Thursday, December 31, 2009

UW-Madison Animal Care Failures in the Spotlight

December 30, 2009
A rare joint federal investigation of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's animal research program found multiple federal animal welfare violations, which could potentially compromise the program's funding. Linda Eggert reports.




Read the USDA report here.

A transcript of the video is available here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

UW-Madison Not Concerned About Animals' Pain

I believe it is important to present the facts, not just the spin, put on the review process by animal rights activists.

For a UW-Madison scientist to conduct any experiment with an animal, he or she must submit a 35-question animal care and use protocol application to one of the University's Animal Care and Use Committees (ACUCs). The protocol must describe specifically what the animals will experience, and what steps will be taken to minimize pain or distress.” Public Does Know About Experiments. Eric Sandgren, Director, UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center. April 23, 2005. Madison.com.
Here’s some “spin” from the USDA (Click the image for a larger view.):



You can read the entire report here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Arguments Against and For Animal Experimentation

In simple terms, there are two arguments used by critics of animal experimentation: efficacy (usually referred to as the scientific argument) and suffering (which is usually referred to as the ethical argument.)

The scientific argument has an ethical foundation, while the ethical argument rests firmly on the implications of scientific discoveries.

Throw into this topsy-turvy mix what is essentially a faith-based defense of animal experimentation by its adherents or the dissembling by those with a vested interest in vivisection and you have an olio of positions and claims that a bystander is likely to find as confusing and at times as inscrutable as a heated theological debate between Missouri Synod and Evangelical Lutherans.

The scientific argument makes the basic claim that species differences overwhelm the similarities between say, humans and macaques, and make discoveries in macaques largely inapplicable to humans; put another way, the details of the biology of one species or strain aren’t reliable predictors of the details of biology in a different species or strain. This claim has been examined and defended in considerable detail both from a theoretical vantage (Brute Science: Dilemmas of Animal Experimentation. LaFollette H, Shanks N. Routledge, 1997; Animal Models in Light of Evolution. Shanks N, Greek R. Brown Walker Press. 2009.) and empirically (see for instance the many examples cited in Greek C, Greek J. 2000, 2002, 2004; Comparison of treatment effects between animal experiments and clinical trials: systematic review. Perel P, Roberts I, Sena E, Wheble P, Briscoe C, Sandercock P, Macleod M, Mignini LE, Jayaram P, Khan KS. BMJ. 2007.)

This evidence and the theoretical explanations for the cited failures of one species to meaningfully predict another species’ reaction or response to a drug or disease-causing agent is used by critics to argue that animal experimentation should be severely curtailed or stopped altogether. They argue essentially that animal models are misleading and necessarily reduce the financial support available for clinical research. If animal experimentation isn’t as productive as clinical and human cell- and tissue-based methodologies, then it should be stopped because the best methods should receive the funding.
This argument seems doomed to fail because it rests on an often unspoken belief about societal ethics: If experiments on animals aren’t the most productive methods, then hurting and killing them isn’t justified. This is why vivisection’s adherents and leaders sometimes call it a necessary evil. The scientific argument is predicated on the assumption that we will stop doing something that hurts others if it can be pointed out to us that the benefits we thought we were getting aren’t actually forthcoming.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case. The benefits we accrue from hurting others need be only very slight, arguably trivial, to justify great harm. Most of us find flavor alone to be more than adequate justification for hurting and killing animals. If the taste of a fried egg is enough to keep us supporting the caged-egg industry, then it is hard to see how even the most remote possibility of some small medical advance won’t be enough to keep most of us silent or uninterested in the plight of the animals in the labs.

The ethical argument makes the claim that other animals suffer much like we would if we were treated like they are treated, and thus, justice and compassion demand that we severely curtail animal experimentation or stop it altogether whether or not there is any value in the practice.

The claim of similarity is rooted in science. A large and constantly growing body of evidence is demonstrating cognitive characteristics of other animals that have traditionally been used to delineate the claimed moral divide between them and us. People making the ethical argument point to the work of scientists like Jane Goodall, Donald Griffin, Irene Pepperberg, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Marc Bekoff, and articles like National Geographic’s “Animal Minds.”

This seems to be the argument that is having the greatest effect. One reason the more straightforward concern about animals might have greater impact than an argument about the low value of animal models is suggested by medical historian Robert N. Proctor in a comment about branding Nazi medical science as quackery:
It is curious that, immediately after the war, people were eager to argue that Nazi medical experiments “were not even good science.” The American prosecutor at Nuremberg, for example, felt compelled to point out that Nazi medical experiments were “insufficient and unscientific,” “a ghastly failure as well as a hideous crime.” One is left with the impression that if such experiments had been “good science,” this would somehow make a difference in our attitudes toward them. And yet the cruelty of an experiment is not lessened by its scientific value. Furthermore, Nazi experiments were not entirely “insufficient and unscientific,” in the restricted sense of these terms. The experiments were undertaken by trained professionals; the results were presented at prestigious conferences and scientific academies. (Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis. Harvard University Press, 1988. p. 220).
The growing recognition and acknowledgement that other animals suffer as we would seems to be the driving force behind the bans on pig farrowing crates, experiments on chimpanzees, bullfights, etc. Questions of economics, wasted opportunities, or misleading results hardly matter once someone begins to empathize with an animal being hurt.

On the other side of the issue, there seems generally to be two camps, though some people clearly have a foot in both while some aren't aware that there are two camps. There are the adherents and the vested.

The arguments used by adherents seem similar in nature to the arguments used by adherents of any faith-based belief system. Among adherents there is an unwillingness or inability to examine, let alone challenge the fundamental tenents. There seems to be a blind belief at work that disallows much critical thought that is coupled with a broad acceptance of dogma. A good example of this are the assertions made by Tom Holder, spokesperson for ProTest a.k.a. SpeakingofResearch. Holder claims that all medical progress is the result of animal experimentation. Period. No doubt, just unquestioning faith. (See P. Michael Conn is a Liar.)

There is irony in the adherents’ blind faith. On the one hand, they see themselves as champions or at least believers in rational thought. They decry the denial of science they claim to see all around, the lack of science education, which they claim, explains much of the criticism they receive. They claim that those who speak out for animals are driven by a hatred of humans, but then ravage anyone who disagrees with them. They deny the evidence that disproves their beliefs, and refuse to test their faith.

The adherents are led by those, like the Benny Hinns of evangelical Christianity, who may understand the falseness of their claims, but who reap great riches from the mythology. Thus, the Holders and the people duped and preyed upon by organizations like the Foundation for Biomedical Research fawn at the feet of those they perceive to be their potential saviors or whom they see as authority figures—perhaps driven by some need for approval from a father figure.

The Benny Hinn want-to-bes of the vivisection industry, the P. Michael Conns, the Colin Blakemores, the David Jentsches, these people understand where their mortgage and boat payments come from. They understand that it is in their own financial best interests to sell the Holders on the idea that vivisection is a sacred talisman, to sell the media on the notion that they wish they didn’t have to hurt and kill animals, and that the animals are all respected and well-cared for. They seem to believe that were the public to learn the truth, that they might be pilloried or at the least be forced look for honest work. To the critical ear, their claims sound much like Benny Hinn’s tongues, but to the Holders, it is revealed truth.

So, on the one hand are the critics, whose scientific arguments are actually moral ones, and critics whose ethical arguments are actually scientific ones. On the other hand are the champions of science who refuse to confront the history of medicine or to acknowledge the implications in the discoveries concerning animals’ minds and who blindly follow the tongue-speaking vested interests who work to keep their dark world a secret and mislead and frighten an understandably confused public.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"The top 5 people of 2009"

From TheScientist.com:
Erika Sasaki

Sasaki, from the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, Japan, led the team of researchers that successfully generated the world's first transgenic primates capable of passing on a foreign gene to their offspring. The research, published in Nature, brings scientists one step closer to being able to use primates as models for studying human neurological and behavioral conditions, such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The team injected viral vectors with a green fluorescence protein transgene into embryos of marmosets. Out of 80 transgenic embryos planted into 50 surrogate mothers, five offspring survived, all of which expressed the glowing transgene. [my emphasis]
Hello? So what should the monkeys being used in these studies be called if not "models for studying human neurological and behavioral conditions"?

Deep brain stimulation reduces neuronal entropy in the MPTP-primate model of Parkinson's disease. Dorval AD, Russo GS, Hashimoto T, Xu W, Grill WM, Vitek JL. J Neurophysiol. 2008.

