Monday, December 17, 2012

Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012
Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications. Fang FC, Steen RG, Casadevall A.

Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.

Abstract

A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ∼10-fold since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Primate center leader shouldn't be allowed to talk to children

A friend recently sent me a quote from Jon Levine, the relatively new Wisconsin National Primate Center director. Levine was interviewed by the university’s On Wisconsin Magazine; you can read it here. When he was asked what he thought the primate center’s biggest challenge was, Levine answered that it was money, the implication being that Levine doesn’t seem to think that finding cures or making some progress in the treatment of human diseases is as large a challenge as keeping the dollars flowing in. Maybe Levine knows in his heart that the likelihood of human benefit from the center’s work is pretty much nil anyway, so he probably just wants to work toward something attainable – like a fancier building.

I’d read the interview before (and left a comment), but did again, and something he said caught my eye. Here’s the question and answer:
Q: What do you tell someone — a child, for example — who asks you about the use of monkeys for biomedical research?

A: That we are the good guys. We play by the strictest of rules, intended to ensure the humane and careful utilization of a precious resource. And we have the best of reasons for the work we do. I do not hesitate to give children an explanation in terms they can appreciate. For example, many kids know someone who has been diagnosed with some form of leukemia. We are developing methods to take blood cells from cancer patients and reprogram them into “induced pluripotent stem cells” — make them younger versions of themselves, before they became cancerous. Those induced cells can lead us to an understanding of how blood cells become cancer cells and how we might better treat leukemia.
He’d have been more succinct if he’d simply said, “I side-step the question and lie to them.”

The primate center's staff has a long history of lying and breaking the rules. They lied matter-of-factly and in writing to Dane County officials multiple times over an eight year period as they secretly and in direct violation of their written promises that they wouldn’t, took monkeys from the Henry Vilas Zoo, experimented on them in their own labs, and sold them to other labs around the country.

They lied again and covered up the horrible details of their experiments when they shredded 628 videotapes documenting nearly two decades of experiments on monkeys. They destroyed them when it looked very likely that a public records request was going to force them to give a copy of one of the tapes to anticruelty activists who they must have imagined were likely to make it available to the public.

Play by the rules? Not hardly; that’s something the real good guys do.

Levine says he gives children explanations for the things they do to monkeys in terms children can appreciate. Utter nonsense. He says: “many kids know someone who has been diagnosed with some form of leukemia.” In fact, relatively few children are likely to know someone who has been diagnosed with leukemia.

Here’s what the National Cancer Institute says:
On January 1, 2009, in the United States there were approximately 271,880 men and women alive who had a history of leukemia -- 152,698 men and 119,182 women. This includes any person alive on January 1, 2009 who had been diagnosed with leukemia at any point prior to January 1, 2009 and includes persons with active disease and those who are cured of their disease.
According the US Census Bureau’s Quick Facts, in 2010, there were approximately 73,172,693 children (someone under 18 years of age) in the U.S. According a mathematically inclined friend, this means that if Levine was talking to a class of 20 students, it’s likely that two of them would know someone with a history of leukemia.

But what about his claim that scientists at the primate center are “developing methods to take blood cells from cancer patients and reprogram them into ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’”?

There are two main ways I go about fact checking a statement like this. I look for publications that demonstrate such research being conducted at the primate center, and I look for active projects underway at the primate center that mention some iteration of “induced pluripotent stem cells” or leukemia or cancer.

Searching PubMed, the National Library of Medicine’s extensive on-line database, I was able to locate 137 scientific papers from scientists working in labs in Wisconsin that have the word pluripotent in the title. Of these, I found only one that involved the use of monkeys: Pluripotent cell lines derived from common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) blastocysts. Thomson JA, Kalishman J, Golos TG, Durning M, Harris CP, Hearn JP. Biol Reprod. 1996.

The large majority of published papers that focus on induced pluripotent stem cells from scientists in Wisconsin use human cells. Some older ones involve the use of mice, a few use other animals, but none other than the one above seems to report on the use of monkeys.

Turning to on-going projects at the primate center, the NIH on-line search tool RePORTER returns 32 currently funded projects at the University of Wisconsin, Madison when using the search term pluripotent.

Of these, only one involves the use of monkeys (Project Number: 1R01NS076352-01A1 Contact PI / Project Leader: ZHANG, SU-CHUN Title: INDIVIDUALIZED CELL THERAPY FOR PARKINSON'S DISEASE).

As far as I can tell, the closest thing to a match for Levine’s claim is the work of Igor Slukvin, who has an office at the primate center. He says that his research focus is: “hematopoietic development from pluripotent stem cells; de novo generation of hematopoietic stem cells.”

Hematopoiesis is the scientific term for the formation of blood.

He conveniently lists ten of his publications. Of those (again using PubMed), none involve the use of monkeys. Slukvin seems not to have published a paper involving the use of monkeys since 2007, and only the very last one of those, a report on possible ways to mitigate the inadequacy of monkey as models of hematopoietic stem cell therapies in humans is even vaguely in line with Levine’s claim. (Differential requirements for hematopoietic commitment between human and rhesus embryonic stem cells. Rajesh D, Chinnasamy N, Mitalipov SM, Wolf DP, Slukvin I, Thomson JA, Shaaban AF. Stem Cells. 2007.)

So, getting back to what Levine says he tells children:

1. “we are the good guys.” Wrong.
2. “We play by the strictest of rules... ” Wrong.
3. “... intended to ensure the humane and careful utilization of a precious resource.” Wrong.
4. “And we have the best of reasons for the work we do.” Wrong. It’s all about money.
5. “I do not hesitate to give children an explanation in terms they can appreciate.” Wrong.
6. “For example, many kids know someone who has been diagnosed with some form of leukemia.” Wrong.
7. “We are developing methods to take blood cells from cancer patients and reprogram them into “induced pluripotent stem cells” — make them younger versions of themselves, before they became cancerous.” Wrong. Or maybe, but if so, it has nothing to do with monkeys. At best he's misleading children with a bait and switch tactic.
8. “Those induced cells can lead us to an understanding of how blood cells become cancer cells and how we might better treat leukemia.”

His last point is interesting. Coincidentally, I recently finished Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Pulizer Prize winning history of cancer and oncology, The Emperor of All Maladies. Mukherjee is an oncologist. I’ll wager that he knows a bit more about the history of cancer and the present state of cancer research than Levine. Nowhere in his book does he mention the use of “induced pluripotent stem cells” to model cancer cells.

Mukherjee points out that hematopoietic stem cells seem to possess the characteristic that sets cancer cells apart from other cells: immortality, or at least the ability to divide many many times before becoming quiescent. But the characteristic of endless dividing is the common feature of all cancer cells. Understanding the cause of this unique characteristic is likely to be discovered by comparing the cells that have it rather than the cells that seem to have something akin to it occasionally. Furthermore, even if the examination of induced pluripotent stem cells might be useful to understanding cancer, there would be no reason not to use induced human pluripotent stem cells. So, to the degree that Levine was trying to defend or justify the use of monkeys by imagining some way they might be used, he is wrong again.

Real good guys generally tell kids the truth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-2012: Only Eleven Days Left to the End of the World as We Know It.

So I’m an optimist. More likely, things will just keep rolling along, like a big ball of crap picking up more shit as it continues going down hill.

Terrance McKenna, the late ethnobotanist and fearless explorer of plant-induced alternate realities, sometimes referred to as a psychonaut, visionized from his drugged perspective that the Mayan calendar’s so-called end date, December 21, 2012, is actually an asymptote, the point in time when, according to him, complexity becomes infinite and the world as we know it ends.


Things have become more complex over time and in some areas of some people’s daily life complexity does seem to be accelerating. Many of us now carry small hand-held devices that allow us almost instant access to a large and fast growing body of digitalized stuff; the devices take photos, videos, play music, keep the time and let you play Scrabble with people across the globe between phone calls. As one ad tells us, “when there's no limit to what Droid gets, there's no limit to what Droid does.” No limit... that’s an arithmetic increase as opposed to the exponential advancement envisioned by McKenna.

But many things seem to be stuck in time. Very little changes in some areas of everyday life.

