Friday, August 31, 2012

Calories, bias, and ethics

If you are one of the few people in the world who pay attention to both the industry’s claims and the actual results from experiments on animals, then you’ve likely already read something about a recent report from the NIH.

The story was covered in the New York Times and starts this way:

Severe Diet Doesn’t Prolong Life, at Least in Monkeys
By GINA KOLATA
Published: August 29, 2012

For 25 years, the rhesus monkeys were kept semi-starved, lean and hungry. The males’ weights were so low they were the equivalent of a 6-foot-tall man who tipped the scales at just 120 to 133 pounds. The hope was that if the monkeys lived longer, healthier lives by eating a lot less, then maybe people, their evolutionary cousins, would, too. Some scientists, anticipating such benefits, began severely restricting their own diets.

A 23-year study comparing calorie restricted rhesus monkeys, left, to normally-fed monkeys, has shown that calorie restriction may not increase one's lifespan.

The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.
The article goes on to point out the UW, Madison’s involvement in this research:
Like many other researchers on aging, he had expected an outcome similar to that of a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin that concluded that caloric restriction did extend monkeys’ life spans.

But even that study had a question mark hanging over it. Its authors had disregarded about half of the deaths among the monkeys they studied, saying they were not related to aging. If they had included all of the deaths, there was no extension of life span in the Wisconsin study, either.
What you might not be aware of if you don’t read the Wisconsin State Journal is just how frequently the university has called attention to its research in this area. Media often swallows whole the reports that are so straightforwardly propaganda – written by spin-doctors whose only reason for writing about the university’s use of animals appears to be, well, propaganda – cultivating the public's misunderstanding and delusion that they themselves planted originally in misleading press releases.

Below, I’ve pasted in a few of the university’s releases over the years regarding its caloric restriction tax-payer-funded gravy train. The university’s spin seems at odds with the third party report in the NYT.

This is a good example of the problem of bias in science. Assuming that the UW, Madison scientists involved actually believed the things they said, their fiddling with the data they used to draw conclusions is the reason for blinding and double blinding in research design. Even knowing the risks of bias, it seems that many, maybe most scientists are unable to keep from seeing success when it simply isn’t there.

This seems to be a situation-based version of a universal human foible. We aren’t good, or even moderately fair judges of anything when the thing that we are trying to judge is something we are involved in more or less directly. We can’t accurately judge even our own morality when we are part of a system that condones and encourages our behavior.

This explains why people will commit atrocities when ordered to so. The work of people like Milgram, Zimbardo, Bandura, and many others has made it exquisitely clear that human endeavors that include opportunities for willfully hurting others will almost always do so unless their is vigorous third-party oversight. The harm done often has the energetic support and cooperation of nearly everyone in the system.

So researchers are unable to fairly draw conclusions from their own data and must blind themselves to many details behind the data if they are to have any hope of fairly judging their own results.

And people who experiment on animals and approve the experiments are also hopelessly biased and can see only pie when they look up at the sky.

The part of all this that is doubly depressing is the plain fact that most of the people who approve experiments on animals are supposed to know the inherent unavoidable bias they bring to their work. But when deciding whether to approve an experiment, they do nothing to avoid their blinding biases. They decide to approve someone’s invasive brain experiments on dogs or cats or monkeys not because there is any evidence that similar experiments have provided some benefit to human patients, but solely because the experiments come with a bucket of money for the institution or else the vivisectors whose experiment they are “considering” for approval, is well-known to them.

The failure to make any effort to avoid bias is unethical and dirties everyone involved.

Anyway, below are snippets from the university’s press releases touting the work that the NIH study now seems to refute.

University Communications
News releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

6/13/06

PHOTO EDITORS: High-resolution images are available at http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/monkeyRC.html

CONTACT: Richard H. Weindruch (608) 263-3503, rhweindr@wisc.edu; Sterling Johnson (608) 256-1901, Ext. 11946, scj@medicine.wisc.edu

WISCONSIN DIET AND AGING STUDY GAINS $7.9 MILLION GRANT

MADISON - A pioneering long-term study of the links between diet and aging in monkeys will continue through 2011 with the help of a new $7.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

First initiated at the National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989, the study examines the effects of a reduced-calorie diet on the aging process and health of 76 rhesus monkeys. It is one of only two long-term studies of its kind, and during the course of 16 years has shown that a nutritious but reduced-calorie diet has multiple benefits for health and aging.

The project, according to Richard Weindruch, the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health professor who has led the research since 1994, is in a critical phase as the monkeys in the study are entering late middle age, which for rhesus macaques is their early to mid-20s. In captivity, rhesus monkeys can live up to 40 years.

