Sunday, April 29, 2007

One Monkey's Miserable Life

From the Primate Freedom Project website:

rhao45's life remembered by Amy Christenson, his Tag wearer

rhao45 was a male rhesus macaque born August 1, 1988 at the University of Wisconsin.

According to the 60+ pages I received concerning rhao45's life, the first study he was used in was "Early Maternal Separations and Vunerability to later Peer Separation." This lasted from March of 1990 to December 1993.

From April of 1994 to February of 1995, he was involved in a few different studies: these included "Effects of Early Rearing Conditions," "Caloric Restriction and Aging," and "Sweet Taste in Primates." He was used in the breeding colony from 1995 until 1997.

rhao45 then began a lengthy study titled "Skeletal Effects of Therapeutic Anti-Coagulation Administration (Warfarin)." This included daily doses of Warfarin (from January of 1998 to October of 2000), doses of vitamin K to reverse some of the Warfarin's effects, and two separate rib and hip biopsies.

On October 3, 2000, the day after the second surgery, he suffered some trauma to one of the wounds: "area above biopsy site over right hip is missing skin; area does not appear inflamed and no purulent discharge is present; monitor healing process."

October 10, 2000: "open wound over right hip; full skin necrosis; adjacent to but not confluent with bone biopsy site; cleaned with nolvasan and bandaged; cbc tentative diagnosis etiology unknown; inquinal hernia right; plan: repeat nolvasan flush and bandage or indicate healing by secondary intention."

Also, on October 10, he was assigned to the project, "Regulation of Food Intake in Rhesus Monkeys."

October 12, 2000: "area on right hip appears to have produced some purulent discharge; flushed area and applied ointment."

October 17, 2000: "hip wound open...minimal healing progress; old open wound should be cleaned and flushed daily."

October 30, 2000: "hip biospy site resolving without incident; reation near site may have been draining tract, hypersensitivity response to foreign material or chemical burn; no further treatment indicated."

On February 8, 2001 he was subjected to major surgery and had a cannula implanted in the third ventricle of his brain and a headcap affixed to his skull.

A March 14, remark in his records notes: "self-biting left forearm - wounds are dry and appear OK."

On March 21, 2002 he was treated for a draining abscess of his upper right canine tooth, it was noted taht his upper left canine tooth was fractured and that his inguinal hernia should be monitired.

The headcap, and presumably the canula, were removed in April 2002, after 14 months. A remark states that his was the "removal of headcap," but it is coded in his records as procedure "pl-05513 (removal of therapeutic device)."

From April to May of 2003, rhao45 was used in the project "Metabolic Dysfunction in Prenatally Androgenized Male Rhesus." At Wisconsin, an "a" in a monkey's serial number usually means that his or her mother was treated with sex hormones when she was pregnant. Usually, this is testosterone. In female monkeys it can cause severe genital deformities and hormonal disruptions. He was probably one of the monkeys used in this study.

On October 31, 2003, a test was made to see whether he would get along with another monkey, r97088. On November 3rd, a 30 minute test took place, and on the 4th, a 60 minute test. The remark says there was no agression and they they would be placed together ("pair-caged") the next day.

On November 10, 2003, he was involved in a fight with his cage mate and required stitches to his head. It took nearly a month and daily antibiotics to heal.

On May 5, 2004, his life with a companion came to an end. At Wisconsin, all SIV infected monkeys are kept in solitary cages. rhao45 had 100 times the common tissue infective dose of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVmac239) injected into his rectum. This was repeated on June 6, and November 21.

His weight declined, he lost his appetite, he developed non-regenerative anemia. Occasional reports noted that he was vomiting.

The remaining record is one of rhao45's decline. Oddly, the veterinary staff continued trying to treat his many illnesses, all to no effect, all the while knowing exactly why he was dying.

On January 19, 2006, it was noted that he was pulling the hair out of his arms and lower back.

He had a recurring intractable bloody nose until he was killed on October 20, 2006. The notes say that the room he was kept in had exceptionally low humidity that may have exacerbated his raw nasal passages.

Comments before his necropy included, "Elevated CK and AST likely from traumatic blood draw. Leukopenia occasional sign in this animal, may be related to SIV infection."

My heart breaks when I think of the life he didn't get to live. I can only hope he's in a better place now.

Amy Christenson
April, 2007
P.S. I am planning to get a tattoo of his ID# next to a rhesus monkey profile.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Group Asks the Dalai Lama to Renounce Support for Animal Cruelty

April 23, 2007

Contacts: Rick Bogle 608 222 2348; Jean Barnes, Executive Director, 770 719 5348.

In observance of the 21 st annual World Week for Animals in Laboratories (April 22-28), the Primate Freedom Project has sent an open letter to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama for the third time to reconsider his support of invasive experimentation on living animals' brains. See

“We have urged His Holiness to reaffirm his vow of compassion for all sentient beings. He seems to have stepped off Buddhism's Nobel Eightfold Path to enlightenment and is now wandering aimlessly, attracted to the glitter of honorary university degrees. He seems to be more attracted to titles and prestige than to kindness; it's a loss to the entire world,” says Rick Bogle, spokesperson for the group.