Development of a stable, early stage unilateral model of Parkinson's disease in middle-aged rhesus monkeys. Ding F, Luan L, Ai Y, Walton A, Gerhardt GA, Gash DM, Grondin R, Zhang Z. Exp Neurol. 2008.

Human neural stem cells migrate along the nigrostriatal pathway in a primate model of Parkinson's disease. Bjugstad KB, Teng YD, Redmond DE Jr, Elsworth JD, Roth RH, Cornelius SK, Snyder EY, Sladek JR Jr. Exp Neurol. 2008.

Influence of cell preparation and target location on the behavioral recovery after striatal transplantation of fetal dopaminergic neurons in a primate model of Parkinson's disease. Redmond DE Jr, Vinuela A, Kordower JH, Isacson O. Neurobiol Dis. 2008.

Oh wait, I know what to call the monkeys used in these experiments, victims.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

VandeBerg is all wet

It isn’t a coincidence that the people most worried by the slow and steady increase in the public’s concern about the use of animals in science are those who have the greatest financial interest in its continuation. Take for example, John L. VandeBerg.

VandeBerg is the director of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research [and here]in San Antonio, Texas. In 2008, SFBR received $28,054,335 in taxpayer dollars to conduct experiments on animals, primarily monkeys. According to its website, SFBR has about 2200 baboons, the world’s largest captive colony they boast, 160 chimpanzees, and an unspecified number of other animals. USDA reports that they also have over 2000 opossums.

VandeBerg has voiced his alarm at the apparent trend toward a lessening of public support for animal research (even while government is increasing the tax dollars it gives to facilities like VandeBerg’s – so much for democracy.) But VandeBerg is incorrect, I think, when he argues that the reduction in public support is due to a growing mistaken belief, in VandeBerg’s terms, that animals aren’t productive models of human disease and drug response.

It is far from clear that the public’s growing distaste for the likes of VandeBerg stems from a misunderstanding of the history of medicine. It is more likely that this trend is due to a growing awareness that animals aren’t so different from us that hurting them isn’t immoral. This slow awakening to the minds and emotions of our fellow earthlings is likely due to television and the Internet and articles in popular magazines like National Geographic.

VandeBerg seems to have missed the fact that the use of animals in society is being challenged on all fronts. Circuses are being criticized for their treatment of animals, the animal farming industry is under fire, fur farms, puppy mills, bull fighting, where ever animals are being hurt, voices in opposition are becoming more noticeable, and according to VandeBerg, are having an effect.

If I’m right, then arguments about whether or not animal experimentation has led to advancements in AIDS treatments hardly matter, just as they wouldn’t matter, and would be just as distasteful if the VandeBergs of the world were arguing that experiments on poor human orphans were responsible for advancements in AIDS treatments and that a ban on their use would stifle medical progress. I don’t think most people (except maybe the VandeBergs being paid to infect them or round them up) would be moved by such claims.

His claim that animal experimentation has yielded some benefit is beside the point. (His claim about all of modern medicine is just strident hyperbole) The animal ag producers seem to understand that pointing to the rich array of cuts of beef, or pork, or the many recipes using chicken really don’t deflect people’s concerns over slaughter house images or the pictures of animals being beaten and abused on the farms.

The question of whether or not the use of non-human animals have been responsible for advancements in medical care is interesting, but it is many orders of magnitude less important than the question of whether it is moral to hurt others to benefit ourselves.

And it is pretty clear from even the weak system of oversight that holds facilities like SFBR to very minimum standards of care, that VandeBerg’s facility is just as hideous as the rest of the animal labs, that the people charged with “caring” for the animals don’t really care very much.

Here’s an entry from Elizabeth Pannill, DVM, a USDA/APHIS inspector’s May 18, 2009 inspection of VandeBerg’s facility:
B Cages # 6 Baboons from [sic] normally housed in this enclosure were in the holding chute while their primary enclosure was being cleaned. The drain had malfunctioned allowing waste water [sic] to accumulate in the chute containing the animals. The animals were standing in several inches of fecal/food contaminated water and their hair coats were wet. The animals were moved upon caretaker notification of the problem. All drains must be kept in working order and holding areas checked for standing water prior to release of animals into them to minimize contamination and disease risk to the animals.
The question of the efficacy of animal models or benefit to humans is interesting, but it misses the point. Nevertheless, from a sociological or scientific vantage, it is interesting in a couple of ways. For one thing, the way it is answered suggests much about someone’s beliefs and degree of knowledge. For instance, VandeBerg writes somewhat confusedly regarding polio:
The Salk vaccine was developed in 1952 using hundreds of thousands of rhesus monkeys and eliminated the nearly 47,000 cases that occurred annually during the epidemic of 1952 and 1953.
Actually, researchers in the US began importing rhesus monkeys at the turn of the century for polio research. The total number of rhesus monkeys used is unknown, but some estimates range as high as 5 million, which may be conservative. Primate research defender Deborah Blum writes in The Monkey Wars:
It used to be worse. It’s been a long time, but even primate researchers still talk with awe, and some dismay, about how many animals were used to develop a polio vaccine. “We went through a hell of a lot of monkeys,” says one high-ranking administrator at the NIH primate program. Before the race for the polio vaccine there were an estimated 5 to 10 million macaques in India. During the height of the vaccine work, in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, the United States alone was importing more than 200,000 monkeys a year, mostly from India. By the late 1970s, there were fewer than 200,000 rhesus macaques in India. (Oxford. 1994 p 250.)
Vivisectors have been making wild claims about the benefits of their animal experiments for as long, apparently, as there have been vivisectors. For instance, regarding polio:
In 1911, the New York Times gushed that polio would soon go the way of smallpox, typhus, and other vanquished plagues. Its impeccable—if single—source was [Simon] Flexner himself. “We have already discovered how to prevent infantile paralysis [polio],” he noted. “The achievement of a cure, I may conservatively say, is not now far distant.”

Whatever led Flexner to make this wild prediction he never revealed. Perhaps the giant strides being made against other infectious diseases in recent years clouded his judgment. Or perhaps the growing strength of the antivivisection lobby, which had begun to target Flexner’s use of monkeys in his medical research, encouraged him to show more progress than had actually occurred. Either way, his statement became the model of the false optimism that would dominate polio studies over the next forty years.

Research would later show that the poliovirus entered through the mouth. What had led Flexner astray? For one thing, he unluckily chose the wrong monkey for his experiments. Macaca mulatta (rhesus monkey) is one of the rare primates that cannot contract polio through oral feeding. The virus simply does not replicate in its digestive track.

…This error, in turn, led to others. By passing poliovirus repeatedly through the brains and spinal columns of his monkeys, Flexner produced a strain—known as MV or mixed virus—that was highly neurotropic, able to multiply only in nervous tissue. This made the conquest of polio even more problematic since animal nervous tissue can provoke a serious allergic reaction in humans, making it a dangerous medium for growing the poliovirus needed for a workable vaccine. Given Flexner’s prominence, MV quickly became the strain of choice in the polio field, leading researchers down yet another blind alley. [emphasis in original] (David M. Oshinsky. Polio: An American Story. Oxford. 2005. pp 18-19.)
This wasn’t remedied until 1949 when Enders et al invented a way to grow the virus in vitro. See: P. Michael Conn is a Liar.

Maybe, from VandeBerg’s financially vested perspective, it is better to say simply and erroneously that the polio vaccine is the result of experiments on rhesus monkeys.

It is an interesting aside that the New York Times article mentioned smallpox and typhus as examples of vanquished diseases. Neither of these diseases was conquered as a result of experiments on animals. Jennifer Lee Carrell’s The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling the Smallpox Epidemic, is a good source for the history of smallpox inoculations. Typhus, on the other hand, apparently remains a serious problem and is best prevented by good hygiene.

VandeBerg seems to make the claim that only chimpanzees can be used in hepatitis C research, or at least that’s how I read his assertion:
Robert Lanford recently reported promising results in chimpanzees with a drug using a new strategy to prevent the hepatitis C virus from replicating. The drug, now in clinical trials, may soon be available to treat 3.2 million infected Americans and 170 million people worldwide. Chimpanzees are the only nonhuman animal model in which these tests can be undertaken.
VandeBerg’s writing isn’t too clear, as the polio comment makes clear, but I think he is saying here that only chimpanzees can be used in this sort of research. But there apparently is at least one other animal that is used in hepatitis C research, according to the NIH: the SCID-Alb-uPA chimera mouse model engrafted with human livers. It seems that VandeBerg is either uninformed or being intentionally misleading.