Late middle age, Weindruch notes, is the time of life when a host of age-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cognitive deficits and arthritis, among other things, begin to manifest themselves. This is true, he says, for both monkeys and humans.

"This is a very interesting time in the study," says Weindruch, who also is an investigator at the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital. Because the animals have reached this stage of life, "it's show time for dietary restriction."

At this point in the study, the disparities between the monkeys on a diet reduced in calories by 30 percent and those allowed to eat as much as they wish are clearly evident. "Most importantly, we're starting to see the separation of the survival curves," Weindruch says, noting that 90 percent of the animals who began the study on a reduced diet are still alive, while only 70 percent of the animals allowed to eat freely have survived to this stage.

Of those animals who have died, most have succumbed to the same age-related conditions that kill many humans with colon cancer claiming the most, and diabetes and heart disease also taking a high toll. Says Weindruch: "Whether these trends will continue, time will tell."

The idea that fewer calories can extend lifespan and improve health has a long experimental history. The notion has been tested in animal models ranging from spiders and mice to, more recently, fledgling studies in humans. But the rhesus macaques in the Wisconsin study, according to Weindruch, offer perhaps the best window into a phenomenon that is the only proven dietary way to extend lifespan. Rhesus macaques have much in common with humans, including a similar genetic makeup and susceptibility to many of the diseases and conditions that affect human health.

---


University Communications
News releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 1999
CONTACT: Richard Weindruch, (608) 256-1901, Ext. 1642, rhweindr@facstaff.wisc.edu

((Editor's note: We've put together a news media resource web page at http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/aging.html for organizations wishing to download high-resolution images to accompany this story.))

$6.75 MILLION TO EXTEND PRIMATE STUDIES OF DIET AND AGING

MADISON - A decade-long study of how diet affects the process of growing old, will continue and be expanded at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the help of $6.75 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Begun in 1989 at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center (WRPRC),
the study of rhesus macaques on controlled diets is one of only two such studies in the world. The research, according to Richard Weindruch, a UW-Madison Medical School professor and the lead scientist for the project, is intended to answer a central question of biology: Can aging be held at bay by cutting down on calories?

"Dietary restriction offers a powerful experimental strategy to explore mechanisms of aging because it is the only intervention which has repeatedly and strongly increased maximum life span and retarded the rate of aging in laboratory rodents," said Weindruch. "But the study of calorie restriction and aging in non-human primates is in its infancy, as compared to the body of work done in rodents."

The new grant will enable scientists to continue studies in rhesus macaques, a much-studied and long-lived animal whose genetic and physiological characteristics parallel those of humans. The work is being conducted in several groups of primates whose calorie intake for the past five to 10 years has been reduced by about 30 percent, as well as monkeys whose diets permit them to eat as much as they wish.

The study of rhesus monkeys builds on extensive research in rodents, spiders and other animals that shows life span can be significantly extended and the rate of aging slowed by maintaining a nutritious but restricted diet, according to Weindruch.

---

UW-Madison Home
News from UW-Madison

UW-Madison News Releases
University Communications
News releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
7/9/09

PHOTO EDITORS: Images are available for download at http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/monkeyDiet09.html

CONTACT: Richard Weindruch, 608-256-1901, ext. 11642, rhweindr@wisc.edu; Ricki Colman, 608-263-3544, rcolman@primate.wisc.edu; Sterling Johnson, 608-256-1901 ext. 11946, scj@medicine.wisc.edu

REDUCED DIET THWARTS AGING, DISEASE IN MONKEYS

MADISON - The bottom-line message from a decades-long study of monkeys on a restricted diet is simple: Consuming fewer calories leads to a longer, healthier life.

---

University Communications
News releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
6/4/08

CONTACT: Tomas Prolla, (608) 265-5204, (608) 556-0175 (cell), taprolla@wisc.edu; Richard Weindruch (608) 256-1901 ext. 11642, (608) 556-0176 (cell), rhweindr@wisc.edu

AGENT IN RED WINE FOUND TO KEEP HEARTS YOUNG

MADISON - How, scientists wonder, do the French get away with a clean bill of heart health despite a diet loaded with saturated fats?

The answer to the so-called "French paradox" may be found in red wine. More specifically, it may reside in small doses of resveratrol, a natural constituent of grapes, pomegranates, red wine and other foods, according to a new study by an international team of researchers.

Writing this week (June 3) in the online, open-access journal Public Library of Science One, the researchers report that low doses of resveratrol in the diet of middle-aged mice has a widespread influence on the genetic levers of aging and may confer special protection on the heart.