Take public relations and the cruelty that occurs in the nation’s many animal labs. Not much acceleration in that arena. Suffering, lies, suffering, cover-ups,
suffering,.... it just seems to keep rolling steadily along. Absurdity, stupidity, and greed seem a pretty constant part of that area of life as well. Maybe rubber stamps have a magical power to stop time; they definitely have the power to create Hell on Earth.

One of the stuck-in-time, routinely dull and witless things I’ve seen from the lab crowd recently involves the willingness to swallow whole a completely ridiculous claim and then rely on that massive and matter-of-fact glob of nonsense to justify immense suffering. As always in this arena, money and station trump normal human emotions like mercy and compassion.

Here’s the big glob of nonsense: Ned Kalin, a vivisector at the University of Wisconsin, Madison says that his newest experiment on baby monkeys will lead to a new drug that will prevent or cure “anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychopathology” caused by “parental stress, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, neglect and inadequate parenting.” And two oversight committees swallowed it whole, belched a bit, and then gave it their stamp of approval. You can read his protocol here. The quotations above are from a letter he wrote to a reporter about his project.

If Kalin had a string of wildly unlikely successes from his past research maybe the committee members would have had a reason to swallow this wild claim and endorse this new round of cruelty, but he doesn’t. It’s hard to find anything beneficial that has resulted from his decades of hurting and killing animals.

Why would anyone believe such a wild claim from someone who has nothing to show for decades of similar claims? Why would they say OK, go ahead and hurt and kill some more monkeys?

Unlike the world of increasing complexity McKenna thought he saw, this situation isn’t even complicated. It’s not new or any different from what has been happening in the labs since about the mid to late 1940s when the U.S. government began pouring money into basic biomedical research. (That stream of money has grown rapidly, so maybe there’s hope yet for McKenna’s prophesy.)

There are three basic reasons the members of the committee swallowed that bolus of garbage and gave him the go-ahead. In decreasing order of significance, these are: the power of the System, money, and the PI’s prestige, standing, tenure, position, power, etc.

The System here is the phenomena discussed widely and supported by much experimental social and psychological research demonstrating that people operating within such systems are controlled by it. In this case, the System is designed and expected to approve research project. So it does. The cogs all do their jobs and the output is as it was intended it would be.

The System controlling the behavior of the committee members is designed to approve projects because they come with large dollar sums attached to them. This money, approximately $200 million in the case of the UW’s funded experiments using animals, is lifeblood to the institution. Turning down even a bit of it down would be like putting a tourniquet around your thigh and letting your leg die. Kalin has a proven track record of contributing to this stream of money for the institution; the System encourages him.

Prestige and the power it brings with it in the System probably came into play in this particular case. Kalin is the chair of the Department of Psychiatry. His colleague Paul Kaufman, also a primate vivisector, is the chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. University staff has refused to give their opinions of his glaucoma research because they feared his power. Kaufman’s lab has had problems with its animal care, but his experiments are always approved. I only speculate, but it’s likely that if some junior newly hired vivisector had asked for permission to resurrect Harry Harlow’s infamous methods of inducing depression and anxiety in baby monkeys, even if they had been promising a cure for cancer, they might not have had their project approved out of some concern about possible bad press. But then, if it came with enough money, maybe they would have; money trumps prestige, even the lack of it.

Only eleven days left.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Laboratory Dreams



Animals dream. Imagine, if you can, that you are a monkey born in a lab somewhere. In all likelihood, your universe -- the breadth of your knowledge and experience -- is limited to the stainless steel box you live in and the occasional visits from masked things that sometimes put food within your reach, and sometimes manhandle you, and occasionally take you somewhere where frightening and sometimes painful things are done to you.

What would your dreams be like? If all you knew was the bleak laboratory world, that's all you would have to dream about. You would not be able to escape even when sleeping.

Such a life would be much worse than that of any human held in any prison. Human prisoners at least have memories of experiences outside prison.

For the monkeys born in a lab, there is no escape. I doubt that the bleak hopelessness of these animals' lives is a topic that ever appears in a lab's oversight committee meeting minutes.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

be here now

It’s pretty common to read that the main thing separating humans and other animals is language. Many people acknowledge that many animals communicate, but argue that the communicative ability of normal humans is so much greater that it amounts to something wholly different than the basic communication we have been able to identify in other animals.

I tend to agree with this argument, but expect that there is more going on when other animals communicate with each other than we have yet discovered. I also don’t see how a greater communicative ability translates into higher moral standing, which is one of the implications that some make when pointing to other animals’ communication abilities.

But all our hyper-communication abilities aside, I’m struck by the irony in the claims about our communication ability and our society-wide effort to experience life in the absence of language.

This effort is a common and often central goal of religious/spiritual traditions around the world. It’s particularly ironic that Buddhists frequently refer to our inner chatter as monkey mind. Even though many people argue that monkeys can’t experience this inner stream of “verbalized” thought because they don’t possess language.

The interesting thing to me is the fact that the mental state achieve by stilling one’s inner chatter is perceived by many of those who have attained it as the highest mental state; some say it allows one to experience or even merge with the Cosmic Consciousness or God directly. Names for this state vary, but they include being "filled with the Spirit of the Lord", samadhi, satori, nirvana, enlightenment, kemal, etc. Yet animals, who apparently are in this state naturally are claimed not to have the same moral standing as the yogis, priests, nuns, sadhus, sages, saints, lamas, mystics, and everyone else striving to silence their monkey mind and experience things the way most other animals apparently do all the time.

"A watershed moment for animals and animal issues."

Margo DeMello has recently published a new book. I just ordered a copy after reading a review in VegNews:
The recent publication of Animals and Society by Margo DeMello is a watershed moment for animals and animal issues. The book is the equivalent of the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964: there is no going back. DeMello has produced a volume that should be required reading for all freshmen college students and will become the textbook of the nascent field of human-animal studies. Yes, Animals is a 400-plus page behemoth that leaves no issue untouched, one that elevates animals to a level of respect and relevance never before seen in academia. Yet Animals is also accessible, comprehensive, and easily referenced. In four sections and 20 chapters, plus ample references and an extensive bibliography, this is a book almost begging to be plagiarized. It's the textbook we all wish existed when we were in college. DeMello has earned her PhD.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Public opinion on medical testing on animals changing quickly.

Gallup released the latest results of its annual polling series asking American’s about their opinions on a set of moral issues in May, but I hadn't looked at the results very carefully until Suzanne M. Rivera, Ph.D. made a silly claim about people's opinions and called attention to it.

The issues they ask about include abortion, gay or lesbian relations, embryonic stem cell research, the death penalty, sex between an unmarried man and woman, doctor-assisted suicide, gambling, divorce, and cloning animals, and medical research using animals. They have been asking the same questions since 2001. The changes in the public's answers to Gallup's questions over time suggest that opinions about the use of animals are changing faster than are the opinions on any other issue except gay and lesbian relationships. I've tabulated their results below which come from their explanation of their methods. [Click on the image for a larger version in a new window.]

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Harvard Law School Blather

You'd think they'd think a bit more clearly, but then, Harvard has a history of being completely wrong about the use of animals in its labs.

Read this: "Are Human Research Participants Deserving of Research Animals’ Rights?" It was posted on Harvard Law School's Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics' blog, The Bill of Health, on November 20, 2012 by Suzanne M. Rivera, Ph.D.

It's pure tripe. The only reason I'm calling attention to it is because of the awesome response by Jessica Sandler which I am reposting here in it's entirety. It's not unlikely that it be disappeared.

Jessica Sandler, Class of '78 on November 26, 2012 at 2:44 PM said:

While reading Suzanne Rivera’s blog, “Are Human Research Participants Deserving of Research Animals’ Rights,” I had to do a double-take to ensure that I was reading Harvard Law’s Bill of Health, and not The Onion. If she were not so well-credentialed I would chalk the silliness of the article up to pure ignorance, but because Rivera must know better it appears she used the blog to spout pro-animal experimentation propaganda that plays fast and loose with even the few facts that were included.

