Thursday, August 27, 2009

The decompression of the sheep

The decompression of the sheep
Alliance for Animals says UW researchers are violating the law
Bill Lueders on Thursday 08/27/2009

The animals are placed in a hyperbaric pressure chamber, then monitored for decompression sickness.

In early 2006, Leslie Hamilton spoke to a UW Veterinary School class about animals and the law. Afterward, one student approached her to say he had, as a part-time lab assistant, witnessed decompression experiments involving sheep.

"He was very bothered by it," recalls Hamilton, an attorney and member of the local Alliance for Animals.

Hamilton made an open records request seeking necropsy reports on sheep who had died. The UW refused on various grounds, including "trade secrets." The state Attorney General's Office declined to get involved. Sighs Hamilton, "We had to let it drop."


... The experiments, which the UW last fall classified as being in the highest category for animal pain and discomfort, are often fatal.

And that, Hamilton believes, makes them illegal.

State Statute 951.025 reads, in its entirety: "Decompression prohibited: No person may kill an animal by means of decompression."

The Alliance has written the federal authorities that oversee animal experiments and Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, saying the UW has been killing sheep through decompression at least since 1988. And more than 100 group members have sent postcards urging Blanchard to "investigate this matter and bring charges against those responsible for conducting and approving these cruel acts."


Eric Sandgren, director of the UW's Research Animal Resources Center, offers this response:

"We're still reviewing the complaint and preparing our response to Mr. Blanchard, so it wouldn't be appropriate for us to provide detailed comments right now. We do believe that the research studies at issue were fully compliant with the letter and spirit of all applicable state and federal laws governing the use of animals in research. The studies were humanely conducted according to generally accepted veterinary practices, and serve the important public purpose of helping people working in deep-sea environments, such as submariners, to survive a rapid ascent."
I don't think Eric Sandgren should go into law as a career. The question here is a simple one and the illegality of killing animals by means of decompression in the state of Wisconsin isn't arguable, though I won't be surprised if the UW attorneys try to argue the matter.

I don't think Eric Sandgren is familiar with generally accepted veterinary practices either.

He must never have read Appendix 4 of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia (Formerly Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia) published in June 2007.

In Appendix 4, "Some unacceptable agents and methods of euthanasia," the American Veterinary Medical Association says:
Decompression is unacceptable for euthanasia because of numerous disadvantages. (1) Many chambers are designed to produce decompression at a rate 15 to 60 times faster than that recommended as optimum for animals, resulting in pain and distress attributable to expanding gases trapped in body cavities. (2) Immature animals are tolerant of hypoxia, and longer periods of decompression are required before respiration ceases. (3) Accidental recompression, with recovery of injured animals, can occur. (4) Bleeding, vomiting, convulsions, urination, and defecation, which are aesthetically unpleasant, may develop in unconscious animals.
Killing animals by means of decompression is illegal in Wisconsin and it's contrary to accepted veterinary practices.

This is doubly concerning because Sandgren is the director of the Research Animal Resource Center, which lists as one of its four main functions, to:
provide oversight and assistance in assuring compliance to all laws, regulations, and rules governing the care and use of laboratory animals.
So, the director, himself a veterinarian, is ignorant of the state's Crimes Against Animals statutes and is ignorant of the AVMA's guidelines on euthanasia. This lack of knowledge and delusional belief that the institution is obeying applicable laws goes to the heart of all the problems with the university's use of animals. They really don't know what they are doing, and are more than willing to say whatever they believe will pacify the public when a problem inadvertently slips into the public's field of view.

This problem can't be fixed. It's like trying to make the nuclear arsenal safe. The only sane and humane way to deal with it is to eliminate it.

No comments: