Thursday, March 27, 2008

Good news for hypocrites

Imagine getting that roll off your gut and seeing a rippled six pack take its place just by sitting calming and imagining it. Yeah baby. And better yet, imagine being able to get up afterwards and gorge until you puked.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Here's the good news: There might be beneficial neurological changes associated with periodically concentrating on feeling intense love and kindness for all beings. [See: "The Lotus and the Synapse," by Sharon Begley. Newsweek. March 25, 2008.]

Periodically. The "good news" is that you don't really have to give a hoot about all beings. The case of the Dalai Lama, that callous prick, teaches us that one can gorge on veal, pate, and squab, just so long as one occasionally sits quietly and feels empathic and compassionate. (My ass.)

The case of Richard Davidson suggests that one can gain the benefits of concentrating on loving kindness, and then get up and frighten the hell out of experimentally brain-damaged monkeys.

Now you can have your cake and eat it too! (Or, in this case, enjoy the benefits of loving-kindness while grinding sentient beings under your heel.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The 3Rs

I doubt that there is a single Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) that does not pay lip service to the notion of Russell and Burch's 3Rs. The University of Wisconsin, Madison, for eaxample says:
UW-Madison is committed to "the Three R's"

Reduction--using the least number of animals necessary for statistically valid scientific results

Replacement--using non-animal alternatives (i.e., cell culture) or choosing a species lower on the phylogenetic tree (i.e., mice instead of monkeys)

Refinement--choosing methods and experimental procedures that minimize pain and distress in research animals (i.e., using laparoscopic techniques rather than laparotomy; defining endpoints as early in a disease process as possible)
Presumably, though I've been unable to find any clear regulatory statement to the effect, an experiment or study that could use human subjects, paid or volunteer, without significant risk, should do so rather than using animals. This seems like a reasonable interpretation of the 3Rs.

In other words, if a scientist can ask a human subject to follow a point of light with their eys, and then, say, beep a horn to see whether their attention is distracted, they should do so rather that conditioning a monkey to follow the point of light while restrained and working for a drop of liquid to overcome their fluid deprived thirst. One method is humane and the other is much less so. The 3Rs suggest that the use of humans in some studies is more ethical than using animals.

So, I was bothered by UW-Madison researchers who chose to - and were allowed to - use monkeys in a study that seems to have been more or less risk-free. I don't understand why human volunteers or paid participants weren't used.

I've posted the question at the PLoS article comment page, I've written to the editors of PLoS, and to Daniel J. Kelley, but have received no reply. My question is this: what characteristics of this study made it necessary to use animals, monkeys in this case, rather than human subjects?

If there is no good answer, then this seems to violate the spirit of the 3Rs and potentially, the letter of the Animal Welfare Act.

Automatic physiological waveform processing for FMRI noise correction and analysis Kelley DJ, Oakes TR, Greischar LL, Chung MK, Ollinger JM, Alexander AL, Shelton SE, Kalin NH, Davidson RJ. PLoS ONE. 2008.

Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America. [To whom correspondence should be addressed:]

Functional MRI resting state and connectivity studies of brain focus on neural fluctuations at low frequencies which share power with physiological fluctuations originating from lung and heart. Due to the lack of automated software to process physiological signals collected at high magnetic fields, a gap exists in the processing pathway between the acquisition of physiological data and its use in fMRI software for both physiological noise correction and functional analyses of brain activation and connectivity. To fill this gap, we developed an open source, physiological signal processing program, called PhysioNoise, in the python language. We tested its automated processing algorithms and dynamic signal visualization on resting monkey cardiac and respiratory waveforms. PhysioNoise consistently identifies physiological fluctuations for fMRI noise correction and also generates covariates for subsequent analyses of brain activation and connectivity.
Some more lip service:

"I consider myself a welfarist and think that animals need to be used only when absolutely necessary and under the most humane conditions.” From: Straight talk with… Frankie Trull. VOLUME 14 | NUMBER 2 | FEBRUARY 2008 NATURE MEDICINE

"The IACUC decides whether the researchers may conduct a study involving the use of animals and the parameters of such use. Some of the questions considered by the IACUC are: ... whether animals are absolutely necessary to achieve the result." From: Columbia University.

"What is often not realised is that scientists have strong ethical, economic and legal obligations to use animals in research only when absolutely necessary." From: The Research Defense Society (RDS).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Human Experimentation

"[P]ractically every present day protocol for the prevention, treatment, and control of disease, pain, and suffering is based on knowledge attained through research with animals." California Biomedical Research Association

Claims like this are ubiquitous in the propaganda defending animal experimentation. They must be written and published by people who have very limited knowledge of medical history.

