Monday, April 30, 2012

Experimental H5N1 Still Worrisome to Authorities

Extended H5N1 Moratorium?

A US science official recommends extending moratorium on bird flu studies as well as other types of risky research.

By Cristina Luiggi | The Scientist | April 30, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Risks. Chapter 1

Risks of Empathy, A Novella

Chapter 1

Bob stepped off the curb into the small puddle of brown water, which distracted him just long enough for the bus to run him over. A police officer sitting in a cruiser parked just a few car lengths away saw the accident and made an immediate 911 call for an ambulance. The bus driver made a similar call only an instant later. Within two minutes two ambulances had arrived, surprisingly fast. One minute later two paramedic teams were at Bob’s side and saved his life. Bob had every reason to expect to be able to live another eighty or ninety years at least; he was only a hundred and forty-two years old after all.


Sarah drove up to her front door wondering what to make for dinner that night. After a little thought she decided on fried chicken. Jimmy and Amanda both love it and Dave thinks her fried chicken is the best he’s ever had. Fried chicken always made her think of her mom, “Sarah,” she would say, “remember to always peal the skin from the chicken and fry it in low fat canola.” That always made Sarah smile. Thinking of her own two kids she tried to imagine what it must have been like for parents back in her mom’s and grandmother’s times who knew their children were going to die and needed to be protected even from things like cholesterol, salmonella, or cancer.


The damn thing just wouldn’t work. Stan and Earnie were sitting on backless swivel stools facing each other. Earnie had a pair of blue virtual vision goggles on and was wearing something that looked like a hairnet. Stan had a sensor in his hand and was moving it from intersection to intersection on the hair net thing while watching the readout on the sensor and occasionally glancing over at two video displays that appeared to be showing two rapidly undulating graphs.

“I don’t know what the fuck’s wrong with the damn thing,” Earnie said from behind the goggles.

“We’re gonna get it,” answered Stan reassuringly.

And then Earnie seemed to relax and said, “Oh, god.”


Karen was finally going to graduate and was going to make her first career choice. Her grades had been excellent and all her professors had written her glowing recommendations. She had met with the councilors and they had given her all the brochures to read, but even without them she knew what career she was going to choose. Without more than a second glance at the code for Conservationist, she coded the appropriate boxes and became the country’s newest Basic Biological Research Scientist Trainee for about two and a half minutes until some equally bright and dynamic young scholar took her place as the nation's newest scientist.


In 2014 Dr. Robert N. Diggins discovered that a particularly long series of nucleotides in human cells seemed to be misplaced. Using gene-splicing techniques that had been in use for decades, Diggins rearranged things. The order had only been a little off according to Diggins’s research. Ten years later scientists generally recognized Diggins as a total crackpot, but a damned lucky one. Based on erroneous data and faulty reasoning, Diggins had discovered the fountain of youth and the Diggins Adjustment had become something akin to circumcision. It had taken eight years for the public to force the government to act, but now, with the gene rearrangement, humans had become immune to nearly all disease. Rumors continued to pop up for years about this or that rare disease, but now everyone generally agreed that they just might not die.


Bob got out of the hospital fairly easily after his run in with the bus. His liver had been damaged quite badly, but techniques had come a long way from his grandfather’s time. Bob’s liver had been removed and placed in a nutrient bath and allowed to rest and heal more quickly. While Bob’s liver was getting its healing rest, Bob stayed attached to the artificial liver and watched videos. An artificial lens had been placed in his right eye, which had been punctured in the accident, but now he had excellent vision in that eye. When Bob left the hospital his liver was rested and his vision, in one eye at least, was sharp.


Sarah took the chicken from the freezer, and she felt really old fashioned. How many people still stored their meat in the freezer? An entire craze had embraced meat that was beginning to decompose and soften. Sarah did keep some meat in the cabinet but she found that the ventilating fan rarely completely removed the smell. The chicken thawed out in an instant in the microwave. Sarah liked to cook. She put the black cast iron pan on the electric burner and spooned in three cups of the best snow-white pork lard. She went to the refrigerator, thinking of being old fashioned again, took out half a dozen eggs and cracked them into a bowl. To this she added a cup of heavy cream. She took the cracker crumbs from the shelf and dumped them into a flat blue dish and sprinkled in some salt and pepper. She cut the chicken into her natural parts: legs, wings, breast, thighs, and back and set the giblets and neck aside. She dipped a piece of the chicken into the egg and heavy cream, then into the crumbs, then back into the egg and cream and crumbs once more and then into the almost smoking hot fat. The skin sizzled as she repeated the process with another and another piece until the pan was full. She went back and turned each piece while the aroma of frying chicken filled the house.


“It was fucking beyond real, man,” asserted Earnie. He looked down at the foam in his coffee mug and watched the colors change from reds and greens to blues as the oil slid off the bubbles. “It was fucking beyond real, man.”

Stan knew they were going to be very wealthy. Their research into virtual reality had hit pay dirt. When he had switched places with Earnie he had understood Earnie’s rapture. Their cerebral transmitter had achieved a step, a light-year's leap past the virt-vision in use. This was so real that someone might get hurt reacting from the images in their mind and before their eyes.


