Saturday, July 26, 2008

But what about Darfur?

My post about our many less than admirable tendencies coming together and making animal enterprises the most macabre nightmarish of circumstances prompted an anonymous challenge:

Anonymous said...
"Nowhere do the results of these less than admirable tendencies combine to create macabre nightmarish circumstances than in animal enterprises."

What about human torture in Irak?
What about ethnic cleansing in Kosovo? What about genocide in Darfur?

None of this qualifies?
I see that I left out “more.” Editing one’s own written work is error prone. I should have said:

“Nowhere do the results of these less than admirable tendencies combine to create more macabre nightmarish circumstances than in animal enterprises.”

The question this anonymous poster posses is an interesting one. The answer seems to be both yes and no depending on one's vantage.

When the question is considered from the perspective of an individual victim, then I think the answer is that the circumstances can be equally macabre and nightmarish. If we imagine ourselves as a civilian grabbed off the street, taken to a prison and held in dismal and distressing conditions, tortured repeatedly, and given no opportunity of legal recourse, or as a monkey or dog, taken to a lab, held in dismal and distressing conditions, tortured repeatedly, and having no hope of escape, and no understanding of why this is happening to us, then the evils are of a like kind and neither is any more hideous than the other.

When the question is considered a little more broadly, say Abu Ghraib and a primate lab with the same number of prisoners over a similar length of time, then here too perhaps, the evil is indistinguishable.

But when we step back farther, the similarities decline. In historical cases of widespread atrocity like Kosovo, Darfur, Cambodia, the Holocaust, the events have been of limited duration and roundly condemned by nearly every nation and political body. They are seen as aberrations, as dark punctuations in human history. As something we should learn from and work to make impossible in the future.

If we try to total the evil of these events with some sort of calculus of suffering - like the number of deaths - recognizing that such a measure leaves out the suffering of the survivors, we will come to a total of many millions who were killed. Combining the four named cases above, the total is probably less than 50 million killed in somewhere around 15 years. Considered together, this represents great suffering, and to each of the victims, as I mentioned above, their suffering cannot be deemed more or less than the suffering of the other victims.

In the case of animals, the situation is much different. Unlike the human victims above, animals are called into existence by us to suffer.

In spite of any and all instances of our atrocious behavior toward each other, we claim that we are such exalted beings that it is just and proper that animals should be raised in dismal conditions and killed because we enjoy the taste of their flesh.

Our behavior demonstrates our belief that we are such exalted beings that any suffering an animal might be forced to endure is just if it advances human knowledge an iota, or even if it just verifies for the nth time what we already know.

We claim that we are such exalted beings that an animal’s fear and pain is justified if it entertains us for but a moment.

We mutilate animals for our own esthetic values, we kill them at a rate that is impossible to truly grasp.

And few people blink an eye at this suffering or give pause to the millions manhandled and prodded and killed every day, to the billions killed every year, or to the millions tortured in the labs every year. And no end is in sight.

At the level of the individual, severe suffering cannot be rank-ordered. To those being tortured or experiencing what to them is torture at the hands of some tormentor, their lives have taken an equally nightmarish and macabre turn.

It is this similarity in suffering that demands that we change the most fundamental nature of our relationship with other animals. Denying that the animal enterprise is grotesquely more extreme and macabre than any past human atrocity is a denial of plain fact.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A small window

These images were made during an August 2006 USDA inspection of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. They have just come to light.





The image below shows a monkey who has gotten his or her arm stuck.

According to the inspector's notes:

