Monday, December 31, 2007

Miles J. Novy

Miles J. Novy was targeted by apparent animal rights activists on December 6, 2007. Two of his cars were spray-painted; one with “ALF,” and the other with “sadist.”

Afterwards, Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, issued an official statement calling this “terrorism” and defending Novy’s research.

This essay isn’t about whether or not vandalism should be redefined as terrorism, but instead looks at some of the claims made by Bravo. (I titled it Miles J. Novy because Dr. Bravo's statement is primarily about him and his research.)

Dr. Bravo:
Although the process of labor is better known in species such as the sheep and rodent, what controls the initiation of labor in the human is still unclear. To better understand what occurs in the human, Dr. Novy's research uses monkeys, an animal model closer to that of the human.
This is a very odd statement, and frankly, I have no idea how one might go about validating it. I suspect it’s little more than gibberish. A very large body of knowledge surrounds the process of labor in humans. PubMed returns 1,138 citations for the query “labor AND sheep” and 70,101 for “labor AND human.”

Dr. Bravo:
Dr. Novy's research is fundamentally important to help prevent early preterm delivery that can result in devastating effects on newborn children and their quality of life in later years.
This reeks of fanaticism. No research can be fairly claimed to be fundamentally important prospectively. One can claim after the fact that some discovery was fundamentally important, but claims regarding on-going research must always be couched in could or might or hopefully.

Dr. Bravo:
His current research involves preventing one of the major causes of premature birth: infections associated with preterm labor.
His “current research” has been underway for least 14 years at the time of this writing. (An experimental model for intraamniotic infection and preterm labor in rhesus monkeys. Gravett MG, Witkin SS, Haluska GJ, Edwards JL, Cook MJ, Novy MJ. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1994.) Interestingly, to me at least, is the fact that in this, his first paper on infections associated with preterm labor, he writes as if he has made a possible discovery:
Our data provide evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship between intraamniotic infection and preterm labor and support the utility of measuring interleukin-6 or other cytokines in the diagnosis of intraamniotic infection.
But years before Novy’s “discovery” researchers at Yale, studying human pregnancy, wrote:
These studies implicate IL-6 in the host response to intrauterine infection and suggest that evaluation of AF IL-6 levels may have diagnostic and prognostic value in the management of women in preterm labor.” (Amniotic fluid interleukin 6 in preterm labor. Association with infection. Romero R, Avila C, Santhanam U, Sehgal PB. J Clin Invest. 1990.)
Dr. Bravo:
The importance of this research cannot be underestimated. Premature birth is a serious public health problem.
This is fallacious. Citing the seriousness of a problem fails to justify any and every claim of possible remedy. In fact, in spite of Novy’s long work in this area, Dr. Bravo points out that:
Approximately 12% of all babies are born premature with 2 % of all babies, or approximately 100,000 babies, being born very premature. Regrettably, these very premature babies are associated with the highest mortality and morbidity rates. Ten percent of these babies will die. Fifteen percent of these babies with have serious permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, deafness or blindness. Fifty percent of these infants will have a moderate learning disability and 7 % with have a behavioral problem. Besides its human toll, the financial toll for total hospital stays for premature infants is about $15 billion dollars per year and represents approximately half of all infant hospital stays. Furthermore, the economic burden does not end after hospital discharge for those with a disability.
By this measure, Novy’s work seems to have failed quite miserably.

Dr. Bravo:
NIH-supported scientists like Dr. Novy are accountable for protecting the welfare of animals in research from the time they develop their first research plans to the time the research is completed.
This bit of pandering isn’t even very accurate. USDA has reported that the oversight system cited by Dr. Bravo is largely a failure, and the only blinded peer reviewed evaluation of the system has deemed it no more reliable than the flip of a coin.

Dr. Bravo:
Animals are critical to the acceleration of biomedical discovery of medicines, therapies, and cures — threats to research with animals threaten the health of the nation.
This is more fanaticism mixed with a good dose of voodoo. Apparently, some magic occurs by the very act of vivisection -- some bit of magic that maintains the “health of the nation.” If we stop torturing animals in laboratories the sun may not rise.


See too: Miles Novy Targeted for Abusing, Killing Pregnant Primates

Novy's "unanesthetized chronically catheterized maternal-fetal preparations":

Thursday, December 27, 2007

“Animal Extremists Get Personal”

I’ve been under the weather for a while and feeling too poopy to write, but I’m feeling a little better so thought I’d comment on a recent article in Science magazine titled “Animal Extremists Get Personal” (Greg Miller.12/21/2007. Pp. 1856 – 1858.)

The article focuses on the recent harassment of primate researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles: Arthur Rosenbaum, Lynn Fairbanks, Dario Ringach, and Edythe London, but never mentions – in any detail whatsoever – what these people do or have done in the name of science that others find so grotesque and cruel.

Rosenbaum’s research using animals is described thusly: “He has ties to only one animal-research project, a pilot study to test an electrical stimulator that could bring paralyzed eye muscles back to life.” Compare that with my own description of his research.

Lynn Fairbanks’ work is described as the study of “primate genetics and behavior.” Here’s a quote from a 2007 paper (Melega WP, Jorgensen MJ, Laćan G, Way BM, Pham J, Morton G, Cho AK, Fairbanks LA. Long-Term Methamphetamine Administration in the Vervet Monkey Models Aspects of a Human Exposure: Brain Neurotoxicity and Behavioral Profiles. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007):
Based on parameters from human and our monkey pharmacokinetic studies, we modeled a prevalent human METH exposure of daily multiple doses in socially housed vervet monkeys. METH doses were escalated over 33 weeks, with final dosages resulting in estimated peak plasma METH concentrations of 1-3 muM, a range measured in human abusers. With larger METH doses, progressive increases in abnormal behavior and decreases in social behavior were observed on 'injection' days. Anxiety increased on 'no injection' days while aggression decreased throughout the study. Thereafter, during 3 weeks abstinence, differences in baseline vs post-METH behaviors were not observed.
Dario Ringatch’s horrific primate vivisection wasn’t characterized at all, and Edythe London’s was soft-pedaled like this:
In a 1 November editorial in the Los Angeles Times, she wrote that her research on the biological basis of addiction--which focuses on human brain imaging but also involves some work with primates--was motivated in part by the death of her father, a chronic smoker. “We are also testing potential treatments, and all of our studies comply with federal laws designed to ensure humane care” of animals, she wrote.
Compare this with my own previous description of her work.

In all fairness (as if Science cares about fairness or accurate reporting on this issue) the article seems to have been intended to frighten vivisectors into urging their universities to get tough and to find ways to protect them. It clearly wasn’t intended to inform readers about why some people feel that they have so few options when it comes to voicing their opinions about the use of primates or other animals in science.

There is much irony in the article, but a reader would have to be reasonably well informed to see it, so most Science readers probably missed it. It’s almost a given that vivisectors claim publicly that statements made concerning their work are uninformed, no matter how absurd they appear by doing so. For instance, at a public lecture Richard Davidson recently asserted that a critic of his primate experiments didn’t have her facts straight regarding the invasive nature of his experiments, even as she held in her hand a copy of an abstract in which he described burning away various parts of monkeys’ brains with acid. The Science article noted that some vivisectors are calling for greater obscurity in the CRISP (Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects, a searchable database of federally funded biomedical research projects.) In other words, they don’t want critics to speak with specificity or accuracy.