Specifically, the researchers found that low doses of resveratrol mimic the effects of what is known as caloric restriction - diets with 20-30 percent fewer calories than a typical diet - that in numerous studies has been shown to extend lifespan and blunt the effects of aging.

"This brings down the dose of resveratrol toward the consumption reality mode," says senior author Richard Weindruch, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medicine and a researcher at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital. "At the same time, it plugs into the biology of caloric restriction."

---

UW-Madison Home
News from UW-Madison

UW-Madison News Releases
University Communications
News releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11/18/10

CONTACT: Tomas A. Prolla, 608-556-0175, taprolla@wisc.edu; John M. Denu, 608-265-1859, jmdenu@wisc.edu

SCIENTISTS FERRET OUT A KEY PATHWAY FOR AGING

MADISON - For decades, scientists have been searching for the fundamental biological secrets of how eating less extends lifespan.

It has been well documented in species ranging from spiders to monkeys that a diet with consistently fewer calories can dramatically slow the process of aging and improve health in old age. But how a reduced diet acts at the most basic level to influence metabolism and physiology to blunt the age-related decline of tissues and cells has remained, for the most part, a mystery.

Now, writing in the current online issue (Nov. 18) of the journal Cell, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their colleagues describe a molecular pathway that is a key determinant of the aging process. The finding not only helps explain the cascade of events that contributes to aging, but also provides a rational basis for devising interventions, drugs that may retard aging and contribute to better health in old age.

"We're getting closer and closer to a good understanding of how caloric restriction works," says Tomas A. Prolla, a UW-Madison professor of genetics and a senior author of the new Cell study. "This study is the first direct proof for a mechanism underlying the anti-aging effects we observe under caloric restriction."

---

University Communications
News releases

HOLD FOR 5 P.M. EASTERN TIME RELEASE OCTOBER 28, 2002

CONTACT: Tomas Prolla, (608) 265-5204, taprolla@facstaff.wisc.edu; Richard Weindruch, (608) 256-1901, Ext. 11642, rhweindr@.wisc.edu

NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: To download high-resolution photos that accompany this story, visit: http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/age.html

EVEN IN MIDDLE AGE, CUTTING CALORIES SLOWS AGING OF THE HEART

MADISON - To remain young at heart, eat less.

That, in short, is the message drawn from research published today, Oct. 28, by a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a research group led by UW-Madison genetics Professor Tomas A. Prolla, and Medical School Professor Richard Weindruch, reports the results of a study in which middle-aged mice, put on a calorie-restricted diet, exhibit signs of a remarkable uptick in heart health in old age.

"It looks like caloric restriction just retarded the whole aging process in the heart," said Prolla whose group employed powerful molecular techniques to study nearly 10,000 genes at work in the heart. The work represents the first global analysis of gene expression in the aging heart.

---

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 1999
CONTACT: Tomas A. Prolla (608) 265-5204, taprolla@facstaff.wisc.edu; Richard Weindruch (608) 256-1901, Ext. 1642, rhweindr@facstaff.wisc.edu

(NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: High-resolution images of Prolla and Weindruch are available for downloading at: http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/age.html )

STUDY DETAILS GENETIC BASIS OF AGING-- AND HOW IT MIGHT BE DELAYED

MADISON - Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have, for the first time, profiled specific genetic changes during the aging of experimental animals, a discovery that could aid work to extend life span and preserve health.

The work conducted with mice combines a powerful new genetic technique with dietary restriction, the only known way to delay the aging process. The research will be published Friday, Aug. 27, in the journal Science.

The study is a milestone in aging research, providing scientists with an intimate look at the ebb and flow of genetic activity with age, and the roles individual genes play in the process of growing old.

Moreover, it reveals how a low-calorie diet, the only known method of slowing aging in several animal species, works at the most basic level to extend life span and preserve health. Such knowledge, used in concert with new technologies capable of rapidly surveying the activity of thousands of genes at once, promises to accelerate the development of drugs that mimic the age-retarding effects of a low-calorie diet, according to the Wisconsin scientists.

---




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Risks. Chapter 18

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 18

The President sat in a small sitting room in the White House. A light tap at the door signaled that his guest had arrived. A Marine dressed in a crisply starched uniform let Secretary of State Rebecca McGuire into the room. He closed the door quietly behind her.

"Rebecca. Good evening. Thanks for coming. I hope I haven't caused you too much inconvenience at this late hour of the night."

"You said it was urgent, Mr. President. I came right away. Is there a problem?"

President John Adams was wearing a maroon terrycloth robe and light blue flannel pajamas. His slippers were broken down in the back and had obviously been a part of his nightly wardrobe for a number of years. He had a cup of tea next to him. His ready-for-bed rumpled appearance confused McGuire. She had expected to be escorted to the White House situation room in the basement.