Karen began her new career at the Enzyme Interaction Institute in Dr. Yu’s laboratory. Yu’s people were working to discover whether the ratio of neurons to muscle fibers in hamster thigh muscle was quantitatively different than the n/m ratio in guinea pig thigh muscle. The first of the many responsibilities Karen was eventually assigned was the care of the experimental animals in building number seven. Karen would begin cleaning at nine o’clock in the morning. The hamsters and guinea pigs were stored in clear plastic tubs with light blue snap-on plastic lids. A water bottle was attached to one end. A simple food tray was attached at the other. Karen had a cart she pushed along with her. On the cart were two tall stacks of the clear plastic tubs stacked like Dixie cups. Next to the tubs was a five-gallon bucket of food pellets. A pistol grip hose nozzle was hooked over the edge of the cart which pulled a black water hose along behind it like an endless tail. Karen stopped at the first bank of tubs. The stainless steel rack was twelve tubs wide and five tubs high. She cleaned a half rack at a time. These were guinea pig tubs; the hamster tubs were twenty-four tubs wide and ten tubs high. Each aisle was made up of twenty banks of racks. All the tubs along the first five aisles held experimental animals. Each of these tubs held one animal. The other three aisles held pregnant mothers or mothers and babies.


The Diggins’ Adjustment, or simply the Adjustment as it came to be known, was a boon to food producers and tobacco growers and chemical corporations and turned life insurance companies into holders of truly astounding amounts of money. People quit dying, but it was a decade or two before people really began to understand and canceled their life insurance. The food producers quit caring about the health benefits of their products, and low fat options disappeared overnight. Tobacco became immensely popular once again and though a few restaurants still tried to maintain a no-smoking area, the notion was considered quaint more than anything else. Chemical companies quit worrying about carcinogenicity and pollution and went into free-for-all production.

The world experienced a renaissance - no illness, no death, nothing but potential.


Friday, April 27, 2012

More Public Oversight Needed

I was listening to NPR's Science Friday today. Host Ira Flatow was interviewing medical journalist and author of Patient POV Blog, Laura Newman about a recent post of her's titled "Top 10 Reasons Why Warren Buffett's Decision to Treat Prostate Cancer Bugs Me."

Newman cited research showing that non-symptomatic prostate cancer is best watched rather than biopsied or treated and that elderly men ought not be treated at all in most cases.

Simply, the likely sequelae or consequences -- incontinence, impotence, bowl disorders, etc. -- of the common treatments -- surgery and/or radiation -- are so severe that they should not be undertaken until disease symptoms are noticeable to the patient, and not at all in elderly men. Elderly men have a far greater likelihood of dying from another cause than they do from diagnosed prostate cancer.

What caught my ear was a comment from Newman that she made a couple of times regarding the reason urologists urge their patients to undergo surgery in spite of the evidence-based recommendations to wait. Can you guess what she said?

She said that urologists specializing in the treatment of prostate cancer recommend surgery too often because surgery is how they make their living.

In other words, medical doctors who have taken an oath to first do no harm and to put their patients' interests first routinely recommend unwarranted surgery with known very serious side effects because they make their living doing the surgery.

If medical doctors are willing to harm their patients for a buck (even if they have fooled themselves into thinking something else), how likely is it that vivisectors wouldn't experiment on animals simply because that's how they make their living? Not likely at all.

The clear unambiguous conflict of financial self-interest is overwhelming. It is a pressure that most people find impossible to resist.

Couple this with the recognized group-think in insulated social systems like vivisection labs and university vivisection programs and it is easy to understand why so many transparently frivolous and meaningless studies are approved and funded.

We need much more public oversight of animal experimentation. If patients can't trust their own doctors it is unreasonable that the public should trust vivisectors and the system that sustains them and reaps financial rewards from their work.

See too: Surgeons Operate More When They Own the Surgery Center

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Strict Regulation": A Cause for Alarm

Vivisectors always (really, always) claim that the use of animals is highly regulated, and so, the way the animals are used should not be a concern to the public. The public can rest assured that all is well.

When concerns are raised they claim that any worry about the animals or suspicion about what goes on in the labs is unwarranted because of the regulations. Very frequently they say that those raising the concerns just don’t know about the regulations or understand just how well the government controls the industry.

This appeal to authority is a rhetorical device intended to deceive the public.

But even it the vivisectors have convinced themselves it really is true, their claim ought to still raise an eyebrow.

They say, “Trust the government.”

The U.S. government’s track record of self-regulation and the widespread current problems it is having regulating its own staff should make it clear that vivisectors’ appeal to government regulations ought not be given much weight; the problems the U.S. government is having regulating itself makes the vivisectors’ appeal a cause for alarm.

U.S. Secret Service agents sent to Columbia to protect the President during his visit there hired prostitutes for what seems to have been some sort of secret agent orgy.

The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency charged with spending the taxpayer’s money as economically as possible on products and services the government needs to conduct the peoples’ business, held a gala $700,000 party for themselves, with our money.

Soldiers in Afghanistan, after burning some Korans and earning America even greater hatred in the Arabic world, even after similar previous problems in Iraq, took pictures of themselves smiling with posed Afghani corpses and Afghani body parts.

Neither the U.S. Army, the GSA, nor the Secret Service is able to regulate their own employees. It’s no wonder the government can’t regulate other organizations’ employees’ activities.

Large universities aren’t able to regulate their employees either. Think of the recent cases: Jerry Sandusky, John Chadima, Joe Paterno, for instance. Senior athletic staff members were sexual predators of underage students and children; other staff members and university administrators apparently knew about it and stayed silent.