In fact, human experimentation has been widespread and extensive throughout history. Claims that modern medical knowledge, practice, and treatments are primarily the result of animal experimentation conveniently overlook and disregard the many human research subjects used by scientists and doctors.

In very many cases, as chronicled in the books pictured above, these research subjects, the “human material,” have been slaves, the poor, prisoners, blacks, orphans, retarded people, and the elderly. In some cases, they’ve just been duped. This research has been carried out by lauded scientists and doctors (like Marian J. Simms pictured here) who have ridden to fame and fortune on the backs of the weak and defenseless. This body of work has contributed significantly to medical knowledge.

Claims that medical advancement has been dependent on animals is not only incorrect but also denies and thus discounts and demeans the suffering of the human victims of medical science whose health and lives have contributed to our body of medical knowledge.

There are parallels between the industry’s historical use of humans and current use animals.

In both cases:

the ambitions of the scientists had/have precedence over the well-being of the research subjects;

notoriety and/or financial benefit were/are common motivations for the research;

oversight was/is absent, or grudgingly or loosely enforced, resisted, or a public relations ploy;

defenders warned/warn of an end to medical science if the status quo is disturbed;

only in hindsight do mainstream journals and medical science organizations criticize the treatment of research subjects;

research methods and practices were/are secret;

criticism was/is dismissed out of hand;

critics were/are branded anti-science extremists.

Books pictured above include:

The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram
by Thomas Blass
From Publishers Weekly: "In the early 1960s, Stanley Milgram conducted a series of famous experiments proving that average citizens would readily inflict painful electric shocks on strangers if they were instructed orencouraged to do so by an authority figure." This explains the willingness of research assistants everywhere to hurt or kill when directed to do so.

The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness
by Jack El-Hai

The Treatment: The Story of Those Who Died in the Cincinnati Radiation Tests
by Martha Stephens
From Publishers Weekly: "From 1960 to 1972, a grisly and highly suspect research project was carried out in the bowels of Cincinnati General Hospital. Cancer patients, most of them in advanced stages of the disease, were exposed to massive quantities of radiation over long and continuous periods of time. Nearly all of them (over 100 altogether) died within weeks or months of the start of the irradiation 'therapy.'"

Subjected to Science: Human Experimentation in America before the Second World War (The Henry E. Sigerist Series in the History of Medicine)
by Susan E. Lederer
New England Journal of Medicine: "Lederer's writing is crisp and clear, her historical documentation is exhaustive, and her social commentary persuasive. This book is an important addition to the growing literature on the history of human experimentation and medical research."

Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison
by Allen Hornblum
From Library Journal:
"Relying on prisoners' firsthand reports, Hornblum (urban studies, Temple Univ.) has written a thorough account of the questionable medical experimentation carried out in Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison from the mid-1940s to 1974. Research on everything from cosmetics to chemical warfare agents was conducted there, often with minimal or no record keeping."

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
by Harriet A. Washington
From Publishers Weekly: Starred Review. "This groundbreaking study documents that the infamous Tuskegee experiments, in which black syphilitic men were studied but not treated, was simply the most publicized in a long, and continuing, history of the American medical establishment using African-Americans as unwitting or unwilling human guinea pigs. Washington, a journalist and bioethicist who has worked at Harvard Medical School and Tuskegee University, has accumulated a wealth of documentation, beginning with Thomas Jefferson exposing hundreds of slaves to an untried smallpox vaccine before using it on whites, to the 1990s, when the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University ran drug experiments on African-American and black Dominican boys to determine a genetic predisposition for 'disruptive behavior.'"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

UCLA Primate Freedom Website Mirror

From The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center:

UCLA Primate Freedom Website Mirror
by None
Monday Mar 17th, 2008 7:18 PM

The website of the UCLA Primate Freedom Project was shut down by an injunction.

But, now a mirror of the site has been set up:

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Vilas Monkeys in the news: 10 years later

WKOW, Madison's Channel 27, did a good job of covering the scandal 10 years ago. They put together a news segment on the occasion of the 10 year anniversary of the monkeys being shipped away.

It's well worth watching.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"UW never entered into an agreement like that..." (Vilas Monkeys)

Get this:
According to Bogle, Primate Center directors and members signed three different letters in 1989, 1990 and 1995, stating the center would not perform harmful experiments on the monkeys unless a monkey had unique genetic traits

UW Primate Center director Joe Kemnitz [pictured] said UW never entered into an agreement like that because it would not make sense.