His other claims are not too strong either. It’s easy to make grandiose claims linking animal experimentation to every known treatable condition, but quite another to show a clear chain of dependency and causation. He provides no details for his claims so they have to be taken with a very large block of salt. But, as I wrote above, does it really matter whether he is right or wrong? The 2000 baboons and 2000 opossums at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research are doomed to be used at the whim of people who see them as expendable tools, people who eat animals, wear animals’ skins, and may even hunt and fish. Why would they care for the animals they experiment on? This is a point apparently missed altogether by the top scientist at Southwest.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vivisectors Turn to "Terrorism"

As I mentioned earlier, vivisector have their panties in a bunch over the decision by Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis not to allow OSU vivisectors to conduct terminal experiments on baboons.

The vivisectors have claimed almost uniformly that the decision was driven by fear of animal rights activists. See for instance the strident mouth-foaming at SpeakingofResearch.

As far as I can tell, the decision didn’t have anything to do with animal rights activism, per se. It clearly had nothing to do with the direct action brand of activism that the vivisectors make a point of claiming that they are opposed to. The project was stopped because the university’s wealthiest, maybe most generous donor, asked them not to kill the baboons. The extreme fringe of the vivisection community spun this into an attack on animal research on a par with flooding Edythe London’s home or blowing up David Jentsch's car.

Anyway, the reason I’m calling attention to the post at SpeakingofResearch is to point out two things: that organization has the support of the extreme fringe of the scientific community and thus, the likely approval of the institutions that skim the tax-payer money that is awarded to their supporters for their cruelty; and that they have made the decision to start posting photographs of the people they are attacking, in this case, OSU president, Burns Hargis. Here’s the image SpeakingofResearch posted:
In my opinion, this is a signal of agreement from the government-funded vivisection extremists that putting personal information like pictures of people on line is an acceptable element of the debate and effort to influence people to change their behavior.

It might be argued, as vivisectors do in regard to themselves, that if Hargis feels uncomfortable with his image being posted on an extremist site, then in fact, SpeakingofResearch is guilty of terrorism, by the vivisectors’ own definition of the term.

Per Capita Primate Experimentation

A friend recently noticed that Germany and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have about the same number of monkeys in their labs.

There are about 82 million people in Germany and about a quarter of a million people in Madison. Roughly, there are 2,500 primates in German labs and 2,000 at UW-Madison.

So, on a per capita basis, Germans use about .00003 monkeys per person while UW-Madison uses about .008 monkeys per person, or, put another way, UW-Madison uses about 267 times as many monkeys per person as does Germany. Maybe the Madison vivisectors just care more about people than German vivisectors do.

Interestingly, all of Europe uses about 10,000 monkeys a year. Madison is home to one of the gigantic Covance labs. The Covance lab in Madison has about 7,000 monkeys, which means that, altogether, Madison alone uses almost as many monkeys as all of Europe combined.

On a per capita basis, this means that Europe, with its approximately 830 million people uses about .00001 monkeys per person while Madison uses about .036 monkeys per person, or, put another way, Madison consumes about 3,600 times more monkeys per person than does Europe.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Intelligent and Gentle

There is something deeply, profoundly evil in this admission.

Exp Anim. 2009 Oct;58(5):451-7.

Japanese macaques as laboratory animals.
Isa T, Yamane I, Hamai M, Inagaki H.

Section for NBR Promotion, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Myodaiji, Okazaki, Japan.

The Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), along with rhesus and long-tailed macaques, is one of the macaca species. In Japan, it has been preferred for use as a laboratory animal, particularly in the field of neuroscience, because of its high level of intelligence and its gentle nature. In addition, the species has a relatively homogeneous genetic background and field researchers have accumulated abundant information on the social behavior of wild Japanese macaques. As future neuroscience research will undoubtedly be more focused on the higher cognitive functions of the brain, including social behavior among multiple individuals, the Japanese macaque can be expected to become even more valuable as a laboratory animal in the near future. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has launched a National BioResource Project (NBRP) to establish a stable breeding and supply system for Japanese macaques for laboratory use. The project is in progress and should lead to the establishment of a National Primate Center in Japan, which will support the supply of monkeys as well as social outreach and handling of animal welfare issues.

Monday, December 14, 2009

BSL-3 Labs "Multiplying Like Rabbits"


About a month ago, Barton Kunstler published "Biolabs Multiplying Like Rabbits: A Clear and Present Danger" on The Huffington Post. It's worth reading, but I wish he had included some links or had better identified sources for some of his observations.

In any case, his fundamental point, best stated in the title of his article, caught my eye. Some quick on-line reseach yielded the data I have graphed above. It appears that Kuntsler is correct.

My data comes from the NIH RePORTER database, the on-line tool that has replaced CRISP. In some ways it isn't as good as the old system, in some ways better. I searched using the term "bsl-3" and recorded the results as far back as the new system goes. (The CRISP went back a decade earlier. There has been a significant loss of historical data that was once available to the public, but that's another matter.)

This graph doesn't begin to tell the full story however. For instance, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are at least a few of these labs, [and here] and the university wants to build more. In their funding request to the NIH, they explained that they wanted another of these labs because it would give them better opportunity to attract more research funding. This was a rare case of honesty.

It's just a matter of time before some horrible accident(s) occurs.

See too:

BSL-3s are Hazardous to Your Health
UW-Madison: Bumbling Oafs or Big Fat Liars?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Perspectives on the Science and Ethics of Animal-Based Research

UCLA, Covel Commons, 6pm-8:30pm, February 16th, 2010

With the goal of opening an on-going dialogue between individuals who are in favor or opposed to the use of animals in biomedical research, Bruins for Animals and Pro-Test for Science will be hosting a panel discussion on this complex topic. The event is open to those who want to engage in a civil, intellectually honest discussion on issues about which people hold passionate, differing opinions.

Three panelists on each side will briefly present their personal views on the topic, followed by moderator-driven discussion that will be responsive to questions submitted by the audience.

The event will be moderated by David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times.

The panel participants are:

Janet D. Stemwedel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy, San Jose State University.

Professor Stemwedel will discuss her views about the ethical issues around animal use in scientific research.

Ray Greek, M.D.
President of Americans for Medical Advancement

Dr. Greek will discuss his views about the use of animals to predict human response.

Colin Blakemore, FMedSci FRS
Professor of Neuroscience, Oxford University.

Professor Blakemore will discuss his views on the role of animal research in medicine and public health.

Lawrence Hansen, M.D.
Professor of Neurosciences and Pathology, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Hansen will discuss his views about the use of animals in basic research.

Dario L. Ringach, Ph.D.
Professor of Neurobiology and Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

Professor Ringach will present is views on the role of basic science in driving medical advancement and knowledge.

Robert Jones, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, California State University, Chico

Professor Jones will discuss the philosophical and ethical implications of using nonhuman animals as subjects in medical and scientific research.


Admission is open to ticketed individuals only. For information on requesting tickets, please [visit] http://bruinsforanimals.org/ [or] http://www.pro-test-for-science.org

Monday, December 7, 2009

Osama and Me




Keep this image in your mind, you'll see a smaller version being used by the University of Wisconsin-Madison below.

Anti-cruelty activists are sometimes criticized for demonizing people who experiment on animals. I’m not sure that demonizing is the right term though, maybe people who experiment on animals really are demons; in which case, calling them monsters or demons may be no different than calling an oak a tree.

On the other hand, equating one nasty letter with flying jets loaded with passengers into the World Trade Center Towers seems to me to be just a little over the top. It conflates an angry letter with nearly 3,000 people killed.

If Osama bin Laden had written a letter to President Bush or a hundred CEOs telling them that the elimination of American corporate influences on Islamic youth was justified, we would never have heard of him.

I sent a letter to one hundred primate vivisectors in 2003-ish. Here’s what I wrote:
Greetings Slime:

No clearer example of evil incarnate exists than the informed decision to use other primates in hurtful experimentation. Evidence of these animals’ emotional and cognitive similarity to us is extensive. Those who are – or should be – aware of these similarities, yet who elect to hurt these animals – are little distinguishable from those who willfully hurt human children to meet some sad, and sick, personal need.

In my opinion – an opinion I intend to make quite public – those who engage in such activity should be permanently jailed. Your elimination is justified. You are a cancer. You are a blight on the progress of humane ethics and compassion, a pox on our moral and ethical progress.