Large universities, like the Catholic church, have a vested interest in keeping their dirt under the rug. Sex scandals are just part of it. Universities using animals have a long history of secrecy. They work diligently and at significant cost to the taxpayers to keep the details of what they do out of the public eye. The University of Madison, Wisconsin’s willful destruction of over 15 years of videos – 628 of them – documenting its primate experimentation is but one example

So, animals in university labs are used by institutions that go to great lengths to keep the details of the dark things they do hidden, and in the case of animals, when the dirt starts to show, they urge the public to look away, to stay calm, because, don’t you know, the use of animals in the labs is regulated by the U.S. government.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Maternal Deprivation II

The "Serendipity" of Biomedical Research 

Vivisectors sometimes argue that even though their work does not appear at the current time to have provided any demonstrable benefit to human sufferers of some disease or other malady, scientific experimentation is pregnant with possibilities that something entirely unexpected might be learned or discovered at any time.

It’s true that discoveries are sometimes unexpected and sometimes more or less unrelated to the question at hand, and it is also sometimes true that discoveries made today, no matter how obscure or meaningless they might appear right now, could turn out to be useful in the future.

Here’s an interesting assortment of serendipitous discoveries I found on Webster’s [wonderful] Online Dictionary under serendipity.
Penicillin by Alexander Fleming. He failed to disinfect cultures of bacteria when leaving for his vacations, only to find them contaminated with Penicillium molds, which killed the bacteria. However, he had previously done extensive research into antibacterial substances.
The psychedelic effects of LSD by Albert Hofmann. A chemist, he intentionally ingested a small amount of it upon investigating its properties, and had the first acid trip in history, while cycling to his home in Switzerland; this is commemorated among LSD users annually as Bicycle Day.
5-fluorouracil's therapeutic action on actinic keratosis, was initially investigated for its anti-cancer actions.
Minoxidil's action on baldness, originally it was an oral agent for treating hypertension. It was observed that bald patients treated with it grew hair too.
Viagra (sildenafil citrate), an anti-impotence drug. It was initially studied for use in hypertension and angina pectoris. Phase I clinical trials under the direction of Ian Osterloh suggested that the drug had little effect on angina, but that it could induce marked penile erections.
Retin-A anti-wrinkle action. It was a vitamin A derivative first used for treating acne. The accidental result in some older people was a reduction of wrinkles on the face.
The libido-enhancing effect of l-dopa, a drug used for treating Parkinson's disease. Older patients in a sanatorium had their long-lost interest in sex suddenly revived.
Vivisectors sometimes point to accidental discovery as a partial justification for their work. It’s a sort of faith-based position on the value of basic science. See for instance: Serendipity in Research Involving Laboratory Animals. William C. Campbell. ILAR Journal. Volume 46, Number 4, 2005.

Harry Harlow and his student’s horribly cruel maternal deprivation experiments didn’t contribute to the care of humans. Their work was and remains a marathon demonstration that certain things we already knew and know to be true about humans are also true for rhesus monkeys.

It isn’t serendipity when the accidental discovery of something bad, especially while looking for something good, leads to great evil. Giving Harlow and his students the (unwarranted) benefit of the doubt, maybe they actually were looking for something good. If so, they never found it, and moreover, the legacy of their work is a small quasi-scientific industry dedicated to using monkeys in research purported to be intended to benefit human beings with anxiety, substance abuse, and other psychiatric disorders.

The monkey-model-of-human-anxiety industry produces only scientific papers. It is almost wholly publicly funded. Its work product does not include benefit to human sufferers of anxiety.

Harlow and his student’s work was the birth of the industry. The big discovery upon which the industry is based was the scientific fact that rhesus monkeys deprived of maternal care fail to develop normally; they are fearful and withdrawn.

As a result of this highly replicable and often replicated discovery, creating monkeys who are suffering from severe emotional problems is now matter-of-fact; it’s routine, thanks to the accidental discovery by Harlow and his many students that a baby monkey’s psyche can be quickly crushed by taking him away from his mother.

The ease of this psychic demolition is the tool that makes the publicly-funded maternal deprivation industry possible.
It has led to studies like “Amygdala gene expression correlates of social behavior in monkeys experiencing maternal separation. Sabatini MJ, Ebert P, Lewis DA, Levitt P, Cameron JL, Mirnics K. J Neurosci. 2007.

It has led to studies like the one reported on in 2010 by vivisectors at the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta. That study investigated whether rhesus monkeys who experienced early life stress would show “altered sensitivity” to the reinforcing effects of cocaine. Five “control monkeys” -- monkeys who weren’t taken at birth from the mothers, and four maternally separated monkeys were trained to self-administer cocaine. They discovered that the maternally deprived monkeys were less likely to become addicted. [Impact of early life stress on the reinforcing and behavioral-stimulant effects of psychostimulants in rhesus monkeys. Ewing Corcoran SB, Howell LL. Behavioral Pharmacology.]

And more recent reports like:

Early rearing interacts with temperament and housing to influence the risk for motor stereotypy in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Vandeleest JJ, McCowan B, Capitanio JP. Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2011. [“Motor stereotypy” is a technical term for abnormal behaviors that commonly involve various forms of self-stimulation such as self-injury, pacing, rocking, spinning in circles, excessive sleeping, and mouthing cage bars.];


Early social experience affects behavioral and physiological responsiveness to stressful conditions in infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Rommeck I, Capitanio JP, Strand SC, McCowan B. Am J Primatol. 2011.

