of animals. It is as if, no, that's not right, it isn't as if, let me say it plainly: Neither NIH at large nor the NIH Department of Bioethics, believes that the use of animals is an ethical concern. Maybe I'm wrong, but if so, they have hidden any evidence to the contrary.

But casual visitors might think otherwise. Under the section on Ethics of Clinical Research, among the five research areas listed is this: Research with Animal Populations. But after that mention, all reference to animals disappears.

The name I referred to above is David DeGrazia. But the chart has not been updated recently, and at least one of the people listed is deceased (Alan Wertheimer, PhD.) DeGrazia is the author of a number of academic articles on the ethics of animal research. [Nonhuman Primates, Human Need, and Ethical Constraints. DeGrazia D. Hastings Cent Rep. 2016 Jul;46(4):27-8; Necessary conditions for morally responsible animal research. DeGrazia D, Sebo J. Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2015 Oct;24(4):420-30. And here.] His work related to animals does not seem to be mentioned or referred to on the NIH pages. If one searches his name from the main NIH page, there are multiple hits and some are for articles on the ethics of animal use. But these hits are links to PubMed which currently indexes over 26 million citations.

I contacted DeGrazia to ask whether he was still affiliated with Department of Bioethics; he confirmed that he is. (The inclusion of someone who had been dead for a while is what led me led to ask.) He has been a Senior Research Fellow in the department since July 2013. He was recommended as a participant for the "NIH Workshop on Ensuring the Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates," but told me that he was not invited. It seems to me that the failure to invite one of its own Senior Research Fellows in its own Department of Bioethics who has written and thought about the use of primates in biomedical research undermines the implication of the NIH's claim that they "will discuss the ethical principles underlying existing animal welfare regulations and policies." But maybe I'm wrong and there will be others included who are as qualified to talk about the ethics underpinning the use of monkeys. (I won't hold my breath.)

In any case, other than mention of DeGrazia's name and the single apparently obsolete listed topic name, there appears to be no mention or consideration of the ethics of animal use on the NIH Department of Bioethics webpages, the NIH site at large, or even a link to something elsewhere.

It seems to me that this absence on pages devoted to ethics, is telling. And then, there is the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW). The word ethics does not appear on the homepage. If you click Useful Links, you are taken to an organized list of websites. This is the set of sites listed under Ethics:

1. Animal Ethics Infolink, Australia. Australia?

2. Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Nonhuman Animals in Research, APA. The American Psychological Association (APA) is a trade group with many members whose livelihoods are dependent on animal experimentation. Their Guidelines are simply a restatement of federal regulations and the urging of vivisectors not to break the law. It does not in any sense address the ethics of animal experimentation.

3. Information Resources for Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees 1985-1999: Ethics USDA. I thought this might lead to something substantive. On first blush, it seems to. Unfortunately, when drilling down from here, one hits one dead end after another. I was probably the first person to look at the page in a long time. The germane links in the pdfs refer one to the USDA's Animal Welfare Information Center, which in turn, directs users to various regulatory and policy documents. Again underscoring the misleading substitution of ethical for legal.

4. NASA Principles for the Ethical Care and Use of Animals. Right. NASA's history of animal use is the anathema of ethical.

5. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia. Australia again?

6a. NIH Bioethics Resources on the Web This takes one to the Office of Clinical Research and Bioethics Policy mentioned earlier, which has no mention of animal use.

6.b Research Ethics, Laboratory Animal Care and Use. Which is a broken link.

7. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, 1995, NAP. You can read the little booklet online. The word animal does not appear in the linked version. In a funny-ish twist, they point to the first edition of the booklet. The third edition is now in print. The third edition does mention animals somewhat frequently and always in connection with making sure that what is being done to them is legal. The ethics of animal use is not otherwise mentioned.

8. The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch, 1959, Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health. This classic serves as the guide for all subsequent regulations and policies promulgated by vivisection trade groups, the industry, and the NIH. It is well worth reading and is available here. The work is only marginally on point however because it assumes and proceeds without explanation or argument that it is fitting and just to experiment on animals.

I don't think NIH is capable of convening a fair panel to discuss the ethics of animal experimentation. The agency is dominated by vivisectors and those with ties to the industry. See for instance, "It is Unethical for Carrie Wolinetz to be Involved in Any Policy Decisions Concerning the Use of Animals or Non-Human/Human Chimeras," and "Vivisectors at the Helm."

The upcoming "NIH Workshop on Ensuring the Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates" is probably going to be more of the same.

Monday, August 8, 2016

It is Unethical for Carrie Wolinetz to be Involved in Any Policy Decisions Concerning the Use of Animals or Non-Human/Human Chimeras

Within the past couple of days, according to Google, there have been about 140,000 news articles about the National Institutes of Health's announcement that it intends to start funding some human/nonhuman hybridization and allowing the creation of what are commonly referred to as chimeras.