In Building L, upon entering an animal room, this inspector noted that animal #r04046 appeared to have its arm stuck through the front of its enclosure. Upon further inspection it was determined that the animal was unable to free its arm. A later review of the animal's medical record revealed that the right arm had been trapped outside the enclosure on at least five occasions. The animal has been treated for swelling and/or trauma to the right hand and/or arm since 8/21/04. Although veterinary staff had been treating the animal the attending veterinarian was unaware of the persistence of the problem and no plans had been discussed to address the problem. Mechanism of direct and frequent communication is required to insure problems of animal health or behavior is [sic] conveyed to the attending veterinarian.
And, in another entry about the same situation:
In Building L, the USDA inspector observed animal care staff atempting to release an animal #r04046's arm through the front of its enclosure. After the lead technician was located and came to the site, he applied a tube and started to manipulate the arm in an attempt to free the animal. The arm was obvously swollen and in a few seconds of manipulation, the animal began to vocalize. The lead technician persited in manipulating the arm until the USDA inspector asked him to stop and to call the attending veterinarian. Handling of all animals must be done in a manner that does not cause trauma, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort. The attending veterinarian anesthetized the animal and bolt cutters were used to release the arm.
This monkey had been getting his or her arm stuck and tramatized for two years and animal "care" staff couldn't figure out what to do about it except to let it keep happening. And this is the outfit that's going to find the cure for AIDS?

Numb to Suffering


It is an unfortunate fact that we become inured.

The recent case of Esmin Elizabeth Green waiting for over 24 hours in an emergency room, falling to the floor, lying there unattended, dying, and then being kicked by a nurse to see whether she was alright is just a recent case in point, and it shouldn’t shock anyone.

When we are around suffering for days on end, it numbs us.

Add this trait to our tendency to come to perceive what is going on around us as normal, our tendency to protect those we see as part of our group, and the stage is set for institutionalized cruelty and institutions defending cruelty, and insiders believing that what they are doing is ok since it is the norm practiced by their peers.

This is why genuine third-party oversight is so critical to any endeavor that gives us power over others.

Nowhere do the results of these less than admirable tendencies combine to create macabre nightmarish circumstances than in animal enterprises. Undercover investigations show consistently cruel behavior by the people employed in these areas. Puppy mills, slaughterhouses, rodeos, vivisection labs, circuses, it seems that there is no animal enterprise that isn’t cruelty-filled.

There is something in our nature, as history richly demonstrates, that thrills to cruelty and suffering. Bull, dog, and cock fighting, baiting, hunting, endurance horse racing, we relish others’ suffering. Even in boxing matches, a bloodied face, a reeling blow to the head brings the screaming crowd to its feet.

Like the recent Eldorado Community Picnic in Eldorado, Wisconsin.
Hogs gone wild

50 team compete in Eldorado Picnic hog wrestling contest
By Sharon Roznik • The Reporter sroznik@fdlrerporter.com • July 20, 2008

ELDORADO — Blood-curdling squeals shattered the nerves of even die-hard hog wrestlers Saturday in Eldorado.

"The squealing is scary," said Susy Olson of Oshkosh, covered in muck after participating Saturday in the annual hog wrestling competition held during the Eldorado Lions and Firemen's Community Picnic.
Olson, a member of the "Ham Hocks" women's team, was holding onto glory as the "Hocks" took over first place for a brief but fleeting moment in the afternoon.

"God, right now all I want is a shower," she lamented as the sun baked brown blobs of mud on her arms, her eyelashes, the highlights in her hair.

Howls rose up from the mass of humanity crowded onto bleachers as the pink-eyed pigs slipped and slid their way through the collective hands of 50 teams vying, one after the other, for the coveted championship.

"They go to market a couple days later anyway," said Courtney Snider of Fond du Lac the livestock's last hurrah on earth.

Snider said she is back for her second year of taking on the porcine beasts because it's empowering, in it's own piggy way.

"Last year, I was wrestling with the police chief's daughter, who started to freak out and said she couldn't do it. She was screaming, 'It's the Silence of the Hogs!' and I told her to get a grip. But it's hard. It's the longest 60 seconds of your life in there," Snider said.

Assistant Fire Chief Gary Hass said the event, now in it's fourth year, keeps getting bigger. The goal is to catch a live pig and place it atop a padded barrel in 60 seconds or less.

This year's winning teams did the deed in 10 seconds or less.

"We split the proceeds with the Lions Club, and we use our share to purchase new equipment and update the old stuff," he said.

The dozens of hogs, borrowed from a local farmer, are kept cool and treated with the utmost respect, Hass said.

"It's kept very humane, the way it's done," he said.

Not buying that for a minute, the hogs huddled together drawing deep furrows in the muck with their snouts. They glared, squinted-eyed, each time a squealing comrade was herded away.