The maternal deprivation tool has been exported around the world. Chinese researchers reported in 2011 that: “[T]he deleterious effects of MS [maternal separation] on rhesus monkeys cannot be compensated by a later normal social life, suggesting that the effects of MS are long-lasting and that the maternal-separated rhesus monkeys are a good animal model to study early adversity and to investigate the development of psychiatric disorders induced by exposure to early adversity.” [Maternal separation produces lasting changes in cortisol and behavior in rhesus monkeys. Feng X, Wang L, Yang S, Qin D, Wang J, Li C, Lv L, Ma Y, Hu X.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.]

The most financially successful exploitation of young monkeys’ vulnerability to maternal deprivation may be the richly endowed work of Harry Harlow’s protégé, Stephen Suomi.

Suomi's publicly-funded project, "Developmental Continuity of Individual Differences in Reactivity in Monkeys" (Project No. 1ZIAHD001106) has received about $6 million over the past 5 years. In 2011 he explained his methods and results over the years:
As in previous years, a major focus of this project has been detailed longitudinal study of the behavioral and biological consequences of differential early social rearing, most notably comparing rhesus monkey infants reared by their biological mothers in pens containing adult males and other mothers with same-age infants for their first 6-7 months of life (MR), with monkeys separated from their mothers at birth, hand-reared in the labs neonatal nursery for their first month and then raised in small groups of same-age peers for their next 6 months (PR). In a third standard rearing environment, surrogate-peer rearing (SPR), infants are separated from their mothers and nursery reared just like PR infants, but then at 1 month are housed in individual cages containing an inanimate surrogate mother and additionally are placed in a play cage with 3 other like-reared peers for 2 hours daily for the next are 6 months. At 7 months of age, MR, PR, and SPR infants are all moved into one large pen, where they all live together until puberty. Thus, the differential social rearing occurs only for the first 6-7 months; thereafter MR, PR, and SPR all share the same physical and social environment. We previously demonstrated that PR monkeys cling more, play less, tend to be much more aggressive, and exhibit much greater behavioral and biological disruption during and immediately following short-term social separation at 6 months of age than MR monkeys, and they also exhibit deficits in serotonin metabolism (as indexed by chronically low values of CSF 5-HIAA), as do SPR monkeys, and they also have significantly lower levels of 5-HTT binding throughout many brain regions than do MR subjects. Many of these differences between MR and PR monkeys persist throughout the childhood years. Research in collaboration with colleagues from NIAAA has demonstrated that both PR and SPR monkeys also consume significantly more alcohol when placed in a happy hour situation as adolescents and young adults. This past year we published data extending these rearing condition differences to include developmental changes in plasma concentrations of BDNF and NGF (6), behavioral lateralization (4), acoustic startle response patterns following fluxotine treatment (11), and structural differences in various brain regions (15). Finally, we found that PR monkeys had chronically higher levels of cortisol obtained from hair samples than did MR and SPR monkeys throughout their first year of life, whereas during the second year SPR monkeys had higher levels than the other two rearing groups.

The knowledge that taking baby monkeys from their mothers is harmful to them has had only two effects: Taxpayer money has been poured into the bank accounts of scientists whose careers are based on taking monkeys away from their mothers and documenting the many ways they suffer, and, thousands of baby monkeys and their mothers have been separated from each other simply to hurt them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Harvard's Marmosets

I read an article on Harvard Magazine's "John Harvard's Journal" yesterday, titled "Animal Research Reforms." I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyhow, that Harvard is widely perceived as being fairly astute, sophisticated, and attracting smart people. But with regard to the use of animals in its biomedical research endeavor, it seems to be filled with the same low caliber of individuals as pretty much everywhere else.

The article was (I suspect that they'll change it some time or another) kicked off with a photograph of a young baboon. The photograph was captioned "common marmoset." I wrote to them and pointed out the error and suggested that they might want to change it. I recommended a photo of a rhesus macaque since rhesus monkeys are the most commonly consumed species at the NIH National Primate Research Centers. Here's my email correspondence with them:
The mislabeled image is of a young baboon, a species not usually used at the New England primate center. Thought you'd want to know.
(What else don't the editors really understand about the experimental use of nonhuman primates?)
Someone named John S. Rosenberg wrote back right away and said:
If so, and we will research, the image is wrongly labeled from the photo source from which we acquired the image. JSR
To which, I replied:
just stick common marmoset into Google images for comparison,
do the same for young baboon
The most accurate image would be of a rhesus macaque, the overwhelmingly most common primate species used at the primate centers including New England.
It's not a giant deal of course, but I can't help laughing when I see the image and caption still being used by these experts:

And a little larger for clarity:
Sad and funny.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Children Need Love and Hugs

A Brief History of Maternal Deprivation

1928: John B. Watson publishes Psychological Care of Infant and Child. "Never, never kiss your child," Dr. Watson commanded. "Never hold it in your lap. Never rock its carriage." Watson’s position is the standard advice to parents from pediatricians of the time.

1935: Rene Spitz pioneers direct observation of mothers interacting with their babies to understand potential causes of some children’s psychological problems.

1945: Spitz begins observations of children in orphanages.

1946: Benjamin Spock publishes The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. "Don't be afraid to trust your own common sense," he wrote. "What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best." Spock’s Baby Book was an instant runaway best seller.

By the time Dr. Spock died in 1998, nearly 50 million copies of his famous book had been sold worldwide. It had been translated into 42 languages, according to his obituary in the New York Times.