Another bit of irony in the article is that UCLA is willfully flouting federal and state statutes concerning public access to information. Most advocates of democracy acknowledge the prime importance of transparency in government and the public’s right of access to public records. Yet, UCLA has flatly denied access to public records to members of the public, and Science says this is a model being used increasingly by other universities to shield their researchers’ activities from public scrutiny (and possible criticism.) The University of Wisconsin simply destroys records it deems too controversial for public inspection. When activists break the law, UCLA et al call it terrorism.

More ironic, is the topsy-turvy world view of the editors of the magazine or their inability to perceive obvious implications. On one hand, they defend essentially any experimental use of animals, while on the other, they publish articles that bolster the challenge to such immoral dogma. And yet, they hold that informed people who are offended by the likes of the UCLA vivisectors are “extremists.” (i.e. “A new generation of experiments reveals that group-living animals have a surprising degree of intelligence. What was once considered a sharp line separating humans from all other animals is becoming a blurry gray area, with various animals possessing certain parts of the skill set considered to be advanced cognition.” Elizabeth Pennisi. “Social Animals Prove Their Smarts.” Science 23 June 2006; and from the article at hand: “‘They honestly and truly believe that animals are equal to Jews in the Holocaust, and they are fighting to liberate them,’ says one targeted researcher.”

Science could (but probably won’t) embrace the best things about science: it could (but probably won’t) foster a genuine public discussion and a reevaluation of the human/animal relationship based on a modern informed scientific evaluation of other species’ minds. Even hardboiled scientists can express fact-based opinions for why we should acknowledge the most fundamental rights of other humans; bigots (like vivisectors and apparently, the editors of Science)base their beliefs and behavior on unexamined non-factual claims and unexamined tradition.

One final note: if you think I’m too hard on the editors of Science, consider the journal’s willingness to cover Jane Goodall and her work and their marketing decision to use a chimpanzee dressed in a costume to sell subscriptions. The woeful lack of sensitivity this implies fits neatly into a pattern of disregard for other animals no matter how complex their mental lives might be.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

“It's really pretty embarrassing.”


I had a sad chuckle at the unintentional irony of Bill Wineke’s blog entry, “The "Old" CIA Is Back.”

Wineke writes about the CIA’s destruction of the videotapes of its interrogations of two people. Wineke says, “I think what the powers were worried about is not that foreign terrorists would target CIA officials, but that American courts would discover their actions. It's really pretty embarrassing.”

Pretty embarrassing? It’s outrageous. But what should embarrass Wineke and the paper he writes for, is his and the paper’s studied silence on the University of Wisconsin’s own destruction of 628 videotapes on Feb. 13, 2006, documenting over 15 years of experiments on monkeys. It was a cover-up plain and simple. The university is frightened to death at the prospect of being before the court of informed public opinion.

Public officials hiding the truth and trying to keep the public in the dark isn’t, in-and-of-itself, a worrisome matter to Wineke or his paper, apparently. He ought to be embarrassed.

See: Primate tapes get trashed
628 Pieces of Primate Research Garbage

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Five)

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Five): The Ten-Year Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Most Blatant Instance of Animal Cruelty and Lying to the Public. A Story of Cover-up, Conspiracy, Adultery, Battery, Disdain for Public Sentiment, and Crimes Too Unbelievable and Hideous to Discuss in Polite Company

Part Five

Wielding a Death

From June through December 1997, I protested for ten days at a time at each of the (then) seven (then) Regional Primate Research Centers. (There are now eight National Primate Research Centers.) In December, the Vilas monkey scandal was well underway and the University of Wisconsin spin-doctors were busy presenting a cacophony of random and unsubstantiated reasons to various Dane County committees arguing that they should not endorse an introduced resolution regarding the care and protection of the monkeys at the zoo.

In early December, I drove to the last stop of my eight-month-long ordeal, Emory University, in Atlanta, home of the infamous Yerkes Primate Center.

One evening, a reporter showed up at my encampment and ask us if we had heard that a research assistant had been hospitalized following her exposure to a monkey virus.

Elizabeth R. Griffin had been splashed in the face with fluids while transporting an infant rhesus monkey. She reported the incident and was told to wash her face.

A few days later, she called in sick with flu-like symptoms, felt so sick that she went to the Emory hospital and was given some aspirin and told to rest in bed. A short time later she developed encephalitis and died. She had been infected with the so-called simian B-Virus, also known as herpes-B, or Cercopithecine Herpesvirus-1. The virus is considered to be common and widespread in macaques.

Yerkes wrote the OSHA requirements for workers handling macaques and the standard procedures following any possible exposure to the virus, none of which were followed in Beth Griffin’s case. She was not wearing the required protective eyewear and follow-up to her exposure was non-existent. OSHA fined Yerkes over $60,000 for its failure to provide the proper training and safety equipment needed to protect workers from B-Virus infection.

The B-Virus, though potentially fatal in humans, and widespread in macaques, is also very rare in humans. In Asia, macaques and humans live intimately with few if any apparent infections; in the US many people keep macaques as pets. As of 1999, of the 22 known cases in the US, 20 infected individuals developed encephalitis and 15 of these patients died as a result of their infection.

When I returned to Madison, I visited the Vilas zoo monkey house and observed an unusual event. Apparently, the primate center had elected to remove a contraceptive device that all the female monkeys had implanted. It might have been Norplant. Exactly why they chose to end the contraception is unknown – stupid and/or calculating of course – but unknown.

Once removed, all the females spontaneously went into estrous and the males went berserk. As I stood watching, the primate center staff zoo monkey keeper was in one of the large monkey rooms in his lab coat with a broom. He had no face protection on of any kind. There was blood everywhere and male monkeys continuously charged each other screaming and biting. He was using the broom to try and keep them apart. The melee continued until he was able to get some of the males separated and isolated from each other. It was a regular riot.

Coincidentally, yet another Dane County committee was meeting that very evening to consider the resolution. I attended the meeting as did primate center staff. Acting Director Kemnitz and some of his staff spoke in opposition to the resolution.

I don’t recall all the committees the resolution had to get through, but it seems like it must have been at least four or five, and this was one of the last ones prior to the resolution going before the entire Dane County Board of Supervisors. Up to this point, the university had been saying that caring for the monkeys was just too technically challenging for the county, that the expense would be too great, that unless the county allowed the monkeys to breed that no one would be interested in them, and other various and spurious claims.

But at this meeting, they pulled out a new shiny big gun: If Dane County took over the care of the monkeys they would be putting every zoo patron at grave risk of contracting the deadly B-Virus, and then they launched into the most vile fear-mongering that one could imagine. Overnight, monkeys who had been at the zoo for over 30 years had become a public health hazard on the order of an open pit nuclear waste site. Beth Griffin’s name became their club and they used her death to try and beat down any idea of some modicum of concern for the monkeys.

They went on at length about the extreme danger of the monkeys and the careful and grueling training and safety procedures used by all the primate center staff.

Afterwards, I stood up and recounted the scene I had viewed at the zoo: lots of blood, pandemonium, and no face protection.

Like every other of the County Board of Supervisors’ committees that had considered the resolution, this committee endorsed it unanimously. They saw through the university’s theatrics and lies once again.