You are disease.

Most sincerely,

Rick Bogle
2251-A Refugio Rd.
Goleta, CA 93117
805.968.4531
The result of my Two-Buck Chuck-induced angry and nasty letter was the equating of me with Osama bin Laden.

This isn’t rhetoric. Look at the slide below. (You can see a larger version by clicking it.) It's from a presentation by University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Lieutenant Michael R. Newton, charged apparently with the task of keeping tabs on all the “radical” threats to the university like anti-sweatshop groups, anti-war groups, pro-labor groups, and, of course, anti-cruelty groups, all those radicals that threaten the status quo a.k.a. the public fund gravy train, the public teat, white coat welfare, the ivory towers, etc. Look at the four pictures in the bottom left quadrant, particularly the one at the top right, next to the photo from Sept. 11. That's the same picture as the one above of the public announcement that we were going to open an education center next door to the Wisconsin primate center and the Harlow lab. This was so frightening to the univerity that they spent over $1 million to stop it. No wonder; they think an informed citizenry could be as dangerous and catastrophic as September 11.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Panties Bunched Up by Baboons

You may have read about Oklahoma State University canceling planned anthrax experiments on baboons after Madeleine Pickens apparently threatened to cancel her and her husband’s $5 million donation to the university’s vet school. (Anthrax study rejected by OSU: Euthanasia of primates may be to blame for decision to cancel veterinary school project. NewsOK November 30, 2009.)

Good job Madeline! Pickens is better known for her work on behalf of wild horses.

Unsurprisingly, the vivisection community has been unnerved by this. Paul Browne, of ProTest, commented on The Scientist:
... When university administrators go over the heads of university review boards and stop a project without consulting the investigators involved or members of the relevant ethics and safety committees something is clearly wrong, and when it looks as if the administration is acting under pressure from a wealthy donor it is time for us to stand up for academic freedom.

Today the issue is anthrax research in baboons, but what might it be tomorrow? Can any funder trust the OSU administration any more?
Over at ScienceBlogs, DrugMonkey (aka, Michael A. Taffe) said:
This, my friends, is the start of the slippery slope. OSU has put the bit in Ms. Pickens' teeth and given her (and whatever ARA extremist groups have their claws into her) free rein to bring down any and all of OSU's ongoing programs she objects to. Unchecked, this is going to end up with the complete dissolution of the baboon research ERV mentioned.
The blogger mentioned above by Taffe, also at ScienceBlogs, the anonymous ERV, [maybe that’s why she feels comfortable throwing around the profanity?] who claims to be a graduate student at OSU, launched into an ad hominem attack on Pickens:
That horribly disfigured woman, Madeleine Pickens? That poor dumb thing married to some rich guy? Rich guy gives money to OSU, so people listen to the stupid blonde who mutilated herself a-la Michael Jackson with 'animal free' (**WINK!!**) plastic surgery/botox/hair dye/make-up? Oh, Im sure she had nothing to do with this. **WINK!!**
But none of these deep thinkers have addressed the issue of using baboons or other monkeys in studies like these. All they can do is fan the flames of fear that have erupted in a few vivisectors’ guts because of a potential future loss of income. All they can do is claim that Ms. Pickens has had plastic surgery. Is it any wonder that genuinely hard questions about human biology and health are so rarely answered by scientists of this ilk?

DrugMonkey (aka, Michael A. Taffe) made the doped-up claim that because Ms. Picken’s husband kills quail, that she is a hypocrite if she voices any concern for other animals. The drugs he is probably stealing and secretly consuming must have really kicked in as he was writing, because he then claims that the Pickenses are terrorists. Wow. That sounds like good shit Mike.
It is well past time for the NIH to provide an equally weighty counter to the intimidation of the ARA terrorists. Because that's what this is. A University president fearing "controversial" research has been terrorized by the extremist fringe into deciding that the best path is simply to give in.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hungry Americans and Opportunity Costs


A brewski or a hoagie?

In economics, opportunity costs are the things we lose when we choose something else. If you have a dollar and choose to spend it on a beer, you can’t spend it on a sandwich. Everything we buy comes with an opportunity cost; everything we do has opportunity costs associated with it because we can’t be in two places at the same time and don’t have infinite resources. We can spend our time and money here or there, but not everywhere.

What this means, or should mean, is that we have to prioritize the things we do and things we spend our money on. If I buy a big screen TV and don’t have enough money left over to pay my mortgage or to buy food for my family, it seems pretty clear that the opportunity cost of the TV was too high. Food and shelter for one’s family are more important than a TV, and in most cases, food is more important than shelter.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the recipients of the tax dollars funneled through the agency don’t seem to see the world in this way.

A child or a rat?

The statistics on hunger in the US are sobering.

And yet, NIH pours ever-increasing amounts of money into the gaping maws of vivisectors, paying them to perform cruel experiments designed to answer questions of dubious value.

Vivisectors regularly make the claim that most people would choose the life of a child over the life of an animal, like a rat they commonly say, and I suspect they are right. But, in fact, vivisectors choose experiments on rats over meals for kids.

The opportunity costs of animal experimentation can’t be overstated. In plain simple language, food and shelter for everyone should be government’s number one concern. Until everyone is guaranteed a healthful diet and snug shelter from the elements, every other government expenditure of tax dollars, particularly dollars spent in the name of health care, is immoral.

Moreover, the people lining up at the public trough and competing for those tax dollars by claiming that they are concerned about their fellow humans are particularly grotesque.

It’s one thing for, say, a plumber, to hire him- or herself out to fix a leaky faucet or to install a new toilet, and to put the money earned from providing that service into the bank or to spend it on a new TV, but someone eating taxpayer dollars in the name of public health and medical advancement, who argues that their work is justified by the potential benefits to sufferers of some malady, those people seem to bear a greater – a much greater – responsibility for the lost opportunities to feed hungry kids that result from their career choices and competition for limited tax dollars.

If someone really cared about people’s wellness and health, the last thing they would do, it seems to me, would be to use tax dollars to investigate the biology of mice, rats, dogs, or monkeys, while human children and human families are struggling to find food and shelter.

Let’s look at some specific examples and put a dollar amount on them and try to measure the opportunity costs in terms of hungry children in the United States.

The vivisection industry recently spent $1 million in an effort to convince people that spending public funds to hurt animals would be a good thing if the harm and torment they are forced to endure led to some medical advance; they didn’t put it in so many words, of course, but they may as well have. See: Animal researchers spend $1M to drum up support. Minneapolis Star Tribune. November 9, 2009. [See too: ProTest and Hansen's Disease]

According to NIH’s Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool(RePORTER), nearly 1000 studies involving experiments on rats were funded by the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Here’s one example:

JAMES DANIEL AKULA: CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL BOSTON: DOWNREGULATION OF ROD METABOLISM IN RETINOPATHY OF PREMATURITY. $402,379

“We will conduct a preclinical trial in rat models of ROP [retinopathy of prematurity] by downregulating two energy-demanding processes in the rods: the dark current and the visual cycle. We anticipate that this approach will compare favorably with the best currently available medical management. To produce in rats vascular abnormalities similar to those that characterize human ROP, pups are exposed to high and low oxygen during the first days after birth; the induction ends at postnatal day 14.”

According to Feeding America, every fifty cents donated provides one bag of groceries. Assuming that an average child can be fed for three days with an average bag of groceries (and that seems wildly conservative to me), the $402,379 in tax dollars the NIH gave to Akula could have purchased 804,758 bags of groceries, or, in other terms, it could have fed 2,414,274 children for a day.

I’m not singling out Akula; the $402,379 he received is a tiny speck of the multi-billion dollar Recovery Act monies that were awarded to NIH. Akula is merely is one of the approximately 990 named researchers receiving Recovery Act funds who are using rats.

NIH’s RePORTER tool has a handy feature: you can export data to an Excel file. Unfortunately, it has a 500 record limit. Even so, exporting the first 500 rat vivisection records and totaling the tax dollars they are receiving yields $124,499,092.

Two million kids or 500 vivisectors?

Putting this in terms of children who may go hungry because the National Institutes of Health chose to fund experiments on rats rather than provide those most in need of the most fundamental thing in life – food – we can begin to see and draw conclusions about just who in society benefits from animal experimentation. 500 rat vivisectors shared $124,499,092 while 746,994,552 children went without food for a day, or 106,713,507 kids went hungry for a week, or 62,249,546 went hungry for a month, or 2,046,560 went hungry for a year.