Largely unwritten about has been the Tibetan leader's transformation from an icon of kindness into an admirer of scientists like Richard Davidson and Ned Kalin at the University of Wisconsin who burn monkeys' brains with acid and then frighten them with snakes, scientists, and bigger monkeys.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state in exile and the spiritual leader of Tibet.

Buddhism is based on a set of profound teachings that urge us to harm no sentient being, to dispel all the misery in the world, and to recognize that all beings are as precious as our mothers.



Dalai Lama at UW-Madison:

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

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


When Spin Turns Deadly

Local journalists and media have a responsibility to local citizens. They have a responsibilty to investigate and report fairly on issues that could or do affect the community. Issues involving potential risk to members of the community require particular attention, and as the potential increases, so too does their responsibility to investigate and report.

Recently, it has come to light that a scientist at UW, Madison has been involved with research on the most deadly disease yet encountered by humankind, the 1918 Spanish flu. Both daily newspapers in Madison were alerted to a possible significant risk to the community, and yet neither one seems to have followed up.

An unpublished letter to the Wisconsin State Journal regarding the 1918 Spanish flu research on the UW campus:

April 6, 2007

To the editor:

I have read conflicting reports concerning research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison with the Ebola virus and the most deadly disease yet encountered by humanity, the 1918 Spanish flu.

I’ve read that the extinct Spanish flu was revived by Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the university and subsequently tested on monkeys at a high security biosafety lab in Canada. The reconstituted virus proved to be as deadly as the original. The UW-Madison magazine On Wisconsin’s Winter 2006 cover story says that the university is building Dr. Kawaoka the most expensive lab in the world, per-square-foot, so he doesn’t have to rely on other labs.

But, I’ve also read the UW-Madison’s biosafety committee minutes that gave him permission to test these deadly viruses on monkeys and ferrets here in his current lab about eighteen months ago. Something seems amiss.

Rick Bogle

Note to editor: see and
A friend wrote a similar letter to the editors of On Wisconsin and recieved a letter in reply from James W. Tracy, PhD, Responsible Official, Select Agent Program, Professor and Associate Dean.

By his title, he is the UW's official overseeing all uses of agents designated by the CDC as requiring high levels of biosecurity. So, he should know what's going on at the university.

But in his letter, he states:
Your impression that Dr. Kawaoka is now or in the past has conducted experiments with the 1918 flu virus on the Madison campus is incorrect. Dr. Kawaoka has indeed worked on campus with genetic constructs, the genes critical to the pathogenic nature of the 1918 virus. These are not live, infectious agents, and therefore cannot cause influenza.
Leaving aside the issue of whether viruses are indeed ever alive, there does seem to be clear evidence that Dr. Tracy is wrong. Consider the abstract from Dr. Kawaoka's 2004 Nature article: “Enhanced virulence of influenza A viruses with the haemagglutinin of the 1918 pandemic virus”:
The 'Spanish' influenza pandemic of 1918-19 was the most devastating outbreak of infectious disease in recorded history. At least 20 million people died from their illness, which was characterized by an unusually severe and rapid clinical course. The complete sequencing of several genes of the 1918 influenza virus has made it possible to study the functions of the proteins encoded by these genes in viruses generated by reverse genetics, a technique that permits the generation of infectious viruses entirely from cloned complementary DNA. Thus, to identify properties of the 1918 pandemic influenza A strain that might be related to its extraordinary virulence, viruses were produced containing the viral haemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes of the 1918 strain. The HA of this strain supports the pathogenicity of a mouse-adapted virus in this animal. Here we demonstrate that the HA of the 1918 virus confers enhanced pathogenicity in mice to recent human viruses that are otherwise non-pathogenic in this host. Moreover, these highly virulent recombinant viruses expressing the 1918 viral HA could infect the entire lung and induce high levels of macrophage-derived chemokines and cytokines, which resulted in infiltration of inflammatory cells and severe haemorrhage, hallmarks of the illness produced during the original pandemic.[emphasis added]
Consider too, the minutes of the biosaftey committee in my original letter to the Wisconsin State Journal:

November 2, 2005:

"This amendment seeks approval to generate all eight 1918-like genes from published sequence and to reconstruct recombinate viruses containing some or all segments from this strain, and to test these strains in animals.... Virulence and pathogenicity of the 1918 strain and reassortant strains will be tested in mice, ferrets, and monkeys.... Reconstructed 1918 influenza virus is regulated as a select agent and an amendment needs to be submitted and approved by CDC before viable virus may be used here."

A decision on the protocol was tabled pending additional information from Dr. Kawaoka. The committe met again on December 7, 2005:

"Personnel receive the annual influenza virus vaccine, which should provide some protection from the 1918 virus.... The protocol was approved."

So what did Dr. Tracy mean when he said: "These are not live, infectious agents"?

Moreover, why wouldn't local media be interested in this story given that this virus killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people in just over a year?

The extra safety precations discussed in the committee minutes seem pretty weak and suggest that disease agents have been regularly washed down the drain without prior treatment.