From: Badger Herald. Friday, March 7, 2008
UW National Primate Research Center Director, Joseph Kemnitz: "UW never entered into an agreement like that..."

I am gladdened by Dr. Kemnitz's willingness to mislead a student reporter. It validates my impression that vivisectors are the most despicable of liars. This matters because I tend to trust what I'm being told and continually wonder whether I'm mistaken about the vivisectors' claims; I trust people not to lie. But I've seen over time the lies spewed by the vivisectors and their fans. It's good but very sad to know that my dismal opinions of them are justified.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Vilas Park Monkeys: The Ten Year Anniversary

In the summer of 1964, the University of Wisconsin Primate Center, then under the direction of Harry Harlow, built a monkey house at the Vilas Park Zoo, a park owned and operated by Dane County, WI.

In 1972, the Primate Center received one of the last groups of monkeys trapped and exported from India. These animals were kept in the monkey house and eventually became the largest continually observed intact social group of rhesus monkeys in the world.

By 1989, much had been written about this group and two other groups that were also housed at the monkey house. Some zoo goers knew the monkeys by name. The monkey house was the top attraction at the zoo until it was destroyed.

In 1989, public protest had been unable to stop the university from harvesting babies for use in its labs. Animal rights oriented graffiti began appearing on and around the monkey house. As a result, the Primate Center promised the Henry Vilas Zoo, in a written document – signed by the Primate Center director, Robert Goy, five senior staff, and by the monkey house supervisor – that no animals born at the zoo would ever again be used in any harmful experimentation, and that, if the animals were sent elsewhere, they would remain protected by the agreement.

The primate center renewed this agreement in writing on two subsequent occasions over the course of six years.

In 1997, a whistleblower leaked documents that demonstrated unequivocally that within months of the first agreement, the primate center had resumed its culling and that over the intervening eight years, at least 201 monkeys had been secretly taken from the zoo, experimented on and killed in the UW labs, or were sold to other labs around the country.

The university said it was sorry. Within days all funding for the care of the zoo monkeys dried up. The university said that the monkeys would have to be disposed of in some way. The university wanted to send the monkeys to a lab.

A Dane County Supervisor introduced a resolution asking that the Dane County consider ways to pay for the care of the monkeys or to have them relocated to a sanctuary. The university vigorously opposed the resolution and argued strongly against it before three committees and the entire Board of Supervisors. The University said the monkeys were a health risk and too expensive for the county to care for.

But school children raised money to protect the monkeys. Thousands of people signed a petition asking the university to work with the county to find a way to protect the monkeys and donated to the Monkey Protection Fund. Local media covered the story for months, three county sub-committees voted unanimously to help the monkeys, and the county government overwhelmingly passed the resolution intended to help the monkeys. The governor's wife, Sue Anne Thompson, recorded a public service announcement to help the monkeys, and no one who attended public meetings spoke against the monkeys or the resolution other than Primate Center staff and the chairman of the Zoo Commission.

In the end, the university successfully frightened Kathleen Falk, the Dane County Executive, into choosing not to use county funds to aid the monkeys. The Alliance for Animals found a sanctuary in San Antonio willing to take the monkeys; the sanctuary donated $15,000 to cover the transportation costs and initial care. The university refused to let the monkeys go there, calling it a “roadside zoo.” They shipped off two of the groups, the wild-captured group that had lived in the monkey house since 1972 and a second group, about 150 rhesus monkeys all told, on March 4, 1997, while people protested at the gate.

They were sent to the Tulane primate center where they endured ninety days of solitary confinement which Tulane termed quarantine. Their family groups were destroyed. Some were placed into breeding situations, some died (at least one during solitary confinement), others were experimented on and then killed.

The third group, about 50 stump-tailed macaques, was hard for the university to get rid of; no lab wanted them. They finally sent them to the same sanctuary that they had previously told Dane County Supervisors was a roadside zoo and far worse than a laboratory.

During the course of the agreement that they would not hurt the monkeys, the university secretly used and sold 201 of them, and then shipped 150 to Tulane. This amounts to 351 individual lies to the citizens of Dane County.

Once all the monkeys were gone, the university had the monkey house bulldozed and hauled away. It’s almost as if they didn’t want people to remember anything about the Vilas Park Monkeys.

This is only one of a number of occasions that the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the scientists working there have been caught lying to the public, violating scientific protocols or covering up the details of their experiments on monkeys.

Learn more at