Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Laboratory Animal Veterinarians

So-called lab animal vets must rank at lowest level of any ethical scale of human behavior. Like MDs who worked to keep people alive so that they could be experimented on in a Nazi death camp, or kept them alive during the experiments, it's very hard to even invent a more disturbing ethical scenario.

The lead news story in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (JAVMA) is titled "Primate veterinarians promote animal welfare, biomedical research: One-health approach bridges gap between science and human medicine."

It's crap-filled propaganda. It's hard to say who the intended audience is, but whoever they might be, the author must think they are dullards and easy marks. No one with even a smattering of critical thinking ability could actually believe what is being passed off as factual, actual, or rational. If AVMA believes that this is the sort of crap that will coax young vets just beginning their careers into the dark secret world of vivisection, then it explains the quality of the vets we see there already.

Sick, sick, sick.
AVMA journals > JAVMA News > Animal welfare

August 15, 2009

Primate veterinarians promote animal welfare, biomedical research
One-health approach bridges gap between science and human medicine

When reports surfaced earlier this year that some primates at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana had been mistreated, some people may have seen it as confirmation of their worst suspicions about laboratory animal research.

The Humane Society of the United States, which secretly videotaped alleged abuses, accused New Iberia staff of hundreds of Animal Welfare Act violations. A U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation of the facility ultimately resulted in just six citations for failing to comply with AWA standards. Meanwhile, the HSUS called on Congress to pass legislation ending invasive research on chimpanzees and retiring the approximately 500 federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuaries.

"just six citations"

Why didn't JAVMA include a link to the the USDA report? The HSUS complaint included hundreds of aledged violations; the fact that USDA cited New Iberia for six violations, serious violations, suggests three possibilities: HSUS was making up violations; New Iberia cleaned up their act before USDA showed up; USDA cited NIRC for the minimum number of violations possible, in effect, colluding with the lab. Given the fact that USDA hadn't noted any of the problems previously and did so only after videos documenting the abuse were made public tends to make me lean more strongly toward the last two possibilities.

The controversy over New Iberia illustrates a key challenge for those working in laboratory animal medicine, namely, a perception that scientists systematically abuse their nonhuman subjects. The primate research community was deeply troubled by how they were portrayed by the media, and they sought to counter the negative image by explaining that the New Iberia incident is a rare exception in a field that is quite simply working to discover new drugs, vaccines, and medical technologies to save lives, both human and animal.

JAVMA doesn't see the hypocracy in this statement. "The primate research community was deeply troubled by how they were portrayed by the media," but said essentially nothing about the violations of the AWA. The only rare event was the undercover documentation that forced USDA to act.

The public rarely considers the need for animals in biomedical research, says Dr. Christian R. Abee, director of the Michael E. Keeling Center in Bastrop, Texas, but when they do, they quickly understand why animals are a valuable resource. "We're really talking about the life and death of people," Dr. Abee said. "The new treatments being worked on can save millions of lives. Just as the discovery of penicillin saved untold numbers of lives, we're trying to discover the antibiotics for the future."
"the life and death of people" This is just fear mongering.
What the public may also not realize is, when a medical advance is first tested in animals, veterinarians are there, ensuring that the animals are humanely treated and that the therapy is shown to be safe enough to begin clinical trials in humans.
This is nonsense. FDA decides whether a drug or therapy can proceed to human trials.
Veterinarians have sworn an oath to protect animal health and relieve suffering in their patients. Yet they are equally committed to promoting public health and advancing medical knowledge about animals as well as humans. The tension between these dual obligations is nowhere more profound than in the field of laboratory animal medicine.
Obviously, it's a meaningless oath. Here it is:
Veterinarian's Oath

(Adopted by the AVMA In November, 1999, reaffirmed April, 2004)

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.
"the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering"