1948: Social Commission of the United Nations decides to study the needs of homeless children in post-war Europe. Other specialized agencies express their support.

January 1950: The World Health Organization commissions John Bowlby to lead the study.

October 1950: Bowlby presents his book-length report: Maternal Care and Mental Health.

February 1952: Second Edition of Maternal Care is printed.
Bowlby’s monograph Maternal Care and Mental Health was ... at once acclaimed an unqualified contribution to its subject. Its success is shown by the frequency with which it has been printed and the many languages into which it has been translated.

The conclusion Bowlby reaches in his monograph is that the prolonged deprivation of the young child of maternal care may have grave and far reaching effects ... His indictment on that score of the nurseries, institutions, and hospitals of even the so-called advanced countries has contributed to a remarkable change in outlook that has led to a widespread improvement in the institutional care of children. (From the Preface to Deprivation of Maternal Care: A Reassessment of its Effects. World Health Organization. 1966.)
1952: A Two Year Old Goes to the Hospital. James Robertson. A Scientific Film.

This short film, made by one of Bowlby’s students, proved highly challenging to doctors and hospitals and is credited for much of the quick and sweeping change in child care in institutions that occurred following the publication of Maternal Care.

By the early 1950s, the old position, exemplified by John B. Watson’s 1928 work cited above, had been universally abandoned. The devastating and quick onset of the effects to a young child being removed from her mother was well and widely accepted; the even greater and lasting insult resulting from emotional isolation and the absence of physical contact with a nurturing caregiver was universally understood. Benjamin Spock’s suggestions to hold and kiss your children were universally understood to be key elements in the development of an emotional healthy human being.

While Maternal Care and Mental Health and A Two Year Old Goes to the Hospital, and similar work by a large number of researchers whose work has been somewhat forgotten as a result of Bowlby’s success, made it clear that children need emotional nurturing, the theoretical reasons for this need became the topic of much debate.

It was this arcane debate -- largely meaningless for clinical care -- that opened the door to a flood of incredibly cruel experiments on animals. The experiments continue today, though there are many fewer scientists interested in them.

Before looking at a brief history of the animal experiments, it is worth noting that research into the effects of various types and degrees of deprivation in children has continued.

Interest in the problem was greatly increased following the 1989 Christmas day execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The collapse of his regime opened Romania to the eyes of the world; shock and outrage resulted from the reports about the Romanian government's orphanages and the plight of the children who are sometimes referred to as the Ceausescu Orphans.

According to NGO estimates, more than 170,000 orphans were languishing in government institutions under appalling conditions.
"The [orphanages] varied from poor to abysmal," says Dana Johnson, an American doctor who first visited Romania in 1993. "People were very morose. There wasn't much joy in their lives and the institutions reflected that." In the baby houses, Johnson observed that children's physical needs were attended to and there was food to eat, "but there was neither the time nor the knowledge to truly promote normal development in kids." Unlike growing up in a family, the children didn't have lots of interactions with adults holding them, talking to them, singing or playing with them, and that lack of stimulation affects brain development. [Rewiring the Brain: Early Deprivation and Child Development. Romania's Orphan Story 1966-2006. American RadioWorks. Sasha Aslanian, Producer.]
Today, much work is underway to improve the lives of the people who were in the institutions. Accompanying that effort, psychologists and medical doctors are detailing the lasting effects as well as the improvements.

For instance, in a 2010 paper, “Growth and associations between auxology, caregiving environment, and cognition in socially deprived Romanian children randomized to foster vs ongoing institutional care,” researchers report that:
Foster care had a significant effect on growth, particularly with early placement and high-quality care. Growth and IQ in low-birth-weight children are particularly vulnerable to social deprivation. Catch-up growth in height under more nurturing conditions is a useful indicator of caregiving quality and cognitive improvement.
From the many studies of these children and their life trajectories, it is clear that the only way to help them recover to any degree is by nurturing them, by providing the one thing they didn’t have as very young children. This “cure” fits neatly into what Benjamin Spock taught the world so many years ago.


With this as background, we can now consider a brief history of deprivation experiments using animals.

The earliest reference I can find that mentions separating baby animals from their mothers to see what would happen is the work of Howard S. Liddell, a vivisecting psychologist. Here’s a paean to the monster at the time of his passing.

Liddell’s maternal deprivation experiments focused on the use of twin goats. One was left with his or her mother and the other was removed periodically. This is the only animal study mentioned by John Bowlby in his WHO monograph.

A small number of critics of Bowby's work suggested that most of the deleterious effects observed as a result of maternal deprivation were the result of the children coming from “poor stock” both physically and emotionally; that is, most of the studied children were poor, and poor people are poor because of inherited genetic deficits.

Bowlby addressed these criticisms by appealing to Liddell’s experiments. He wrote:
... the only certain method of controlling [for] heredity is by the use of a sample of identical twins. Though there are no human twin studies on the problem, Liddell (personal communication) is doing experimental work on twin goat kids, one of whom is separated from its mother each day and the other is not. Except for the daily experimental period of 40 minutes, both kids live with and feed from their mother. During the experimental period the lights are periodically extinguished, a stimulus known to create anxiety in goats, and this produces very different behaviour in the twins. The one which is with its mother is at ease and moves freely; the isolated one is “psychologically frozen” (Liddell’s words) and remains cowed in a corner. In one of the first experiments the isolated kid discontinued suckling from its mother and, the experimenters being unaware of this and unable to help, died of dehydration after a few days. This is ample demonstration of the adverse effects of maternal deprivation on the mammalian young, and disposes finally of the argument that all the observed effects are due to heredity.
A pioneer in this truly and remarkably cruel line of study was Harry F. Harlow, the first director of the Wisconsin Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Harlow and his students were the authors of many of the approximately 500 scientific papers – published between the late 1950’s (Harlow published the “Nature of love” in 1958) through about 1985 – utilizing isolation-reared monkeys (occasionally dogs) as models of depressed and anxious humans, especially children [See Stephens, M.L. Maternal Deprivation Experiments in Psychology: A Critique of Animal Models. 1986. American, National, and New England Antivivisection Societies.]