I'm reminded of media's sleepy acceptance of the promise that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. It might just come down to the fact that the UW is a major advertising client.

See too: Courting Cash-Tajima-ushi Risks Deadly Return to 1918.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Do Not Put Dead Monkeys in the Freezer

Martín Espada

Monkeys at the laboratory,
monkeys doing countless somersaults
in every cage on the row,
monkeys gobbling Purina Monkey Chow
or Fruit Loops with nervous greedy paws,
monkeys pressing faces
through a grille of steel,
monkeys beating the bars
and showing fang,
monkeys and pink skin
where fur once was,
monkeys with numbers and letters
on bare stomachs,
monkeys clamped and injected, monkeys.

I was a lab coat and rubber gloves
hulking between the cages.
I sprayed down the batter of monkeyshit
coating the bars, fed infant formula in a bottle
to creatures with real fingers,
tested digital thermometers greased
in their asses, and carried boxes of monkeys
to the next experiment.
We gathered the Fear Data, keeping score
as a mechanical head
with blinking red bulbs for eyes
and a siren for a voice
scared monkeys who spun in circles,
chattering instructions
from bewildered brains.

I did not ask for explanations,
even when I saw the sign
taped to the refrigerator that read:
Do Not Put dead Monkeys in the Freezer.
I imagined the doctor who ordered the sign,
the moment when the freezer door
swung open on that face,
and his heart muscle chattered like a monkey.

So I understood
when a monkey leapt from the cage
and bit my thumb through the rubber glove,
leaving a dollop of blood that gleamed
like icing on a cookie.
And I understood when one day, the doctors gone,
a monkey outside the bell curve of the Fear Data
shrieked in revolt, charging
the red-eyed mechanical head
as all the lab coats cheered.

From: Imagine the Angels of Bread. W.W. Norton. 1996.
Reprinted here with the author's permission.


Martín Espada teaches English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has been called the Pablo Neruda of North American authors. He was a lab worker in the UW monkey labs in 1979-80 or 1980-81.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Madison Chambers

12 April 2007 - An aerosol chamber mishap at Texas A&M University in February 2006 caused a researcher to be infected with the bioweapons agent brucella. Texas A&M University then violated federal law by not reporting the brucellosis case to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and now faces severe penalties. This information has only come to light as a result of persistent Texas Public Information Act requests by the Sunshine Project.
Texas A&M Unversity (Go Aggies!) kept secret this accidental infection of a student worker at a BSL-3 lab for over a year. It wasn't until the watchdog Sunshine Project kept hammering on them that the situation came to light.
What caught my eye was that the accident stemmed from a mishap with something called a Madison Chamber. This faulty product is built and sold by the University of Wisconsin. It goes without saying that it is probably used in labs at the UW like Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka's. This news won't help anyone get a good night's sleep. Of course, who in Madison will even hear about this?

The Sunshine Project
News Release
18 April 2005

Faulty Aerosol Chamber Infects Three

NIAID Encourages Use of Leaky Device in Biodefense
Chambers are Located in Nine US States, India, New Zealand, and Northern Ireland

(Austin, 18 April 2005) - A leaky aerosol chamber manufactured by the University of Wisconsin at Madison was responsible for three laboratory-acquired tuberculosis infections in a Seattle BSL-3 lab last year.... The Sunshine Project
Government oversight is such a joke.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rats Know What They Know

The history of bigotry is the history of false claims about the superiority of a particular group or the inferiority of another. The arguments, when rationality is claimed as a basis, always hinge on the claim that we (historically, men, white men, white men owning property, Americans, Europeans, the rich, or just humans) have characteristics and sensibilities that they (historically, women, people of color, or different ethnicity, religion, or language, the poor, mentally retarded people, people with disabilities, or just animals) do not.

In the case of the human/nonhuman animal dichotomy, this has traditionally taken the form of various claims about so called "human characteristics." These have been things like using tools, making tools, emotions like grief and joy, self-sacrifice and altruism, and as often as such characteristics have been proposed as the reason killing or hurting a human is illegal but hurting an animals is sport, a livelihood, our culture, or science, the proclaimed justification has turned out to be present in species other than Homo sapiens.

Recently, the gatekeeper has been something called metacognition, or knowing what ones knows. But even here, the wall has been breached as Foote and Crystal report below. Worse news for the defenders of human bigotry, this "human" characteristic isn't being found in just other primates, but in rodents as well.

About the only arguments left for those who defend the claim that we have some right to hurt members of other species are religious or might-makes-right sorts of claims.
Metacognition in the rat.
Foote AL, Crystal JD.
Curr Biol. 2007 Mar 20;17(6):551-5. Epub 2007 Mar 8.

