Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good-bye Biddy.

Chancellor Martin leaving UW-Madison for presidency at Amherst College

Chancellor Biddy Martin thanks donors and UW-Madison alumni John and Tashia Morgridge after the two delivered a shared address to graduates during a spring commencement ceremony at the Kohl Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 14, 2011. View more photos. Photo: Jeff Miller

June 14, 2011

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin, who built a reputation as a visionary thinker and defender of the university’s role as global public research institution, announced today (Tuesday, June 14) that she’s leaving the university to become president of Amherst College.
I wonder why she's really leaving.

Maybe the USDA/NIH joint investigation report is coming out and the university needs to be able to say that the poorly run system was a result of Biddy's meddling and mismanagement, and that the bad egg is gone, so there is no one left to blame.

Another free pass perhaps.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

UW-Madison's Rarefied Self-Image

I have said on a number of occasions that the UW-Madison vivisectors act as if they see themselves above the law. Just how stupid does someone have to be, after seeing all the university has done over the years, to still qualify the observation that the university feels it is above the law with "as if"? Pretty dumb, I would say. Mea culpa.

I won't have to say that any more. The university has announced to all who would listen that they are absolutely above the law. They have stated clearly and succinctly in the University System Omnibus Motion:
Liability Protections for Scientific Researchers: Specify that current law provisions prohibiting crimes against animals would not apply to persons engaged in bona fide scientific research at an educational or research institution or persons who are authorized or otherwise regulated under federal law to utilize animals for these purposes.
They slipped this provision into the pending state budget bill because they know with absolute certainty that the provision could not stand alone or weather informed debate. This is a dishonest ploy to exempt themselves from Wisconsin's "Crimes Against Animals" statutes, Chapter 951 of the state code.

If you check it out, you'll see that there are already two exemptions given to those experimenting on animals.
951.02  Mistreating animals. No person may treat any animal, whether belonging to the person or another, in a cruel manner. This section does not prohibit bona fide experiments carried on for scientific research or normal and accepted veterinary practices.
and then again,
951.06  Use of poisonous and controlled substances. No person may expose any domestic animal owned by another to any known poisonous substance, any controlled substance included in schedule I, II, III, IV or V of ch. 961, or any controlled substance analog of a controlled substance included in schedule I or II of ch. 961, whether mixed with meat or other food or not, so that the substance is liable to be eaten by the animal and for the purpose of harming the animal. This section shall not apply to poison used on one's own premises and designed for the purpose of rodent or pest extermination nor to the use of a controlled substance in bona fide experiments carried on for scientific research or in accepted veterinary practices.
There is also an exemption in 951.10 for people who wish to sell baby rabbits, chicks and other fowl to vivisectors.

If the university gets its way, and I suspect they will, they will be formally outside the law. Vivisectors will no longer be barred by statute from:

951.025 Killing an animal by means of decompression.
951.03 Dognapping and catnapping.
951.04 Leading an animal from a motor vehicle.
951.05 Transporting any animal in or upon any vehicle in a cruel manner.
951.07 Using certain devices: (a bristle bur, tack bur or like device; or a poling device used to train a horse to jump which is charged with electricity or to which have been affixed nails, tacks or other sharp points.)
951.08 Instigating fights between animals.
951.09 Shooting at caged or staked animals.
951.095 Harassing police and fire animals.
951.097 Harassing service dogs.
951.11 Selling artificially colored animals.
951.13 Not providing proper food and drink to confined animals.
951.14 Not providing proper shelter.
951.15 Abandoning animals.

The university's demand that they be exempt from Chapter 951 is breathtaking, stunning, telling. I worry about them though, being so high above the ground, they must all be experiencing nosebleeds, headache, and extreme lightheadedness, which in itself may explain their absurd self-image.

rarefied: Belonging to or reserved for a small select group; exalted in nature or character; exclusive.

Want to do something about this grotesque attack?
If you live in Wisconsin or visit Wisconsin, or have simply only heard of Wisconsin, call the state legislators and tell them that no one should be exempted from laws against cruelty. Ask them to remove Item 27 from the University of Wisconsin System Omnibus Motion.

You can look up their phone numbers here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Eric Sandgren: "The mice don't harm each other."

