Friday, December 20, 2013

USDA Fines Harvard $6.61

The USDA has fined Harvard University the equivalent of $6.61 for 11 animal welfare violations at its research labs in Massachusetts between 2011 and 2012.

The violations included the death of four monkeys as well as inadequate training of the people "managing" the animals. That works out to be sixty cents per violation.

This is what the USDA and spokespersons for the vivisection industry mean when they claim that there is rigorous oversight of their industry.

$24,000 fine / $185,000,000 - Harvard's annual gift from taxpayers = $6.61 / $51,000 - the average U.S. household income.

Would you slow down if a speeding ticket cost you a mere sixty cents?

"USDA has resolved its review with an agreement that we feel was appropriate."
-- Harvard spokesperson

What a joke. A sick depraved joke.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Crocodilians use tools for hunting

Crocodilians use tools for hunting
V. Dinets, J.C. Brueggen, J.D. Brueggen
Ethology Ecology & Evolution


Using objects as hunting lures is very rare in nature, having been observed in just a handful of species. We report the use of twigs and sticks as bird lures by two crocodilian species. At least one of them uses this method predominantly during the nest-building season of its prey. This is the first known case of a predator not just using objects as lures, but also taking into account the seasonality of prey behavior. It provides a surprising insight into previously unrecognized complexity of archosaurian behavior.

It wasn't so very long ago that we believed that no animals other than white men had souls, minds, or inherent rights. But things change. A woman has just been named CEO of General Motors and on Monday, December 2, 2013, a writ of habeas corpus was filed in a court in New York on behalf of Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee.

To those who take the time to notice, it appears that there are thinking beings all around us, beings with complex minds and interests. Their interests are the subject of increasing concern, discussion, action, and demand.

The fact that there are those among us who are concerned, won't let the conversation fade away, keep advocating for those who have no voice, and keep making demands on their behalf, is very hopeful.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Those Damn Extremists

UW Madison's apologist for all terrible things done to animals in the name of money, excuse the slip, science, was miffed by my observation that on many issues the "extreme" view is the only moral one. You can read my original post here, and his confused denial of this plain truth here. He'd rather that people with strong views different from his not speak loudly enough to be heard. I'd be shocked if I didn't know who he was or his history of trying to keep the public in the dark. [Here, here, and for a laugh, here.]

[It's a real knee-slapper to me that he sees himself and his cronies as holding a middle position on hurting animals and that he thinks of himself as someone willing to compromise.]

Unless you live in a cave, you've heard by now at least someone lionizing Nelson Mandela. In fact, even UW Madison professors have joined in.

This must be troubling to the vivisectors who try so hard to use "extremism" as a cudgel to turn the curious away from careful thought about what they do to animals.

Up until 2008, the U.S. government considered Mandela a terrorist. See US government considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist until 2008, NBC News.

Apparently, Sandgren would have argued in 2007, that Mandela ought not be allowed to be part of the public conversation on racial discrimination.

I suspect that more than a few white South Africans would have agreed with him.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

UW-Madison: Stacking the deck against animals

The university has announced the creation of new service that is apparently intended to provide assistance to campus scientists who have questions about the ethics of the experiments they plan to conduct.

On Campus: UW-Madison creates ethical consultation service for researchers

November 25, 2013 1:30 pm • JEFF GLAZE | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6138

UW-Madison researchers dealing with human or animal test subjects will have a new tool for navigating ethical uncertainties.

The university announced last week the creation of the Research Ethics Consultation Service, which will provide assistance to researchers on campus and at affiliated research centers.

The announcement comes roughly seven weeks after the National Institutes of Health cleared a UW-Madison laboratory of cat abuse allegations made by the animal rights group PETA. While there had been a recurring problem of infections related to the placement of head caps, eye coils and ear coils, the NIH found that cats generally were treated according to industry standards.

The consultation service is co-directed by Norman Fost, professor of pediatrics and bioethics in the School of Medicine and Public Health; and Pilar Ossorio, professor of law and bioethics and ethics scholar-in-residence at the university’s Morgridge Institute for Research. The idea is to provide varying levels of consultation based on the challenges of each case. For more complex situations, the consultation service will bring together a panel of university experts in topics such as human subjects, animal welfare, intellectual property or conflict of interest.