The ability to reflect on one's own mental processes, termed metacognition, is a defining feature of human existence. Consequently, a fundamental question in comparative cognition is whether nonhuman animals have knowledge of their own cognitive states. Recent evidence suggests that people and nonhuman primates but not less "cognitively sophisticated" species are capable of metacognition. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that rats are capable of metacognition--i.e., they know when they do not know the answer in a duration-discrimination test. Before taking the duration test, rats were given the opportunity to decline the test. On other trials, they were not given the option to decline the test. Accurate performance on the duration test yielded a large reward, whereas inaccurate performance resulted in no reward. Declining a test yielded a small but guaranteed reward. If rats possess knowledge regarding whether they know the answer to the test, they would be expected to decline most frequently on difficult tests and show lowest accuracy on difficult tests that cannot be declined. Our data provide evidence for both predictions and suggest that a nonprimate has knowledge of its own cognitive state.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My Enlightening Meeting with Lama Lhundub Sopa

The Four Immeasurables

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion, is coming to town, so I thought this might be a good opportunity to generate some news coverage of the 2000 hidden monkeys suffering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison since his Holiness is a big supporter of the labs.

Upon hearing that His Holiness is an admirer of scientists who burn monkeys’ brains with acid and then try to frighten them with snakes, scientists, and bigger monkeys, most people express either disbelief or shock. After all, he is the leader of the Tibetan government in exile, a theocracy based on a set of profound teachings that urge us to harm no sentient being, to dispel all the misery in the world, to recognize that all beings are as precious as our mothers, and to embrace the ideas captured in the Four Immeasurables.

Here are some photos of the Buddha of Compassion being wooed by Richard Davidson and hob-knobbing with Ned Kalin.

So, since he’s coming to town to bless a new temple being built by one of his old Lama friends and to speak on campus, I thought that this might be an opportunity to call attention to his true nature and get the monkeys some press coverage.

The new temple is being built at local Buddhist monastery named Deer Park, after the park where Siddhārtha Gautama, the historical Buddha, taught his first lessons sometime between 500 BCE and 400 CE.

The monastery is under the control of one of the Dalai Lama’s contemporaries, Lama Lhundub Sopa, or Geshe Sopa, to use his Buddhist academic title. The Deer Park website says:

Geshe Sopa is recognized worldwide as one of the great living spiritual masters of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is particularly renowned for maintaining the high standards of scholarly learning while personally embodying the qualities of humility, tolerance and compassion.

Though trained in his youth in one of the most rigorous Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, Geshe Sopa’s life work has been centered in the heartland of America. Here, Geshe Sopa has spent forty years inspiring all those he meets—as a Buddhist monk, a university professor, a committed peacemaker, a consummate teacher and as an extraordinary human being.

So I thought, maybe, just maybe, that Geshe Sopa, personally embodying the quality of compassion, might not know that the Dalai Lama was speaking out in support of vivisection. I thought that, maybe, he would be concerned for the animals suffering in the labs, and that before standing in front of his gate with a protest sign calling attention to the Buddha of Compassion’s dispassion for the monkeys, that I ought to go see him.
So, I called and made an appointment.

First, I spoke with a woman named Ani Jampa – an American by her East Coast accent, but I never met her in person. I think she was cooking something as we spoke on the phone; I thought I heard dishes clinking and she seemed a bit distracted.

I explained to her who I was and the reason I wanted to speak with Geshe Sopa. I didn’t discuss my possible protest, but was clear about my concern over the Dalai Lama’s support of vivisection and particularly the Dalai Lama’s relationship with UW monkey vivisectors. She argued a bit in his defense, and explained that His Holiness didn’t have a strong association with Deer Park and that Geshe Sopa wouldn’t voice an opinion about the Dalai Lama’s opinions. She agreed to set up an appointment for me.

Later I got a call from the Venerable George C. Churinoff who asked me to send him some substantiation of my concerns. He also wanted to argue with me a bit about the Dalai Lama’s position and, as Ani Jampa had done, told me not to get my hopes up. He also recommended that I bring a gift for Geshe Sopa.

So, I sent Venerable George this email.

I had some apprehension before my meeting with Geshe Sopa. Though I’ve read a goodly number of books on Buddhism and had a personal practice for a few years, I surfed the World Wide Web and read many pages discussing the role of compassion. There is near uniform lip service regarding the fundamental idea that we should have genuine and meaningful concern for all beings.

I hoped that Venerable George and Ani Jampa’s typically human-centered compassion were just expressions of some lingering attachment to the duality of human/animal suffering, and that Geshe Sopa, embodying compassion, would have a more enlightened view.

Venerable George met me in the driveway wearing his maroon and orange Tibetan robes, and escorted me into Geshe Sopa’s home, a nice ranch furnished in a tasteful Eastern décor. It was pretty much what one might expect. I removed my shoes and followed George to Geshe Sopa’s room. This seems to be his Tibetan retreat from the real world. The walls are covered with thangkas, a photo of the Dalai Lama, there was a scent of incense in the room. Geshe Sopa held his audience with me from his daybed. I sat on a chair at the foot of the bed, and venerable George sat on the floor beside the bed and occasionally helped him find his glasses or an underlined quotation in a book, marked apparently, in anticipation of my visit.

I expressed my appreciation for his willingness to talk to me. I gave him a copy of Compassionate Action, a book edited by a dear friend, and explained its personal significance to me. He and George seemed familiar with the author Chatral Rinpoche, which I thought might be a good thing since he is a well-known animal supporter.