Where are the monkeys? The Mannheimer Foundation, Inc

The Mannheimer Foundation, Inc
20255 SW 360th St.
Homestead, FL 33034
Phone: (305) 245-1551Fax: (305) 245-7650
Contact: Joseph L. Wagner
The Mannheimer Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is the advancement of biomedical research directed towards the improvement of human and animal health. The Foundation maintains SPF breeding colonies of Cynomolgus macaques (SPF for SRV/D, SIV, STLV, and B-virus), Rhesus macaques, and Hamadryas baboons on our 82-acre main site in Miami. Support for research is provided at both of the Foundation’s modern facilities, includ-ing advanced imaging, aseptic surgery, necropsy, and diagnostic laboratory capa-bilities. Biological tissues and body fluids are also available to support scientific re-search Nonhuman primate reproduction, genetics, behavior, and caging systems design are areas of ongoing Foundation re-search. Training opportunities are available for senior veterinary students and gradu-ate veterinarians. The new 200-acre Haman Ranch facility is located 35 miles east of Ft. Myers, Florida

View Larger Map

Monday, December 3, 2007

Happy Mammys and Funny Chimps

Barely a week goes by without someone posting something to one of the primate email lists about some ad agency or similarly unenlightened ignoramous using monkeys or chimpanzees in advertising in ways that reinforce the idea that they are mere things to be used, to be laughted at, to be discounted.

Here're a couple of examples of what people find so distasteful:

Stereotyping is partularly distatesteful when it done to demean or meant to communicate a belittling caricature as in this typical image of the happy "mammy."

It's natural to assume that any organization using such imagery must be ignorant of the realities behind the scenes of animal use in entertainment, the difficulties in establishing even a modicum of societal concern for them, the power of demeaning imagery, or else they must be be so callous as to simply not care at all how their advertising decisions might affect others.

I wonder which group the American Association for the Advancement of Science fits into:

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Four)

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Four): The Ten-Year Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Most Blatant Instance of Animal Cruelty and Lying to the Public. A Story of Cover-up, Conspiracy, Adultery, Battery, Disdain for Public Sentiment, and Crimes Too Unbelievable and Hideous to Discuss in Polite Company

Part Four

The Refusal to Accept Responsibility

To review: On June 15, 1989, UW Primate Center Director Robert Goy and six senior staff members signed a written statement promising that monkeys at the zoo and from the zoo would not be used in “invasive experimental procedures.”

On April 18, 1990, the new Primate Center Director, John Hearn, reconfirmed the agreement in writing, “I confirm that the existing and future policies of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center are that any animals bred at the zoo are used in non-interventive behavioral research or for breeding purposes only.”

And on February 1, 1995, Jonn Hearn again confirmed, in writing, the UW policy:
We also reviewed our agreement (since 1989) on the study of animals at Vilas and when they return to the Center. These animals are studied in non-invasive research or assigned to our breeding colony. Investigative procedures include those, with no damage or consequence to the animal required for veterinary health or routine procedures used in human medicine. These procedures cause no physical or sensory deficit and are all fully in compliance and previously approved through the required regulatory steps of the university and Federal employees. In cases where animals are no longer suitable for breeding, they are either assigned to our aged rhesus colony, again for non-invasive work, or euthanized humanely. In cases where animals do not meet criteria for genetic health or inbreeding, similar procedures apply. In cases where exceptional circumstances require a different use, for example unique genetic characteristics requiring more detailed investigation for human and animal health, we will review the proposal in advance with you.
During the summer of 1997, the public learned that the university had been violating the eight-year-old agreement for almost eight years and had used at least 201 monkeys inappropriately and banked over $200,000 in the process. The university admitted that the violations were a “serious breach.”

In spite of all of this, the university refused to take responsibility or to affix blame. They lied to the residents of Madison for eight years, allowed at least 201 monkeys to be hurt and killed after promising not to do so in writing, on three separate occasions, and then violated the agreements again openly and very publicly by having most of the remaining monkeys shipped to Tulane university for use in its invasive and terminal primate experimentation.

And no one was ever held accountable. No one took responsibility. Upon being caught in such a big lie, they continued lying, protected each other, and sent the remaining monkeys off to be killed, all the while lying anew about how the monkeys would be used there and saying in public meetings that Tulane was very excited about having such large intact social groups to study.

They lied repeatedly, in writing, and in public presentations to a multitude of reporters, citizens, Dane County committees, and the entire Dane County Board of Supervisors. The university’s response to being caught in such a long series of lies was to keep lying, to make up more lies, and to refuse to do anything remotely resembling making amends.
Officials associated with the Henry Vilas Zoo say they are concerned about the UW's reluctance to determine who authorized invasive research on dozens of monkeys raised at the zoo.

"One of the things expected of a person as an elected official is makingsure answers are provided," said Madison Ald. Napoleon Smith, who serves on the Dane County Zoo Commission. "Only the university can provide those answers, so we're all awaiting them." Earlier this month, The Capital Times reported that invasive experiments were conducted on dozens of monkeys raised at the zoo, despite written promises by UW Primate Research Center officials that the monkeys would not be harmed.

Primate center officials initially denied that large numbers of monkeys were being transferred from the zoo and used for invasive research. (Message To Uw: Come Clean Monkey Violations Upset County, City, Zoo Officials. Capital Times. Wednesday, August 27, 1997.)
And, the lies have not slowed down one iota as we can readily see by comparing the cases of Jennifer Hess and Ei Terasawa (here, here, and here) with university’s oft-intoned mantra that they treat the animals well and with respect and concern.

A sad message in all of this is that no matter how much the University of Wisconsin, Madison lies to the public about its use of animals, the public forgets almost immediately, or doesn’t pay attention in the first place.

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me continuously; I must be an idiot, which of course, is exactly how the university views the average Madisonian.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Three)

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Three): The Ten-Year Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Most Blatant Instance of Animal Cruelty and Lying to the Public. A Story of Cover-up, Conspiracy, Adultery, Battery, Disdain for Public Sentiment, and Crimes Too Unbelievable and Hideous to Discuss in Polite Company

Part 3

The Vilas Monkey Scandal in Local Headlines

Interwoven throughout the Vilas affair was the illicit and apparently abusive affair between the director, John Hearn (at left), and Kim Bauers, a scientist studying the behavior of stumptail macaques at the zoo and in Thailand. Hearn used Bauers’ concern for the zoo monkeys as a lever to force Bauers into continuing the relationship. Once Bauers was out of the country she felt safer in breaking off the affair (she allegedly had had to visit the emergency room on at least one occasion following a disagreement with him), but Hearn would have none of it and ran up at least $60,000 in phone bills to her while she was out of the country, which he charged to the university.

An interesting story about Hearn, which I have no way of proving but don’t doubt, is that as a youth he would capture birds, place firecrackers in their cloaca, or vent, light it, and release them. Good times.

Of particular interest is the fact that the University went after Bauers for money it claimed she had squandered while working in Thailand (and being continuously brow-beaten by Hearn), but forgave most of Hearn’s debt, and then couldn’t find a dime for the monkeys.

The institution seems to be vindictive and unable to accept responsibility for its own grotesque misdeeds and violations of the public’s trust.

Wisconsin State Journal, Wed Jun 25 1997

Capital Times, Wed Jun 25 1997

Capital Times, Thu Jul 10 1997

Wisconsin State Journal, Thu Jul 10 1997

Wisconsin State Journal, Wed Jul 9 1997

Capital Times, Sat Aug 9 1997

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Capital Times, Fri Sep 17 1999

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Capital Times, Thu Nov 20 1997

Wisconsin State Journal, Thu Nov 20 1997

Capital Times, Thu Jul 1 1999

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A minimal amount of suffering

Richard Davidson is a well-known and much-admired scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His work on the neurobiological effects of meditation, particularly that of Tibetan Buddhist monks resulted in Time Magazine naming him one of the world’s most influential people in 2006 and the local Madison Magazine naming him Person of the Year for 2007.

In the past year or so, Davidson has twice spoken about his research in public venues, and on both occasions activists handed out leaflets as people arrived that called attention to his experiments into the neurobiology of fear and anxiety using rhesus monkeys and the contradictions inherent in his claim of compassion and concern for all beings.