Here's a sampling:

1959 Harlow HF, Zimmerman RR. Affectional responses in the infant monkey; orphaned baby monkeys develop a strong and persistent attachment to inanimate surrogate mothers.
1962 Seay B, Hansen E, Harlow HF. Mother-infant separation in monkeys.
1962 Harlow HF, Harlow MK. The effect of rearing conditions on behavior.
1962 Harlow HF, Harlow M. Social deprivation in monkeys.
1964 Seay B, Alexander BK, Harlow HF. Maternal behavior of socially deprived rhesus monkeys.
1964 Harlow HF, Rowland GL, Griffen GA. The effect of total social deprivation on the development of monkey behavior.
1965 Seay B, Harlow HF. Maternal separation in the rhesus monkey.
1966 Griffin GA, Harlow HF. Effects of three months of total social deprivation on social adjustment and learning in the rhesus monkey.
1967 Arling GL, Harlow HF. Effects of social deprivation on maternal behavior of rhesus monkeys.
(1967 Harlow wins National Medal of Science.)
1969 Kerr GR, Chamove AS, Harlow HF. Environmental deprivation: its effect on the growth of infant monkeys.
1970 Suomi SJ, Harlow HF, Domek CJ. Effect of repetitive infant-infant separation of young monkeys.
1971 McKinney WT Jr, Suomi SJ, Harlow HF. Depression in primates.
1971 Harlow HF, Suomi SJ. Production of depressive behaviors in young monkeys.
1972 McKinney WT Jr, Suomi SJ, Harlow HF. Repetitive peer separations of juvenile-age rhesus monkeys.
1973 Young LD, Suomi SS, Harlow HF, McKinney WT Jr. Early stress and later response to separation in rhesus monkeys.
1973 Chamove AS, Rosenblum LA, Harlow HF. Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) raised only with peers. A pilot study.
1973 Harlow HF, Plubell PE, Baysinger CM. Induction of psychological death in rhesus monkeys.
1974 Harlow HF, Suomi SJ. Induced depression in monkeys.
1975 Suomi SJ, Harlow HF. Effects of differential removal from group on social development of Rhesus monkeys.
1975 Suomi SJ, Eisele CD, Grady SA, Harlow HF. Depressive behavior in adult monkeys following separation from family environment.
1975 Suomi SJ, Collins ML, Harlow HF, Ruppenthal GC. Effects of maternal and peer separations on young monkeys.

It has been demonstrated repeatedly that even brief separations can have lasting deleterious consequences to rhesus monkeys.

Papers on isolation and separation continue to be published by Harlow’s students and others. See for instance, Physiological and behavioral adaptation to relocation stress in differentially reared rhesus monkeys: hair cortisol as a biomarker for anxiety-related responses. Dettmer AM, Novak MA, Suomi SJ, Meyer JS. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012. Both Novak and Suomi were Harlow’s students.

It remains to be seen, even after half a century of this cruelty, what benefit to human children has accrued from isolating baby animals from their mothers, as if any benefit could justify the willful infliction of so much suffering.

The benefit to those whom the taxpayers unknowingly pay to conduct these macabre cruelties is clear enough however.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Vivisectionists Say that Filing a Complaint with Law Enforcement Officials is Like Throwing Rocks Through Windows

It wasn't a coincidence that the smash TV hit The Sopranos was set in New Jersey; the state has a reputation for being a home base to organized crime. This might explain why the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research (NJABR)says that filing a formal complaint with law enforcement officials or the court is the same as throwing a rock through a window. Having to obey the law posses serious risks to vivisectionists the New Jersey front group claims. Corruption is deeply ingrained in New Jersey's culture; NJABR's worry about getting caught breaking the law is understandable.

A little less understandable is the group's subtle undermining of the taxpayer dollar gravy train's regular stops at places like Rutgers and Seton Hall. Surely they strongly support -- without question or consideration -- taxpayer support of the cocaine and alcohol addiction research on animals at those institutions. Surely they would say this is important research because of the effects on the people who are addicted. Surely.

But they use such people as bugaboos; who else would break into an empty building and squat there, turn it into a garbage dump, and then burn it down? Odd. Surely they think such people ought to be helped? Or maybe they just want the vivisectors hurting and killing rats in the name of helping such people to keep getting their millions of dollars. Who knows, but it reminds me of some scam being run by the Mob.

Anyway, read the document below, part of their Animal Research at a Crossroads fear campaign. It's reproduced here in more or less the same form as it appears on the group's website. Clearly, they are freaked out, and believe that everyone else in the industry will be too after hearing that wild-eyed animal rights activists have had the gall to ask law enforcement officials to intervene to stop criminal animal cruelty. What's next, limits on what they can do to animals?
You pass a building with a broken window Do you notice? Probably not.

The window is not repaired and a few more are broken. Do you notice? Possibly.