Apparently, we chose to pay 500 vivisectors to experiment on rats rather than feed over two million American kids for a year. Something seems out of whack here. We seem to have lost sight of our responsibility to the weakest most vulnerable members of society and to the opportunity costs associated with animal experimentation.

And that $1 million the Foundation for Biomedical Research just spent on misleading billboard ads?

That could have fed 32,876 kids for a year.

As if they care.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On “Responsible research with monkeys”

I am commenting here on the blog post by Dario Ringach, a researcher who claimed to have stopped experimenting on monkeys after being harassed by animal rights activists.

Previously I came across his name on a scientific paper that suggested to me that either he had never stopped hurting monkeys or else had started up again. I commented on this on the public listserv primfocus:
Dario Ringach swore that he had stopped vivisecting monkeys. His statement to that effect was spread around widely and was used by the vivisection community as evidence that intimidation had stopped “important” research. It appears that he was either lying all along or else has decided that he won’t be harassed again, but I don't believe that the people who were pressuring him previously won't do so again... maybe he thinks that people have forgotten about his cruelty.

R

Nat Neurosci. 2009 Jan;12(1):70-6. Epub 2008 Nov 23.
Stimulus contrast modulates functional connectivity in visual cortex.
Nauhaus I, Busse L, Carandini M, Ringach DL.

Biomedical Engineering Department, University of California Los
Angeles, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.

Neurons in visual cortex are linked by an extensive network of lateral connections. To study the effect of these connections on neural responses, we recorded spikes and local field potentials (LFPs) from multi-electrode arrays that were implanted in monkey and cat primary visual cortex. Spikes at each location generated outward traveling LFP waves. When the visual stimulus was absent or had low contrast, these LFP waves had large amplitudes and traveled over long distances. Their effect was strong: LFP traces at any site could be predicted by the superposition of waves that were evoked by spiking in a approximately 1.5-mm radius. As stimulus contrast increased, both the magnitude and the distance traveled by the waves progressively decreased. We conclude that the relative weight of feedforward and lateral inputs in visual cortex is not fixed, but rather depends on stimulus contrast. Lateral connections dominate at low contrast, when spatial integration of signals is perhaps most beneficial.
Shortly thereafter, I was threatened by Roberto Peccei, UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Research.
from Peccei, Roberto
to Rick Bogle
date Thu, Jan 8, 2009 at 10:50 AM
subject RE: Dario Ringach
mailed-by conet.ucla.edu

Dear Mr Bogle



Dr. Ringach did stop doing experiments involving animals in summer 2006. The paper in question represents work he did before that time.

Now that you have been made aware of this I would ask you to retract your blog, otherwise I will consider you personally responsible for any further harassment Dario may suffer.

Thank you

Roberto Peccei
Vice Chancellor for Research
UCLA
It seems to me that Ringach has been working pretty hard lately to call attention to himself. I support his right to speak his mind, good for him for doing so, but it seems pretty clear that the claims made by UCLA, claims that fueled passage of the AETA, that researchers were being frightened away from using animals, appears to no longer be true, if it ever really was. Like their claims about saving human lives by hurting and killing animals, the claim about scientists being frightened off appears to be hyperbole intended to benefit only themselves.

Ringach’s post about Nikos Logothetis’s research is misleading. I’ll begin by dissecting his first paragraph:
At the last Pro-Test for Science rally (then UCLA Pro-Test) I was trying to explain opponents [sic] of research that the images of bleeding monkeys shown in their signs were either from decades ago or from other countries, not the US or the European Union, and certainly not representative of research at the University of California.
I don’t know which pictures he is referring to because I wasn’t at the rally. If he is referring to the photograph on Logothetis’s website, then he is at least correct about that picture not coming from the US or the EU. The monkey in the image on Logothetis’ website is Malish who was used at Hebrew University laboratories in Jerusalem, Israel in about 2000.

As far as the photographs of Malish or photographs of other monkeys sometimes seen on posters not being representative of research at UCLA, we can’t really make that determination one way or the other, because UCLA won’t let the public see what is going on in its labs.

On the other hand, the agencies that oversee research at UCLA are the same ones that oversee research in the preponderance of labs in the US receiving federal funding. The director of the NIH Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, Joe Kemnitz, has pointed out that all such labs in the US “operate in the same way.” So, looking around our own country, contemporary images probably are representative of research at UCLA. The undercover images from within the Covance lab in Virginia are one example. The photos of the capuchins used by Daniel Casey at the Oregon National Primate Center are another. And we can only wonder at what was shown on the 628 videotapes of over fifteen years of research that were shredded by UW-Madison to keep the public from seeing them.

Also, speaking of Daniel Casey’s research and Ringach’s broad claim about research at UCLA, it bears repeating that when Matt Rossell’s undercover video from the Oregon Primate Center was seen by researchers there, behind the public relations effort to whitewash his report there was an internal response to the obvious suffering being endured by Casey’s subjects. Casey was studying psychotropic drugs. Some of the monkeys had been receiving injections of Haldol and Haldol-like drugs for over twenty years. The monkeys had developed severe and debilitating dyskinesia. The internal concern led to Casey’s monkeys being sent to a sanctuary. The point is that few people at the primate center knew about the suffering in Casey’s lab, and at least some of them were making public statements about how all the animals there were well cared for and that the research was subject to strict oversight. I doubt that Ringach has more than passing knowledge of what’s actually happening in UCLA’s many labs.
To counteract the effect of such misleading images, one of my colleagues in Germany has made a large amount of information available to the public . . .
There really isn’t a “large amount of information” available. There is some, but what’s there is carefully chosen and composed. More about that later.
. . . not only publishing their animal protocols and methods (which can also be obtained by reading the scientific publications),
This isn’t true. If it were, universities would not resist public records requests asking for protocols. The Methods sections of published papers are frequently short summaries of what was actually done to the animals. Often, in a published paper, an author will say that the method(s) they used were described more fully in a previous paper, and often that paper itself will say that the methods being used were previously described elsewhere.

This means two things: Ringach is wrong when he says that methods can be learned from reading a published paper, and also, that many of the methods used today have been used for years, sometimes for decades, which could mean that even some of the older photographs aren’t really out of date. It is true that some of the hardware being used has been refined, but monkeys are still being kept in small cages, strapped into chairs, and have electrodes implanted in their brains and other organs. That hasn’t changed.
... but also illustrating the experiments with both actual pictures and videos taking [sic] from his laboratory.
Let’s think about those pictures, videos, and the claims being made about them, but first, Ringach’s caption under the image of Logothetis’s surgical suite deserves a response.
The surgical suite of Prof. Logothetis showing anesthesia and monitoring equipment comparable to those found in the best human surgical suites in hospitals.
So what? Can’t someone be hurt or tortured in a modern surgical suite? As far as I know, criticism of the Tuskegee syphilis studies, the Cleveland radiation experiments, or even of Mengele’s twin studies never focused on or even mentioned the modernity of the equipment or the cleanliness of the room where the experiments took place.

On to the images and videos.

Ringach: “You can see the animals in their living quarters…”

You can see some of the monkeys in a group-housed setting, and, if this was how monkeys in labs everywhere were housed, their lives would be much less miserable than they generally are. But in the videos on Logothetis’s website, it is clear that this isn’t how all the monkeys are housed, and at least some of them appear to be housed individually, a condition that is inherently cruel. In the United States, single housing, essentially solitary confinement, is a common housing method. Pair housing is the claimed ideal, and group housing, as depicted on Logothetis’s website, is far from the norm.
Ringach: You can watch a monkey perform a task while the activity of neurons in their brains is being recorded and a video camera follows the movement of the eyes.
The total footage showing the “monkey perform a task” lasts less than 10 seconds; the rest tells us nothing about the monkey’s experience. Notice that the monkey is sipping something. Typically, monkeys being used in experiments like this one are kept thirsty to motivate them to perform.
Ringach: There is a detailed and illustrative explanation of how recording chambers are implanted, and how a description of the entire surgical suite and protocols. [sic]
Notice the boilerplate claim that there aren’t pain receptors in the brain: “The animal does not feel the electrodes in its brain, because the brain has no pain receptors.” Yes, that’s true, but not half the story. Scalp and bone are richly enervated tissues. Cutting through the scalp and drilling a hole through the cranium are painful procedures, as is screwing the titanium post directly to the skull. Claims about the brain not having pain receptors are mere distraction, a claim that might divert our attention from the realities of the surgery involved in readying an animal for the electrodes.