In the typically formulaic response to unwanted attention being drawn to likely problems with animal care at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, go-to propagandist Eric Sandgren dismissed concerns over the fights forced upon mice in more than a decade-long series of staged fights between male mice. He was apparently interviewed by a couple of reporters:
"Aggression research like this isn't really the point of the law," he said. The mice don't harm each other, but display aggressive behavior and back away, Sandgren added. "They (researchers) don't see animals that are limping." (WISN.com)


[Eric Sandgren] says the "fights" generally consist of one mouse charging at another, who retreats, and that no encounters led to serious injuries. "It's a behavioral fight." (Isthmus)


[Eric Sandgren] said fights generally involve mice displaying aggressive behavior but then backing away.

"(The researchers) don't see animals that have wounds," he said. "They don't see animals that are limping."(Wisconsin State Journal)
This calculated spin contradicts reports from university insiders familiar with the care of mice and research on aggression in captive mice.

Because so very many mice are used in research, caring for them (prior to experimenting on them) has been the subject of some research. Aggression in male mice is apparently a well-recognized problem in the industry. If, as Sandgren claims, fights don't lead to wounding, then, in fact, there would be no need to study the problem. But, bite wounds can be serious and can lead to death. The additional stress of being unable to escape from an aggressor has raised questions about the reliability of data generated from experiments using them.
In a laboratory environment, aggressive interactions between male mice may exceed normal levels leading to negative effects both on the well-being of the animals and on the validity of experimental results. ....

Laboratory mice that live in a barren confined space such as a laboratory cage may be unable to respond to each other in a proper social way. Subordinate mice are unable to flee from the dominant’s sight, or migrate out of the territory. When the proper behavioural response is frustrated, the animal’s attempt to cope can be deemed to fail, causing a state of suffering in the subordinate mouse. Furthermore, the dominant male may respond with more extreme aggression than naturally, in an attempt to achieve the desired effect (i.e. disappearance of the subordinate). Male management: Coping with aggression problems in male laboratory mice. Van Loo PL, Van Zutphen LF, Baumans V. Lab Anim. 2003
The Jackson Laboratory, one of the more hideously cruel businesses on the planet and a producer of vast numbers of mice for vivisectors, is an acknowledged expert on mouse husbandry. They say:
Aggression and fighting

* Males may be combined at weaning age (3-4 weeks), but should not be combined at older ages. They may fight, cause wounds and/or death of male cage mates.
* Males shipped in separate compartments of the same shipping box or in individual boxes should not be combined upon entry into your facility as they may fight. Wounded mice may not be useable for your research.
* Separate group-housed males which are fighting; at the very least remove the dominant male (the mouse lacking wounds). [my emphasis]
Understandably, the UW-Madison is willing to go to extreme lengths to maintain the obscene torrential flow of cash from taxpayers into their own bank accounts, so fabricating stories for the public about how well the gazillions of animals they use are cared for before they are tortured and killed makes sense. It's despicable and evil, but understandable and even predictable if you believe that money is a corrupting influence. Huge sums of money are even more so. It makes sense that Sandgren would poo-poo any concern about instigating fights between mice.

But Sandgren himself has a giant mouse colony for his personal use. He is a mouse vivisector. So when he claims that "the mice don't harm each other" it is particularly grating to an informed ear. How couldn't he know that fights between male mice do cause them harm? Insiders report that this is apparently a fairly common problem at the university.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

UW Seeks Exemption from All Anti-Cruelty Laws

On Saturday, June 4, a motion was introduced and passed during the Joint Committee on Finance meeting. "The Joint Committee on Finance is a statutory, 16-member standing committee of the Wisconsin Legislature. The Committee's primary responsibility is to serve as the principal legislative committee charged with the review of all state appropriations and revenues." The motion as passed:
Liability Protections for Scientific Researchers: Specify that current law provisions prohibiting crimes against animals would not apply to persons engaged in bona fide scientific research at an educational or research institution or persons who are authorized or otherwise regulated under federal law to utilize animals for these purposes.
Obvious to anyone even minimally informed about the University of Wisconsin's many animal care and use problems is the fact that the recent sheep decompression case sent shock waves of fear throughout the campus vivisection labs. A few vivisectors just barely side-stepped having criminal charges filed against them. The only thing that saved them was the obvious confusion and neglect of a special investigator.

The heart of the motion that was passed is the claim that federal regulations and oversight are already sufficient. Local officials and citizens should simply wash their hands of responsibility and concern and leave all the decisions to those with a financial vested interest in the experiments and to the federal government. Obviously, the average Wisconsinite has no business questioning, let alone challenging, the activities of the demigods in white coats.