Squatters break into the abandoned building. Garbage collects. Decay sets in. Maybe a fire breaks out, and soon the entire neighborhood is threatened.
Everyone starts to pay attention, but is it too late?

For far too long animal rights activists have been throwing rocks at our windows. As a community, we cannot afford to wait for the building to burn down before we begin to pay attention. As a united community, we need to craft a national strategy to confront the many threats to our future research capabilities.

Here are a few of the legal challenges we must pay attention to:
• In July, four employees of now-­defunct Professional Laboratory and Research Services Inc. in North Carolina were indicted on felony animal-­cruelty indictments by a grand jury in Gates County, N.C. The charges follow the release of a videotape provided by an undercover worker from Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that showed animals being hit, kicked and thrown. PETA lab investigator Kathy Guillermo called it a groundbreaking case for animal rights and the first she is aware of where research lab workers have been charged with felony animal cruelty.

• In a legal complaint sent to a Hinds County prosecutor, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) requested that authorities investigate the University of Mississippi Medical Center for alleged violations of the state animal cruelty statute and “take steps to prevent further violations of Mississippi law.” PCRM has previously filed similar complaints against Johns Hopkins University, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Massachusetts General Hospital and Baystate Medical Center.

• PETA and Alliance for Animals (AFA) recently sent a letter to Dane County Wisconsin's district attorney requesting University of Wisconsin-­Madison researchers be charged with criminal animal cruelty for allegedly violating a state law against "instigating fights between animals." At issue are experiments by a team of UW-­Madison scientists involving aggression in mice.

What can we learn from these cases?

First, we all need to pay attention. Second, we are all in this together and need to be aware of attacks and tactics that have potential to affect any part of our community. Remember: collaboration and improved communication are essential components of a strong biomedical research community.

The New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research (NJABR) is your window on the world of animal activism. We monitor the media; we analyze the trends; we connect the dots. We are here for you. Let us know what you need.
Jayne Mackta, President Tel. 908.228-­2203; E-­mail:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Apt Comparisons

People react in various ways when the parallels are pointed out between the horrible things we have done to humans and the horrible things we continue to do to other animals. Some of us shake our heads and lament the sad results of our flat learning curve, others of us bristle at the audacity or insensitivity of comparing an animal’s pain and fear, particularly their death, to the pain, fear, or death of a human.

Sometimes, not infrequently in fact, even people with a real concern for animals sometime express unease with such comparisons and argue that such comparisons shouldn’t be made.

Similar arguments were undoubtedly made in the past when people voiced a concern about the way enslaved blacks were being treated in the South...
It follows, from what has been stated, that it is a great and dangerous error to suppose that all people are equally entitled to liberty. It is a reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike; -- a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and deserving; -- not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it. Nor is it any disparagement to liberty, that such is, and ought to be the case. John C. Calhoun. Disquisition on Government. 1854. In Slavery Defended: the Views of The Old South. McKitrick, Ed. 1963.
It seems to me that the language of equality has always been an assertion that the un-enfranchised person is morally equivalent to the people in power and deserving the same rights precisely because of their equality.

It is worth some notice too that members of exploited groups are frequently dehumanized and branded as mere animals. (Much space has been devoted to this device by Phillip Zimbardo in The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. (2007.) For instance, on dehumanization and seeing others as less than humans he writes:
... dehumanization automatically facilitates inhumane actions. When we dehumanize people we transform them into objects and can ignore their demands and pleas...

... The Nazi genocide of the Jews began first by creating ... a national perception of these fellow human beings as inferior forms of animal life...
It seems reasonable to think that humanizing an animal, by pointing out how much he suffers when he is hurt in the same way humans were when they were animalized, might help people to see them in a different, more positive light.

It’s impossible to think much about the matter of comparing the horrible things we have done to humans and the horrible things we continue to do to other animals without calling to mind Marjory Spiegel’s The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery. (1988.) In her preface to the book, Alice Walker makes it clear that she found the comparisons apt and disturbing. The small volume is filled with parallel images – precisely the sort of images critics of any comparison find particularly worrisome and inappropriate.

The criticisms of making such comparisons seem to have another flaw. As I understand one particular argument, one ought not use any particularly heinous situation as a means of calling attention to the hideousness of another because in doing so one inadvertently diminishes the evil that was visited upon the group that suffered the original harm.

But to me, the opposite is true. One calls attention to the horrors of the Middle Passage when trying to characterize the suffering in a battery cage facility because the now acknowledged and widely-decried impossibly cramped conditions and the stifling atmosphere and resultant suffering of the Africans ought to help us understand why it is wrong to keep chickens in tight, cramped, conditions and having to endure a stifling atmosphere.

It is salt into a wound for some to then hear the kicker – the Middle Passage took six weeks; chickens spend their entire too short lives in such circumstances and suffer crude mutilations as well.

The most common reaction to such comparisons comes from people who see nothing wrong with hurting and killing animals. How dare you compare a chimpanzee to a black, or a Jew to a rat!

But that’s just the point. I am like a rat, and so is every other human, when it comes to suffering and probably to the capacity for joy. I’m not entirely sure about joy in rats though; the rats I’ve known have definitely been excited about favorite foods and items. But I’m very sure about joy and excitement in chimpanzees and dogs. In fact, as I’ve written before, I think dogs have a higher capacity for joy than humans do, but I don’t think it would demean dogs or the experience of the dog tribe to say that some human seemed as happy as one.