Firefighter Michael Leichtfuss, who manned the messy beasts, said the tricky part was sending each swine down the shoot and into the arena without the fuss.

A member of the "When Pigs Fly" team from Oshkosh, Quinn Peeren, was dressed all in pink, wearing silky wings and a pretty pink pig snout. On another day, she and her pals would be playing together on a softball team.

"It's fun but disgusting because your feet stick in the mud. We take off our wings but wear our snouts into the ring," she said.

Fond du Lac's "The White Boys" — Cory Duley, Adam Novak, Tye Oppermann and Travis Stobb — confirmed the gravity of the competition.

"It's an adrenaline rush," declared Duley.

The crowd roared as another pig slipped between the legs of hog wrestlers, now looking like Creatures from the Black Lagoon.

'This one's putting up a fight," the announcer boomed. "Don't let him get away."


I wonder how many of the people who attended this event were faculty and students of the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac Animal Science program? More than a few, I’ll wager. Want to bet how many farmers, vivisectors, slaughterhouse workers, cowboys, or puppy mill owners will write a letter to the Sheboygan paper criticizing the event?

When a community endorses and revels in cruelty, we shouldn't be suprised. It's in our nature. What should surprise us is our tendency to lie about it.

See too: http://www.eldoradohogwrestle.org/

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

AAALAC Fails Again

AAALAC is claimed by the vivisection community to be the "gold standard" of accreditation of humane animal care. I've written previously about this Fox News-ish organization's newspeak fraudulent claims.
Loyola's med school mistreated animals, reports show
Dog, rabbit deaths reported at med school

By Jodi S. Cohen Chicago Tribune reporter
July 22, 2008

U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of Loyola University's medical school found numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including improper procedures that resulted in the deaths of rabbits and dogs.

Three inspection reports of Loyola's biomedical research from 2006 and 2007 obtained by an animal rights group under the Freedom of Information Act revealed poor veterinary care, inadequately trained personnel and sloppy record keeping. Rabbits died from bacterial infections, and dogs died when they were not sufficiently monitored after surgery, the agency found.

In an October procedure, a rabbit suffered a fracture during a bonemarrow transplant and died the following day, according to the reports. In another case, a rabbit was observed as not doing well on Oct. 3, but laboratory records failed to indicate it was given any treatment or considered for euthanasia before it died Oct. 9.

Loyola laboratory employees did not provide adequate post-operative care of dogs when it left them unmonitored overnight, according to an inspection report. During those hours, complications occurred in five of the animals and all of them died by the following day.

....
Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine is an AAALAC accredited institution.

The Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, or AAALAC International,
is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs.

More than 750 companies, universities, hospitals, government agencies and other research institutions in 29 countries have earned AAALAC accreditation, demonstrating their commitment to responsible animal care and use.
....
Demonstrating their commitment, apparently, by not providing adequate post-operative care for the animals they vivisect.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dalai Lama Embraces Harry Harlow


It isn’t a coincidence that the bogus living incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion, chose to mention monkeys separated from their mothers when he addressed the crowd at the Coliseum in Madison. I haven’t seen a transcript, but have heard from those who shelled out the money to attend, that he is profoundly confused about the meaning of Harry Harlow’s cruel research on the maternal bond.

The Capital Times, a local paper, reports without comment:
Importance of mother: He cited studies where young monkeys separated from their mothers turned out angrier than siblings who stay with mom. “The most important person in your life is not teacher. It is your mother.” ("Words of wisdom from the Dalai Lama", 7/19/2008.
His Holiness is either a dolt or an ignoramus. In either case, he is the dupe of intellectually dishonest vivisectors and their supporters at the University of Wisconsin who diligently maintain the myth that Harlow’s work was in any manner or form beneficial to humans (except, of course, that it generated wages and income.)

I know they are dishonest because even when the historical facts are laid out for them, they continue to publicly defend Harlow’s work and claim that it was valuable to human well-being. It wasn’t. It did, however, demonstrate in spades that rhesus monkeys are as emotionally vulnerable as human children, a point the liars refuse to contemplate.

Let’s look at the facts.

