Friday, September 17, 2010

Who killed Res 35?

The simple answer is the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In spite of repeated claims that any discussion about the ethics of experiments on monkeys would be pointless and redundant and not worth anyone’s time, this “trivial” matter motivated letters to the Dane County Board from UW-Chancellor Biddy Martin, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Paul DeLuca Jr., as well as public testimony from Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Martin Cadwallader.

Working behind the scenes with university on this matter that deserved no consideration, was apparently, Dane County Supervisor Chair Scott Mcdonell.

It seems reasonable, given the university’s reticence and decades-long history of lies, cover-ups, and spin that Res 35 sponsor Supervisor Al Matano was correct when he said that the proposed forums are “a cynical, manipulative ploy” intended to stop Res 35.

The proof is in the vegan pudding, of course, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the university actually comes up with. In the meantime, we can at least speculate and look at the make-up of the committee they have formed, the questions they say will be addressed, and those questions not mentioned, to get some idea of the possible results.

So here’s the committee make-up announced by the university:

Eric Sandgren, animal researcher, Director of the Research Animal Resource Center, and main UW spokesperson when local or national media covers embarrassing problems with the university’s animal use. He will lead the forum-planning group.

David Abbott, a UW-Madison professor and scientist at the Wisconsin National Primate Center.

Simon Peek, a veterinarian at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. Eric Sandgren is also a veterinarian, but veterinarian is not equivalent to a concern for animals. For instance, in a 2008 paper Peek explains that he used nineteen Holstein bull calves between 24 and 48 hours old and infused E. coli directly into their jugular veins over a three-hour period. The authors wrote: “During the 3-h period of endotoxin infusion, experimental calves demonstrated characteristic clinical signs consistent with endotoxemia; specifically mild tachypnea [rapid breathing], mild pyrexia [fever], and depression (increased tendency to lie down, loss of suckle reflex).” The big discovery? “This is the first time that biochemical evidence of cardiac injury has been documented in calves with endotoxemia.” The calves were sold commercially following the conclusion of the study. (Cardiac isoenzymes in healthy Holstein calves and calves with experimentally induced endotoxemia. Peek SF, Apple FS, Murakami MA, Crump PM, Semrad SD. Can J Vet Res. 2008.)

Robert Streiffer is a bioethicist at UW-Madison and chair of the Letters and Sciences Animal Care and Use Committee which approves all the experiments at the Harlow lab, among others. Streiffer argues that compliance with state and federal law is ethical use.

Patricia McConnell is an animal behaviorist, author and adjunct professor of zoology at UW-Madison. She has argued that we must eat sheep in order to stop them from going extinct. (Really.) She has often misled her students about the value of Harry Harlow’s horrific career at the university.

Lisa Kane is an attorney and author with an interest in captive elephant welfare, but only limited (if any) knowledge of animal research at the university.

And Paula Rinelli, who the university pointed out is a member of the Alliance for Animals. Ms Rinelli recommended Ms Kane in order to have someone else on the committee who shared her concern for animals. Ms Rinelli is not a representative of the Alliance for Animals and may even be a member of other animal rights organizations. Ms Rinelli has attended multiple university animal care and use committee meetings and is well-known to Sandgren. Ms Rinelli may have been asked to participate simply because she is an Alliance member, and having an Alliance member on the committee might make it seem more inclusive to the public and may have helped create a handy smokescreen for Supervisors trying to find a way to avoid a fair response to concerned citizens regarding Res 35.

So that’s the planning committee. Does it seem balanced to you?

Now let’s look at the questions Cadwallader and DeLuca have said will be addressed in the forums, and the questions they haven’t asked.

1. How are animals viewed in our and other societies?

A better question would be: How has the view of animals by our and other societies changed over the past 100 years?

2. What is the value of research with animals?

We can answer that question in two ways. Regarding the economic value: experiments on monkeys at the university brought in more than $46 million in research grants in 2008-09.

Regarding the value to patients: “judging by the only criterion that matters to patients and taxpayers—not how many interesting discoveries about cells or genes or synapses have been made, but how many treatments for diseases the money has bought—the return on investment to the American taxpayer has been approximately as satisfying as the AIG bailout.”

3. Are experiments involving animals necessary?

Yes, if the goal is to keep the research labs open and generating income for the university. No, if the goal is improvement in patient care.

4. Are there alternatives to animal use in research and teaching?

Yes.

5. Is animal research ethical?

Yes, when the animals are not confined or manipulated, as in observational studies. Yes, in clinical research intended to help the subject, or do them no likely harm.

No, when animals are confined for long periods or harmed.

6. How are experiments designed to answer a question?

If harming animals is unethical, then this question is unimportant.

7. Who funds animal research and how does the funding process work?

The National Institutes of Health funds the overwhelming majority of research at the universities. The funding process in incestuous. Researchers control who gets funded.

8. Who looks out for the animals?

No one. All claims to the contrary are either intended to mislead the public or else are claims made by a the tiny few caring insiders with essentially no power to protect any of them. The proof is in the pudding. Essentially every one of the untold thousands of animals used in the UW-Madison labs either dies as a result of the experiments or is killed.

9. What are the levels of oversight?

Given the repeated violations [USDA_2007][USDA 2009] of the minimal and weak laws slightly regulating the university’s use of animals, and the plain fact that essentially all of them die or are killed, the “levels of oversight” is an arcane matter with little consequence. The question in and of itself is propaganda.

10. What happens when animals are no longer needed for research purposes?

See above.

What questions or topics aren’t on this list?

1. Why did the university really shred 628 videos of their experiments on monkeys after denying repeated public records requests for just one of them?

2. What is actually done to the monkeys in Michele Basso’s, Ei Terasawa’s, or Maria Emborg’s experiments? Will there be videos shown at the forums or pictures projected?

3. Why is the university afraid of a non-aligned group of citizens asking questions about the ethics of experiments on monkeys?

4. How do they explain the repeated serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act?

5. Why weren’t UW-Madison animal researchers knowledgeable about Wisconsin’s Crimes Against Animals statutes?

6. Why does the university feel it should be exempt from the laws that govern everyone else?

7. Why did the university abandon the Vilas stump-tailed macaques?

8. Why did past primate center director Joe Kemnitz lie to a student reporter when asked about the university’s agreement not to use the monkeys at the Vilas Zoo? Why wasn't he disciplined?
[According to Bogle, Primate Center directors and members signed three different letters in 1989, 1990 and 1995, stating the center would not perform harmful experiments on the monkeys unless a monkey had unique genetic traits.

UW Primate Center director Joe Kemnitz said UW never entered into an agreement like that because it would not make sense.]
9. Why isn’t the university honest with the public?

10. Why is ethical to experiment on monkeys but not ethical to raise humans, lock them in cages for their entire lives, and perform painful experiments on them?

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