"Sit down Rebecca," said the President motioning to the only other chair in the room and positioned intimately next to his own. "Would you like something to drink? Black oolong isn't it?"

"That would be nice Mr. President. Thanks for remembering." She had the correct impression that whatever Adams intended to discuss he was going to take his time with it. She wondered whether he was considering a shake up of the cabinet; there had been rumors.

Adams picked up the phone next to him and mentioned something about the tea. Almost immediately, a soft knock preceded the door opening. A woman dressed neatly in a dark blue dress came in carrying a small teapot and a cup and saucer on a silver tray. The tea was already steeping and the aroma wafted in behind her on the air current. She sat the tray on the small table between them. She left without saying a word.

"Rebecca," Adams began even as she was pouring the tea from the Wedgwood teapot into the matching small pink cup, "I asked you here because you said during our meeting with Richard Selling, that you had tried out the cow TE and thought that the animal TEs were a threat to national security. Do you remember saying that?"

"Of course Mr. President. That's one of the reasons we banned them."

"Yes, well, just between us. What did you really think of it?"

Patricia McGuire had her sights set on the Presidency itself. Her longing for power was the motivation behind everything she did. She rarely said anything without subjecting it to a calculus intended to measure the costs and benefits, the advantages and the risks associated with it. Her statements were closely measured reactions that she felt were the most politic. But sitting with Adams, him in his robe and pajamas, the tea and simple intimacy of the moment, McGuire was uncommonly frank and authentic.

"I don't know what the big deal was. I mean, of course a cow is thinking about something sometime. Why did that surprise anyone? I just don't see what it matters."

"Were you surprised by the similarity between the cow's concern for her calf and a mother's concern for her child?"

"Well, I've never had children, as you know, but my sister, Pam, has two daughters. I'm not that close to them, but I think she loves them a lot. At least she says she does. But, I wasn't that surprised, no. I mean, when you think about it, doesn't it just make sense that a mother is a mother and that she will be concerned for her offspring? So you used the cow TE? I thought we had decided that it was too much of a risk?"

"Betty just made me," chuckled Adams. "Didn't hurt me a bit. And yes, it did surprise me. What did you see as the risk?"

"Actually, sir, Wilkins and I were worried about the effect the animal TEs might have on you. We were worried that you would make a big deal over them and that, if you did, that the economy would be threatened by the major upheaval that would necessarily result if you overreacted. The effect on the world's economy could be disastrous."

"I see."

"Don't take it the wrong way Mr. President. Some people, like yourself, are just very softhearted."

President John Adams sat quietly. McGuire wondered whether he had fallen asleep. She began questioning her rare candor. She checked the teapot and drained it into her cup making a few more clinks of spoon against china than were necessary.

"I'm just thinking Rebecca. I don't see how we can't do something."

Secretary of State, Rebecca McGuire said guardedly, "You're probably right Mr. President," and began plotting her own quick ascendancy to the Presidency.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ONPRC Pays $12,000 Fine

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Health & Science University paid a fine of nearly $12,000 following the deaths of five monkeys and the escape of nine others from the Oregon National Primate Research Center in 2009.

University officials said Tuesday that they agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and paid the fine on four violations earlier this year. A group opposed to animal testing called the fine "paltry."

More

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Risks. Chapter 17

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 17

The tobacco and marijuana smoke was thick in Jim's Lounge. Business had picked up again after the ban on the Selling TE's took hold. The government versions seemed less real somehow, and no one liked the damned commercials that they had started inserting into them. Who wanted to hear about a sale on furniture when they were surfing Pipeline in Hawaii?

Rita sat in a booth with three other regulars. The conversation topics had been the same now for some time: revolution and animals.

"I heard that people are takin' animals out of labs. I heard that people are goin' right in to restaurants and delicatessens and shooting the people selling meat."

Heads shook in agreement. "I wish I had the guts to do that."

"Well, I heard that there're places out west where animals and people are livin' together and startin' their own countries."

"I don't know about that," said Rita. "It seems to me that the government would step right in if people was claiming they was starting a whole new country."

"Look, they ain't sayin' it, but they're sure as hell doin' it."

They all sat quietly for a moment letting the idea sink in.

"What I don't get is why there's no news about this." They all looked over at the vert-view mounted above the bar. A football game was on, but there had been no news about the animals or the underground revolution that everyone everywhere was talking about.