There is only one federal law in the U.S.—the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—designed to offer some modicum of protection to animals in laboratories. As Rivera implicitly acknowledges, the AWA is primarily focused on issues of animal husbandry: the size of the cages in which the imprisoned animals will spend the duration of their lives; the temperature of the rooms in which the animals are kept; the frequency of cleaning, feeding, watering; and so on. Rivera misleadingly paints life for an animal in a laboratory as resort-like and does not acknowledge that the law permits animals to be used in all manner of cruel, painful, and trivial experiments. Animals are poisoned, burned, shocked, and paralyzed. They are deprived of food and water to force them to “cooperate” with the experimenters and are even completely deprived of pain relief should the experiments wish to do so. Infant monkeys are taken from their mothers days after birth—often as a matter of operating procedure. They are cut open in experimental surgeries in which their eyes are removed, their spines are mutilated, and their brains are exposed. Even today, cosmetics, household products, and caustic chemicals are dripped into the eyes of rabbits and rubbed onto the shaved, abraded skin of guinea pigs who are not given pain killers. It is perfectly legal to do ANYTHING to animals in U.S. laboratories as long as the right paperwork is filled out. Even when alternatives to the use of animals are available, U.S. law—unlike that in the EU—does not require that they be used.

Furthermore, thanks to vigorous lobbying on the part of the well-heeled animal experimentation industry—a group that claims to be pro-science—99 percent of animals used in experimentation, including mice of the genus Mus, rats of the genus Rattus, birds bred for experimentation, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and agricultural animals used in agricultural experiments are excluded from the definition of “animal” in the AWA and are deprived even of the meager protections of the Act. While there are guidelines that govern the treatment of these animals when they are used in federally-funded studies, these animals have no legal protections whatsoever at the federal level.

This means that when mice are subjected to painful and invasive surgeries, but are deprived of post-operative pain relief—as happens 50 to 80 percent of the time according to recent literature surveys conducted by researchers at Newcastle University (http://www.oc.lm.ehu.es/Fundamentos/doctorado/cursos/CirExp/Tecnicas%5CF-078.PDF, http://www.frame.org.uk/atla_article.php?art_id=114&abstract=true)—the experimenters are not legally liable for such egregious cruelty. Likewise, when living rats are thrown into a freezer intended for the bodies of dead animals, when mice drown or dehydrate to death as a result of employees failing to check water systems, and when rats are left in their cages and run through the mechanical cage washer where they are boiled alive – there are no legal repercussions for the responsible parties. If they are federally-funded, they just get a letter that effectively asks them not to do it again. If they are not receiving government money, there is no external government oversight at all.

At the institutional level, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) system is also failing to protect animals. Repeated audits by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and observations by USDA inspectors stretching back more than a decade, as well as evidence gathered by PETA through whistleblowers and undercover investigations, have documented ongoing failures in the IACUC system. In September 2005, the USDA OIG published a scathing audit report describing a climate in which laboratories view fines for AWA violations as a “cost of conducting business.” The report noted that at almost one-third of facilities, IACUCs failed to ensure that experimenters considered alternatives to painful procedures. The report further documented the failure of IACUCs to ensure that animals receive adequate veterinary care and to ensure that unnecessary or repetitive experiments were not performed on animals. These problems persist today.

Rivera’s implicit contention that animals used in experiments are better protected than human research participants flies in the face of common sense as well as peer-reviewed research on the subject. The most comprehensive analysis of IACUC reviews of proposed animal research protocols conducted to date concluded that IACUCs rarely disapprove of proposed animal research protocols, approving in-house protocols 98% of the time (http://www.socialpsychology.org/pdf/science2001-07-27.pdf?logged=true). When the same protocols were evaluated by IACUCs from other institutions, 61% were found to be substantially lacking. A recent study conducted by my colleagues found that at leading research institutions an average of 67% of IACUC members were animal experimenters; an additional 15% were institutional veterinarians who conducted or facilitated experiments on animals; and 93% of IACUC chairpersons were animal experimenters (http://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/2/1/68). These stacked committees no doubt contribute to the approval bias expressed by IACUCs. Moreover, the paltry representation of unaffiliated members on U.S. IACUCs, intended to represent the general community and its concern for animal welfare—particularly in comparison to membership requirements in the EU and elsewhere for animal experimentation oversight bodies—contributes to public distrust of animal experimenters and does not reflect the mounting opposition among the general public (http://ctx.sagepub.com/content/11/2/68.full.pdf+html) that largely funds the practice.

An article published in the journal Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine further suggests that institutional review boards (IRBs, which oversee human-based research) place a “tremendous burden” on clinical researchers, while IACUCs (which oversee animal-based experimentation) are much easier to work with, approving “essentially everything they consider” (http://www.peh-med.com/content/6/1/12). The author argues that this “discrepancy in regulatory ease between the two types of research” has pushed scientists to use animals in investigations even when they believe the studies should be performed with humans or human tissue. A recent article published in the British Medical Journal argues that IACUCs are in need of reform: “IACUCs have chosen not to make such ethical judgments [of conducting cost-benefit analyses of proposed animal research protocols] but, rather, restrict themselves to an advisory role, often tweaking the details of animal-use protocols, but eventually approving all of them” (http://m.jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/11/06/medethics-2012-100982.full.pdf?papetoc).

Fundamentally, Rivera has performed some hand-waving to perpetuate myths to further her own agenda and has intentionally failed to discuss the elephant in the room (or more appropriately, the monkey in the isolation chamber, the dog in a metal box, and the rat in the inhalation chamber). Animals in laboratories are imprisoned for the entirety of their lives in tiny cages where they are used, abused, and killed. The regulations that govern the treatment of animals in these circumstances—stipulating minimum cage sizes that confine animals to taking one or two steps in any direction for their entire lives—simply do not apply to humans research subjects who give informed consent, do not spend their lives imprisoned in laboratories and in the overwhelming majority of cases are not caused any harm beyond losing a few hours of their day or having to complete a boring experiment. Even when there are serious harms involved, human participants and IRBs must determine whether the potential benefits outweigh the risks, and subjects must volunteer to participate. With animals, no curiosity is too trivial to justify tormenting and killing them, and they obviously are not given any choice. This is not a matter of opinion; it’s a fact.

Given the wholesale abuse suffered by animals in laboratories—and the paucity of any meaningful protections for the animals involved—it is simply astonishing that Rivera would compare the considerable rights of humans who volunteer themselves for clinical trials to the non-existent rights of animals who are unwilling participants in experiments where they are, for all intents and purposes, viewed as a means to an end and with little to no regard to their status as sentient beings capable of physical and psychological suffering.


For more on the question of whether or not animal use is more heavily and meaningfully regulated than research using humans see my essay: "The Ethics Underpinning Oversight."

Let's Make History

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Self Image

I've never heard a vivisector admit to the likelihood that they would have experimented on slaves or other non-consenting humans if they had lived in an era when such practices were allowed. Nor have I ever heard a non-researcher ACUC member admit that they would have approved such things. They think better of themselves than is warranted.

At the risk of jousting with a straw man, it appears that they believe that outlawing slavery and the defeat of Nazi Germany somehow led to the elimination of such people and such proclivities instantaneously. They deny the likelihood that the ranks of the animal experimenters are now populated with people who would have and would now experiment on humans if they were allowed to do so.

But where else would such people have gone once unbridled human experimentation was outlawed? Maybe they work in slaughterhouses, or bully elephants into dancing, or manage canned hunting ranches, but surely a goodly number have found a home in the animal labs.

But I'm not really writing about that. No, this rambling essay is about the average person's self image and their perception of who other animals are.

I've always assumed that people generally justify eating, hurting, and killing animals with an appeal to our differences, but some people think otherwise. I've always assumed that the sentiments expressed by racial bigots were largely representative of the general opinion.

I've just finished reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. Marie St. Clare, a rich slave owner, expresses what I take to be Stowe's opinion of the general Southern beliefs about Blacks. St. Clare says that Blacks aren't very much like Whites. They don't feel things like white people. They don't miss their children the same way, or their husbands and wives; they need to be beaten regularly to keep them in line; they are a degraded race filled with lazy, dishonest, stupid beings not very much like her at all. Anything done to them in order to benefit her and her kind is fully justified.