I’d like to be able to comment on the files listed here, but I am unable to open them.

On the page Implant Technology there is an unsettling comment:
Together with improved (intracutaneous) suture techniques, these innovations in implant materials have substantially shortened the time the animals must spend in a special post-operation chair from around 10 days to only 1 ½ to 3 days.
Keeping a monkey locked in a chair for any length of time for anything other than medical care intended to benefit them is torture.

Look again at the so-called “Videos of Training Sessions.” The technician has a surgical mask over his nose and mouth for some reason, but no eye protection. Primate vivisectors at UW-Madison told county representatives that the public was at risk of contracting the potentially deadly herpes-B virus when standing about a dozen feet away from a caged rhesus monkey. They made this claim after Beth Griffin died of the disease after, apparently, getting a small bit of saliva in her eye from a young rhesus monkey she was transporting at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. I mention this only to again call attention to the vivisectors’ willingness to say whatever they think will sway public opinion, regardless of the actual facts.

And this is barely a recording of a training session. There doesn’t seem to be much training being depicted.

Finally. I hope the picture being painted by Logothetis is a fair depiction of primate experimentation in Europe. Europe is far ahead of the US on matters having to do with the treatment of animals in science. Here in Madison, the situation is much different.

One current example is Michelle Basso whose work is something like Logothetis’s. She implants recording chambers and posts on monkeys’ skulls and coils on their eyes. Over the past few years monkeys have died as a result of her fumbling surgical methods. Her work was so inept that the university finally suspended her access to monkeys. She has driven screws completely through their craniums and punctured the dura, the lining of the brain, and caused brain infections that have killed monkeys. She has killed monkeys when trying to repair the post implants. She has a string of many dead moneys behind her. And, to keep this embarrassing situation out of the public eye, the university reinstated her when she threatened to challenge her suspension through a lawsuit.

Primate experimentation in the United States is an ugly suffering-filled business. UCLA’s sister facility the University of California San Francisco has been no exception, nor has the University of California, Davis. At UCSF, a stand out only because some of the details became public, is Steven Lisberger. The monkeys in his studies are similarly fitted with skull posts and other hardware. In the haunting undercover image from his lab shown here we see a monkey chained inside a cage. At Davis, titi monkeys, maybe the most trusting and tightly pair-bonded of all the primates, have had parts of their brains burned away to study the effect on their bonding.

It’s an evil dark sick business. No vivisector-edited propaganda film can escape the simple facts spelled out in the necropsy reports, the APHIS reports, the daily care logs, the published papers, or the extreme efforts by the vivisectors to keep the real details hidden from public view.

Ringach needs to look at his own institution before pointing at propaganda from Germany.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A look at responsible research with monkeys

Posted on November 18, 2009 by speakingofresearch [on SpeakingofResearch] (See my comments on this post here.)

At the last Pro-Test for Science rally (then UCLA Pro-Test) I was trying to explain opponents of research that the images of bleeding monkeys shown in their signs were either from decades ago or from other countries, not the US or the European Union, and certainly not representative of research at the University of California. To counteract the effect of such misleading images, one of my colleagues in Germany has made a large amount of information available to the public, not only publishing their animal protocols and methods (which can also be obtained by reading the scientific publications), but also illustrating the experiments with both actual pictures and videos taking from his laboratory.
The surgical suite of Prof. Logothetis showing anesthesia and monitoring equipment comparable to those found in the best human surgical suites in hospitals.

You can see the animals in their living quarters, and watch training sessions and how the animals are transferred from their cages to the Laboratory. You can watch a monkey perform a task while the activity of neurons in their brains is being recorded and a video camera follows the movement of the eyes. There is a detailed and illustrative explanation of how recording chambers are implanted, and how a description of the entire surgical suite and protocols. There is also a nice explanation of why alternative methods are not available that would allow investigators to study brain electrophysiology in the intact animal.

This impressive effort by Professor Nikos Logothetis to set the record straight on what is going on inside the laboratories is to be commended and replicated. We hope UCLA and other US institutions can follow up on his example, once researchers and institutional officials become more confident that our openness won’t lead to more threats from animal right extremists. After all, the only way to counteract a campaign of mis-information by opponents of research is to show the public the truth — that research with animals at academic institutions like the Max Plank Institute or the University of California is carried out with responsibility using the most advanced methods available.

Regards

Dario Ringach

P. Michael Conn is a Liar

I hope by now you’ve had a chance to watch and digest the CNN segment on “animal testing.” The host was pretty weak, and whoever did the ahead-of-time preparations is probably deeply in debt since they more than likely believe every advertiser’s wild claim. They, and thus the host, swallowed hook, line, and sinker every bit of nonsense and venom spewed by the well-funded public relations machine misleadingly named the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

Let’s start with P. Michael Conn’s second claim: “… if you look at recent history, things like polio, tuberculosis, and smallpox, they’re almost gone from the planet. These are triumphs of animal research.”

Setting polio aside for the moment, is tuberculosis “almost gone from the planet”? Not even close. Here’s what the World Health Organization says:
•Someone in the world is newly infected with TB bacilli every second.
•Overall, one-third of the world's population is currently infected with the TB bacillus.

In 2005, estimated per capita TB incidence was stable or falling in all six WHO regions. However, the slow decline in incidence rates per capita is offset by population growth. Consequently, the number of new cases arising each year is still increasing globally and in the WHO regions of Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia.
The Mayo Clinic calls it “a common infectious disease.” What a triumph for animal research.

I always smile when I hear a defender of vivisection claim that the near eradication smallpox is a result of animal experimentation. The story they tell goes something like this: Edward Jenner studied animals and invented small pox vaccinations. Thus, animal research is responsible for the victory over smallpox.

This to gibberish. Jenner did study animals; he is credited as being the first person to observe and write about newly hatched cookoos pushing the eggs of the nest-builder(s) out of the nest. This is called brood-parasitism or sometimes nest-parasitism. But his work on smallpox and smallpox vaccinations had absolutely nothing to do with animal research even though animals were part of the story.

Jenner used humans. In fact, he used his son as an experimental subject. Inoculation was not invented by Jenner. Records are sketchy as to when inoculation against smallpox began, but it was widely practiced in Asia for many years, maybe centuries, before Europeans learned about the practice and began to utilize it.

At first, inoculation aganist smallpox was with pus from lesions on a human victim. A small bit of “matter” was collected and inserted into a series of intentional cuts on the person being inoculated. This was called variolation after variola, the Latin name for smallpox. A very readable and interesting book on the history of variolation in the West is Jennifer Lee Carrell’s The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox. (E. P. Dutton, 2003.)

In fact, Jenner had been variolated against smallpox. Variolation was not without risks, and a small but not insignificant number of people contracted serious cases of smallpox and some died. Jenner was hoping to find a safer method when he inoculated his son with pig pox.

His interest in a safer method than variolation led him to try pus from lesions on the hands of milkmaids who had contracted cowpox, or vaccinia. It was generally recognized that milkmaids were rarely stricken with smallpox. And thus, vaccination replaced variolation, and vaccination and vaccine became the generic terms used for all future inoculants and inoculations. Animal research had absolutely nothing to do with any of this.

It is worrisome that a publicly-funded scientist like P. Michael Conn, who has appointed himself spokesperson for the vivisection industry and has received over $1million in tax-payer support, is either unaware of the historical facts behind the invention of vaccination, the current incidence of tuberculosis, or is simply a liar. He is either wrong or else dishonest.

Polio is an interesting case. Until polio could be grown in vitro, reservoirs of the virus were maintained through serial inoculations of rhesus macaques with tissue containing the virus. If one looked only at that fact, it could appear that the monkeys were a key element in the effort to develop a vaccine. But the whole story suggests something else.

Monkeys harboring the virus were killed and their brains harvested. This is the tissue that was used to inoculate the next batch of monkeys in order to keep a supply of the virus on hand. The virus-laden tissue was injected into their nasal passage and the virus quickly migrated into their brain. But the repeated reinoculations with brain tissue led to the development of a strain of polio much different from that circulating in the human population.

Additionally, because the results were so unambiguous, that is, injecting polio infected tissues into the nasal passages did indeed cause polio, it was falsely believed for a generation that polio was air-borne, when in fact, in natural settings it is ingested orally and lodges first in the gastrointestinal tract.