At both events, the leaflets led to Davidson making specific claims about his use of monkeys and about Buddhism. In a previous essay, I addressed a number of claims he made during the first presentaion.

This is a reasonably accurate transcript of the comments he made on this topic on November 7, 2007, at the Madison Public Library in a program titled “How the Brain Changes.” An audio recording is available here.
It’s actually, I feel, wonderful that people know that I do do some research in nonhuman primates, it’s not the bulk of what I do, I have that work, I continue to do that work, and I’m proud of that work, and I really welcome the opportunity to directly address it.

I’ve been, I have had many soul-searching discussions about this issue with myself, with my colleagues, and with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. One of the things which is the most important issue for me is what one’s motivation is to do the work that one’s doing. Actually this is something the Dalai Lama has always asked [about] any kind of work, and my motivation is really to eliminate suffering, and that is why I do my science and why I’m dedicating my life to [it].

In addition to the research that we do on meditation and always compassion, we also study devastating disorders like depression which is responsible for extraordinary morbidity and fatality across the world. There are untold numbers of suicides daily in this country as a function of these disorders. A recent epidemiological study that was done in Scandinavia found that just asking people how happy or unhappy they are in a large epidemiological study predicted over a 20-year interval the extent to which a person would commit suicide with a tenfold increase in suicide rates among people who consider themselves to be very unhappy.

So these are issues which are really profound, they affect people’s lives and they are responsible for devastating suffering on the planet to the extent that the work that we do can help develop new interventions which I firmly believe they can and will and are currently doing. That is something that I think is critical in this program of research and the work that we do in nonhuman primates has been done with noninvasive methods to image the brain, we are actually one of the pioneers in developing methods to study the brain in nonhuman primates in ways in which actually don’t create suffering which are the same methods which I subject myself to all the time.

Modern brain imaging methods we have one of the few systems in the world today for doing that kind of noninvasive imaging of the nonhuman primate brain. So I believe this work is really important, it is done with the intention of relieving suffering. I also do it in a way in which I try to muster all of the gratitude I can for the animals that participate in our research and if you bring that quality to the work that you’re doing I think it transforms it and so I appreciate the sensitivity that this issue raises, I applaud the efforts of people who are working to relieve suffering throughout the animal kingdom and I welcome the opportunity to address this and to underscore the fact that this work is done to actually eradicate suffering on the planet, so I thank you for listening to that.

[A question from the audience] I’d like to follow up on what you just said given the fact that you’re involved with Buddhism and compassion and [unclear] the right to induce pain or kill sentient creatures [unclear] you said that you do experiments on monkeys at the primate center that you do noninvasive work, well my understanding is that you’ve done experiments with Dr. Ned Kalin, and I know that Dr Ned Kalin does a lot of basic brain experiments on monkeys who have been [unclear] restrained for extended periods of time, who’s amygdala is burned and destroyed with acid. These are sentient creatures who should be living in their natural environment and frankly it causes me great pain to think of their suffering.

Well, thank you for that articulate statement I can tell you that we have been pioneers in the development of noninvasive methods to image the brain. To the extent that there is suffering that occurs in the context of the research that we do, we believe that the motivations that we have for doing the research are critical to take into account, we do everything we possibly can to minimize both of the animals, the nonhuman animals as well as the humans.

The experiments that we do in humans require a great deal of sacrifice as well and we can have a very extended discussion here and take the rest of the time on this issue, I think there are probably other questions, but I think the most important thing is the attitude of the scientist who is doing this work, the motivation the scientist brings to the task and also the extent to which gratitude is expressed in the act of doing the work that we’re doing which transforms the nature of one’s relationship with the monkeys that we study.

You know, I think in the best of all possible worlds it would be wonderful to have outdoor enclosures where the animals are not within cages, there are places where the climate permits where that kind of work can be done, it’s not possible to do it in Wisconsin because of the climate and if I had my druthers I would much rather have that kind of facility, but given, sort of the circumstances that present themselves, the opportunities, and the difference I believe we can make in terms of treatment for dramatic suffering that exists on the planet, I’m proud of this work and I think the good that it does so far exceeds the minimal amount of suffering that we create and I think that some of the comments that you made are comments that are made, frankly, for lack of knowledge of the details of this work, and if it really is of interest you should actually look at the papers which are all available free online and take a careful look at what it is that’s actually done.
Let's look at his separate claims:

1. “It’s actually, I feel, wonderful that people know that I do do some research in nonhuman primates, it’s not the bulk of what I do, I have that work, I continue to do that work, and I’m proud of that work, and I really welcome the opportunity to directly address it.”

I don’t really know whether this total crap or not. Eric Sandgren, Director of the UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center, has said that he is unable to find anyone on campus (other than himself) willing to publicly debate the use of animals in biomedical research. [Note to Eric: Why not give Davidson a call and find out whether he would welcome the opportunity to address this issue at length in a public venue.]

2. “I’ve been, I have had many soul-searching discussions about this issue with myself, with my colleagues, and with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. One of the things which is the most important issue for me is what one’s motivation is to do the work that one’s doing. Actually this is something the Dalai Lama has always asked [about] any kind of work, and my motivation is really to eliminate suffering, and that is why I do my science and why I’m dedicating my life to [it]….”

Davidson appeals to his motivation to do good and his good intent as justifications for his actions throughout his statement. It’s a hackneyed aphorism but appropriate to point out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In considering this defense, we should keep in mind past instances when the same justification was employed.

In the most infamous case, the Nazi medical experiments on unwilling human subjects, we see immediately the risk of any appeal to good intention. An outstanding and important essay on these experiments in this context is “The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments.” Baruch C. Cohen. Jewish Virtual Library. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise

The Nazi’s experiments were not intended as torture. This is an important point to bear in mind when considering Davidson’s work and his claims. The Nazis experimented on unwilling subjects in the pursuit of medical treatments and cures for those they valued more than those who they used. According to Cohen, they were, in some cases, successful in their pursuit of benefit.

But few people would be willing to claim that the experiments – no matter the possible or even actual benefit – were justifiable. They were heinous. They were depraved. They were unethical and immoral. Yet, Davidson defends himself just as the Nazi doctors and scientists did. The harm he does is cancelled out by the potential benefit, or so he claims.

This is the identical claim used by the U.S. government in its radiation experiments on unsuspecting human subjects and in all secret potentially harmful experimentation that has ever occurred. It is only and precisely the complete discounting of an actual individual’s interests and the conflating of a (sometimes hypothetical) larger population’s interests that allows doctors, government, and scientists to use us as they wish without pause or concern for our personal preferences not to be harmed.

We should keep in mind the company in which Davidson places himself.

3. “the work that we do can help develop new interventions which I firmly believe they can and will and are currently doing.”

Davidson’s primate-based experiments have led to no new interventions and it is unlikely that they ever will or even could. His fundamental implicit claim is that anxiety and fear in monkeys and humans are biochemically and metabolically identical. This is the only possible justification for using these animals given the complex nature of emotion. Here’s a challenge: Name one intervention for depression in humans that is a direct result of studies into the neurobiology of induced fear, anxiety, or depression in monkeys. (I won’t hold my breath.)

4. “That is something that I think is critical in this program of research and the work that we do in nonhuman primates has been done with noninvasive methods to image the brain, we are actually one of the pioneers in developing methods to study the brain in nonhuman primates in ways in which actually don’t create suffering which are the same methods which I subject myself to all the time.”

