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.
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"

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] [or]

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
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.