Eric Sandgren, director of UW-Madison's animal care and use programs, said the university has been "tremendously influenced" by animal rights groups. The pressure has prompted the university to be more open with meetings and records, Sandgren said.
"They keep putting it in front of my face that I'm responsible for these animals," he said. "Yes, it does make me take it more seriously."
However, research opponents say they are still far from their ultimate goal: the elimination or significant reduction of animals used for research. Many scientists believe animal research is well-regulated and greatly benefits science and medicine.
"I have thought very hard about this," Sandgren said. "I have considered the ethics. The animal activists have thought very hard about this and considered the ethics. We reach very different conclusions, using the same ethical tools. That does not mean either of us has done anything wrong."
Eric Sandgren claims that pressure from animal rights groups has prompted the university to be more open with meetings and records. This isn’t accurate.
About six years ago, the university tried to bar public attendance at and any recording of meetings of the six animal care and use committees. University legal counsel told them that they could bar public attendance at only the closed sessions, which they continue to do even when they have few if any items on the agenda that would legally justify a closed meeting.
During this same period, the university has become much less open regarding public records. A lawsuit was recently filed against them over this exact problem. They are increasingly using high fees, and even open-ended cost "estimates" as barriers to public access to public records. And the redactions – the parts censored from public view – are often significant.
Reporter Ziff writes: “However, research opponents say they are still far from their ultimate goal ... Many scientists believe animal research is well-regulated and greatly benefits science and medicine.”
Ziff misleadingly and conveniently mislabels people who are opposed to cruelty as being opposed to research. [But see the comment.]
And she is errors again when she claims that: "Many scientists believe animal research is well-regulated." In fact, even the USDA’s Office of Inspector General has found that USDA oversight of animal research is lax and largely ineffective. It is unlikely that Ziff interviewed scientists who were not financially vested in the system or who do not have a personal or professional interest in controlling public perception.
Eric Sandgren says that he has thought very hard about the use of animal and has considered the ethics. Eric Sandgren may believe this, but an independent observer would probably say that his thinking wasn’t very deep or productive.
Eric Sandgren has explained clearly on a number of occasions why he believes animal research is ethical: it is legal.
This is the part and the parcel that has resulted from Eric Sandgren’s “very hard thought” about human society’s instrumental use of animals. But even his claim that he finds if acceptable due to its current legality must be taken with a grain of salt.
In an article co-written by reporter Ziff and placed on line June 4, barely a week before the article discussed here, Eric Sandgren commented on the university’s illegal decompression experiments on sheep, said: “Any kind of an approach that puts scientists or anyone else at risk for legal action obviously is going to have a kind of dampening effect.”