This is so misleading. I suspect that it was intentionally misleading. Here are a few passages from a 2007 paper, “Role of the primate orbitofrontal cortex in mediating anxious temperament.” (Kalin N. H., Shelton S. E., & Davidson R. J. Biological Psychiatry):
Methods and Materials

Experimental Subjects Twelve experimentally naïve adolescent colony-born rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were the subjects. Animal housing and experimental procedures were in accordance with institutional guidelines. The animals were housed as pairs; each experimental animal lived with a control animal. At the beginning of the study, subjects were, on average, 34.4 months of age. Six randomly selected males underwent surgery at an average age of 35.6 months. Six nonoperated male control animals were used for comparison, since we previously demonstrated that the nonspecific effects of the surgery do not significantly affect the behavioral and physiological measures of interest.

Surgical Procedure Prior to surgery, atropine sulfate was given to depress salivary secretion, and dexamethasone was given to reduce potential brain swelling. Animals were pre anesthetized with ketamine hydrochloride, fitted with an endotracheal tube, and maintained on isoflurane anesthesia. An experienced surgeon made an opening in the frontal bone posterior to the brow ridge to expose the frontal cortex. Both hemispheres were lesioned in a single procedure by lifting the brain to expose its ventral surface. Using microscopic guidance, electro-cautery and suction were applied to the targeted brain area.
But Davidson told his audience that he is “one of the pioneers in developing methods to study the brain in nonhuman primates in ways in which actually don’t create suffering which are the same methods which I subject myself to all the time.” I wonder how often he has the ventral surface of his brain exposed and electro-cauterized and sucked out? Oh yeah, “all the time.”
Threat-Related Anxiety To assess defensive and anxiety-related behaviors, all animals were tested before and after the lesions were made using two different paradigms, each with three different conditions (alone [A], no eye contact [NEC], and stare [ST]). Control and experimental subjects were tested at the same time, and the mean time between the lesioning procedure and the first postsurgical behavioral test was 4.3 months. The first test was conducted using the classic human intruder paradigm (HIP), consisting of 9-min periods of A, NEC, and ST. As part of a separate study, the second test used a modified HIP paradigm. In the classic HIP, during the A condition, animals were placed alone in a test cage for 9 min. This condition predominantly elicits coo vocalizations and locomotion. This was followed by the NEC condition, in which a human entered the test room, stood motionless 2.5 m from the cage, and presented her profile to the monkey while avoiding eye contact. The NEC condition elicits freezing behavior. After NEC, the intruder left the test room for 3 min and returned for the ST condition, during which the intruder stared at the monkey with a neutral face 2.5 m from the test cage. The ST condition elicits defensive hostility and barking, an aggressive vocalization. The modified HIP consisted of 20 min of each of the three conditions (A, NEC, ST) on three different days. The classic and modified HIP paradigms were repeated for all subjects after the experimental animals were lesioned.

Assessing Snake Fear Subjects were adapted to the Wisconsin General Testing Appa-ratus (WGTA) test cage, and their food preference was determined. Subjects were taught to reach for their preferred rewards on top of the clear plastic stimulus presentation box. Subjects were presented with two of their most preferred foods randomly placed on the distant left and right corners of the clear plastic stimulus presentation box, requiring the subjects to reach over the stimulus for the food rewards. The box contained one of four stimuli: 1) nothing: empty box; 2) tape: roll of blue masking tape; 3) rubber snake: curled black rubber snake 120 cm long; and 4) snake: live northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) 170 cm long. Subjects were tested for 1 day, during which each stimulus was presented six times in a pseudorandom order. The real snake was never presented during the first five trials and no item from either the snake or the non snake stimulus categories was presented for more than three consecutive trials. Each monkey received the same order of stimuli. Each trial lasted 60 seconds regardless of the subject’s response, and the inter-trial interval was 45 seconds. Latency for the animal’s first reward retrieval in each trial was used for analysis.
We should also keep in mind that the monkeys Davidson uses are born into a captive environment known to induce mental illness and that all the monkeys, or a significant portion of them, are sick all the time. This is the baseline suffering he adds to in his own unique way.

5. “You know, I think in the best of all possible worlds it would be wonderful to have outdoor enclosures where the animals are not within cages, there are places where the climate permits where that kind of work can be done, it’s not possible to do it in Wisconsin because of the climate and if I had my druthers I would much rather have that kind of facilility...”

Davidson is an ignoramus. And worse, he’s an ignoramus who people trust and believe. No matter the climate – balmy or tropical – every monkey used in the sort of studies Davidson does and in essentially all others, are kept in small barren cages. Davidson either doesn’t know this, in which case he speaks about something he has no knowledge of, or else, he was just telling the public what he imagined they would like to hear from a Buddhist initiate, a man of compassion, a personal friend of the Dalai Lama, or a Person of the Year.

6. “I’m proud of this work and I think the good that it does so far exceeds the minimal amount of suffering that we create and I think that some of the comments that you made are comments that are made, frankly, for lack of knowledge of the details of this work, and if it really is of interest you should actually look at the papers which are all available free online and take a careful look at what it is that’s actually done.

“The minimal amount of suffering.” This is always what one hears from those who don’t have to do the suffering. Suffering is a relative term; it is always greater for the one enduring it or being subjected to it. This discounting of others’ pain and fear is grotesque and monstrous.

Davidson’s claim about the “ignorance” of his questioner is an insult given the realities of his work as highlighted above in his 2007 paper. I hope people will look at his papers as he urges. Here they are. These are his primate-related papers:

Role of the Primate Orbitofrontal Cortex in Mediating Anxious Temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2007

Brain Regions Associated with the Expression and Contextual Regulation of Anxiety in Primates. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Fox AS, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2005

Calling for help is independently modulated by brain systems underlying goal-directed behavior and threat perception. Fox AS, Oakes TR, Shelton SE, Converse AK, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005

The role of the central nucleus of the amygdala in mediating fear and anxiety in the primate. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. J Neurosci. 2004

The primate amygdala mediates acute fear but not the behavioral and physiological components of anxious temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kelley AE. Related Articles, J Neurosci. 2001

Cerebrospinal fluid corticotropin-releasing hormone levels are elevated in monkeys with patterns of brain activity associated with fearful temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2000

Asymmetric frontal brain activity, cortisol, and behavior associated with fearful temperament in rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Larson C, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Behav Neurosci. 1998

Individual differences in freezing and cortisol in infant and mother rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Rickman M, Davidson RJ. Behav Neurosci. 1998

A new method for aversive Pavlovian conditioning of heart rate in rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Lynn DE. Physiol Behav. 1996

Lateralized response to diazepam predicts temperamental style in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Behav Neurosci. 1993

Lateralized effects of diazepam on frontal brain electrical asymmetries in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Biol Psychiatry. 1992

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fear Inc.

What kind of person would choose to spend their life frightening animals? What sort of early experiences must they have had that contributed to their decision to live the life of a monster? Did they watch and thrill to see an older brother torment a kitten or burn ants with a magnifying glass? And did they do these things without any sane adult catching them and instilling some modicum of concern for others in them? We can only wonder, but the fact remains that some people have chosen to spend their lives hurting and frightening others. And what does this say about the society we live in? Good and bad, right and wrong, these seem to be relative terms that have little real meaning.
A case in point is the Karl R. Zurn family of Burlington, Vermont. Karl Zurn, an electrical engineer, started Med Associates Inc. in 1971.

It is a family owned and operated business. Here’s a link to an article on the three daughters; they seem like nice and normal people. The fact that they were homeschooled says something about their parents since they all seem intent on remaining involved in the family business, described by The View, the University of Vermont's online newsweekly: “Their father, Karl, started his business, Medical Associates, when the girls were quite young, first running it out of the family home in East Fairfield, Vt. The firm, which manufactures electronics for research ...”