This was recognized early on by scientists studying humans, but the animal data was so compelling that a generation was lost as scientists based their studies on a different strain transmitted in a different way. The breakthrough came when scientists stopped culturing the virus in monkeys. Nobelprize.org says:
The 1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to John Franklin Enders and his junior associates Thomas Huckle Weller and Frederick Chapman Robbins "for their discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue." For forty years, dependence on a monkey host for propagation of the polio virus limited progress in basic studies until 1949 when Enders, Weller and Robbins showed how cultures of kidney and other human and monkey cells could produce large quantities of the virus. This breakthrough opened the way to studies that set standards for precision in investigations of other viruses and led directly to the engineering of the Salk and Sabin vaccines that eliminated the dreaded specter of a disabling and often lethal disease.
And then there’s Tom Holder. Wow. He says:
No matter what Dr. Greek [MD, medical historian, author of five books on the animal model] says, the fact is, is that every single medical advance, we’re not just talking about most, we’re talking about every, single, medical advance in human history has come about because of research using animals.
Where did this kid go to school? He must read only industry-supported websites; it’s clear that he hasn’t bothered to read even a tiny bit about the history of medicine. Every, single, medical advance in human history. Words fail me. How can anyone be this totally ignorant; this indoctrinated? It defies belief.

The story of smallpox recounted above is sufficient to disprove Holder’s entire shtick, since even one example disproves his desk-pounding: every, single, medical advance. Not most, by God, every, single, one.

Here are a couple of medical advances that Tom Holder might consider reading about if he doesn’t want to continue looking like a total ignoramus: x-rays, the prevention of scurvy, cholera, the treatment of vesico-vaginal fistula, or even cleanliness in hospitals. I would strongly recommend that Holder start reading. A good first choice might be Roy Porter’s The Greatest Gift to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity. (Norton, 1997.)

Holder is so woefully uninformed that nothing he says can be taken with much seriousness. He claims for instance that although there are differences between humans and all other species, that the similarities make one species a good productive model of another. I know it’s a lot to ask, but Holder ought to read LaFollett and Shank’s Brute Science (Routledge, 1996) if he can get through Porter.

At about 9:15 into the broadcast, the host cites statistics from the Foundation for Biomedicaal Research, essentially giving CNN’s stamp of approval, as far as viewers are concerned, to what is really nothing other than a front group for the industry.

Like Holder’s and Conn’s silliness, there isn’t much to these statistics if one looks at them closely. They are like a partially remembered dream; the more one thinks about them, the more vaporous they become. The plain facts behind what Conn calls the animal research war amount to a bare trickle of illegal and generally not very serious incidents. As far as illegal activities are concerned, there is nothing vaguely like a war going on. See: Illegal Incidents" on the rise?

At about 19:19, just as the segment is coming to a close, Greek challenges Conn to a debate noting that the animal research community isn’t genuinely interested in public discussion. Conn’s response is a gem of deception, delusion, an outright lie or some insane conglomeration of all three:
Dr. Greek knows very well that we’ve had discussions in the literature before, we’ve pointed out problems in his fact-gathering. My co-author of The Animal Research War [James Parker]documented the vast majority of the quotes Dr. Greek uses in his books and we were able to show that when you trace them back to the origins they bear very little resemblance to the original quote; [Holder begins nodding his head in agreement] they’ve undergone some sort of literary Photoshopping. When you find the individuals who these quotes were attributed to, in most cases they will distance themselves from the quote saying: "this is not my opinion, it’s not what I said, and its so far taken from context as to be unbelievable."

So we’ve done that experiment a number of times. Also, in the book we take Dr. Greek on head-on. In The Animal Research War we talk about a number of his issues. And if he’d like I’d be happy to send him a copy – no charge.
I paid for my copy of Conn’s little book. I say little not as a disparagement, but simply because it’s a little book. It’s just barely five and a half inches wide and not quite eight and a half inches tall. It's 199 pages long, including 42 pages of appendices, notes, bibliography, and index. Appendix A is a list of twenty questions; a sort of FAQ. Appendix B is a list of pro-vivisection websites. There are an additional 20 pages of front matter, title, contents, forward, and preface.

There are two entries in the index for Dr. Greek. (Three for me!) One entry is on page 24, the other is on page 121, which should seem a little odd if, as Conn claims, he and Parker took “Dr. Greek on head-on” and "documented the vast majority of the quotes Dr. Greek uses."

On page 24, Conn and Parker write a paragraph that mentions Greek:
As soon as Rossell’s press conference about ONPRC began, animal rights groups began circling around for the kill. Ray Greek, president of Americans for Medical Advancement—it’s hard to tell how many besides Greek belong to this antiresearch group—rushed forward with his comments on the lack of value of animal models, notably monkeys, in studying health. Of course, Greek did not mention that Rossell had once worked for his wife, veterinarian Jean Greek. She had attested to his skills in animal care at the time of his application for employment at the Primate Center. Veterinarian Sheri Speede, DVM, at the head of the local chapter of IDA, weighed in, indignantly discounting the value of “any research derived from the use of a stressed out primate” and claiming, wrongly, that “the public cannot see what they’re paying for” (Avgerinos).
When whackos like Conn and Parker get going, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to their wild claims. The bibliographic entry says: Avgerinos, Zoy. Animal cruelty caught on tape. CBS Worldwide. September 7, 2000. http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/08/323248.shtml?discuss Check out the discussion for yourself.

On page 121, the only other time Conn and Parker mention Greek, they complain about a quotation that he included in Sacred Cows and Golden Geese. Here’s what Conn and Parker write:
Ray Greek, MD, whom we met in Chapter 2 [the passage above from page 24], cites Mark Feinberg, a leading AIDS researcher:
What good does it do you to test something [a vaccine] in a monkey? You find five or six years from now that it works in the monkey, and then you test it in humans and you realize that humans behave tottaly differently from monkeys, so you’ve wasted five years.

“Monkeys do not die of AIDS. Humans do. (Greek, 203.)
When Dr Feinberg had a chance to speak for himself, he said:
There are many instances where the use of animal model research is absolutely essential for evaluating the efficacy of [AIDS] candidate vaccines. Moreover, the statement that ‘Monkeys do not get AIDS; humans do,” is completely false. The SIV [simian immunodeficiency virus] infection model for AIDS has been extremely important for understanding critical aspects of AIDS pathogenesis that cannot be studied in humans. I do not wish to be held responsible for comments . . . that have been so removed from their context that they no longer convey the meaning I had intended. (personal email from mark Feinberg, MD, PhD, to Charles Nicoll, PhD.)
These two pages are the only places in The Animal Research War where Conn and Parker “Take Dr. Greek on head-on.” If, as Conn says, “we’ve pointed out problems in his fact-gathering, my co-author of The Animal Research War documented the vast majority of the quotes Dr. Greek uses in his books,” that they would have included more than a single claimed misquote or intentional bit of “literary Photoshopping” in their little book.

In fact, Conn and Parker lied in their book, and Conn apparently lied on CNN assuming he can recall what he wrote in The Animal Research War.

Here’s what Greek actually wrote on page 203:

The federal government has devoted billions to discovering a vaccine to protect against AIDS. As already indicated, too much of that money has been utterly wasted on animal experiments. Dr. Mark Feinberg, a leading AIDS researcher wrote:
To make an AIDS vaccine, we really need to know more about the basic human immune system and how it works. They knew next to nothing about it when they made the polio vaccine, but that’s not going to work here. We need to understand more about how the immune system recognizes and deals with HIV antigens. Clearly few, if any, people can deal with HIV once they’re infected with it; nobody that we know of has ever cleared the virus from their bodies after infection. Somehow we have to demand that the vaccine be better than that. I think the way of doing that is doing studies in human beings at very early stages of the development of vaccines to test whether certain ideas work; then you go back to the laboratory to modify them and then back to human beings . . . What good does it do you to test something in a monkey? You find five or six years from now that it works in the monkey, and then you test it in humans and you realize that humans behave totally differently from monkeys, so you’ve wasted five years.” [M.A.J. McKenna, “Science Watch ‘Manhattan Project’ for AIDS Q&A With Dr. Mark Feinberg, a Leading AIDS Researcher ‘We Need the Human Trials as Well,’” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 21 Sep. 1997.]
Of course, because Dr. Feinberg has a vested interest in animal-models he went on to say that animal models are “incredibly important.” He explained quite well why they are useless but did not go into to detail as to why they are so “incredibly important.” Could money have anything to do with why they are so important?
Notice how selective Conn and Parker were in quoting Greek. Notice too that they were misleading about what Greek said about Feinberg's beliefs about animal models. And notice particularly that they added the sentence “Monkeys do not die of AIDS. Humans do.” I don't see how an author could be any more dishonest than this.

