Campus Connection: County Board says no more monkey business
By Todd Finkelmeyer | Capital Times | September 17, 2010.
Efforts to convince the Dane County Board to form a citizens advisory panel to examine whether or not experimenting on monkeys at UW-Madison is humane and ethical are dead following a vote Thursday night at the City County Building.
The push to pass a resolution which would create this panel was originally co-sponsored by 13 county supervisors and gained momentum earlier this summer thanks to a persistent and passionate group of local activists.
The resolution was initially backed by the Health and Human Needs Committee on June 29 but later stalled in the Executive Committee on July 8.
So on Sept. 2, Board member Al Matano -- who was lead sponsor of the resolution -- moved to withdraw it from committee so the entire Board could vote on the issue. But Thursday night at the City County Building, his motion to withdraw was voted down 22-13. If a simple majority of board members had given this motion the thumbs up, the discussion about whether or not to back Resolution 35 (see pages 5-8 of this document) would have been taken up at the County Board's Oct. 7 meeting.
Instead, the debate comes to an abrupt halt.
"This was a vote against the democratic process," says Rick Marolt, an area consultant and part-time business lecturer who has spent the better part of the past five years trying to get someone -- anyone -- to push the university for more public self-examination on this hot-button topic of whether experimenting on monkeys is ethical. "It was a vote against having a public discussion about an issue a lot of people care about and for which there is no other meaningful forum."
County Board member Mike Willett, however, argued passionately Thursday night against bringing this issue out of committee and before the full Board because he didn't feel the Dane County Board was the proper body to hear this debate.
"Some citizens have come to expect we have some sort of authority to do something about this issue, but we don't," said Willett. "We don't have any authority, none at all. ... It's wonderful to have citizen input and I really appreciate the citizens being interested in this (topic). But we aren't the place. We don't have the authority to make any changes in this issue whatsoever."
Backers of the resolution -- which asks the chair of the Board to appoint five to nine county residents to gather information and interview experts on monkeys, laboratory conditions and the ethics of experimenting on non-human primates -- were hoping the Dane County Board was going to become the first elected body in the United States to mandate this controversial topic be examined closer.
"I have some constituents who feel very strongly about Resolution 35," Board member Kyle Richmond said while speaking in favor of putting the resolution in front of the full Board. "And I know some people feel very strongly on the other side of this debate. So that's precisely why we should bring this to the floor and the whole Board should be able to debate this."
Added Board member Patrick Downing: "The university is supposed to be a place dedicated to the sifting and winnowing of facts to arrive at truth. I can't understand why they would not want to entertain further discussion about this."
Dane County Board strikes down monkey motion
Some members of body see ethics forums to be held by UW are cheap ploys to stop legislation
Jennifer Zettel | Badger Herald | September 16, 2010.
Members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors voted down a resolution to create an advisory panel specifically focused on animal research conducted at the University of Wisconsin Thursday night.
Resolution 35 sought to analyze the ethics of experimentation on non-human primates within Dane County, the conditions the animals are under during the experimentation process, and whether or not the animals have a right to retire, said Supervisor Al Matano, Dist. 11.
The Board voted not to move forward with the resolution by a 22-13 margin.
Had the vote passed, the Dane County Board would have voted on whether or not to establish the committee at the October meeting, Matano said.
Even if a committee had been created and found UW’s practices unethical, Matano said nothing would change — the panel would be for the public’s knowledge only.
Supervisor Mike Willett, District 32, said he opposed the resolution’s progress because the Board does not have the authority to influence UW policy.
Specifically, if the Board passed the motion, Willett said he wanted to know where the Board would draw the line on interfering with UW policy.
“If we start talking about this, what are we going to start talking about next?” Willett asked. “Maybe we should ban some books while we’re at it.”
Mantano said he supported the resolution because the thought of such intelligent animals being kept in cages disturbed him.
“I feel essentially that experimentation on animals is an industry driven for profit and the prestige of the research institution,” he added.
UW announced the planning of public forums on animal research Sept. 10, in an effort to increase transparency with the community.
Matano said UW proposed the forums to stop Resolution 35’s passage, calling it “a cynical, manipulative ploy.”