-----

Karen had never been in the main house. Everyone knew that Richard Selling came and went, but he was rarely seen. She walked up the stone steps to the large front porch and started to knock, but the door opened and a man she recognized instantly said, "Hi, you must be Karen. I'm Richard Selling."

Karen was only a little nonplussed by being greeted by Selling; her time at the Enzyme Institute had at least offered her enough experience with meeting famous people that she could now do so without appearing completely befuddled.

"Mr. Selling, I'm so honored to meet you. Nothing I can say can express the admiration I feel for all you have done."

Selling actually blushed and guffawed, "Why anyone in my shoes would have done the same. Now hush, or my head will simply swell too big for this door. Come on in. I'll take you down to the lab."

Selling led Karen through the house to a door that opened to reveal a second steel door behind it. Selling pushed a button next to the door and it slid open revealing the inside of an elevator.

"After you, Karen," he said, and stepped into the elevator with her. He pressed one of only four unlabeled buttons and the floor seemed to drop away. Karen realized that they were going deep underground.

Selling's basic survivalist notions had motivated him to equip the cabin with a keep buried deep within the rock. He had intended it as his retreat of last resort should the world take a particularly lunatic or anarchic turn. During the excavation they had broken through the ceiling of an immense underground cavern that he was still exploring. It had been the obvious place to set up Stan and Earnie's lab once they and their paradigm-shaking research became machinus non-gratis.

The elevator slowed and the doors slid open silently. Karen was unprepared for the magnitude of the expanse that opened before her and she let out a small gasp.

"It catches most visitors off guard," said Selling. "We were really lucky to have found this place. We still don't know how far it extends back into the mountains, but the engineers tell me that we could probably survive even a direct hit from a medium sized nuclear missile. The way things are going, we might have to put it to the test."

Karen took her eyes off the lit cavern and the dark shadows that suggested hidden rooms and corridors to look over at Selling to see whether he was speaking figuratively. The seriousness of his face suggested that he wasn't.

Metal walkways led off in a variety of directions from the elevator and along one of these came two decidedly disheveled men being followed by a large dog.

Karen recognized Earnie who walked up and said, "Hi Richard." He beamed, "Hello Karen, I'm so glad you came! These are my friends Ted and Stan."

Karen reached out and shook hands with Stan and told him what an honor it was to actually be meeting him. She look down at the dog and said, "Hello, Ted."

Ted cocked his head a little and looked over at Stan.

Stan said, "She's OK."

Ted walked up to Karen and sniffed her crotch. He sniffed her legs and let her scratch his neck. He wagged his tail. Earnie said, "Ted thinks you're OK too. Come see the lab. I'll show you what we are trying to do. Richard, are you coming?"

"No," said Selling. "I have some other things I have to take care of right now. I'm sure I'll be seeing you around Karen. Enjoy yourself. Take good care of her you guys, don't scramble her brain." He winked at Karen. "I'll see you later." And he walked off along one of the other metal walkways.

Stan and Ted led the way. Earnie walked with Karen and talked with her about their new project.

"We've been working for a couple of months trying to modify the transduction cells to synchronize with random and unspecified neural frequencies and unpredictable fluctuations of feedback."

"I have no idea what you just said," admitted Karen.

"I'm sorry. I talk to Stan too much. We've been trying to work out a device that will allow us to send and receive thoughts at the same time. Sort of a mental telephone. The problem has been an odd sort of feedback. If you and I were hooked up, I would be getting your thoughts while you were getting mine, but they would be the thought that you are getting my thoughts, so we end up in a sort of endless loop. See?"

"Hum, not really."

"Here we are," announced Stan. They stepped through a door and into a lab that seemed more like a TV repair shop than the modern labs that Karen had worked in at Enzyme. Pieces of electronic equipment, much of which Karen did not recognize, lay ill arranged on work benches and spread around the room. Ted walked over to a large over-upholstered chair in the corner covered in dog hair. It was obviously his standard post.

"The problem is hard to put into words, but the feedback problem is real. When Earnie and I hooked ourselves up we got stuck for about eight hours. If Ted hadn't gotten bored and started licking my face, I have no idea how long we would have been stuck. Want to try it?"

"Well..." began Karen with obviously hesitancy, but Earnie interrupted her.

"There won't be a problem. With Stan here to break the connection, we won't stay hung up. This is why we need another person. We were working with Ted, but it's hard to know whether the problems were with the theory and electronics or because he's a dog." Ted looked up at the mention of his name. "We know that he can experience human experiences, we've seen that, but this feedback problem is really sticky. We need another human. I promise you won't get hurt."