You can find similar claims with regard to animals pretty easily. All you have to do is ask a vivisector, a rancher, a hunter, their opinion about the beings they torture and kill and they repeat much the same arguments. We are so different that anything we do to them that benefits us (or just pleases us) is more than justified.

So it came with some surprise to learn that others have a much different impression of the popular impression of animals. I've just started reading Daniel Dennett's Kinds of Minds. Dennett, in case you don't know, is a well known philosopher with a particular interest in cognition.

Dennett says that humans generally believe, as a matter of tradition, that other animals have minds like ours.

This is disturbing thought. It's one thing to think that the dog one kicks doesn't feel the pain and insult as another human might, but the belief that he does makes the kicker's behavior all the more evil.

This is similar to the subset of vivisectors who believe that the minds of the animals they hurt are so similar to ours that the insults heaped upon them yield such similar results that direct claims can be made about the likely result to a human if something similar was done to them. Like Ned Kalin's hideous revival of the use of maternal deprivation to create chronically fearful highly anxious young monkeys.

The more common position, in spite of Dennett's misperception, is more in line with Marie St. Clare's I think. But her's and the average vivisector's are largely faith-based. They actually have little knowledge of that about which they feel so strongly. In St. Clare's case, the ignorance is willful. She could have learned more about the people she controlled, but she didn't; she simply relied on her prejudices.

In the case of vivisectors, they base their claims on things they can't know. Consider the minds of dogs and humans.

There are things dog and human minds have in common. There are things they don't. Vivisector's imply that they know the characteristics in each region, and that those unique to humans are sufficient to justify our complete control of their lives. Likewise, they imply that they have full knowledge of the characteristics in the region unique to dogs, but this is absurd and matter-of-factly false. We have no way of knowing things about characteristics we can't imagine. They are a black box to us. But the vivisectors imply that they know that none of the unknown and unknowable characteristics could justify a requirement of kindness and respect from us.

And, they imply that the similarities we share are also not sufficient. The ability to suffer, to be sad and lonely, to be frightened, to be thrilled, to be joyful, hopeful, curious, brave, playful, and loyal. None of these things, either alone or taken together, they say, are enough.

In this way, they are just like Marie St. Clare. Their self image is a distorted, bloated, self-serving illusion that supports their prejudices.

The Suffering is the Same Everywhere

Larry Carbone, DVM, PhD, is the Associate Director of the University of California San Francisco's Laboratory Animal Research Center. He is the author of What Animals Want, (Oxford, 2004). See my review here.

When I was working at In Defense of Animals, a small national animal rights organization based in (at the time) San Rafael, just north of San Francisco, UCSF may have been the most cited facility in the country for its repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act. USDA continued to make unannounced inspections because employees continued to contact us with concerns that we passed on the feds. Every visit resulted in more citations. Larry Carbone was working there at the time.

As I pointed out in my review, this bodes darkly for animals in the other labs around the country. Carbone claims to care and is responsible for the care of the animals at his institution. And yet, the suffering there, the violations, and overall disregard for the animals is again in the news.

UCSF lapses mean research animals suffer USDA cites research lab lapses over many years SF GATE. November 25, 2012.

The details are chilling, even gruesome.

Due to negligence or errors, laboratory mice at UCSF had toes removed without anesthesia. Several animals, including birds and a squirrel monkey, received little or no pain medication after surgical procedures. In one instance, a primate starved for weeks. In another, mice died of thirst. And for nearly two years, a rhesus monkey remained in a brain study despite chronic and painful complications...


At the University of Wisconsin Madison, animals dying of thirst seems almost routine. Monkeys remained in what the vivisector herself claimed to be the most invasive brain experiments on monkeys in the country even though the oversight committee tried to close her lab because of the brain infections and her slipshod methods.

The use of animals at every large university I've take the time to learn about has been very much the same. Lots of suffering, multiple USDA violations, trivial justifications, calloused vivisectors, and a protective administration claiming that everyone using animals at their university loves and respects animals and that there are more laws protecting animals used in research than there are laws protecting humans participating in research.

The only difference I can see between the large universities is a willingness of local reporters to investigate and write about what's going on in the labs.

In Madison, there have been a couple of reporters willing to write about the issue. Right now, there are none; and so, the public takes no notice. In San Francisco, the interested reporters have come and gone as well, and in Portland, OR., Seattle, and Boston, and Atlanta, just about everywhere a large university exists. The waste of tax dollars is the same everywhere. The coverups are the same everywhere. The suffering in the labs is the same everywhere.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ned Kalin's Deep Understanding

The University of Wisconsin, Madison’s PR machine recently issued a news release that was then dutifully reprinted by media outlets across the country. You can read a local iteration here.

A few excerpts:
Stressed family affects baby girls later in life, UW study says

November 12, 2012. BILL NOVAK | The Capital Times

Stress shown in the family can have an adverse effect on infant girls as they grow older, according to new results from a long-running population study by UW-Madison scientists.

... Young men studied did not show the same pattern.

The study showed baby girls who lived in homes with stressed mothers were more likely to grow into preschoolers with higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

The study also showed girls with higher levels of cortisol showed less communication between brain areas associated with emotion regulation 14 years later.

Those two combined factors predicted higher levels of adolescent anxiety at age 18.

... "Our findings raise questions on how boys and girls differ in the life impact of early stress," Davidson said. "We do know that women report higher levels of mood and anxiety disorders, and these sex-based differences are very pronounced, especially in adolescence."

Others involved in the study include Drs. Rasmus Birn, Paula Ruttle, Johathan Oler and Ned Kalin, and Diane Stodola, Andrea Hayes, Michelle Fox, Erin Molloy and Jeffrey Armstrong.
The key finding, according to the university, is that girls in stress-filled homes suffer greater and more long lasting negative effects than boys. More specifically, it was girls with stressed mothers.

Undoubtedly, all the people named as having been involved in the study knew the results many months ago. The publication pipeline is a little sluggish.

So, what did they do with the new knowledge that girls raised in stress-filled homes or with stressed mothers can suffer significant and perhaps permanent deleterious effect?

Ned Kalin designed and launched a project, controversial for its cruelty and lack of applicability to humans, to examine brain development in chronically stressed motherless infant male monkeys.

Kalin's response to the discovery that girls suffer the greatest harm from stressful environments was to resurrect cruel maternal deprivation methods developed by Harry Harlow and make the lives of motherless infant male rhesus monkeys a living hell.

Logic like this goes a long way to explaining how he became the Chair of the UW-Madison Psychiatry Department.

People who don’t understand science might have guessed that the results of the study would have been communicated to social workers in order to help them understand the need to be particularly vigilant and supportive of families with girls in them. But that would just show how little you understand science.

It takes a clear thinking senior scientist supported at all levels by an adoring university to see more deeply into the meaning of the results and understand that harm to human girls is best prevented by experimenting on motherless male monkeys.

For much more on the Kalin study see: UW-Not In Our Name.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vivisection Lobby Frantic: Wants to derail Budget Control Act of 2011

Experimental biology is a euphemism for vivisection of the worse sort. The possibility of a significant reduction in the amount of taxpayer funded harm to animals has the vivisection community very worried.

Contact your elected representatives today and tell them that you strongly support the reduction in federal programs required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Tell them not to compromise; tell them to do the right thing and move the country back toward a balanced budget. Tell them not to be swayed by the many special interest groups who want to drive up the public debt.

Sequestration is the term being used for the required cuts to the federal budget if the Budget Control Act of 2011 is allowed to go into effect.

Read what the vivisectors are saying:
November 12, 2012
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814-3998
www.FASEB.org
Contact: Lawrence Green Office of Public Affairs 301.634.7335 lgreen@faseb.org

FASEB URGES BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH COMMUNITY TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST SEQUESTRATION
Bethesda, MD – The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is rallying the biomedical research community to advocate against devastating funding cuts facing the nation’s research agencies unless Congress acts before the end of the year. Under sequestration, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could lose $2.8 billion and would fund 25 percent (2,300) fewer grants. [Yeah! My happy emphasis!] The National Science Foundation (NSF) could be cut by nearly $600 million. More than 5,800 emails have been sent to Congress in response to a FASEB e-action alert urging individuals to let their Senators and Representatives know why federal funding for NIH, NSF, and other agencies is critical to local research institutions and state economies. “Labs will be forced to close, [Hooray!] resulting in layoffs of tens of thousands of researchers. [That's a euphemism for vivisectors.] It will take generations to recover the lost talent, as dedicated young scientists and engineers will be driven from science by the disruption of their training and lack of jobs,” said FASEB President Judith S. Bond, PhD.