NIH opened a 30-day window for public comment, but for those who might be opposed to this change in federal policy and choose to write them a thoughtful letter, they might as well shout their concerns into the toilet. (I still think you should write a letter.)

This is the sort of issue that should be debated in public and decided on by the public; 30 days is hardly enough time. So much for democracy.

One of the articles that showed up in my newsfeed was "You Can Now Grow Human-Animal Hybrids, But You Can’t Breed ‘Em," from Wired magazine. The article relies in part on an apparent conversation with Robert Streiffer, a "bioethicist" at the University of Wisconsin, Madison who once chaired one of the university's Animal Care and Use Committees and with whom I have occasionally argued. Over time, Streiffer has inched toward a more ethical position on animal use, and even publicly criticized vivisector Ned Kalin's revival of maternally depriving infant rhesus monkeys.

To Streiffer's credit, he apparently told the article's author that animals used in research have less protection that humans used in research. While that simple observation should surprise no one, it is the opposite of the university's usual claim. R. Alta Charo, for instance, the Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics at the university, is on the faculty of the Law School and the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the medical school. She has served on many federal commissions related to bioethics. In a public forum ostensibly about the ethics of using animals in research, she ridiculously said: "We have federal laws [to protect animals in the labs] that actually go further than the federal laws that govern human subjects research...".

There are two main things that caught my eye in the Wired article, the main one has to do with consciousness, which I wrote about here. The other was this:
After a nearly year-long ban, on August 4 the NIH said it would soon lift its moratorium and again start accepting grant applications from vivisectors who want to develop human-animal chimeras. “We thought it was good time to take a deep breath, pause and make sure the ethical frameworks that we have in place allows us to move forward and conduct this research responsibly,” says Carrie Wolinetz, associate director for science policy at NIH.
Whenever NIH funding for animal experimentation is mentioned in conjunction with ethics my BS-meter goes berserk. And so, I Googled Carrie Wolinetz. All I can say is holy shit.

It would be impossible I suspect to have found someone with more love for experimenting on animals than Ms. Wolinetz. This is the NIH director's announcement of her appointment, plagiarized from here, and published on my birthday. The links in the text were added by me to clarify the positions on animal use of some of the organizations she has worked for.
February 2, 2015

Appointment of Dr. Carrie Wolinetz as Associate Director for Science Policy, NIH
Carrie Wolinetz, Ph.D.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Carrie Wolinetz, Ph.D., as the new Associate Director for Science Policy, NIH. This appointment is effective February 23, 2015.

Dr. Wolinetz has most recently been serving as Deputy Vice President for Federal Relations with the Association of American Universities (AAU). Her primary responsibility was to coordinate advocacy on funding and policy issues relating to the National Institutes of Health and biomedical research.

Outside of AAU, Dr. Wolinetz serves as current President of United for Medical Research, a leading coalition of universities, patient groups, and private sector companies advocating for sustainable funding for the National Institutes of Health. [Essentially all the coalition members are very pro-vivisection.] In addition, she is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University in the School of Foreign Service’s program on Science, Technology & International Affairs, as well as past Chair of the advocacy committee for the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). She has a B.S. in animal science from Cornell University, and she received her Ph.D. in animal science from The Pennsylvania State University, where her area of research was reproductive physiology. [She seems to have published a single scientific paper.]

Prior to joining AAU, Dr. Wolinetz served as the Director of Scientific Affairs and Public Relations at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), where she worked on a portfolio of issues that included federal funding of research, the use of animals in research, cloning and stem cells, and biosecurity.

I would like to thank David Shurtleff most sincerely for serving as the Acting Associate Director for Science Policy over the last several months. His wise and gracious leadership kept this critical part of NIH on a steady and effective path.

Please join me in welcoming Carrie to the NIH leadership team, congratulating her on her appointment, and offering her your full support as she begins her work with us.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. [and vivisector]
So, the woman who is apparently involved at a senior level in determining national policy on the creation of animal/human hybrids is now and has been in the past, immersed in organizations lobbying for more money for animal experimentation, reduced constraints on their use, and publicly promoting vivisection.

It is unethical for Carrie Wolinetz to be involved in any policy decisions concerning the use of animals or non-human/human chimeras.

As I said above, please do write a letter.

The NIH Faith-Based Policy on Non-Human/Human Chimeras

This essay was motivated by the August 8, 2016 article in Wired magazine: "You Can Now Grow Human-Animal Hybrids, But You Can’t Breed ‘Em." The article relies in part on a conversation with Robert Streiffer, a "bioethicist" at the University of Wisconsin, Madison who once chaired one of the university's Animal Care and Use Committees. (I qualified bioethicist because I don't think the title or label has much meaning. I mention a few reasons I think that later on.)

There are two things that caught my eye in the Wired article, the main one has to do with consciousness, which I wrote about here. The other was the obvious bias of those involved in the NIH policy change which I wrote about here. For more about the biases at NIH see: "Vivisectors at the Helm." 11-1-2014.

