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.


Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth, I think that article about the Med Asso. is one of the most disturbing things I have read about. I have spent the last 15 minutes looking at their website and every link I think I can't get more shocked. Did you see this page: It would be really interesting to go in their with a hidden camera... Look at this shit about anxiety and depression...

Also, it is worth adding that Marilyn Carrol uses their stuff... (For those of you who don't know who she is,

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if this site is still active. I used to work at Med-Associates and helped design the mouse, rat and monkey 'research' equipment. If anyone has any questions regarding Med-Associates, or the Zurn family, post the question here.

Rick said...

This blog gets just over 1000 unique visitors a month, but past entries, like this one, are looked at much less often.