Karen wondered about the effects on Ted of experiencing a human's experience, but he seemed none the worse for it. She wondered about the effects of being 'hung up' with another mind, but Stan and Earnie seemed OK, or at least not too nuts. She let out a little laugh and said, "OK, I'm in. Hook me up."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Risks. Chapter 16

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 16

Since Karen's arrival at the ranch, she had been working in the rodent houses. She had continued her relationship with Ratty, the large black rat Sarah had introduced her to on that first day so many weeks ago.

Karen was lying on the grass among the rat buildings; the large rat was nuzzling through her hair and sticking his nose in her ear.

Karen laughed and tickled the rat on his side. She figured he was laughing in the high pitch that people could not hear. She sat up and the rat crawled into her lap and up the sleeve of her shirt. With her attention on the Ratty, she did not notice the young-looking man who walked up and sat down on the grass next to her without an invitation.

"Aren't you the woman from the lab?" he asked.

"That's right. Who are you?"

"I'm Earnie."

At the ranch, Stan and Earnie had become legends. Everyone knew that it was they who had invented TEs and who had first thought to find out what animals were thinking with the experience recordings.

"Stan and Earnie?"

"Yep. One of the famous guys," he answered. "Who's your friend?"

Ratty was sticking his head out of Karen's sleeve wiggling his nose and feelers trying to get a fix on the new voice. "This is my friend Ratty. Ratty, say hello to Earnie," and she held her arm over Earnie's lap.

Ratty turned around in Karen's sleeve, but finally stepped down and began sniffing out this new human.

"So, do you still like science?" asked Earnie as he gently stroked Ratty's paper-thin ears.

"You mean, do I hate science now after realizing the torture I was helping commit in the name of science?"

"Yeah, I guess that's what I mean."

"I love science. I just hate cruelty. Why?"

"Well, we could use some help in our lab, and I wanted to know whether you'd like to help us. We are working on something new."

"What is it?"

Earnie laughed, "It's hard to say exactly, but you won't be bored. You'll have to see for yourself. Listen I gotta go, if you want the job I'll tell Mr. Selling and he'll let security know. Come by the main house in the morning around nine. OK?"

Karen thought for a millisecond and said, "OK."

"Here's your friend back, and he set Ratty back into Karen's lap. As he walked away, he thought that she might be the prettiest girl he had ever seen.


Friday, August 10, 2012

2,500 Beagles Slated For Vivisection Are Freed

Very cool.

http://www.pawnation.com/2012/07/27/2-500-beagles-slated-for-vivisection-are-freed/#page=1

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Risks. Chapter 15

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 15

Ted had learned to be unconcerned with the various things that Stan put on his head. Stan had never hurt him and he liked the attention. Earnie manipulated dials and Stan tried to relax and think happy thoughts. Ted seemed oblivious.

"I wonder how we would even be sure that he was getting something?" mused Stan. "I mean, unless there's food or a walk involved, Ted's pretty laid back."

The big dog sat up and looked at Stan. He cocked his head to one side and panted twice. Earnie broke the connection.

"I think he got something!"

Earnie scratched his head, "I don't know. Ted! Ted!" and Ted looked over at Earnie, cocked his head and let his tongue loll out.

"See. I mean how can we tell?"

"Hook him up! Jeez, we're idiots." And in just a few moments Ted was fitted with a recording net on his head, over the receiving headband. As Ted was supposed to be receiving Stan's thoughts, Earnie would be hooked into Ted's as he received Stan's.

"Do it again."

Stan and Earnie had worried about the effect on Ted if he got swallowed into a human's mental experience with no forewarning, so they had agreed that Stan should try to relax and think simple comfortable thoughts.

Earnie was Ted. And he was Ted just realizing that he was Stan. Stan ran his fingers through his hair and Earnie/Ted remembered running down a hill laughing as Stan remembered a childhood episode.

Memories are always recorded dreamily and gauze-like.

-----

Harry Mahoney was sitting under a pine tree on a bench. A large pig was stretched out in the sun near his feet. Harry watched an odd herd of horses, donkeys, goats, and ostriches grazing peacefully on the top of a nearby hill. He thought back to the butcher shop and the decision he had made.

Harry wasn't an animal lover, and he had viewed the first animal TE out of curiosity. But Harry was kind and ethical. Harry was moral.

He had stopped at the first trash auto-incinerator he had come upon. He noticed the ubiquitous trash scattered up and down the street and mused to himself that the incinerators were not getting used enough. He pulled the door open and tossed in the surveillance tape he had taken from the crime scene at the delicatessen. He knew that he was incinerating his career even as the videodisc was turning to ash. Harry couldn't understand why anyone would or could hurt an animal after living a bit of their life. Harry couldn't understand the fact that the government was allowing it all to continue. When he heard the news about banning the Selling TEs he had realized the position that the government was going to take, and he also knew that he would never be able do anything but support any effort to stop the carnage. It had been just a matter of time before he was forced to make an ethical choice that was contrary to the interests of the state.