But veterinarians are in the forefront of making animals sick, huting them, and killing them. The attending vet at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison, Saverio V. Capuano, for instance, has published a number of papers detailing the experimental infections of monkeys with SIV and tuberculosis. He, like thousands of vets involved in basic research, makes healthy animals sick, writes about their illness, and then kills them. And yet, AVMA believes that they are living up to their oath to protect animals and releive their suffering. Sick, sick, sick.
"We as veterinarians care about the animals," Dr. Abee explained, "so we want to make certain they're used properly and that we do everything we can to minimize any discomfort these animals have. But we also recognize that it's only through this research that we're going to make progress in treating diseases killing many millions of people every year."
Unadulterated crap. No one who makes animals deathly ill, especially not someone who does so for financial gain, can be genuinely said to care about animals, at least not in the way that most people mean. Abee cares about animals because their agony pays his mortgage. And what arrogance: "it's only through this research that we're going to make progress in treating diseases killing many millions of people every year." I suppose we ought to tell all the real doctors and real scientists studing human heath and biology in humans and human tissues and cells to close up shop, Abee is going to save the world.
Among the many animal species used in research, few are as highly valued physiologically as nonhuman primates. Because of their genetic, immunologic, reproductive, and neurologic similarities to humans, these animals are used as translational models involving a range of human illnesses, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and cardiovascular illnesses.
This is gibberish. Translational has become the buzz word of the day. These kooks believe the old chain of being model or scala naturae that posited a chain of being made up of links with God at the top most and descending step by step all the way down to the lowliest of creation. So, according to this prescientific world view, a monkey is just a step down from a man, a dog a step down from a monkey, then a cat, a rat, a mouse, etc. So, if a discovery is made in a mouse, then we can translate this discovery up the chain, modifying it intelligently as we go and, voila!, we come to a miracle drug for humans. Unfortunately, there is no such chain. Humans did not descend from monkeys. We have a common ancestor. The human line diverged from the monkey line many millions of years ago. We didn't descend from chimpanzees. We have a common ancestor. The idea that nonhuman primates are a good translational model is just stupid. Which of the 230 some-odd species are the good translational species? The virus that kills macaques, SIV, was taken from mangebys, which aren't bothered by it. Even something like Ketamine, the drug of choice in the primate labs to chemically restrain the animals requires differing doses for different primate species. Monkeys aren't even good translational models for other monkey species.
Advocates of primate research say medical breakthroughs such as the polio and hepatitis B vaccines would not have been possible or realized as soon as they were if these animals were not part of the investigations. "Primates are as close as you can get to the next step, which is clinical trials in humans," said Dr. Cheryl D. DiCarlo, assistant director of research resources at the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas.
This contradicts Abee. DeCarlo seems to acknowledge that the animals weren't really necessary after all. Her statement about speeding up breakthroughs is pure self-serving speculation.
Even with their many similarities to humans, a primate may not be ideal for a particular study, and it's up to the veterinarian supervising the study to decide, Dr. DiCarlo noted. "That's one of the things lab animal veterinarians do: they determine what species is the best model for a particular research project. Sometimes the mouse is the best model," she said.
DiCcarlo must have hit her head against something hard in the past; veterinarians don't decide which species to use in research, the Principal Investigator designs the research. Whether this person is a vet or not is entirely happenstance, but in any case, vets don't make these decisions. For one thing, how would they know whether a part of the brain in a rat or a monkey will react more similarly to a human brain when injected with an investigational drug? If it's an experiment, presumably no one knows.
Much of the research involving nonhuman primates is conducted at the eight National Primate Research Centers located throughout the country. Overseen by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Research Resources, those facilities house an estimated 28,000 animals representing more than 20 species, including Old World primates like the chimpanzee, baboon, and rhesus macaque—the lion's share of primates used in research—and New World primates, including squirrel and owl monkeys. In addition, the centers operate breeding colonies to maintain the supply of several primate species for research.

Given the considerable costs associated with caring for a chimpanzee throughout its lifetime—as much as $500,000 over the span of 50 years—the NCRR in 1995 suspended financial support for the breeding of new chimpanzees. The center does provide ongoing monies for chimpanzees bred prior to the moratorium, and that includes retirement into a federally funded sanctuary system, such as Chimp Haven in Shreveport, La.

Primates are highly complex and social animals so, in addition to a team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians, each center employs a staff of behaviorists or trainers whose sole job is to provide environmental enrichment for the animals. It is understood in the research community that healthy and emotionally well-adjusted animals make the best test subjects.
This is blather. In fact, the cause of the wide-spread self-mutilation and psychotic behaviors of the monkeys in the labs is a subspecialty of some primate researchers. The problem is ubiquitous.
Humans aren't the only ones who benefit from new medical therapies. According to Dr. Franziska B. Grieder, director of the NCRR Comparative Medicine Division, many advances in human medicine are now used to enhance and prolong animal life.
Huh? Wait. So, we experiment on monkeys, find a cure for cancer, heal people, and then use the drug on dogs. Hello? Very, very few discoveries in monkeys have been successful in humans. Of those (in fact, I can't think of even one) there aren't many that have been put into clinical veterinary practice.

"We wouldn't have specific cancer treatments if they weren't first developed for human patients—or hip replacements or cardiac valves. We would never put those into dogs if they weren't developed for humans," Dr. Grieder said, and added that few biomedical companies would fund costly studies that benefited only animals.