Rene Spitz began his observational studies on large populations of human children in the 1930s. He described the contrasting effects of either being raised with a nurturing caregiver or being supplied with only adequate nutrition and medical care. He termed the results of maternal and emotional deprivation anaclitic depression or hospitalism. He reported that children raised without emotional warmth were retarded physically and emotionally.

See: Spitz R. Hospitalism: An inquiry into the genesis of psychiatric conditions in early childhood. In: Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Vol 1. New York, NY:. International Universities Press; 1945:53-74.

Spitz R. Anaclitic depression: An inquiry into the genesis of psychiatric conditions in early childhood II. In: Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Vol 2. New York, NY:. International Universities Press; 1946:313-342.

Harlow’s defenders commonly assert that prior to his studies, parents were taught to maintain a hands-off approach lest they spoil their children. They were taught, the Harlow crowd asserts, to let the baby cry, not to pick her up, and not to coddle her.

There was a time when this line of thinking was promoted by doctors, but in 1946 pediatrician Benjamin Spock published The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care which became an instant best seller and is widely acknowledged to be the most influential source on child care ever written. Encarta notes that it “sharply redefined the course of child care during the baby boom after World War II.”

Here’s an excerpt from a March 16, 1998, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer interview on the occasion of Dr. Spock's death. Dr. Stephen Parker is co-author of Dr. Spock's Baby & Child Care.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Were his ideas resisted, or were they pretty quickly adopted?

DR. STEVEN PARKER: Well, they were resisted by professionals, who, I think, had a vested interest in the advice [they] had been giving for the last twenty or thirty years. And this is quite different. But it was embraced by parents immediately in droves at a level that people had never anticipated. [My emphasis]

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We just heard a little bit about the way he thought. Tell us more about his ideas and what was new and what was really important in them.

DR. STEVEN PARKER: Well, to really understand the success and impact of Dr. Spock you have to remember the context in which he burst upon the scene. Child-rearing advice at the time was an incredibly dismal affair. Parents were told don't touch your child, don't kiss them, don't hug them, feed them on a schedule, let them cry, prepare them for a tough world by not being emotionally involved. And he came to it saying, well, wait a second, trust yourself. No parent inherently feels that way. Do what feels right for you, and you probably won't go wrong. And he based it too on his ideas of the understanding of child development, which included the importance of attachment and the emotional relationship between parent and child, and most of all, children needed to feel loved. And if they felt loved, almost everything else would follow from there. That was revolutionary in 1946, believe it or not.
Then we come to John Bowlby. He was commissioned by the World Health Organization to study the mental health of children who were “homeless in their native country” in post-war Europe. He began his studies in January 1950. His report, Maternal Care and Mental Health was published by WHO in 1951. High demand necessitated a second edition, which was published in 1952. The first section of the report is titled “Adverse Effects of Maternal Deprivation.” The only mention of an animal study in his report is brief mention of an unpublished(?) study on goats by H. Liddell.

In 1952, Bowlby’s assistant, James Robertson, published the short documentary, A-Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital.

To understand the motivation for Harlow’s entry into this area of psychology, consider a passage from the 1962, WHO publication, Deprivation of Maternal Care: A Reassessment of its Effects:
The conclusion Bowlby reaches in his monograph is that the prolonged deprivation of the young child of maternal care may have grave and far-reaching effects on his character and so on the whole of his future life; and he draws the corollary that the proper care of children deprived of a normal home life is not merely an act of common humanity, but essential to the mental and social welfare of a community. His indictment on the score of the nurseries, institutions, and hospitals of even the so-called advanced countries has contributed to a remarkable change in outlook that has led to a widespread improvement in the institutional care of children.

While the practical effects of Bowlby’s monograph in the realm of child care have been universally acknowledged to be wholly beneficial, his theoretical conclusions have been subjected to a considerable amount of criticism….[My emphasis]
It is this arcane criticism of Bowlby’s theoretical claims that brought Harlow into the field of maternal deprivation research. Harlow published "The Nature of Love" in 1958, more than a decade after Spitz’s seminal work, more than a decade after The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care became a best seller, and nearly a decade after Bowlby’s World Health Organization report.

