Monday, October 22, 2012

School newspaper gutsy for printing letter administration will hate.

From the Badger Herald:
Opinion: Letter

Mehre misinformed on PETA

By Letters to the Editor Sunday, October 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Targeting Children

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

Challenging primates’ intelligence for their health, better research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Media's Self-Censoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Schnirring * CIDRAP Staff Writer

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

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rational processing or rationalization?

Q: How are vivisectors like Presbyterian teenage girls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call for Full Disclosure on Testing

Leading Animal Ethicists Call for Full Disclosure on Testing

2nd October 2012

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

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

More...

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

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

By Tara Golshan

The Badger Herald Friday, October 12, 2012.

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

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

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

The university has not yet returned requests for comment.

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

More...

Risks. Afterwards

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Afterwards

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

But that is another story for another time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Eyes of the Beholder

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

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

Monday, October 8, 2012

Greed as a moral position

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is so because it is so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where greed wears the mask of morality.

Happy Meatopia

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Risks. Chapter 24

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 24

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

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

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

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

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

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