Creating new-to-the-world deadly organisms ought to be illegal

Scientist reveals how he made bird flu that could spread between people
The Guardian
3 April 2012

Researcher created a hybrid of H5N1 bird flu and swine flu viruses then isolated a strain that can infect cells in the throat...

Defending the work, Kawaoka said is was carried out in a high-security laboratory where all of the staff had been vetted by the FBI. The work was "important for pandemic preparedness" and emphasised the need for countries to stockpile vaccines to combat bird flu....
I doubt that Kawaoka is affiliated with al Qaeda, or even worse, an animal rights group. If the FBI had consider the safety and compliance records of the researchers -- genuine risks to the public's safety -- maybe their vetting would have come to a different conclusion.

The real question in all of this isn't whether or not the newly created organisms are as deadly as some scientists originally feared, apparently they aren't, but that the next one might be. Creating new-to-the-world deadly organisms is the height of hubris and folly. Such research ought to be banned internationally.

Monday, April 2, 2012

More Oversight of Deadly Germ Research Promised

Scientists to feel US government breathing down their necks
The Independent
April 2, 2012

Chill winds of Washington's scrutiny set to blow through laboratories after deadly flu scare

Scientists studying potentially dangerous infectious agents will be subjected to far greater scrutiny from the start of their research following the controversy over virologists who surprised bioterrorism experts by creating a highly infectious strain of birdflu virus....

Because of the recent H5N1 fiasco, the US government has promised to tighten up its oversight of research that has potential deadly public heath implications. Oversight of this sort of research has generally been poor and very slip-shod, relying on self-reporting by those with clear vested interests in not reporting problems. It's unlikely to get much better no matter what rules are committed to print.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dear John Smalley, Editor, Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, April 1, 2012
John Smalley, Editor

Why our journalists can’t sign petitions

The mission of the news pages — and the journalists who work on them — is to present fair, accurate and unbiased information, specifically devoid of our opinion.

April fools?

Dear Mr. Smalley,

I hope you are sincere when you say that your newspaper ought to maintain an objective position everywhere but in opinion columns and on the editorial page. Kudos for believing this is the way things ought to be.

Unfortunately, this isn't the way things actually are.

The Wisconsin State Journal does what most, if not all news outlets do: it self-censors and reports in a way that shapes public opinion to conform with the paper's opinions.

Two or three years ago I talked with National Public Radio Ombudswoman, Alicia Shepard after getting tired of listening to Wisconsin Public Radio's blather about their uncensored coverage of stories you simply wouldn't hear anywhere else. I spoke to her about this false claim.

Problems and scandals involving the University of Wisconsin, Madison are rarely reported on by Wisconsin Public Radio, particularly so when the problems and scandals involve the use of animals in the university's labs. Ms. Shepard commiserated with me and lamented the fact that local public radio stations affiliated with universities commonly self-censor bad news about their host universities. She didn't have any idea how the problem could be fixed.

The Wisconsin State Journal has the same problem, and whether the self-censorship is recognized by the editorial board or not is a question that would be hard to answer by the paper's readers since your editorial meetings aren't subject to the same transparency as are government meetings.

But the absence of coverage of the problems and the glut of stories that appear to be positive propaganda, sometimes lifted almost verbatim from UW's own press releases, make it a little difficult to believe that at least some of the paper's staff aren't somewhat aware of the spin on the goings-on at the university.

It's not just WPR and the Wisconsin State Journal of course; I don't know of any local media outlets that don't jump on opportunities to praise the university and then shy away from the less savory stories. Not always, but usually. Even you colleagues at the left-leaning Cap Times have this problem, and I've written to them about it. Here's a letter to the editor:
Rick Bogle: UW stories left out bad news related to animals

January 11, 2012

Dear Editor: Two articles in the Jan. 4-10 Cap Times were noteworthy because of the similar topic of their omissions.

The first, “A brighter year ahead,” looked back on UW-Madison’s past year but made no mention of the university’s successful lobbying of lawmakers to exempt its staff from Wisconsin’s crimes against animals statutes. The exemption was slipped into the controversial budget bill without opportunity for public comment after researchers were caught violating the law by killing animals by means of decompression and by staging fights between animals.

The second article, a retrospective look at the retiring UW-Madison library director’s tenure, made no mention of the library’s role in or silence about the 2005 shredding of a cataloged 628-piece collection of 15 years of video records from the UW Primate Center, after it refused to provide a copy of one record that was requested as part of a public records request. The mission of the UW Library System’s June Northrop Barker Archives is to solicit, collect, organize, describe, preserve and provide access to the research and historical documents related to the field of primatology.
The list of problems and controversies involving animals at the university that have been left unreported or unremarked upon by the Wisconsin State Journal is long.

This selective coverage harms the public.

The harm is the false and uninformed opinions held by people who get their news primarily from local media. Local media has a compelling responsibility to cover important local news, and it is reasonable for local readers to believe that the important stories are covered by them -- fairly. Readers of the Wisconsin State Journals are unlikely to be conversant with or to have heard about the problems involving animals at the university. Their ignorance is the fault of local media.

If a paper opts to ignore a problem, that is, the paper self-censor, the public remains uninformed, is left with false impressions, or worse, is misled. This is particularly so when nearly all the "news" is "good" news.

Mr. Smalley, I hope your editorial will motivate you to look more critically at your paper's coverage of these matters and to work to meet the ideals you spelled out in your editorial.


Rick Bogle