By the time Harlow began his two-decades long series of grotesque and monstrous deprivation, isolation, and separation studies, the known effects on human children were unequivocal, well and widely known, and their prevention a matter of common practice.

And yet, the Dalai Lama, the UW’s dummy, claims that something important was learned from Harlow’s work.

He’s right in a way. We learned that rhesus children are as fragile as human children. We learned that any cruelty, no matter how pointless, is defended by the vivisection community and their ilk, and we learned that there is no bottom limit to the depravity that vivisectors will engage in.

And, in the aftermath, we've learned just how intellectually dishonest they can be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hiding the evidence

In The Nazi Doctors (Basic Books, 1986), Robert J. Lifton explains the disquiet and difficulty that medical doctors new to Auschwitz experienced during their first experiences with the selection process, the sorting of prisoners into two groups, those to go to the gas chambers immediately, and those to be killed later. The doctors made peace with the system by telling themselves and each other that the benefits to the German people outweighed the harm to the non-Aryans they were killing. They told themselves and each other that it was their duty as doctors to treat the country by eliminating the infection of Jews, Poles, Gypsies, the mentally ill, the infirm, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others deemed a risk to German racial purity. They might not really like it, and they might wish there was another way, but it fell to them as medical doctors to perform this healing task.

Everyone involved in the endeavor seems to have had pretty much the same outlook. They felt that, though odious, the job was needed and noble. If the Nazi’s had won, maybe we would now have a day off once a year to commemorate the ethnic cleansing.

In spite of their mutual support for the work, many of them must have known all along that what they were doing was immoral. As the war was nearing its final days, the Nazis worked hard to destroy the evidence of their work, going so far as to dismantle gas chambers and digging up bodies and crushing them.

There is something about all of this self-assurance during the act, the secrecy, and the effort to hide the evidence that suggests something about the psychology of vivisectors today.

The vivisectors commonly say that they don’t necessarily like hurting and killing animals, but that there is no other way; it’s just a necessary evil.

The details of what they do and how they treat the animals are carefully guarded. The data that is released is carefully constrained. No candid images, no narratives of the animals’ distress are commonly released to the public.

When the public learns of the existence of such data and asks for it, it is withheld, extensively censored prior to release, or destroyed outright.

Tours are carefully orchestrated strolls through Potemkin villages.

What this suggests is that, like the Nazi doctors, today’s vivisectors try to convince the public and themselves that they are doing good work and yet all the while know that what they are doing is wrong, or else, if they have convinced themselves that a career spent hurting and killing is somehow noble, that few others, if given the chance to look over their shoulder, would agree.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Feed children first

America’s vivisectors to the world: “Go to hell you poor hungry little bastards.”

In 2004, 2.6 billion people did not have access to basic sanitation. Poverty and the resulting nutritional deficits result in underweight children. Over a quarter of the world’s children are underweight. In 2000, this led to 3.4 million child deaths.

Meanwhile, vivisectors in the U.S. apply for funding to study the life-extending effects of caloric restriction, funding to create new animal models of obesity, addiction, heart disease, and stroke even though 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable with a healthy diet, regular activity, and abstaining from tobacco products.

Imagine watching millions of people starve but deciding to spend your life torturing monkeys to learn a little more about the neural circuits involved in fear. That’s sick.

Sicker still are the fear-mongering lies used to justify their glass bead games. They claim that improved health in the U.S. is the direct result of their cruelties and that if they stopped sacrificing animals, healthcare would collapse. But healthful food and sanitation are the real reasons that people are healthy as the statistics above demonstrate clearly.

If vivisectors really cared about people, they’d close their labs and demand that the money they would have used go instead to feed hungry children.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Dalai Lama's coming to town


Spiritual rock star Tenzin Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, the living incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion, will be teaching and conducting religious ceremonies in Madison and at Deer Park from July 19th through the 24th. He’s a regular visitor to Madison and always attracts a huge crowd of admirers. The largest arena in Madison, the Alliant Energy Center Coliseum is booked for four days. Tickets range in price from $25 to $200 for each of many talks.

One of the things he will talk about while in Madison is Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara, commonly called the Guide to a Bodhisattva's Way of Life. The poem is a common topic of Tenzin Gyatso's, but one which seems more than a little out of whack.