Harry remembered the slight scent of vaporized plastic videodisc. He remembered taking out his wallet and pulling out his police identification card. He had looked at it, put it to his nose and breathed in its own distinct plastic aroma. He had put it back in his wallet realizing that it might come in handy sometime.

Harry startled back to his bench when the pig let out a grunt. It looked to Harry like the pig was dreaming.

-----

President John Adams was sitting on a small comfortable couch in his bedroom. He had a terrycloth robe on over his pajamas. His wife Betty was next to him in her own soft flannel robe. The President was leaning against her lightly, enjoying her familiar warmth and scent. They both had their feet up on the Louis XIV coffee table. Betty had a glass of white wine and President Adams was nursing a beer.

"You're going to have to see for yourself, John," said Betty.

"I've already been told about them, Bet. The experts told me tha..."

"Experts my ass! There are no experts in this. This is new territory John. You have to experience this for yourself."

"They say there're risks, Bet. I don't think you should use them either."

Betty shrugged her shoulder pushing her husband away. She put her feet down squarely on the floor and wheeled on him and looked him squarely in the eye. "You listen to me. Your experts can all go to hell. I'm telling you. I'm not asking. Look at the damn things."

The First Lady rarely ordered her husband to do anything, but John Adams had learned and accepted long ago that his wife had him easily beaten in the smarts department, and when she was sure about something, she was usually right.

The Study of Gobloots



A few readers might have seen the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy feigns being sick and tells Ricky that she has a case of the gobloots. Gobloots, it seems, is a rare zoonotic disease one contracts from the even rarer boo-shoo bird. In the disease's final stages - as death approaches - the victim turns green. And sure enough, Lucy sees herself turning green, after Ricky secretly puts a green bulb in Lucy's bedside lamp to teach her a lesson.

Silliness like the gobloots might be on funny on a TV screen, but the study of a lab-induced malady based on a far-fetched and ridiculous claim that it mimics or models human biology is even sillier, but not funny at all when it entails hurting others.

Allyson Joy Bennett, a vivisector at the UW-Madison, claims that the goal of her research project, “Long-term Cognitive and Neuroanatomical Consequences of Childhood Stress,” is to "determine how different experiences in infancy affect aspects of behavior, cognition, brain morphology and health across the lifespan."

She goes on to say that her project is
important for advancing our understanding of factors that contribute to individual differences in both human and laboratory animal health. Human studies provide strong evidence of the deleterious consequences of early childhood stress. What is far less clear—but critically important to research aimed at developing strategies to improve human health—is the specific mechanisms by which these changes occur, how they unfold across the lifespan, and which changes are long-lasting in absence of additional, or cascading, adverse events. Understanding these and other aspects of the consequences of a range of childhood adverse experiences is essential to developing treatment and intervention strategies.
Bennett’s project is designed to study a problem that doesn’t exist and that obvious fact ought to have been noticed before she was awarded a large pot of the taxpayers’ money.

She is using 15-year old male monkeys who were raised without mothers and then separated from other monkeys when they were 4 to 6 years of age.

She says that 15-year old monkeys are equivalent in age to middle-aged humans and that a 4- to 6-year old monkey is an adolescent. The World Health Organization defines “adolescents” as young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years.

Presumably then, a 15-year old monkey in her study is a model of a middle-aged man who, when he was maybe 10 years old, and was placed alone in a mind-numbingly small barren cage. He has endured profound environmental and social deprivation through out his life and who knows what else.

Even if people really exist who were treated in this way, there must be a vanishing small number of them. Nevertheless, the NIH has so far awarded Bennett $367,756 to pursue this odd and macabre line of study. They'd probably fund a study of the gobloots too.

In the real world, socially and environmentally deprived children aren’t similarly deprived throughout their lives. They don't remain in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives. Bennett’s monkeys are not duplicating any known human situation. Her results, no matter what they might be, will pertain only to the monkeys she is studying and probably to the other male rhesus macaques who have suffered similar cruelty.

Surely, if such people actually exist, the most pressing and urgent question is how to rescue them right away and how to help them recover.

The monkeys Bennett is studying have been abused throughout their lives. Her project is an extension of that abuse. A humane and caring person would not continue studying the negative consequences of a lifetime of profound deprivation without simultaneously acting in their subjects’ best interests – doing everything in their power to improve their lives. Allison Joy Bennett appears uninterested in helping these victims; her own financial and professional interests seem to come before their unambiguous need to be helped.