Electronics for research, indeed.

Here’s Med Associates’ description of one of their products related to learned helplessness:

This triadic design has been used for more than 30 years to study the impact of stress controllability on a variety of behavioral as well as physiological indices (Current Protocols in Neuroscience, Feb 2001, Supplement 14). Each of the three wheel turn chambers is housed in its own sound isolation cubicle. This feature optimizes acoustic, visual, and olfactory isolation between subjects. Extending from the end of each wheel turn chamber is a holder to securely restrain the tail. Chambers are completely removable for easy cleaning. Animals may be assigned randomly to "Escape", "Yoked-Aversive Stimulation " and "Yoked-No Aversive Stimulation" categories. Aversive Stimulators, a MED-PC® Interface package, and software must be ordered separately. The programming flexibility of MED-PC®IV software permits any programmed contingency across animals.

I wonder whether the girls sing about “Yoked-Aversive Stiulation”?

Now, there are lots of companies on the internet selling instruments to torture animals, so why would I single out the good Zurns to criticize? About a month or so ago, someone posted a link to Med Associates’ new “Primate Startle reflex System.” It is a particularly hideous device, co-invented by the Zurns, David Amaral, and Elena A. Antoniadis.

I recently went back to the site because I wanted to call readers’ attention to the reality of the primate vivisection industry as illustrated by the tools of the trade. The page detailing the Primate Startle Reflex system is gone. It used to be at, but that’s now a dead link. Perhaps one of the many lurkers on primfocus alerted the Zurns that activists might be looking at the page, so they killed it. Or, maybe (Oh, right) its just a glitch.

In any case, in the spirit of full exposure of the industry, here are bits and pieces of the missing page:

See too: “Role of the Primate Amygdala in Fear-Potentiated Startle: Effects of Chronic Lesions in the Rhesus Monkey.” Elena A. Antoniadis, James T. Winslow, Michael Davis, and David G. Amaral. Journal of Neuroscience, July 11, 2007.

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Two)

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Two): The Ten-Year Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Most Blatant Instance of Animal Cruelty and Lying to the Public. A Story of Cover-up, Conspiracy, Adultery, Battery, Disdain for Public Sentiment, and Crimes Too Unbelievable and Hideous to Discuss in Polite Company

Part Two
Let me add the example of the adult rhesus monkey females who will be treated in the next chapter. Their pen has a row of six large, reflecting observation windows near the ceiling, more than 5 meters above the floor. Every birth season, we see females place their newborn baby on the floor, walk a few steps, and intently stare up at one of the windows, shifting their head as if searching for a particular reflection. Then they pick up the baby again. They start doing this within a day or two of giving birth. All the windows are used for this activity, regardless of which one we are standing behind.

I cannot explain this behavior. Perhaps mothers like to have a look at their infant from a distance of more than 10 meters, without the risk of leaving him too far behind. They never stare at the windows in this particular way when carrying their baby, or when another female’s youngster is walking free. They seem to connect their own behavior (placing their offspring on the floor) to the mirror image. That they do not, like chimpanzees, use the mirror to look at their reflection may be a matter of how much interest they have in themselves compared to such attractive creatures as their new infants. Fox speculates that apes and humans may simply have reached a higher level of narcissism. (de Waal, 86-87.)
As I review the many news articles and documents generated by the Vilas monkey affair in 1997-98, I can’t help feeling a renewed sense of shock and surprise. The primate center (and by extension the UW itself) was so underhanded, so unethical, so disgustingly dismissive of public sentiment, that even now, ten years later, I’m dumbfounded by its arrogance and deep callousness. It is beyond belief that anyone could today believe anything they might claim.
Monkeys killed despite no-harm pledge
AIDS research:UW primates used for organs and tissues
Telegraph Herald. Sunday. August 10, 1997

MADISON (AP) - At least a dozen zoo monkeys were killed during University of Wisconsin AIDS experiments despite a pledge by administrators not to use them in harmful research, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The rhesus monkeys at the Henry Vilas Zoo were killed for their organs and tissue, by researchers at the UW Primate Research Center unidentified sources told The Capital Times.

UW-Madison owns the zoo's monkey house, which has about 150 rhesus monkeys and stump-tailed macaques used for observational research and public education.

The experiments occurred over a five-year period despite a June 15, 1989, letter that said the animals "will not be used in studies at our facility involving invasive experimental procedures." The newspaper said it was signed by seven primate center administrators. "Such animals will be assigned to the center's nonexperimental breeding colony, where they are exempt from experimental use." the letter said.

Primate center officials denied using the zoo monkeys for research that could harm them until The Capital Times obtained information that showed that monkeys were born at the zoo and died during research, the newspaper said.

Interim center director Joe Kemnitz said there were exceptions to the agreement that would allow some monkeys to be used in lethal research experiments.

Certain monkeys were used because they had unique qualities important to researchers Kemnitz said.

But Lenon and other officials could not produce written proof of any exceptions and zoo director Dave Hall said he could not recall any such exceptions to the 1989 letter.
After the public learned that the university had lied in 1989 when it had promised to stop using the Vilas zoo monkeys in invasive and terminal experiments and that it had continued to lie about the monkeys for eight years, the primate center colluded to some degree with the NIH, or perhaps manipulated the agency, into killing any funding for the care of the monkeys at the zoo.

In her August 13, 1997, official statement, then Graduate School Dean Virginia Hinshaw said:
The center's lease at the zoo is expected to expire in 2003, and we are currently working to find a long-term home that is best for the welfare of the animals and are committed to supporting the animals financially. But there is no quick resolution to this issue and finding an appropriate arrangement for the colony may take several years. [my emphasis, obviously]
On November 19, 1997, the UW issued a press release stating:
The National Institutes of Health will end a long tradition of funding the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center's monkey colony at Henry Vilas Park Zoo, effective Feb. 1. The decision will restrict the Primate Center from using funding from its $4.5 million base grant to maintain the Vilas Zoo colony. The facility costs approximately $100,000 a year to maintain, which includes personnel, food and supplies, and utility expenses. … "This decision puts us in a very difficult position," said Virginia Hinshaw, dean of the UW-Madison Graduate School. "The change in funding means that we have to work rapidly to find options for the colony."
When Hinshaw told the public: “we are currently working to find a long-term home that is best for the welfare of the animals and are committed to supporting the animals financially,” she was still lying, still telling the public what the university thought was expedient to tell us. The primate center and the university certainly did not then, or ever, have any commitment to the animals.

But the pure unadulterated filth of the university’s vivisectors isn’t clear until we put these conflicting lies into context. It wasn’t just the fact that the primate center had lied so baldly to the public for eight years, it wasn’t even the fact that once discovered in their lies that the vivisectors didn’t want to spend any money caring for animals that they couldn’t torture, no, it wasn’t just all that. The icing on this shit-cake was that over the period of time they were lying, they were selling the monkeys and banked somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars.

This amounts to not only a lie, but in a manner of speaking, grand larceny. And, after secretly selling these animals, not one thin dime could be found to feed them, to find them a safe home, to make amends with the public, to do at least one right thing.
Uw Reports Cash From Zoo Monkey Sales
Capital Times :: Front :: 1A
Saturday, August 23, 1997
By Scott Russell The Capital Times

The UW Primate Research Center made between $200,000 and $275,000 by selling off monkeys from Henry Vilas Zoo for research, according to data released Friday by the university.

Of the 110 monkeys sold over an eight-year period, 42 monkeys went to government agencies or outside universities, such as Harvard or East Carolina University. Another 35 monkeys were sold to private pharmaceutical companies, such as Hazleton [renamed Covance] Laboratories in Madison. The other 33 monkeys were used by UW-Madison researchers.