A primary message in Shantideva’s long poem is that concern for all sentient beings and effort on their behalf is the route to enlightenment. [“One should always look straight at sentient beings as if drinking them in with the eyes, thinking, ‘relying on them alone, I shall attain Buddhahood.’”]

It’s odd that Tenzin Gyatso talks about the Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life because he personally teaches a contrary lesson. According to him, hurting and killing sentient beings is admirable if one does it because he or she truly believes that by doing so better sentient beings will benefit. (Apparently, even the flavor of their flesh is sufficient.)

This seems to be a common thread in the Dalai Lama’s circle. When I met with Geshe Sopa, he argued that because humans are so much more valuable than animals that hurting animals in the name of helping humans is a good thing. This is why the vivisection community adores the Dalai Lama.

Because the opinions and pronouncements of celebrities carry much (undue) weight and influence the behavior of so many, public criticism of them, when they promote cruelty, bigotry, or any other evil, is more than justified.

I hope that as the Dalai Lama prepares for his talk in Madison on Shantideva’s Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life that he notices the text’s fundamental message of not harming or contributing to the harm of other sentient beings.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Trait-like anxious temperament in primates

Richard Davidson and company have published a new paper:

Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Trait-like brain activity during adolescence predicts anxious temperament in primates. PLoS ONE. 2008. I hope someone will look it over and answer a couple of questions for me.

The authors’ begin with this:
[D]ata now demonstrate that children with this disposition [shy children, or those with anxious temperament] are at increased risk to develop anxiety, depression, and comorbid substance abuse. Additional key features of anxious temperament are that it appears at a young age, it is a stable characteristic of individuals, and even in non-threatening environments it is associated with increased psychic anxiety and somatic tension… To understand the neural underpinnings of anxious temperament, we performed imaging studies with 18-fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG) high-resolution Positron Emission Tomography (PET) in young rhesus monkeys. Rhesus monkeys were used because they provide a well validated model of anxious temperament for studies that cannot be performed in human children.
1. Why couldn’t the neural underpinnings of anxious temperament have been studied in humans? In other words, what was done in this study that isn’t done in humans that absolutely had to be done to answer the question?

A little online research shows that FDG is used in human brain imaging studies, and that children have been routinely used in studies that intentionally place them in emotionally stressful conditions.

2. Why monkeys?

The authors’ write:
Young rhesus monkeys are ideal for this work because numerous studies validate their use in modeling childhood anxious temperament.
But anxious temperament seems to have been studied in rats (Ray J, Hansen S. Temperamental development in the rat: the first year. Dev Psychobiol. 2005) and mice (Calatayud F, Coubard S, Belzung C. Emotional reactivity in mice may not be inherited but influenced by parents. Physiol Behav. 2004).

People who experiment on a particular species do so habitually, not because that species is the best suited for a particular study, but because it is the species they use. It appears that there are many vivisectors who claim that rats are important models of human emotional reactivity and study rats’ amygdales, orbitofrontal cortexes, and hippocampuses. It doesn’t appear that any of the brain regions under study in this paper aren’t also being studied in rats.

Let me be clear: I don’t think rats should be used in harmful or frightening experiments either. But the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s spokespersons on these matters say that the campus oversight committees are committed to the 3Rs. Here's a powerpoint from them. Coincidentally, the issue of the appropriateness of phylogenic order (species) was the subject of an article in the July 2008 issue of Lab Animal: “Deciding which animals to use” (293-295). In that article, USDA is clear: “The principle investigator must consider alternatives (e.g., replacement with a species of a lower phylogenic order ...)”. I suspect that the oversight committee failed again to do its job.