I suspect that some of the ideas in the article about consciousness are indicative of some broadly-held notions by many people. But those ideas are more along the lines of superstition or urban myth than anything else:
Last year, though, the National Institutes of Health banned funding of animal-human chimeras until it could figure out whether any of this work would bump against ethical boundaries. Like: Could brain scientists endow research animals with human cognitive abilities, or even consciousness....
Human cognitive abilities, or even consciousness?

Most of the animals people think about when they use the word animal in this context already have "human cognitive abilities." Obviously they don't have the same cognitive abilities of every human, but neither do I. It is hard to see what cognitive ability could be inserted into a monkey, dog, pig, or mouse used in a lab that would make his or her suffering any worse.

The idea that animals would suffer more if they were slightly or a lot more like us is an echo of the assertions made by racists. Blacks don't suffer like whites was a common claim by pro-slavery writers in the South. Jews and Poles aren't as aesthetically sensitive as pure Aryans; or honest and generous. These claims of superiority are always spawned by those in the self-proclaimed better, more important and deserving group. This hatred or at least minimizing of others seems to be a sickness common to humanity.

And what I wonder the author means by consciousness. Surely he doesn't believe that animals are unconscious. I'm guessing from the context that he would say he meant "human consciousness." But the distinction has no basis in fact. Consciousness is a mystery. It is sometimes referred to as the hard problem. Since it isn't understood -- at all -- suppositions about differences between kinds of consciousness are complete and completely unsubstantiable speculation. There is no reason at all to assume that an elephant's sense of him or herself is any different than yours. And even if you think there is, your belief is nothing but a wild guess. And probably driven by the same innate propensity that has led us to demean and enslave others.

The author writes:
The boundary between human and animal is not just a philosophical debate. Human subjects in medical research have greater legal protections than laboratory animals, according to Rob Streiffer, assistant professor of bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This may be the heart of the actual matter. NIH is worried about where to draw the line; costs might go up. In some southern states, the "one-drop" rule was adopted to clarify the boundary between whites and blacks; in Nazi Germany, a test based on one's grandparents was devised to determine which side of the line one was on. How many uniquely human genes must an animal have before he or she ought not be treated like an animal? As history makes clear, such trivial distinctions have been ample license to commit atrocities, and in the case of animals, they still are.
“What it takes to cross a line is a contentious issue,” says Streiffer. For example, some people believe that a lot of animal testing is wrong, because many animals can feel pain and suffering. Others argue that any organism that displays uniquely human traits—things like autonomy, moral reasoning, and controlling one’s own behavior—ought to be excluded from research.
I don't know who was responsible for that obvious rhetorical error. No organism other than a human "displays uniquely human traits." The rub is delineating the set of uniquely human traits and then explaining why some subset of them gives us the right to hurt and kill other animals. No one to my knowledge has been able to convincingly do so. That's not to say that no one has found those weak and self-serving arguments convincing, but many people also found (and find) the arguments for white supremacy convincing as well.

The author also talked to Stanford University vivisector Sean Wu who wants to humanize animals, probably pigs or sheep (he uses sheep now, but the effort to grow transplantable hearts is generally confined to pigs.)
Still, Wu says some ethical concerns about human behavior or functions being transplanted into animals are in the realm of science fiction. “There’s a lot of concern and speculation and no data that anyone can offer.”
It is unlikely that Wu could delineate any human behaviors or functions that set our suffering above the suffering of other animals. I suspect money affects Wu's opinions on this matter. His 2015 NIH grant 5U01HL099776-07, was awarded $1,605,838.

The author concludes his article with this:
One way to avoid the consciousness-raising quandary is by deleting bits of DNA that are responsible for the development of certain parts of the human brain before implanting into a lab animal. That way, you could still study the origins of Alzheimer’s or other brain diseases without worrying about creating a human-like animal. “The science is moving very fast,” says Wu. The NIH just wants to make sure its standards can keep up.
It appears that both he and Wu believe that they have a "higher consciousness" than animals. But this is just an expression of faith. It's like saying that only the faithful will get into heaven. Animals already are human-like because we are all each-other-like.

Let me finish with a thought or two about our unfortunate propensity to look to authorities for guidance and to trust their proclamations. Of course, we have to rely on those with technical knowledge we lack. I can't fix my television, rebuild the engine in my car, or remove your appendix without killing you. I've learned to rely on attorneys on most legal matters. On many such things, I usually seek multiple opinions prior to making a decision. But on moral issues, there are no experts, in spite of professional titles that imply otherwise.

NIH is going to claim that an appropriate ethical weighing was conducted when it officially starts funding this new wrinkle in hurting animals in publicly funded laboratories. They will have put safeguards in place to assure that the animals being used are not too much like us. Like Jews weren't too much like the good Germans. The vivisectors will be happy. But it seems very clear that if the NIH doesn't readily recognize that it is unethical for Carrie Wolinetz to be involved in any decision concerning the use of animals, why in the world should anyone believe them or believe that they have done a good job?