FASEB has also released additional factsheets in the Federation’s series describing the amount of NIH funding in congressional districts across the country and examples of how research conducted at local institutions has improved health, increased innovation, strengthened the economy, and trained the next generation of scientists. More than 90 factsheets covering 138 congressional districts are now available on the FASEB website. These factsheets were designed to complement an earlier series focusing on the benefit of NIH funding in each state. FASEB has asked scientists to use both sets of factsheets when communicating and meeting with members of Congress. In addition, FASEB is sponsoring a contest offering $25,000 in prize money for the most creative exhibits, events, and other public outreach activities that highlight the value of federally funded research.

FASEB is composed of 26 societies with more than 100,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Celebrating 100 Years of Advancing the Life Sciences in 2012, FASEB is rededicating its efforts to advance health and well-being by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oh! Those poor vivisectors...

Help for Sandy-Stricken Scientists
The Scientist. November 9, 2012

In the aftermath of the floods brought on by super storm Sandy that killed thousands of genetically engineered mice at a New York University (NYU) research center, the wider research community is rallying to help the scientists worst affected by the losses.

Once the storm had passed and it was clear that scores of important mice strains developed at NYU’s Smilow Research Center had been lost, several researchers offered to help restart colonies....
Meanwhile...

NY University faces growing criticism after Sandy kills lab mice
Reuters. November 7, 2012

... All told, said NYU spokeswoman Jessica Guenzel, the biomedical facility lost 7,660 cages of mice and 22 cages of rats. Each cage houses between one and seven animals, she said.

"This happens again and again and (research labs) never learn," said Fran Sharples, director of the Board on Life Sciences at the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

"Anybody with half a brain knows you do a site-specific analysis" to understand the risk of disasters, she said, "and it's really stupid to put your animals in the basement if you're in a flood zone."

It's not as if scientists didn't have recent lessons in the risk of natural disasters to biomedical research, she said. In 2001, tens of thousands of mice and scores of monkeys and dogs were lost when Hurricane Allison struck Houston; and in 2005, some 10,000 lab animals drowned when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans....

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fiscal Cliff's Silver Lining for Animals

If you care about the millions of animals tortured every year in our publicly funded university and military laboratories, I urge you to contact your U.S. legislators today and ask them to do everything in their power to make sure that cost reductions and tax increases required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 be allow to take affect on January 1.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, unless derailed, will result in tax increases, spending cuts, and a corresponding reduction in the budget deficit beginning in 2013.

The year-over-year changes for fiscal years 2012–2013 include a 19.63% increase in taxes and 0.25% reduction in spending. Almost all the increased tax burden will be borne by the very wealthiest Americans who will still be able to fly to Monte Carlo on a whim. Their lavish lifestyles will not be affected.

Social Security, federal pensions and veterans' benefits, are exempted from the spending cuts.

The big winners will be literally millions of animals.

If the laws resulting from the Act are allowed to go into effect on Jan. 1, NIH will immediately see an 8.2 percent — or $2.5 billion — cut, which would disrupt more than 2,300 grants.

It is likely that the Republicans will resist compromises put forward by the Democrats. Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent. We need to contact them and even the Dems who will be trying to avert the fiscal cliff, and tell them we support allowing the Budget Control Act of 2011 to go into full effect.

If the grants that are disrupted are representative of NIH grants generally, then between 40% and 50% of them involve hurting and killing animals. Cutting more than $1 billion from NIH's support for vivisection would be a windfall of reduced suffering.

If you care about animals, there may be nothing else you can do that has such great potential to save so many animals so immediately from such unimaginable suffering.

Call or write to your U.S. Representatives today. Tell them you support the additional taxation and federal program cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

This is a rare opportunity.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's a spade.

Israeli vegan activists to protest animal 'Holocaust' by tattooing livestock numbers

Protesters expected to participate in a mass-tattooing display at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, one month after group members branded themselves with a white-hot branding iron to mark World Farm Animals Day.

Haaretz Nov.01, 2012
....

"Most of the tattoos will be inked on the outer part of the forearm so as to openly declare that we are representing the present Holocaust, as harsh as that may sound," said Gilboa. "We are sick of the language laundering. The Holocaust had a clear beginning and end, but the end of the current Holocaust is not in sight. It is time to take the gloves off, for the sake of the greatest atrocity in the history of humanity."

....

Play it again Sam: "Research set back for years...."

Researchers can't seem to get it through their swollen heads that water, like shit, as every plumber and homeowner is well aware, flows downhill.

Every few years a large storm comes along and floods a basement filled with animals at some university, and on cue, the dickheads and the dickheads' bosses start crying about how they were right on the brink of a cure for cancer and how sad they are for the animals, who were just like family to them.

It's all crocodile tears of course. No cures come out of the labs, nothing has ever been lost in the way of medical progress, and they don't really care about the animals. If they did, they wouldn't keep them locked in basements or torture them. But they do. And they lie about it and their real motives. What tools.

Storm kills NYU lab mice, crippling medical research
It takes years to grow them as needed, and student projects could run out of time
NBC News and news services 2012

One of New York University's medical research facilities has lost thousands of laboratory mice to Hurricane Sandy's storm surge, a research setback that could take years to correct, according to scientists.

The NYU Langone Medical Center confirmed on Wednesday that the Smilow Research Center, one of three animal research facilities on campus, "was adversely impacted by the severity of the flood surge and the speed with which it came on."

"Animal resource staff was on site continuously to mitigate the damage from the storm, but due to the speed and force of the surge, animal rescue attempts were unsuccessful," the medical center said in a statement. "This facility is a barrier facility that is 'super clean,' which restricts the movement of animals in and out of the facility."

NYU said it was "deeply saddened by the loss of these animals' lives and the impact this has on the many years of important work conducted by our researchers." blah, blah, blah...

South Australia battered by extreme weather
AdelaideNow September 22, 2009

MORE rain is falling across many parts of the state, a day after thunderstorms caused chaos on Adelaide's roads and floods that drowned university lab animals. ...

Water believed to be overflow from a stormwater inlet at the nearby Botanic Garden was 2m deep in the University of SA's Reid Building....

In an emailed statement, the University of SA confirmed some rats and guinea pigs inside the basement had died.

Most of the frozen research samples stored in the basement were retrieved either last night or early this morning, but the flooding has set back research students projects, the statement said. blah, blah, blah...

New Orleans researchers fight to salvage work from submerged labs
Nature September, 2005

Full extent of damage unclear as scientists question preparations for storm.

Hurricane Katrina has apparently devastated research laboratories in New Orleans. Rescue teams last week discovered that many frozen specimens and cell cultures had thawed, making them useless, and laboratory animals had drowned.... blah, blah, blah...

Lab animals drown; medical research lost
Houston Chronicle. June 12, 2001

Weekend flooding in labs beneath the Texas Medical Center killed more than 30,000 animals and destroyed what one official called an "incalculable" amount of scientific research.

Rising water in Medical Center basements and local universities wiped out federally funded research worth millions of dollars. Meticulously kept computer data were fried into electronic oblivion. And some students lost years' worth of their doctorate work.

It may be years, researchers said, before they know how devastating such setbacks will be to their efforts to discover new treatments for cancer, heart disease and other ailments.

"It's a serious situation," said Dr. Ralph Feigin, president of Baylor College of Medicine. "All of our faculty are here today trying to salvage what they can."

The college has about 500 labs, an annual research budget of $310 million and thousands of scientists experimenting at the cutting edge of a broad spectrum of diseases.

Although larger research animals, such as dogs and pigs, were saved, the college's most populous mouse facility, where some 30,000 animals were trapped, was entirely submerged. Specially bred mice often take years to perfect and can be worth thousands of dollars apiece.