3. Why did they use venipuncture to sample cortisol levels?

The authors state that they expected the monkeys they used to be anxious under all conditions. Anxiety is trait-like in these monkeys. Yet, they write:
To minimize the effects of handling and injection, animals were adapted to all procedures associated with the handling and injection (with the exception of inserting the syringe) 5-days a week for up to 21 days prior to scanning.
But scientists studying human children don’t use this method:
[T]he Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), was administered to 30 adolescents with major depressive disorder and 25 healthy adolescent volunteers. Cortisol concentrations were measured in saliva samples collected before and after the stressor. Rao U, Hammen C, Ortiz LR, Chen LA, Poland RE. (Effects of Early and Recent Adverse Experiences on Adrenal Response to Psychosocial Stress in Depressed Adolescents. Biol Psychiatry. 2008.)
Vertebrates’ brains are highly interconnected complex systems; mental and emotional functioning are part and parcel of the feedback and parallel processing made possible by this interconnectivity. This isn’t news.

4. So why was the publication of this paper hyped by the UW?

It can’t be the long-known fact that some young monkeys with an anxious temperament don't grow out of it, in spite of the headline: ONCE A SHY MONKEY, ALWAYS A SHY MONKEY? NEW STUDY SHOWS PERSISTENCE OF ANXIETY. The authors seem to have known this for at least a decade. See: Kalin NH, Larson C, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Asymmetric frontal brain activity, cortisol, and behavior associated with fearful temperament in rhesus monkeys. Behav Neurosci. 1998.

I hope one of the many “anonymous” visitors here will take the time to answer these questions for me.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Can apes talk?

"When I use a word..."

On April 18, 2008 I wrote to the 87 authors of the letter that appeared in the April 15th issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry, “Attacks Against Medical Researchers: Time to Take a Stand.” I haven’t heard back.

I wrote:
In the fourth paragraph, you made the claim and assertion that in spite of improvements in animal care, activists continue to be unruly. “The recent events at UCLA make clear that diligently improving the ethical standards for primate research procedures is not, by itself, sufficient to prevent attacks.” I am a very close observer of primate research in the U.S. and have no idea what this claim might be referring to; no reference was included in your statement.
I’m still searching for evidence that might support these 87 authors’ claim that the industry has been diligently improving the ethical standards for primate research. I’m currently reading the National Research Council’s 2008 publication Recognition and Alleviation of Distress in Laboratory Animals but have yet to come across any evidence in support of their claim. Maybe it’s hiding elsewhere.

One thing in Distress that seems particularly troubling and indicative is the caveat that distress should be understood as a negative deviation from an animal’s “normal” state of being. (The authors note that all animal behavior in a laboratory setting is abnormal. They note that “normal” in a laboratory setting refers to the species-typical behavior of an animal in a lab when not being subjected to or anxious about husbandry- or research-related negative stressors.)

They write:
Recognition of stress and distress in laboratory animals requires an understanding of the species-, gender-, and age-specific norms, because the normal range of some of these variables may vary as a function of gender, age, physiological state, or genetic characteristics. Values outside normalcy, therefore, may or may not serve as clinical indicators of a disease state. Various transgenic and knockout mice that exhibit severe behavioral and physiological phenotypes appear abnormal relative to their control littermates, but are normal for their genotype. For example, it is appropriate to evaluate Huntington’s disease transgenic mice for signs of stress and distress only relative to their own “normal” behavior, taking into account their particular genetic makeup, their abnormal motor patterns, and reduced weight gain. (25-26)
In other words, when vivisectors intentionally breed an animal to have characteristics that are normally seen as indicators of stress or distress, they can (and should apparently) simply claim that the animal is normal and not stressed or in distress.

No matter how much suffering is induced by these intentional mutations vivisectors can claim that they are behaving normally.

This twisting of common sense and the accepted meaning of words fits the pattern. Another example is Richard Davidson’s strong denial that monkeys in his research are hurt. Holes are drilled through their skulls, parts of their brains damaged, and they are intentionally frightened. (And of course, they are living in a bleak laboratory environment.) But, he says, because the protocol does not stipulate the use of pain, the monkeys aren’t being hurt.

This pattern explains why vivisectors routinely chant the mantra of meaningful oversight. In spite of strong evidence that the oversight system doesn’t work well, they claim it does, and point to the pages of putative regulation. It’s form over substance.

This pattern predicts that key words used by vivisectors will have meanings different from their meaning in common parlance. This, not too coincidentally, means that they can say that animals aren’t being hurt and that the research is well regulated and mean something quite different than the common meaning of the words they use.