The members of the UW-Madison committee that approved this gobloot study are equally responsible for the continuation of this cruelty. The system supports them and reinforces their ethical lapses. A person with sufficient will and independence of thought to break free of a system that exerts such strong pressure to conform and believe is even rarer than a boo-shoo bird.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

H5N1 Moratorium Extended.

The head of a US infectious disease funding body urges researchers to continue the voluntary cessation of research on avian influenza. TheScientist. Edyta Zielinska. August 2, 2012.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this week (July 31) called for researchers to continue a moratorium on avian influenza research, until researchers could win the opinion of the public.

“You will unquestionably lose the battle for public support for your research if you ignore this issue,” Fauci said at the annual meeting of the NIAID’s influenza research centers of excellence, according to ScienceInsider....
Fauci's out of touch. Researchers generally don't care what "the pubic" thinks so long as their welfare checks keep coming.

Vivisector to Head UW-Madison Vet School

UW-Madison announces new dean for veterinary medicine school
Karen Herzog Journal Sentinel Aug. 2, 2012.

Mark D. Markel, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medical sciences and associate dean for advancement in the School of Veterinary Medicine, has been chosen to lead the school, the university announced Thursday.

Markel, who assumes his new role Sept. 1, will be the third dean in the school's 29-year history, according to a news release....
See:

Instrumented measurement of in vivo anterior-posterior translation in the canine knee to assess anterior cruciate integrity. Lopez MJ, Hagquist W, Jeffrey SL, Gilbertson S, Markel MD. Comparative Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Medical Sciences, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706. J Orthop Res. 2004. "This study was performed in accordance with Institutional and National Institutes of Health regulations governing the treatment of vertebrate animals. It was initiated after approval by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Animal Care Committee. Forty-three skeletally mature female crossbreed dogs ... were used in this study. The dogs were retired breeding females from an established dog colony that were part of separate research projects with specific termination dates."

So much for being retired.



Systemic effects of ulna loading in male rats during functional adaptation. Sample SJ, Collins RJ, Wilson AP, Racette MA, Behan M, Markel MD, Kalscheur VL, Hao Z, Muir P. J Bone Miner Res. 2010.





Veterinarians come in a variety of flavors -- from those who are sweet and caring to others who are bitter, cruel, and greedy. It's not surprising that someone from the caring end of the spectrum wasn't chosen to lead an organization where so much hideous cruelty is so fervently embraced.

UW-Madison Dusts Off Obsolete "Bends" Research, Makes Room for More Money in Vault

In March of 2007, apparently following the French Navy's lead, the UK Ministry of Defense halted its use of goats in decompression experiments after a review committee of six experts examined alternative methods, such as computer-modelling techniques to simulate the effects of the "bends" and said that there is no further need for the use of animals in this area of research.

That expert opinion was either unknown to the UW-Madison, or was dismissed out of hand. In spite of the apparent lack of likely beneficial knowledge emerging from repeatedly decompressing animals and recording the well-known and understood excruciatingly painful deleterious and often terminal effects, the UW-Madison continued doing so. Moreover, they were violating the state laws against doing so. But, like the expert opinion that they either ignored or didn't know about, they also either didn't know or didn't care about the Wisconsin statutes regarding cruelty to animals. The giddy heights of the ivory towers make it hard to see what's happening down on the ground.

After being caught breaking the law and after wide-spread fretting by UW vivisectors about the possibility of criminal charges being brought against them, once the Republicans took control of the state legislature, the university told them to slip a broad exemption into the budget bill allowing them to ignore those pesky laws against killing animals by means of decompression, staging fights between animals, having to provide them with adequate food, water, and shelter, or doing anything to the animals they might like to do. After all, they're experts.

Now that they've been exempted from any legal concerns about cruelty, they've decided to resume killing sheep by means of decompression. Why would they choose to do this? Concern for submariners or recreational divers? Not so much. The only reason they hurt and kill animals is money; that can't come as a shock to anyone.

Here's a bit of news about their plans (take the UW's claims with a bit of salt): Campus Connection: UW eyes resuming decompression sickness studies with sheep. Todd Finkelmeyer. Cap Times. 8-2-2012.

See too:

UW Violating State Law and PHS Regs? August 8, 2009.
The decompression of the sheep. August 27, 2009.
Standing Above the Law. October 4, 2009.
The Sheep. Spin, spin, spin. October 11, 2009.
UW-Madison vs the Sheep.. June 5, 2010.
Sheep decompression or else! June 6, 2010.
UW Seeks Exemption from All Anti-Cruelty Laws. June 5, 2011.