"You can't get these animals back again quickly at any price," said Dr. Arthur Beaudet, chairman of the college's department of molecular and human genetics. blah, blah, blah...

Six Deaths, Great Damage Result From Heavy Rainfall
Herald-Journal 1976

 ... The new building of the University of Texas Medical School also had its basement flooded. In it was a large number of laboratory animals. We don't know what the situation is down there," a spokesman said.... blah, blah, blah...

Monday, October 22, 2012

School newspaper gutsy for printing letter administration will hate.

From the Badger Herald:
Opinion: Letter

Mehre misinformed on PETA

By Letters to the Editor Sunday, October 21, 2012

In his column “PETA slanders UW scientists,” passionate but woefully misinformed student Jared Mehre made a series of sweeping, untruthful claims in defense of cruel and deadly experiments on cats at the University of Wisconsin. The record should be set straight.

An orange tabby cat named Double Trouble — who was named by UW faculty and staff, not by PETA — had her head cut open, a restraint device screwed to her skull and cochlear devices implanted in her ears. She was intentionally deafened with injections of toxic chemicals and was starved for up to six days at a time in order to force her to cooperate in experiments. The horrible photos UW staff took of Double Trouble — and fought for more than three years to keep secret — show her with a steel rod and wires protruding from her head with one of her eyes half-closed because her face was partially paralyzed by a sloppy surgery. During one invasive surgery on her head, records note her anesthetic mask came off and she “showed signs of waking.” These are sad facts UW provided through its own records.

Double Trouble’s treatment and progress records clearly show experimenters killed and decapitated her because she became too sick to continue and because the cochlear implants didn’t work — not because the experiment was completed or deemed a success. On the contrary, it was actually a failure. The experiment has never been published in any peer-reviewed scientific journal nor has any UW experiment involving cochlear implants on cats. The university’s suggestion Double Trouble’s suffering has benefited the field of human hearing research is a self-serving revision of history.

The USDA has not determined that UW’s cruel experiments on cats are cruel or unethical — that isn’t the agency’s job. They simply found that UW didn’t violate the law — a law that allows animals to be burned, crippled and poisoned to death, a law which permits animals to be electrocuted and addicted to drugs like cocaine and heroin as long as the right paperwork is filled out. Both PETA and a former veterinarian who worked in the laboratory dispute the USDA’s findings and have provided them with additional information to assist in their potential reevaluation of the case.

Cats have the capacity to feel pleasure, pain and suffering whether they are adopted from shelters into loving families or have the misfortune to be born into a life of misery in a laboratory. To suggest the latter do not deserve the same protection as the feline companions in our homes is nonsensical. It is analogous to saying dogs bred and abused by horrendous dogfighting operations should not elicit our defense, compassion or support because they were “born to do this.”

Outside of a laboratory, what UW did to Double Trouble and dozens of other cats would likely be considered a felony. The school knows this, and that’s precisely why last year they sneakily helped push through a law that prevents any abuse they commit against animals in their laboratories from being punished under state cruelty statutes even if it violates federal law.

Thankfully, despite the fear-mongering, obfuscation and propaganda from UW and its desperate experimenters, the public increasingly recognizes experimentation on animals for the cruelty and wastefulness that it is. Outraged by the disturbing photos of Double Trouble, more than 170,000 people have written to the National Institutes of Health asking for taxpayer funding for the experiments to be cut. They are not anomalies. Independent Gallup polls show that more than half of college-aged students are now morally opposed to experiments on animals for any reason and this number has dramatically increased over the last decade. More than half of women oppose the practice, as do more than 40 percent of adults overall.

The tide is quickly turning against animal experimentation for ethical, scientific and economic reasons. Nothing will change the horrible fate Double Trouble met at UW, but Americans are already demanding public policy be modernized to reflect their growing objection to the practice. It’s only a matter of time before UW faculty and staff who make their living tormenting animals in laboratories find themselves without government or private funders willing to defend and bankroll their cruel trade.

Justin Goodman is the associate director of laboratory investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Targeting Children

I've mentioned before that vivisectors target children with their lies. Here's another recent example [look at the pictures and video on the linked version]:

Challenging primates’ intelligence for their health, better research

By Yilang Peng and Xin Wang | Mon, 10/15/2012 - 10:11pm

Children took turns solving puzzles designed for primates to learn if they were, in fact, smarter than a monkey. The exploration station at the Wisconsin Science Festival featured a shape and color choice game on iPad and a puzzle feeder that dispensed candy. The kids experienced what experimental primates go through to demonstrate their intelligence and earn rewards, like peanuts.

“[Monkeys] need to work for their food in the wild, so we want them to work for their food here. It’s healthy for them,” explained Jordana Lenon, the public information officer for the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC).

The WNPRC was one of many displays at the September 27 science festival, hosted by the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. The primate research center is known for a series of significant discoveries regarding primates, including successful isolation and culture of the primate embryonic stem cells and exploration of the benefits of caloric restriction on monkeys’ health and life span. The efforts of animal care in the center support these breakthroughs in bio-medical research.

Monkeys are smart and social. To conduct better experiments, it’s necessary to “keep them stimulated and happy,” said Lenon.

Providing food puzzles is not the only form of environmental enrichment that caretakers use to enhance the monkeys’ well-being. They give the monkeys toys -- pumpkins and logs -- to keep them mentally active.

Staff in the center also study how monkeys interact with each other and house them socially. Researchers will observe monkeys from their birth and figure out which get along best and which animals aren’t compatible. They are eventually transferred from their original family unit to a smaller cage with a deliberately matched roommate.

“We want to take care of them because they are helping us,” said Lenon.

See the video below for a look at primate games at the festival and primates in the research lab.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Media's Self-Censoring

A few years during a Wisconsin Public Radio pledge drive, the NPR Ombudsperson made a pitch about NPR and its affiliates being the only place you could hear uncensored news.

I wrote to her and provided some examples of WPR not reporting on various problems with animal care and use at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She told me that self-censorship of news at university-based stations was a problem NPR was aware of but had not addressed. She said that she too had seen such censorship at her own university's NPR station.

Matter-of-factly, here in Madison, its a rare occurrence for either the Wisconsin State Journal or Wisconsin Public Radio to cover stories that are potentially embarrassing to the university.

This is understandable since the paper's and the radio's senior staff are neighbors of university senior staff; they run in the same circles to some degree. I remember an interview morning talk show host Joy Cardin did with Richard Davidson. She mentioned that they were very close neighbors. There was no way she could have talked to him about his meditation-compassion-I-know-the-Dalai-Lama schtick and then asked him about his involvement in burning out the emotion centers of young fearful monkeys' brains. You just don't ask your neighbor something like that when your kids play together.

Likewise, the Wisconsin State Journal has failed to meet its responsibility to meaningfully report on matters that could impact the health of everyone in Madison, and potentially, everyone on the planet. They have been reluctant to do this because UW-Madison vivisector Yoshihiro Kawaoka is promoted by the university public relations department as a jet-setting rock star among scientists. It just wouldn't do to tell locals that senior scientists continue to worry publicly that his influenza research and research like his has the potential to trigger the most deadly global pandemic ever. No, this isn't the sort of thing you mention about your neighbor or the institution that promotes his work. Instead you smooth things over and downplay the international debate. Or you just don't mention it at all.

Anyway, here's an article and links to a collection of abstracts of recent opinions that you won't hear about on WPR or read about in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Experts ponder H5N1 research moratorium issues

Lisa Schnirring * CIDRAP Staff Writer

Oct 9, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The moratorium on research leading to more-transmissible H5N1 avian influenza viruses, originally set for 60 days, has remained in place for 8 months without a clear end in sight, but a series of commentaries in mBio today from experts familiar with the issues offers some clues for possible next steps.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rational processing or rationalization?

Q: How are vivisectors like Presbyterian teenage girls?

That sounds like the lead-in to some sick joke at a comedy club, but it's a serious question.