Here's a letter I've already fired off to a legislator or two:
Dear Representative xxx,

My name is Rick Bogle. I am co-director of the Madison-based Alliance for Animals, a state-wide animal advocacy non-profit.

I have just learned that the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee passed a motion which, if passed by the Legislature, will exempt all "bona fide" scientific research from Chapter 951 of the Wisconsin Statutes, "Crimes Against Animals."

This comes on the heals of the recent case involving decompressing sheep at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in which staff narrowly dodged criminal charges being filed against them.

If this motion is discussed, if and when it is taken up by the Legislature, it will be argued that current federal regulations are sufficient to regulate and guarantee humane care and treatment of the animals used in laboratories. Unfortunately, the record makes clear that this isn't the case.

The use of animals in labs is regulated at the federal level in two ways. Funding agencies like the National Institutes of Heath (NIH), the sponsor of the overwhelmingly largest number of projects, and other agencies such as the National Science Foundation, require an institution hosting funded research to submit a document referred to as an Animal Welfare Assurance. (Sometimes called the PHS Assurance, and more commonly, just the Assurance.)

An institution's Assurance is the formal promise to the NIH that all research with animals conducted there will comply with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. The Guide, an industry authored text, stipulates minimum standards of care and use, requires a local oversight committee, and relies on federal, state, and local laws and regulations:

p 2: Introduction: "Animal facilities and programs should be operated in accord with this Guide, the Animal Welfare Regulations, or AWRs (CFR 1985); the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, or PHS Policy (PHS 1996); and other applicable federal (Appendixes C and D) state, and local laws, regulations, and policies."

p 8: Chapter 1. First sentence of paragraph 2: “Each institution should establish and provide resources for an animal care and use program that is managed in accord with this Guide and in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations...”

The NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) is responsible for oversight of an institution's compliance with the Guide. OLAW only very rarely conducts inspections, and instead relies almost entirely on self-reporting by an institution.

A second, more substantive regulatory mechanism is the Animal Welfare Act. The Act also stipulates minimum standards of care and requires a local oversight committee. The Act is enforced through (usually) annual inspections by veterinary medical officers (VMOs) of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The most recent evaluation of APHIS oversight of animal use in laboratories was conducted by the USDA Office of the Inspector General. It found widespread problems and a lack of meaningful enforcement of the Act. This report is available on line at

In spite of the low marks given by the OIG, recent APHIS inspections of the University of Wisconsin, Madison have resulted in multiple citations for violations of the minimum standards set out in the Act. See for instance:

You may be unaware that the inspection reported in the document above was the result of multiple complaints to APHIS from inside the university. As a result of the problems discovered, a very rare OLAW/APHIS investigation was instigated. See:

We have learned from review of local oversight committee minutes that the investigation has been extended in scope on a couple occasions, the results have yet to be reported by the inspectors. Any action by the State Legislature prior to the issuance and review of the results seems premature.

The local oversight committees I have mentioned above are Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. These IACUCS (I-Uh-Kuks) or sometimes just ACUCs (A-Kuks) are required by both the Animal Welfare Act and the Guide. They are universally considered the keystone of all oversight and regulation of animal care and use in lab

The ACUC system is also problematic. There has been a single evaluation of the system, and it was not very complimentary: Animal research. Reliability of protocol reviews for animal research. Plous S, Herzog H. Science. 2001. See:
http://www.socialpsychology.org/articles/scipress.htm and

More simply, current federal regulation and oversight of the care and use of animals in labs is weak at best and at worse allows without meaningful penalty many inhumane conditions and practices to continue.

Washing our hands of any concern or responsibility for the care and use of animals in local laboratories based on the claim that the federal government and local employees of the labs can be trusted to adequately monitor and regulate the care and use of animals seems at odds with the plain facts.

If the motion to extend a blanket exemption from Chapter 951 to animal-using labs and scientists passes, local citizens will have no power whatsoever to question or challenge even the most gruesome questionable use of animals even when state laws forbid anyone else from doing those things. Apparently, it will be legal in our state for scientists to starve animals to death, to stage fights between them,
or to use painful devices on horse's bridles. That seems unfair and uncivilized to me.

I urge you do do all you can to oppose and defeat this oddly anti-local control initiative.

If I can be of any assistance whatsoever please do not hesitate to call on me.