I explained the situation with the monkeys and why it seems contrary to the basic tenets of Buddha’s teachings to promote the careers of scientists experimenting on animals. I talked a little about Davidson and Kalin’s work, the Dalai Lama’s support of Davidson and Deer Park’s support of Davidson. Of all the documentation I had sent to George, he had passed none on to Geshe Sopa.

After listening to me, and to George, who had obviously read some of the details in the papers I had sent him, Geshe Sopa began talking about the difference between "Hinayana" and Mahayana Buddhism. I was never clear to me why he was so intent on explaining the differences, but he made it clear that he feels that "Hinayana" is selfish and that Mahayana is compassionate.

Hinayana means inferior vehicle; Mahayana means great vehicle. Hinayana is considered a pejorative term, coined by Mahayanists (like Tibetan and Zen) to disparage Theravadan Buddhism, considered by some scholars to be the earlier more orthodox form of Buddhism.

Geshe Sopa told me some stories that he must have felt were germane to my concerns and would be enlightening to me. Two of these, George had told me during our earlier phone conversation, but I listened to them again with an open mind and heart, thinking that Geshe Sopa’s retelling might be more illuminating than George’s had been.

The first story had to do with someone who was bitten on the finger by a venomous snake. In order to save his life, to stop the poison from spreading, a doctor had to chop off his finger. Thus, doing harm is sometimes appropriate.

Then he told the story of five or six rich merchants on a boat. One of them conceives of a plan to kill all the others and steal their riches. Someone else on the boat happens to be the Buddha in an earlier life, not yet fully enlightened, but very adept. He sees into the plotter’s mind and knows that the only way to save everyone else on the boat is to kill the one bad man, and does. Geshe Sopa thought that the negative effect of doing this was probably outweighed by the positive effect so, in the final weighing, Buddha was not harmed by murdering the bad man.

He told me another story, essentially the same as the one above, but this time with one hundred or so people at risk, and again, claimed that the murder of one who plotted the murder of the rest was a justified act and would probably not condemn one to eons of hell.

He repeatedly pointed out the fact that we do not allow everyone to do all the things that they believe would make them happy, especially in the case of rapists, murderers, and thieves, and that we even take away their freedom and lock them away, and yet we don’t think poorly of the police who do these things on our behalf.

His point in all of these stories, which he repeated many times, was that when we see someone doing something that appears to be bad, that it might not be. We might not fully understand the situation. The Buddhist corollary, he explained, is that, from the perspective of how this affects the person committing the act, it is primarily the intent that matters.

Geshe Sopa also said that one human is worth a thousand animals. If thousands of animals are harmed, and only a few humans receive some benefit, then that’s ok.

I had to struggle to get any questions in during Geshe Sopa’s discourse, and even George seemed a little unsatisfied with some of his answers. He asked Geshe Sopa whether it would be right for the Chinese government to experiment on Tibetans in order to study some disease. I’m not sure we got a straight answer to this question.

Geshe Sopa raised his voice and became pretty agitated a few times, especially when I tried to tell him a little more about what was going on at the university. “Don’t tell me about universities! I know all about universities!”

The way I understood him, and I asked him whether my understanding was right, and he said it was, we can never judge someone else’s actions. When I asked him about the university destroying the 628 primate experimentation videotapes in an apparent effort to stop the public from learning what is going on in the labs, he said that it was probably necessary because the public wouldn’t understand what they were seeing.

When I asked him about J. Marion Sims, the father of American gynecology, who experimented on enslaved women, he said he thought that it was justified because more women were helped.

As I was leaving, I left two brochures and a copy of Masserman on the foot of his bed. He said, “Take those with you. I won’t read them.” I refused, but George picked them up.

On the way out, as I was putting my shoes back on, I heard some birds. “George, do I hear birds?”

“Oh yes. I think they are parakeets. There is also a tank of fish.”

George walked me to my car. We talked a bit more. When I mentioned the growing body of scientific literature concerning animal mind and the implications for the monkeys living for years in a stainless steel cubical, he said, regarding the notion that animals have minds anything like humans, "This is not the Buddhist position," or something to that effect. He seemed to take refuge in the Dogma.

I think I'll go buy some poster board.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Rhesus Genome

As of April 14, 2007, Google reported that there were 199 postings regarding the news that the Macaca mulatta genone had been sequenced. Typical headlines:

Scientists Map DNA of Rhesus Monkeys
Scientists Map DNA of Research Monkeys
Macaque Genome Sequenced
Monkey Gene Map May Improve Drug Testing
Scientists map rhesus monkey
Macaque genome analysis will help find human disease genes

The original paper that all the news outlets were reporting on was "Rhesus Macaque Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium." Science, 316 . 222 - 234 (2007).

Of all the articles in the popular press, I think the Associated Press piece was the most telling.

I don't know how long the link will remain active, so here are a few excerpts:

These fuzzy animals are key to testing the safety of many medicines, and understanding such diseases as AIDS, and the new research will help scientists finally be sure when they're a good stand-in for humans.