In 1975, psychologist C. Daniel Batson published a report about an experiment he conducted as part of a debate between psychologists regarding "dissonance theory" which he explains by quoting a 1956 paper by other researchers:
Man's resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart, suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief and that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it, finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show new fervor for convincing and converting other people to his view.
Batson says: "If the process described here actually occurs, it can hardly be called rational information processing or dispassionate self-perception. Rather, it implies rationalization, an active self-justifying intensification of belief, presumably in an attempt to defend oneself against the implications of disconfirming information."

To test this idea, Batson provided 50 female high school students active in the youth program of a Presbyterian church in central New Jersey very strong (contrived) evidence that seemed to disprove the divinity of Jesus.

Batson found that the students with the strongest belief were the least affected by the evidence. Moreover, the evidence that their belief was wrong actually strengthened their belief. He summarized:
... the present findings seem to have important practical implications. It has been said, "You will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free [John 8:32]." The present research seems to question this assertion. The more one publicly proclaims one's conviction about personally significant truths, the more one seems bound to these truths. One is less free to modify one's position, to take account of new, discrepant information. But perhaps this is not what is meant by freedom in the above statement. If it means that one will be free from the rational process of taking account of all relevant information in the formulation of one's beliefs, than the present research seems clearly supportive.

In attempting to force a firmly committed believer to "face up to the facts," one may be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. If, on the one hand, the believer does not accept the facts as facts, then clearly one's arguments are without impact. But, on the other hand, if the believer accepts them as true, this may actually drive him into even more fervent adherence to his initial position.[Rational processing or rationalization? The effect of disconfirming information on a stated religious belief. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1975.]
This and similar findings about people's opinions controlling their ability to think rationally helps explain why vivisectors refuse to believe the careful observations made by so many people that what they are doing isn't good science, isn't productive, is cruel, is poorly regulated, and is wasteful of public funds. [See: http://www.animalexperiments.info/studies.html for a few examples.] It explains why solid evidence that what they are doing isn't helpful continues to be denied by them and why some of the most ardent continue to troll the Internet desperately defending their ilk and industry whenever any problem is publicized. When it comes to accommodating facts that prove them wrong about their cherished beliefs, they are no more rational than teenage Presbyterian girls challenged with facts questioning the divinity of Jesus.

In all fairness to the vivisectors, I too may suffer from this problem. After all, I regularly proclaim my convictions about my personally significant beliefs about animals, so maybe I am less free to modify my position, to take account of new, discrepant information. But then, even vivisectors are now admitting that animals have thoughts, feelings, desires, and preferences -- the reasons for my beliefs. If someone could prove that cows don't have any feelings, I'd eat them.

The difference I see between our positions seems to suggests a much more self-protective rationalization on their part. They are terrified at the thought of subjecting their world to public inspection and consideration. You may remember that we worked at some length and effort to have the local county government sanction a citizens' advisory panel to examine the University of Wisconsin-Madison's use of monkeys in its labs. This idea was hair-raising to the vivisectors. They turned out in force and lied and misled and did everything in their power to stop the county from actually looking at what they are doing. This is not the behavior of people who are confident about themselves, their work, or their institution, so maybe, in this respect, they aren't as honorable as the young girls who simply believed.

Call for Full Disclosure on Testing

Leading Animal Ethicists Call for Full Disclosure on Testing

2nd October 2012

Patients prescribed drugs tested on animals should be told details of exactly what is involved, including any suffering caused, say some of the world’s leading animal ethicists.”

The editors of the Journal of Animal Ethics (JAE), published this month by the University of Illinois Press, want full disclosure on the nature of testing used in drug development. They say people should know “not only whether animals were used, but also what kind, how many were used, the precise procedures to which they were subject, and the nature and severity of the pain and suffering, if any, that they had to endure.”

More...

Former UW veterinarian writes letter in support of PETA’s claims

Former UW veterinarian writes letter in support of PETA’s claims

By Tara Golshan

The Badger Herald Friday, October 12, 2012.

A former University of Wisconsin animal lab veterinarian came forward in a letter to the federal government Friday, in an effort to confirm the ethical research problems People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals raised in a campaign against the University of Wisconsin earlier this year.

Dr. Richard Brown, former Senior Program Veterinarian for UW’s Research Animal Resource Center, addressed the United States Department of Agriculture in a letter, after the federal agency released a clear inspection report Thursday.

His letter supports many of the allegations highlighted by PETA’s case and said the violations were known by various departments in the university including the principal investigator, colleagues and the animal experimentation oversight committee at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, at the time.

The university has not yet returned requests for comment.

In an interview with The Badger Herald, Brown said he worked at the the university for five years during this research and was the “only veterinarian with primary authority on clinical matters,” adding he experience these allegations “first hand.”

More...

Risks. Afterwards

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Afterwards

Richard Selling's genius engineers were surprisingly quick to invent a modification to the original Selling TEs, the units people had hidden away for fear of being arrested. Big Mind was simply a click away. And as new minds were added, Big Mind continued to enlarge and deepen in realization.

Individual mind and experience began to take on whole a new value and richness. Individual experiences remembered through Big Mind added to the limitlessness.

It was discovered that Big Mind, in spite of the vastness and breadth of experiences it grew from, was not good at generating novel ideas. New ideas seemed to be the specialty of the individual, but once an idea was understood well by even a few individuals Big Mind generated a wealth of implications because the new idea was then understood by everyone and then evaluated against the experiences of billions of individuals.

And then, Big Mind became accessible through a small indiscernible implant. In a short time, the small Big Mind chip had been inserted into most humans, dogs, and cats. The number of other animals being connected continued to soar.

Big Mind had ended most conflict. Big Mind swallowed the Earth.

-----

Ted was curled up on a chair. The microchip in his ear was indiscernible. He had an expression on his face that was quite distinct from his dream face. Ted was in. And so was Harlow, the large male tabby who lived with Karen. He was curled against Ted.

Stan was reading. Karen and Earnie were looking at some equations and talking about solution sets. As they discussed the problem and tried out various solutions, they were slipping in and out of Big Mind dancing with the spark of creativity and the power of seeming infinite perspectives for guidance.

In a few short years, Big Mind had accelerated invention, knowledge, and understanding into a furious fount of novelty.

But problems remained. Population and pollution had wrecked such havoc on the earth that many wild species had been lost and those that were hanging on seemed to be competing to be first in line for extirpation. Big Mind had awakened the world to the inestimable value of others' perspectives. The only answer seemed to be to somehow heal the planet or leave it altogether. But in spite of the near immortality provided by the Diggins Adjustment, travel between stars was still too slow to be reasonable. The dream of faster than light travel was still unrealized.

Big Mind had turned Earth into a ravished Eden. Big Mind allowed everyone to see every situation from every possible perspective. Lions and lambs lied down together. There were people and animals who had not yet entered Big Mind, but they were an ever diminishing segment of the population of sentient beings on Earth. The needs of everyone became equally important; humans went from plodding across the planet for raw materials to tiptoeing gently between the homes of everyone. Parks filled with grazing cows and horses, people enjoying the out of doors, and animals released from zoos and circuses. As people and animals were chipped, Big Mind grew.

There were human minds, whale minds, mouse minds, dog minds, monkey minds, bird minds, reptile minds, and recently, even fish minds. Cats seemed especially enamored with Big Mind and stayed engaged for hours on end. The Diggins Adjustment turned out to be an adjustment of a very old highly conserved short sequence of genes found in species as ancient as worms. Most individuals chose the adjustment shortly after their first few immersions.

Complaints about the boredom of long life were heard less and less. The arts blossomed. Artists emerged from many species and collaborations between species produced works that some found to be provocative and wholly indescribable.

For the first time since it was imagined, Gaia was reality.

-----

The installation on Neptune, part of the Outer Planet Deep Space Surveillance System, identified an object approaching the Solar System. Big Mind made secrets almost impossible, so everyone was aware of the object the moment it was discovered. And for the first time, Big Mind actually focused its collective attention. In one instant, nearly everyone on Earth knew that seven vessels were plunging toward the planet at twenty times the speed of light, and they were decelerating. Eight days later the seven ships were in orbit around Earth.

Earthlings were as excited about the unsuspected power of Big Mind as they were curious, worried, and excited about the seven alien ships.