In June 1989, the primate center entered into an agreement with the zoo that none of the zoo monkeys would be used for invasive research. University officials have not disclosed the fate of the monkeys that were sold to other institutions.

Pharmaceutical labs in all likelihood tested the monkeys with drugs.

The zoo monkeys sold for between $1,800 and $2,500 each, depending on their age, their reproduction potential and their history, according to information released Friday by the UW-Madison.

On Aug. 11, after reports in The Capital Times, Graduate School Dean Virginia Hinshaw stopped any further assignment of monkeys from the zoo colony to invasive research.

One UW-Madison project that used zoo monkeys evaluated the effectiveness of a new medication for osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease linked to calcium deficiency. The monkeys provided one way to test for the safety of the drug for human use.

Drug company Ciba-Giegy paid nearly $1 million for the 32-month study, which used 56 monkeys in all. Of those, 12 were monkeys from the zoo, including four monkeys that were covered by the no-invasive-research agreement. Of the 12 zoo monkeys used in the project, 10 were euthanized during the research. The other two died after the project ended.

Here's where the monkeys went:

Hazleton Laboratories, 20; East Carolina University, 15; Baxter-Travenol,15; UW-Madison Harlow Primate Lab, 14; UW-Madison Clinical Sciences Center, 12.

National Institutes of Health-Poolesville, 9; Boston University, 4; University of Pittsburgh, 4; UW-Madison Department of Psychology, 3; UW-Madison Medical School, 2; Harvard University, 2.

University of Iowa, 2; University of Minnesota, 2; Vanderbilt University,2; Waisman Center, 2; University of South Dakota, 1; University of Nebraska, 1.

The money generated by the sale of the monkeys went into the center's cost recovery account, which augments a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The majority of the money for that grant pays for animal services such as food, housing and care for the animals.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Vilas Monkeys (Part One)

The Vilas Monkeys (Part One): The Ten-Year Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Most Blatant Instance of Animal Cruelty and Lying to the Public. A Story of Cover-up, Conspiracy, Adultery, Battery, Disdain for Public Sentiment, and Crimes Too Unbelievable and Hideous to Discuss in Polite Company

Part One

In 1996, I learned that the United States government maintains giant facilities dedicated to using monkeys and chimpanzees as medical and behavioral research subjects. The details of the inherent cruelty of this endeavor motivated me to give up my teaching career and to dedicate myself to ending this publicly funded atrocity. [An extended essay Teaching Kindness [.pdf 250K] details the events in 1996/97 leading to my decision.]

When I first learned about the primate labs, I thought that the differences between those who worked in the labs or supported them and those who were working to close them was a simple matter of differences in honest opinion. Like past arguments over the use of Africans as slaves, it seemed to come down to whether or not anyone other that a human (or a white land-owning male) was deserving of some legally enforceable, stipulated set of basic rights. My error was based on the notion that honest people can have honest disagreements coupled with my then naïve view that the people working in the labs are as honest as most people.

In 1997, a year-long saga ensued over the fate of about 200 monkeys owned by the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center housed at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison. Shortly afterwards, I wrote an essay detailing some of that year’s events.

The Vilas Monkey Debacle and subsequent scandals involving the primate center make it plain and clear that primate experimentation attracts a subset of individuals lacking in some characteristics common to the public at large. Because we expect people to be fundamentally honest, it is easy for the primate researchers to consistently hoodwink the public and our policy-makers.

The Vilas Monkeys

A partial chronicle of a few of the Vilas monkeys’ lives prior to their unforgivable betrayal by the primate researchers and the University of Wisconsin-Madison is contained in chapters three and four of Peacemaking Among Primates by Frans de Waal, originally published in 1989. Excerpts here and in subsequent Vilas essays are from the 1996 Harvard University Press paperback edition (pp 88-169.) Before quoting him, let me be clear: de Waal shares the responsibility for the torture that the Vilas monkeys and their progeny endured and continue to suffer. In some ways, because of his personal intimate knowledge of these animals’ lives, his guilt is of a darker more disturbing kind than the guilt of the Wisconsin vivisectors who have never pretended much concern for the animals.

When the initial story about the monkeys broke in the local press, there were three colonies of monkeys at the Vilas Zoo, two rhesus macaque colonies of 40 to 60 animals each and a colony of stump-tailed macaques of about the same size. According to de Waal, one of the rhesus colonies was among one of the last groups to be trapped in India and shipped to the U.S. prior to the Indian government’s ban on monkey exports. According to Deborah Blum in The Monkey Wars (Oxford University Press, 1994. p 120) the ban was enacted when India (and Bangladesh) learned from U.S. activists that the U.S. military was using the monkeys in radiation experiments, a violation of formal agreements with the U.S. that the animals would be used in medical research.

de Waal says that one of the rhesus colonies had been captured in Uttar Pradish, a state in the Himalayas in northern India. The monkeys found there are commonly seen in the towns and villages living commensally with the humans.

Following Jane Goodall’s (at the time) controversial method of identifying animals, de Waal named the monkeys he studied rather than assigning them identification numbers. He writes about the O-family: Orange, Oona, Ommie, and Orkid, and members of other families like Ropey, Beatle, Heavy, Kashew, Gray, Hulk, Mopey, and many others as he details their relationships and political maneuverings.

de Waal sums up his chapter about the rhesus monkeys with this:
The point is that their actions become more understandable if we assume that they have insight into the social network in which they live. Regarding them as beings with a rich social knowledge and a will of their own permits us to interpret data that would not otherwise make any sense. So I am talking here about a theoretical framework rather than a proven position. This framework, known as cognitive ethology, is more stimulating and promising than the classic view of animals as robot actors in a play that they hardly understand. Instead of arrogantly thinking that we human investigators fathom the meaning of nonhuman primate behavior better than they do, the impression never leaves me that it is the other way around. It takes thousands of hours of waiting and watching to reach a depth of insight into their social life that, in my estimation, is shallow compared to the insight of the monkeys themselves. (p 141; de Waal’s emphasis.)
The monkeys at the Vilas Zoo were observed and their behavior recorded and analyzed almost daily from the time they arrived in 1972, until they were shipped to Louisiana in 1998. They were the most carefully observed group of monkeys in the world. But, when it was discovered that they had also been the victims of the primate researchers’ repeatedly broken promises to the Zoo’s owners (Dane County and the taxpayers of the county), the university acted swiftly to send them to another lab and to raze the building that had housed them for two decades.

When I first wrote about the Vilas monkeys I hadn’t understood the events leading up to the formal agreement between the university and Dane County safeguarding the monkeys. I had thought that the agreement had grown out of public protests and pleas to protect the zoo monkeys from the experiments occurring to other monkeys just a short distance across town at the primate center.

It turns out that the public protests and reasonable letters of concern may have been insufficient in and of themselves. The catalyst for the policy was probably the vandalism that occurred at the zoo. Apparently, over a period of months, repeated graffiti critical of the zoo and its willingness to allow researchers to harvest monkeys from the zoo appeared on the monkey house to the great embarrassment of those who claimed to actually like and respect animals, as most zoo officials are wont to do.

Over the next months I’ll be writing periodically about the Vilas monkeys and things that happened during the university’s year-long campaign to get rid of them once their lies were exposed, once the public learned some of the ways the animals were being tortured. All-in-all, this is the single darkest mark on the university of which I am aware, and I am aware of a number of events since the Vilas debacle that are examples of a profound deficit of ethics and honesty.