Demand for primates fluctuates according to research needs at a given time. Research on HIV/AIDS, influenza, cancer treatments using monoclonal antibodies, and biodefense, for instance, are among some of the current hot topics. The NIH worries that new and emerging diseases will increase demand for research animals and there won't be enough veterinarians to look after the animals properly.
No. Very very few cancer studies use monkeys, most flu studies use mice and ferrets. Biodefense is a Orwellian term used a code for bioweaponizing disease agents. The diseases under study as bioweapons are fairly broad spectrum in action and can kill a variety of species. Monkeys are used only because they are available and sexy.
As with most career paths in veterinary medicine, with the exception of companion animal practice, a shortage exists of specially trained veterinarians who can meet the behavioral and physiologic needs of primates. The Association of Primate Veterinarians has 374 members, 33 of whom reside outside the United States, according to APV president, Dr. Thomas E. Nolan. Those numbers, Dr. Nolan said, encompass most if not all veterinarians working with primates.
The silver lining here is that many vets are deciding to spend their careers trying to alleviate illness and suffering in companion animals as opposed to keeping animals in labs alive to be killed, or keeping cows and pigs healthy enough to have babies and be killed, or to keep jailed animals in zoos alive long enough to be gawked at.
"Primate medicine is a small [twisted, sick] fraternity, and (the fact) that jobs are going unfilled is pretty common knowledge," explained Dr. Bruce J. Bernacky, section chief of the rhesus monkey breeding colony and co-manager of the chimp colony at the Michael E. Keeling Center. "NIH can also see that more veterinarians are retiring than young people are coming into field."

To offset the shortage, the NCRR in 2007 began offering the R25 training grant at each of the primate centers to train veterinarians for careers in primate clinical medicine. Dr. Greg K. Wilkerson started his two-year residency at the Keeling Center in February. A 2001 graduate of the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University, Dr. Wilkerson completed residencies in anatomic pathology and comparative medicine prior to striking out in this new direction.

"Primate medicine wasn't something I initially considered, just because I didn't have a lot of exposure to primates," Dr. Wilkerson said. "But once I did, I found it very fascinating. No two days are the same, and there are many opportunities for me."

The veterinarians interviewed for this article believe that, as champions of animal welfare, veterinarians are an essential component of biomedical research that uses animals. "We're sometimes perceived as torturing animals, but it's just the opposite. The veterinary staff is the animal advocate here," explained Dr. Kathleen M. Brasky, a clinical and research veterinarian at the Southwest National Primate Research Center.
These "advocates" torture the animals they claim to champion. Sick, sick, sick.
"The animals are our top interest. (They're) not data from a project, whereas for an investigator, (the data) would be their primary interest. We're the animal advocate," Dr. Brasky explained.
I think I'm going to be sick.
The Animal Welfare Act requires veterinarians to provide pain relief to animals for any procedure that might be perceived to cause pain in a person.
Unless the pain meds might interfere with the results. The animals never come first.
"I think lab animal veterinarians are much more attuned to pain and alleviating pain than human physicians," she said. "We err on the side of caution."
I'd rather be in a hospital where they were trying to cure me and alleviate my pain than be a monkey in a lab where they are making me sick and debating whether the pain meds might mess with the results of the experiment. Brasky is an idiot or a swindler trying to coax rather dumb vets into her fieild so she doesn't feel so very alone and stigmatized.
For more information about research primates and laboratory animal medicine, visit the Web sites of the Association of Primate Veterinarians (www.primatevets.org), American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (www.aclam.org), and National Center for Research Resources (www.ncrr.nih.gov/). Additionally, the AVMA has several policies on animal research and appropriate care for the animals, including "AVMA Animal Welfare Principles," "Use of Animals in Research, Testing, and Education," and "Responsible Use of Animals for Human Purposes." These and other position statements are available on the AVMA Web site (www.avma.org) in the Reference section under "Policy."

–R. Scott Nolen


Jeremy Beckham said...

"Mengele became very angry when a child died in bed because of the conditions in the camp. These deaths meant the loss of valuable guinea pigs for his medical experiments."

-- One of Mengele's "guinea pigs," quoted in Robert Lifton's book The Nazi Doctors. (1986 edition, p. 57).

Jeremy Beckham said...

"The controversy over New Iberia illustrates a key challenge for those working in laboratory animal medicine, namely, a perception that scientists systematically abuse their nonhuman subjects. The primate research community was deeply troubled by how they were portrayed by the media, and they sought to counter the negative image by explaining that the New Iberia incident is a rare exception in a field that is quite simply working to discover new drugs, vaccines, and medical technologies to save lives, both human and animal."

There's an additional inconsistency in this statement. Earlier, the AVMA was basically asserting that New Iberia is a victim in this mater; that HSUS/animal activists were making a mountain out of a mole hill. Yet here they assert that the New Iberia incident is a "rare exception." Which is it?

Amy M said...

Thank you for posting this!! I saw it, too -- it's completely outrageous.

Anonymous said...

"So-called lab animal vets must rank at lowest level of any ethical scale of human behavior."

This coming from a lunatic that fantasizes with killing humans in the name of compassion is... well, laughable.