"The thing we're all fascinated with is what makes us different from these animals who are so close to us," said Dr. Richard Gibbs of the Baylor College of Medicine, who led a team of more than 170 scientists that collaborated on the project....

Among the most intriguing discoveries so far: a list of diseases where the same genetic mutation that makes people ill seems normal for the macaques....

But right away, the work raises some important biomedical questions, because rhesus macaques are ubiquitous in medical research. Most vaccines and many drugs are tested in the monkeys before ever reaching people. And they're used as models of many human diseases, most notably the AIDS virus.

"As models, we expect them to behave like us," noted Baylor's Gibbs.

Yet consider some of the differences found so far:

About one in 14,000 babies is born with PKU, or phenylketonuria, meaning their bodies can't process a protein found in most foods called phenylalanine. Without treatment, PKU causes mental retardation. But in macaques, the gene defect that causes PKU seems to cause no harm, suggesting they may somehow compensate in a way people can't.

The researchers found a list of such mutations, from ones linked with cystic fibrosis to blood diseases, that are bad news for people but seem normal in the monkeys. Most involved metabolic disorders that in turn can harm the brain, a link Gibbs found particularly compelling.

The monkeys had triple the number of genes as people to do run one arm of the immune system. That raises immediate questions about how they react in vaccine or AIDS research. "It would make sense that a comprehensive knowledge of their immune machinery should be a part of those studies," Gibbs said.

On the other hand, macaques had far fewer of a family of cancer-related genes than either humans or chimps.
There is a claim in the article attributed to lead scientist, Dr. Richard Gibbs of the Baylor College of Medicine. He said that "the work has importance for the animals, too because knowing their genetic makeup should cut the number of monkeys needed in many biomedical experiments."

Now, Dr. Gibbs must be a very bright guy, but it doesn't appear that he has much of an insight into the disturbing and dark world of primate vivisection.

Its a near certainty that he's about as wrong as can be on this point. Dollars to donuts, the publication of the rhesus genome will increase demand for these already exploited animals. They are in a no win situation: If there is a similaity in a part of the human and rhesus genome, this will be claimed as an excuse to experiment on them; if there is a difference, this will be claimed as an excuse to experiment on them.

The only way out of this morass of torture and suffering is to acknowledge that some of our cognitive similarities have moral implications and that any non-religious-based consistent moral position must acknowledge that we should stop hurting them for the same reasons that we should not hurt each other.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Funny Rat Tumors

I occasionally read the vivisection trade magazines just to see what the industry is telling itself. You can glean some interesting tidbids now and then.

I was recently given a new issue of one of these magazines, Lab Manager and discovered a featured cartoon strip named Lab Bratz. And wouldn't you just know it, the writer is a lab manager at a lab at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The episode in Lab Manager caught my eye because it it was so offensive:

The on-line color original is here.

The frame of the live cow in the giant blender is of course just a comedic device, and it isn't what struck me as sufficiently offensive to write this. What caught my eye were the topic and dialog:

Fat dumb scientist: "Do you always grow your cells in bovine serum?"

Bald dull scientist: "Usually... Why?"

FDS: "Well, we have freezers full of the stuff. I was wondering where it all comes from."

BDS: "There are things man was not meant to know."

Cow in blender: "Moooo?"

The funny reality behind what we are not supposed to know is that bovine serum is usually fetal bovine serum. Here's an on-line ad:

High Quality Fetal Bovine Serums

Available in USDA or US Origin-See full list for pricing

IFBS- USDA Fetal Bovine Serum $165 per 500 ml

Please call today for a free 50 ml sample.
The production of this material (especially in light of the availablity of human serum and artificial serum) is ethically controversial. See for instance:

The use of fetal bovine serum: ethical or scientific problem?

Jochems CE, van der Valk JB, Stafleu FR, Baumans V.
Altern Lab Anim. 2002 Mar-Apr;30(2):219-27.

Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is a common component of animal cell culture media. It is harvested from bovine fetuses taken from pregnant cows during slaughter. FBS is commonly harvested by means of a cardiac puncture without any form of anaesthesia. Fetuses are probably exposed to pain and/or discomfort, so the current practice of fetal blood harvesting is inhumane. Apart from moral concerns, several scientific and technical problems exist with regard to the use of FBS in cell culture. Efforts should be made to reduce the use of FBS or, preferably, to replace it with synthetic alternatives.
The entire paper -- providing more than you may want to know about this issue -- is available here. This probably isn't a funny topic to anyone other than those deadened to suffering in the labs.

So I skimmed through all the strips. Episodes 21-26; 44-50; 71; 73; 79; 87; 93-98 (funny rats with tumors); and 101 all feature rats. Episodes 93-98 seem particularly callous.

I can just imagine these clipped and tacked to the bulletin boards in labs around the country: "Man, that rat suffering with the tumors is just so funny."

These people are certifiably ill.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Warfarin Use in Men Defended by UW Monkey Vivisector

UW Vivisector Debunks Human Epidemiological Warning with Monkey Data.

J Bone Miner Res. 2007 Feb 12; [Epub ahead of print]

Vitamin K Deficiency From Long-term Warfarin Anticoagulation Does Not Alter Skeletal Status in Male Rhesus Monkeys.
Binkley N, Krueger D, Engelke J, Suttie J.

Vitamin K (K) inadequacy may cause bone loss. Thus, K deficiency induced by anticoagulants (e.g., warfarin) may be an osteoporosis risk factor. The skeletal impact of long-term warfarin anticoagulation was evaluated in male monkeys. No effect on bone density or markers of skeletal turnover was observed. This study suggests that warfarin-induced K deficiency does not have skeletal effects.
Ok. Let me be clear from the start: I’m not claiming that Neil Binkley et al. are shills for the University of Wisconsin; I’m just saying that it looks like they are.

Just the facts mam, just the facts:

This is what the (always accurate) online encyclopedia Wikipedia has to say (or did say on April 8, 2007)about warfarin.

The identity of the anticoagulant substance in moldy sweet clover remained a mystery until 1940 when Karl Paul Link and his student Harold Campbell, chemists working at the University of Wisconsin, determined that it was the coumarin derivative 4-hydroxycoumarin. Over the next few years, numerous similar chemicals were found to have the same anticoagulant properties. The first of these to be widely commercialized was dicoumarol, patented in 1941. Link continued working on developing more potent coumarin-based anticoagulants for use as rodent poisons, resulting in warfarin in 1948. (The name warfarin stems from the acronym WARF, for Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation + the ending -arin indicating its link with coumarin.) Warfarin was first registered for use as a rodenticide in the US in 1952; although it was developed by Link, the WARF financially supported the research and was granted the patent.

After an incident in 1951, where a naval enlisted man unsuccessfully attempted suicide with warfarin and recovered fully, studies began in the use of warfarin as a therapeutic anticoagulant. It was found to be generally superior to dicoumarol, and in 1954 was approved for medical use in humans. A famous early patient prescribed warfarin was Dwight Eisenhower, president of the USA, subsequent to his heart attack in 1955.
So, the patent to warfarin is owned by WARF.

In 2006, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis reported:

"We did a retrospective study of Medicare records for about 15,000 patients hospitalized with atrial fibrillation, and we identified fractures related to osteoporosis," says lead author Brian Gage, M.D., associate professor of medicine and medical director of Barnes-Jewish Hospital's Blood Thinner Clinic. "Our analysis showed that long-term use of warfarin—longer than one year— led to a 25 percent increase in the incidence of fracture."
So, compare the studies’ designs and results:

Epidemiological study of 15,000 humans by researchers at the Washington University in St. Louis: “[M]en in the study who took warfarin for more than a year had a 63 percent higher incidence of fracture than men who did not take the blood thinner.”

Laboratory study of 20 adult male rhesus monkeys by researchers at the University of Wisconsin: “Long-term W[arfarin] therapy does not have adverse skeletal consequences in primates with high intakes of calcium and vitamin D.”

The data from the Wisconsin study was gathered in the late 1990s. It’s just a coincidence, I’m sure, that researchers from the institution holding the patent to warfarin chose to publish their report: “Long-term Warfarin Anticoagulation Does Not Alter Skeletal Status in Male Rhesus Monkeys” on the heals of a study by researchers at a different institution suggesting that long-term use of warfarin may impose a significant risk of bone fracture in men.

I’m sure this is all just a coincidence, after all, the UW, Madison researchers were clear: “All authors have no conflicts of interest relevant to this work.”

One final thing. One of the monkeys used in the Wisconsin study was monkey Rhao45. At the beginning of the study and at its end, Rhao45 underwent biopsies of a rib and the iliac crest (at the top of his hip bone.) (He was eventually killed after more experimentation on his brain and being repeatedly rectally infected with SIV, but that’s another story.)

Following the second biopsy, the wound over his hip developed full-thickness skin necrosis and took over a month and a half to really begin to heal. But hey, at least we know that, unlike men, male monkeys might not be prone to bone loss due to long-term use of warfarin. Yipee.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Disturbing Case of Dr. Ei Terasawa

From Madison's Hidden Monkeys, a Primate Freedom Project:

The Disturbing Case of Dr. Ei Terasawa

Laboratory notebook notation of 1/7/99 (found by USDA) – "Sometime after midnight, the pump tubing slipped out of the aCSF. Therefore, tubing has been running dry and pumping air into the monkey until 6:40. Judging from the volume of aCSF in the tube, it happened shortly after midnight." Dr. Terasawa finds this entry to be unexplainable, since she does not experiment on animals overnight.” [aCSF = artificial cerebrospinal fluid. PFP]

Christine Parks DVM, Ph.D. and Amanda Crumbaugh
July 10, 2003
Much more...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Empathy in Mice

I was recently talking with a friend and mentioned that in some situations mice show empathy for each other. She was astounded and thought that, maybe, if more people knew this that their attitudes about animals might improve.