Conn and Parker also display significant confusion about the instances they write about.
As soon as Rossell’s press conference about ONPRC began, animal rights groups began circling around for the kill. Ray Greek, president of Americans for Medical Advancement—it’s hard to tell how many besides Greek belong to this antiresearch group—rushed forward with his comments on the lack of value of animal models, notably monkeys, in studying health. Of course, Greek did not mention that Rossell had once worked for his wife, veterinarian Jean Greek.
But Rossell had been in contact with IDA for some time prior to the press conference they are referring to. He had begun talking with IDA for months prior to going public. Matt was employed by the Oregon Primate Center as an enrichment technician and had spent months documenting the problems he was observing. IDA asked Dr. Greek, perhaps the leading authority on the problems associated with animal models, and USDA/APHIS past-inspector of the primate center, Dr. Isis Johnson-Brown to participate in the news conference. The claim about animal rights groups circling around for the kill is not only a poor metaphor, but also misrepresents Greek’s role.

Conn and Holder are clearly uninformed and in the case of Conn, apparently willing to lie. I suspect Holder is just a dupe. I could go on at length about nearly every claim they made and about every “fact” attributed to the Foundation for Biomedical Research, but won’t. For more about FBR, see: "Illegal Incidents" on the rise?

See too: AETA and FACE, American Scientist, Frankie L. Trull

Friday, November 13, 2009

CNN Struggles with the Animal Issue

Please Lord, let Conn and Holder be the official spokespersons for all vivisectors.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

University of Utah

Just in case you haven't seen it:


Undercover Investigation Reveals Kitten Deaths and Other Animal Suffering. Learn More.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

ProTest and Hansen's Disease

Have you heard about their billboard ad campaign?


Have you been vaccinated for leprosy?

No? That’s because there isn't a vaccine available for the prevention of leprosy. And why don't you have leprosy? Here's what Norihisa Ishii, MD, PhD, Director, Department of Bioregulation, Leprosy Research Center, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Higashimurayama, Tokyo, Japan, has to say in the Dermatology Online Journal:
Leprosy, which was endemic in Western Europe in the medieval period, was eliminated from Scandinavian countries only as recently as the early twentieth century, before the advent of antibiotic therapy. Obviously, this decline must be attributed to improvement in living standards, better housing, clean water supplies, and improved nutrition and hygiene.” (Ishii N. Recent advances in the treatment of leprosy. Dermatol Online J. 2003. Review.)
Yes, there has been research on leprosy using animals. Armadillos are susceptible to the disease and so are severely immunocompromised macaques. But the reasons you don't have leprosy are clean water supplies, good nutrition, and modern sewage systems, no matter how loudly the ProTest goofballs shout that it is otherwise.

The "Best Science"

I am sometimes asked, if animal experimentation is so heinous and dead-end, why does it keep getting funded?

In simple terms, we’re stupid.

Humans have the capacity to create complex systems that are too large and multifaceted for us to manage. UW-Madison vivisector and chair of the university’s Research Animal Resource Center, Eric Sangren, has used this plain fact as an excuse for the continuing problems associated with the university’s animal use. This inability to manage large complex organizations is akin to an economic diseconomy of scale.

We continue to receive information from within the university concerning Michele Basso. Basso has a long history of inept surgical implantation of hardware on the skulls of rhesus macaques. Veterinarians have repeatedly called attention to her clumsy ways, the unplanned deaths of the monkeys she tortures, and her pre-germ theory theories about cleaning surgical tools.

I write about Basso here because of a recent article in TheScientist.com titled “NIH Continues to Support the Best Science through R01s: A response to accusations that the agency is biased against senior scientists.” The NIH office of Extramural Research says R01s are “an award made to support a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by the named investigator(s) in an area representing the investigator's specific interest and competencies, based on the mission of the NIH.”

The notion in the article that R01s represent the “best science” caught my eye. I looked at Michele Basso’s currently funded cruelty and saw that she has an R01:

5R01EY013692-06 Principal Investigator(s): BASSO, MICHELE A
Title: VISUAL TARGET SELECTION FOR SACCADIC EYE MOVEMENTS
FY 2009: $359,754

Is this an example of the “best science”?

NIH grants are awarded when proposals receive high ratings from “Study Sections” made up of scientists working in the area that the research addresses. Turning decision-making over to small groups is like General Motors breaking its business into smaller units; giant complex enterprises do this in order to reduce the inefficiencies that come with diseconomies of scale.

This made me wonder about the Study Section that would have approved Basso’s cruelty. That Study Section is the Central Visual Processing Study Section, referred to as the CVP.

The CVP has seventeen members. There are eleven vivisectors (~65% of the committee) and six clinical researchers (~35% of the committee). It is small wonder that this Study Group would give high marks to vivisectors’ research. Of the eleven vivisectors, 1 uses cats, 1 uses frogs, 1 uses mice and ferrets, 1 uses rats, and 7 use monkeys

I’ve listed the members of the Study Group below and have included a citation of a representative paper if they use animals.

The fact that vivisectors are chosen to determine which studies will get funded, especially vivisectors like Basso who has such fumbling methods and pre-germ theory ideas, suggests that this so-called “best science” is really something else entirely.

CENTRAL VISUAL PROCESSING STUDY SECTION (CVP)
Center For Scientific Review
ROSTER

CHAIRPERSON

PARADISO, MICHAEL A.
BROWN UNIVERSITY
Macaque V1 activity during natural vision: effects of natural scenes and saccades.
MacEvoy SP, Hanks TD, Paradiso MA. J Neurophysiol. 2008

MEMBERS

ALONSO,JOSE-MANUEL
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
On and off domains of geniculate afferents in cat primary visual cortex.
Jin JZ, Weng C, Yeh CI, Gordon JA, Ruthazer ES, Stryker MP, Swadlow HA, Alonso JM. Nat Neurosci. 2008

BASSO, MICHELE A.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON

BORN, RICHARD T.
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Integrating motion and depth via parallel pathways. [macaques]
Ponce CR, Lomber SG, Born RT. Nat Neurosci. 2008

BOYNTON, GEOFFREY M.
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
human

CALLAWAY, EDWARD M.
SALK INSTITUTE FOR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES
Parallel processing strategies of the primate visual system.
Nassi JJ, Callaway EM. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009

CANDY, T. ROWAN
INDIANA UNIVERSITY
human

CHAPMAN, BARBARA
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
Molecular correlates of laminar differences in the macaque dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus.
Murray KD, Rubin CM, Jones EG, Chalupa LM. J Neurosci. 2008

COHEN-CORY, SUSANA
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE
Netrin participates in the development of retinotectal synaptic connectivity by modulating axon arborization and synapse formation in the developing brain. [Xenopus]
Manitt C, Nikolakopoulou AM, Almario DR, Nguyen SA, Cohen-Cory S. J Neurosci. 2009

CULLEN, KATHLEEN E.
MCGILL UNIVERSITY
Different neural strategies for multimodal integration: comparison of two macaque monkey species. Sadeghi SG, Mitchell DE, Cullen KE. Exp Brain Res. 2009

DEANGELIS, GREGORY C.
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER
Fine discrimination training alters the causal contribution of macaque area MT to depth perception.
Chowdhury SA, DeAngelis GC. Neuron. 2008

GUIDO, WILLIAM
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY
Ablation of Ca2+ channel beta3 subunit leads to enhanced N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-dependent long term potentiation and improved long term memory. [mice]
Jeon D, Song I, Guido W, Kim K, Kim E, Oh U, Shin HS. J Biol Chem. 2008

KASTNER, SABINE
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
human

KIRKWOOD, ALFREDO
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
Neuromodulators control the polarity of spike-timing-dependent synaptic plasticity. [rats]
Seol GH, Ziburkus J, Huang S, Song L, Kim IT, Takamiya K, Huganir RL, Lee HK, Kirkwood A. Neuron. 2007

LEIGH, RICHARD J.
CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
human

WATANABE, TAKEO
BOSTON UNIVERSITY
human

WERNER, JOHN S.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
human