There are still Vilas Zoo monkeys in the UW monkey labs.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Bad Trip

I didn’t notice when I slipped through the looking glass; I must have been asleep when it happened; I didn’t notice at first how surreal things were becoming, but now I can’t deny that I am wandering in a fever dream. I am delirious.

When I was younger, healthy and the world was rational, things made sense. Americans were the good guys. We were the sworn enemies of dictators that maintained secret prisons and whisked people off the street and tortured them.

Curiouser and curiouser

Back when things made sense, veterinarians helped sick animals and doctors helped sick people. In my delirium, I read about doctors who expose sick poor people to full body blasts of radiation that they know will lead to their pain-wracked vomit-filled deaths. Veterinarians inject deadly diseases into animals and write scientific papers documenting their illnesses and agonies. And it is our public universities that host these fiends and publicly laud their “scientific” fiddlings.

This morning I read a story in a local paper about a scientist who is preaching meditation for children as a way to foster mental health. His name is Richard Davidson. He was named by Time Magazine last year as one of the country’s 100 most influential people. He’s good friends with the Dalai Lama, the living incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion.

“[Richard] Davidson says research at the UW and elsewhere shows that contemplative practices cause ‘changes in the brain that promote empathy, compassion, increased concentration.’” Kid contemplatives: UW neuroscientist's project aims to give middle-schoolers tools of “mindfulness” and meditation. Capital Times. 11/08/2007.

Empathy and compassion.

Here’s what Davidson wrote in 2004:
Rhesus monkeys and humans share similarities in social and emotional behavior, and rhesus monkeys express psychopathology similar to that observed in humans…. we have been using rhesus monkeys to characterize fear- and anxiety-related behavior and physiological responses…. In previous work, we described the adaptive behavioral and physiological responses that are associated with fear and anxiety in rhesus monkeys…. Eighteen males underwent lesioning procedures at an average age of 34.9 months. Sixteen unoperated male controls were used for comparison and at the beginning of the study were on average 34.6 months of age…. Using standard aseptic surgical techniques, the animals were mounted in a stereotaxic apparatus (David Kopf Instruments). The skull was exposed, and the skull opening was made above the intended lesion site as determined from the MRI procedure.

Between 2 and 10 injections of 1 µl ibotenic acid (1 mg of ibotenic acid hydrate/100 µl of PBS) were made to lesion the CeA. Ibotenic acid is a neurotoxin derived from Amanita (BioSearch Technologies, San Raphael, CA).
Then he frightened the hell out of them and then killed them. [The role of the central nucleus of the amygdala in mediating fear and anxiety in the primate. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. J Neurosci. 2004.]

Davidson’s co-author, Ned Kalin, is the chair of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine’s Psychiatry Department. Before I became feverish, in the rational world I remember, psychiatrists spent their time trying to help people with mental illnesses.

When I was sane, Buddhists were people who were exceptionally kind. I remember reading a lesson on loving kindness that was supposedly uttered by Shakyamuni – the historical Buddha. It’s called the Metta Sutta.
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

In my fever-dream topsy-turvy world, a close friend of the living embodiment of the Buddha of Compassion can say: “[W]e have been using rhesus monkeys to characterize fear- and anxiety-related behavior,” and people ask him for advice on teaching children to be compassionate.

And, in my surreal world, the living embodiment of the Buddha of Compassion himself is a big fan of gourmet meats and a big supporter of sticking electrodes in monkeys’ brains.

I’m not too sure where to turn for help. Maybe I should have my water tested; maybe the CIA is spiking it with LSD.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"Animals think they’re pretty smart"

Los Angeles Times
Animal Liberation spokeswoman takes a bite out of UCLA animal testing.
By Lindy Greene
November 7, 2007

The North American Animal Liberation Press Office is a legal, above-ground organization that receives, clarifies and releases to the media the anonymous communiques received by underground activists who carry out illegal direct actions in defense of animals exploited and abused by individual and industry profiteers. The NAALPO is unaware of the identities of these activists and cannot predict or control when, where, how or whether they will strike. One might say that we speak for those who cannot — and for those who dare not.

Vivisection is simultaneously an animal rights and a human rights issue. Contrary to Edythe London's claim in her recent Op-Ed article "Why I use laboratory animals," testing treatments on animals and applying the results to humans is the greatest confounding variable of all! Data from one species cannot be extrapolated to another with more than 5% to 25% accuracy (note that simply flipping a coin would yield 50%) and that explains why no cures come down the pike for decades. It underlies the multiple thousands of consumer injuries and deaths every year from adverse reactions to drugs tested "safe" in animals and, conversely, causes potentially beneficial drugs tested "unsafe" to be discarded. Vivisection accomplishes nothing more than to gratuitously torture animals and retard true advancement in human medicine. In sum, it is both immoral and scientifically fraudulent.

UCLA squanders hundreds of millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to turn monkeys into tweakers while drug rehabilitation centers founder for lack of funds. Addiction is an area of inquiry that should lend itself admirably to human clinical studies. To understand substance abuse, investigators must examine and address the psychological, sociological, economic, political and other demographic parameters underlying a uniquely human inclination. Animals in the wild do not volitionally intoxicate themselves with psychotropic chemicals — and those in labs forced into artificially-induced dependence cannot communicate their experiences. Imagine the benefit to society by intervening through education and counseling before the prospective addict makes the fateful decision to try a drug. Some of the millions awarded to UCLA to hook primates might be redirected toward those more laudable endeavors.

While I have no love for the tobacco industry, I have to point out that smoking is completely elective. We have known for years that smoking induces chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and lung cancer, yet we are unwilling to accept personal accountability for conditions that are unequivocally the result of our own unwise behavior. Cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke are all on the rise. While a certain percentage may be due to heritable factors, much, if not most, is undoubtedly the consequence of eating animals. Our dentition, salivary and stomach acid composition and intestinal anatomy were designed for the ingestion of plants. Our air, water and soil are saturated with contaminants, yet the vivisectionists continue to hoodwink the gullible public into believing that we have to torture animals to find cures for ailments that can be mitigated or averted with more appropriate lifestyle choices and better environmental stewardship.

As a Jew, I cannot comprehend how someone who claims to be the child of Holocaust survivors can participate in a holocaust against other sentient beings. With London's reported background in psychiatry, she should be fully cognizant that animal abuse is the hallmark symptom of psychopathology.

History strives repeatedly to teach us lessons that we stubbornly refuse to learn. In order to achieve its objectives, every social justice movement has ultimately had to resort to violence against the oppressors or their property. When legitimate grievances go consistently unheard, the attendant frustration expresses itself with escalating vehemence. The Sons of Liberty tossed 300 chests of British tea into the Boston harbor. The suffragettes employed arson. It took a civil war to end slavery and a world war to dismantle the Nazi concentration camps.

The Animal Liberation Front adheres to a nonnegotiable policy that no life, human or animal, be harmed during an action. It seeks to liberate animals directly from the clutches of their abusers or engage in economic sabotage against those abusers. The purpose of the former is self-explanatory; the motivation for the latter is the unfortunate recognition that it is the only means to engage with those whose cognitive and empathic shortfalls render them otherwise unreachable.

Activists who risk life, limb and liberty to stand up for sentient beings who cannot speak or act in their own behalf are unsung heroes and must endure the barbs of others who lack courage and moral fortitude. But they know the animals have it much worse, and that realization impels them to continue the battle for creatures whom society would arbitrarily place outside the circle of moral compassion and beyond the reach of effective defense.

Lindy Greene is the North American Animal Liberation press officer.

See too: ALF Vandalizes UCLA Primate Vivisector's Home