I hope she's right. Here's a link to a report on and a discussion of "Social Modulation of Pain as Evidence for Empathy in Mice." (Langford DJ, et al. Science 30 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5782, pp. 1967 - 1970.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Positive Emotional Experiences in Mice

An April 4, 2007, University of Wisconsin news release quotes a researcher's assertion that mice have richly integrated behaviors, vocalizations, and positive emotional experiences:
"They like company. That's the point," says Garet Lahvis, of the gregarious strain of mouse.... A young mouse will seek social interaction and avoid isolation. The social life of these animals is a rich integration of behavior, vocalizations and positive emotional experience."
Actually, most of the mice used by the UW and labs throughout the world have very dark emotional experiences, and we don't need peer reviewed papers to understand why.

The actual paper is available here.

Lead author, grad student Jules Panksepp, must be related to Jaak Panksepp. I wonder if ethical blindness is genetic?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Slow News Day at the UW Vivisection Labs

The University of Wisconsin-Madison news advisory begins like this:

With rat genome as guide, human breast cancer risk refined
April 2, 2007

by Terry Devitt

It almost sounds like real news until one thinks about the claims:

Combing the genomes of the rat and the human, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found swaths of genetic code that can be used to assess the risk of human breast cancer.
Well, not exactly. The report goes on to say that the mutations looked at by the rsearchers occur in less than 1 percent of women and are thus too rare to be used effectively for breast cancer screening. And even in this tiny slice of the population, only 19% of those with the mutation will develop breast cancer. This is a breakthrough worthy of a press release?

The report claims:
The rat model for breast cancer, developed by Gould's lab during the past decade, provides a unique window to the molecular levers that influence disease. The rat is a good model for breast cancer because the disease manifests itself in the animal in much the same way it occurs in humans.
Wow! The rat model of breast cancer was developed by this researcher's lab over the past decade. Except, it wasn't. Mammary tumors in rats have been failing as predictive and useful models of human breast cancer for a very long time.

Maybe the UW-Madison spin doctors had a quota to fill. Here's some better information about breast cancer research.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Courting Cash-Tajima-ushi Risks Deadly Return to 1918.

Based on the cover story from the Winter 2006 On Wisconsin, the UW-Madison alumni magazine, it appears that Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka walks on water.

And that, the story goes, is why the university has committed to building him a (currently estimated) $11.4 million dollar BSL-3-Ag lab, with saftey features just a sneeze less rigorous than those found in a BSL-4 lab like the one the UW is trying to establish in the bucolic Town of Dunn, just a few minutes from Madison. More on that here and here.

The 8-page article explains:
What most excites Kawaoka -- and what most complicates the job's completion -- is that the building will include a so-called BSL-3-Ag lab, a highly secure space designed to allow researchers to work safely on life-threatening biological agents. BSL-3-Ag, which stands for Biosafety level 3- Agriculture, denotes the second-highest level on the federal government's biosafety regulations and is prescribed for work with viruses that would pose health threats if they escaped the lab. Since no facility of this standard currently exists on campus, Kawaoka has had to ship some of his research projects -- including one to build and evaluate a replica of the 1918 Spanish flu virus -- to a lab in Canada. (p 26.)
Hum? If this is true, would someone please explain to me the implication of the minutes taken during closed session of the November 2, 2005, University of Wisconsin-Madison Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). And the minutes of the following meeting.

One of the safeguards mentioned in the On Wisconsin article ["Flight Lessons." Michelle Penn. On Wisconsin. Winter 2006. pp 20-27.] is that:
Every bit of air circulating inside will be filtered and purified. Every drop of water used will be boiled and cooled before entering the sewer system.
But the minutes of the IBC make it clear that the Kawaoka lab is hosed down and the water just goes down the drain. One of the improvements required by the IBC prior to approving his use of the reconstructed 1918 flu virus was that the lab had to "treat the drain regularly with disinfectant..." That's comforting.

Multiple questions arise from these apparent contradictions.

1. If what Kawaoka is doing in his lab is safe, why does he need a new lab?

2. If the new lab is needed in order to make his research safe, why is he being allowed to use the Spanish flu and the Ebola virues in his current lab already?

3. Will one of the IBC members or someone from Kawaoka's lab write to On Wisconsin to clarify these seeming and presumably important contradictions?

One of the university's arguments for encouraging Homeland Security to build its new BSL-4 lab in the Town of Dunn is that the facility will be of use to UW researchers. Having these two labs in such close proximity is likely to increase the liklihood of conveying very dangerous disease agents back and forth, increasing the liklihood of possible public exposure due to an unanticipated accident.

The bottom line for wanting to keep Kawaoka in Madison is money. He brings in well-funded federal grants and has a proven potential for producing patentable products.

Here are his 2006 awards:

Kawaoka, Yoshihiro:

1R01AI069274-01 Pandemic Potential of H5N1 Influenza Viruses $506,275

5R01AI044386-08 Molecular Mechanisms of Influenza Pandemics $415,176

5R01AI047446-07 Influenza Virus Assembly $394,874

5R01AI055519-04 Molecular Basis for Ebola Virus Pathogenicity $347,445

Considering that 48% of this gets deposited directly into the university's general fund, it's clear that Kawaoka is a cash-Tajima-ushi.

At some point in the past, the University of Wisconsin lost its way. Public relations became more important than truth and honesty, money more important than the state's citizens' health and safety. It's a real shame.