But that is another story for another time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Eyes of the Beholder

Can animal rights advocates, researchers ever find middle ground? 
TODD FINKELMEYER | The Capital Times | 10-10-2012

When it comes to debating the merits of animal research taking place on the UW-Madison campus, there may well be middle ground on which the masses can agree. But like so many political issues these days, it's the folks who are most heavily invested in a topic that tend to dominate the discussion. Much more...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Greed as a moral position

Writing about the banking bailouts, political philosopher Michael Sandel wrote:

“...you have to introduce some normative assumption about what is excessive pursuit of gain in order to make sense of greed as a vice independent of the self-interest that all of the economic models presuppose."

Greed is regularly promoted as a reasonable moral position and passed off as the simple self-interest that does and ought to drive most of our decisions, ala Adam Smith Ayn Rand. [as per JB.]

Inspector Jacques Clouseau put it aptly when he characterized politics, but he could have easily been talking about any number of human institutions: “Where greed wears the mask of morality.”

Greed is the desire to possess more than one needs or deserves, especially at a cost to others. Definitions of greed sometime mention power, food, or “other possessions.” It seems to me that “other possessions” could reasonably be construed to mean things like health, life, and liberty. Greed is the desire to acquire things, no matter what they are, especially when the acquisition or accumulation of these things denies others their legitimate need for, or access to those same things.

Killing you in an effort to extend my life seems to be a version of greed. I would be denying your legitimate needs.

The same could be said of locking you up. If I am rewarded in some way for keeping you in a cell or cage, I am acquiring something at your great expense.

Likewise, making you sick in order to produce a cure for me is greedy because the thing I want costs you something you have a legitimate need for. It’s the same as taking food out of your mouth for myself.

Keeping animals in labs, on farms, ranches, in zoos, aquariums, and circuses, or killing them for profit or for pleasure, all seem to be driven by greed. We want something more and go after it by harming or killing others.

Our desire for the taste of someone else’s flesh seems matter-of-factly greedy, particularly in light of our apparent insatiable demand for more and more prepared in ever new ways – this form of greed is sometimes called gluttony, but gluttony is too broad a term. It’s greed when the desire for food is a desire to eat someone else.

The justification we use almost always boils down to “might makes right.” If we can do a thing, then it’s OK to do it, so long as the one or ones harmed are just animals.

Dale Peterson says in The Moral Lives of Animals (2011) that the justification goes something like this: “In any significant competition between the interest of humans and animals, humans have the moral right to win. This is so because it is so.”

This is so because it is so.

That seems right. Most people who consume animals or products made from them don’t pause to consider the matter – they don’t generally know there is a matter, and if they paused for a moment to reflect, they’d probably justify their burger with something akin to: we eat burgers. Simple.

The moral right to win. This is so because it is so. This seems to be the depth of consideration by many people in the labs as well. At one of last year’s pubic “forums” on animal research put on by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, vivisectors Jon Levine and David Abbott were asked a question about the lack of similarity between the way they thought of the animals they were going to experiment on and kill the way they thought of humans.

They were befuddled. It was as if the person asking it had been speaking Old Hungarian; the question was lost on them. They are stuck in the mindset of this is so because it is so.

But even when you can prod vivisectors or other animal abusers into mustering some defense for what they do, other than this is so because it is so, it invariably boils down to greed. The greed, in the case of most arguments put forward to defend experiments on animals, is usually couched in terms that vivisectors must (rightly, I think) imagine will appeal to a majority of people. They argue that any suffering or death is justified if it has even a vanishingly slim chance of leading to some new product or method that will have some benefit at some future time for someone – no matter how slight, how far in the future, or how few people benefit. Pie in the sky is reason enough.

They don’t put it like that of course; the spiel tailored for the public is that they are saving human lives. But that’s just spin. They aren’t. They’re just not comfortable mentioning the real reasons in public. Greed isn’t a justification that most people will accept and vivisectors know intuitively that greed isn’t a winning moral position. But greed is the unvarnished truth.

It’s common to hear vivisectors in academic settings say that they could make much more money in the private sector. They make this claim to show that they are genuinely altruists and that greed isn’t what motivates them. But the private sector tends to prune out the dead wood, and a cushy tenured lifetime job that doesn’t require much effort or sweat isn’t a sacrifice. And the money isn’t bad either. Vivisectors aren’t part of the middle class, not by a long shot. They commonly live in up-scale neighborhoods, in large homes, drive expensive cars, and take vacations that the average person only dreams about. They go on junkets to conferences around the world, hobnob with senior politicians and elites, and did I mention that they get paid very well too?

No, it’s very far-fetched to think that someone living that lifestyle is sacrificing anything at all. And they are always clamoring for more gravy in the form of taxpayer money. It’s plain old greed. It’s greed because the evidence that their work is more or less dead-end isn’t hidden, but they prefer to turn away from it and argue that they are saving lives. But a dollar spent drilling a hole in a rat’s or monkey’s head is a dollar not spent to feed a hungry child or to provide a homeless person a warm safe haven in the dead of winter.

Another strong piece of evidence that seems to show that vivisectors are driven by greed rather than altruism is the comparison between them and doctors, nurses, and teachers when it comes to volunteerism.

Doctors, nurses, and teachers are well represented among the ranks of volunteers around the world. Nurses and teachers are common in the Peace Corps. Doctors Without Borders is known around the world for its humanitarian efforts. Not so much with vivisectors. If a lucrative taxpayer-funded grant isn’t part of the deal, or a cushy position in the ivory towers, you won’t find someone strapping a monkey into a chair and injecting chemicals into their eyes. Their alleged concern for their fellow man seems dependent on a lavish reward.

Where greed wears the mask of morality.

Happy Meatopia

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Risks. Chapter 24

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 24

Rebecca McGuire's Irish was up. "What in the hell happened?" she shouted.

"They must have known that we were coming, they seemed to be waiting. We haven't had word back yet."

A young man burst into the room. "Look what's being broadcasted!" he yelled.

As McGuire was turning up the holoscreen volume, the importance of the image was already clear to her. President John Adams was standing at a lectern festooned with the American Flag.

"My fellow Americans, the attempted assassination of the President of the United States has failed. I order the White House security staff to arrest Secretary of State Rebecca McGuire on the charge of high treason. I have appointed Richard Selling as my new Secretary of State pending confirmation by the Congress. Effective immediately, the police and National Guard are ordered to stand down. The declared martial law is ended."

Rebecca slammed her hand down on the table and screamed, "Who the hell does he think he is?" just as four marine guards entered the room and announced that she was under arrest for high treason.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

PeTA Skewers UW-Madison

Readers of this blog are familiar with the photographs of Double Trouble, the orange tabby tortured in Tom Yin's lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Readers may also have read or know that PeTA filed detailed complaints alleging multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act with the USDA and NIH after long and careful review of records from the Yin lab that they obtained through a public records request. It took a three-year-long court battle to get the photos. The university is all about transparency, they like to say.

Readers may also know that the university rebutted PeTA's complaints. They claimed that not even one of the problems or alleged violations PeTA detailed were true. It was all a publicity stunt explained Eric Sandgren, the university's point-man for triage of all the university's animal cruelty related media headline embarrassments.

Readers who looked at the university's Facebook page might also know that the university's rebuttal was universally and immediately declared absolute proof that the university was 100% right and PeTA 100% wrong by the tiny outspoken minority of pro-vivisection nutters who usually turn out to have clear financial stakes in the continuance of animal experimentation.

The simple fact that the university claimed it was innocent was more than sufficient proof for them. (Proof seems generally to be a difficult concept for vivisectors.)

PeTA has responded to the university's defense and exposed the spin and misleading claims they made. It appears that the university inadvertently admitted to yet further violations in its quick off-hand rebuttal to PeTA's charges. This won't have been the first time I've seen them trip over their protestations if this turns out to be the case.

Whether or not PeTA's claims are found to be substantial and actionable is a decision that will be made by NIH and the USDA, not the university. This simple fact has upset a number of the university's and the industry's supporters who see no reason for third-party oversight of what happens in the labs. Too bad for them.

You can read PeTA's response to the university's rebuttal here: PETA Response to University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Claims about Cruel Sound Localization Experiments on Cats.