Ossorio estimates the service will get 20 to 30 inquiries a year based on consultation programs at other universities.
See too: New ethics consulting service to help UW scientists navigate gray areas

You might imagine, and I'll wager that the spin-doctors expected that you naturally would, that Norman Frost and Pilar Ossorio are well qualified to advise on the ethical, dare I say moral issues that could come into play when one takes the time to consider the use of animals as research tools. But no, they aren't. I suspect they were selected because of the absence of evidence that they have ever given the matter an iota of consideration.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think that choosing someone without a clear opinion on a particular matter can at times be the best course, particularly so if the issue is a moral one and you hope that an opinion can be formed based on the presentation of a body of evidence. We do this to a degree when selecting juries, and we tried to do this when we pushed to have Dane County create a citizens advisory committee to consider the ethics of using monkeys as research tools at the university a few years ago. (The possibility of a genuinely honest evaluation of what they do to the monkeys frightened the begeezus out of the university and they worked successfully behind the scenes to convince then county board chair Scott McDonell to scuttle our effort.)

But this case isn't like that at all. These two "bioethicists" have publication histories that provide some insight to what they believe. Norman Frost has been writing about the ethical quandaries surrounding medical research since at least 1973. PubMed lists about a hundred papers by him on the topic. That's 40 years of thinking about the ethics of medical research. As far as I can tell, during the past four decades he has brushed up against the issue of using animals only once; that was in a very brief paper from 2006, titled "The great stem cell debate: where are we now? Cloning, chimeras, and cash." You can read it here.

He says:
Stem cell lines, like most other new biomedical technologies, will have to be tested in animals. When the organs involved are hearts or livers or kidneys, the ethical questions are familiar ones about animal welfare and avoiding spread of infectious diseases. The new issue involves studies in which human brain cells could be implanted into a laboratory animal. In the worst case—and at this point imaginary—scenario, creative thinkers wonder whether a fully functioning human brain could develop inside, say, a goat, and if that did happen, should we think of it as a really smart goat, or as a human trapped in a goat’s body: the so-called “Help, let me out of here” fear.

Most scientists believe this is, and will remain, science fiction. They feel it is biologically highly implausible that human brain cells could organize themselves inside a goat’s head and function in a sufficiently organized way to raise concerns. National and local committees have developed guidelines to reduce the risk of such experiments. For example, one recommendation is that these studies not be allowed to use non-human primates, where the likelihood for a functioning brain might be higher. And ethicists are increasingly directing their attention to the legitimacy of such concerns, and whether further restrictions are needed.
Two implications of his opinions of animals that emerge from this passage seem fairly clear. 1. The "familiar" ethical questions that arise when using animals have never motivated him to address them; and 2. His only concern is the creation of neurological chimeras that could have human minds. Apparently, the experiences being lived by a goat don't rise to the level of needing even a comment.

You can visit his university page here.

And then there's Pilar Ossorio. Here's what her webpage says:
Dr. Ossorio's research interests revolve around research ethics and the protection of research participants, including: governance of large bioscience projects; data sharing in scientific research; the use of race in biomedical and social science research; ethical and regulatory issues in human subjects research; and the regulation and ethics of online research. She is also quite interested in novel ethical, regulatory, and policy issues raised by research aimed at moving scientific and engineering findings from the laboratory to the product development and medical/therapeutic applications (translational research).
PubMed lists seventeen publications from her since 1999 that address the ethics of medical research, none of which have anything to do with animals. In the thirteen or so years that she's been thinking about the ethics of medical research, not once, as far as I can tell, has she addressed the use of animals in her published papers.

I did though find a pdf of a set of slides from a presentation she gave. You can see the file here.

Here's the germane slide, notice the close similarity to the points raised by Frost. It seems reasonable to imagine that they hold similarly vacant views about harming animals. Neither of them seem to have noticed that there is someone looking back at them. They both appear to me to be dead to the notion.
Animal Safety Concerns...

• Injecting human stem cells into animals could create a variety of chimeras
– Yuck factor!!! But...
• We already make a variety of human – non-human chimeras during research
• Beyond the yuck factor: “What is actually wrong with making chimeras???”

– One possible problem
• Create an organism that has human-like cognitive or emotional qualities. It’s existence could constitute a harm, or we could inadvertantly [sic] harm it in research by failing to recognize its interests or rights
And yet, these are the two "experts" named by the university who will help guide vivisectors through the possible ethical issues they might encounter. (I wonder if either of them are vegan?) The new "Research Ethics Consultation Service" would be a scream if the actual screams from the labs weren't quite so blood-curdling.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why does Dario Ringach hate people? Or,

Back to the burning building.

The keystone of Dario Ringach's claim about his intuitive sense that we ought to always choose a human over another animal was illustrated by him at his recent lecture in Madison. He showed a slide that looked something like this this:

He makes the simple claim that the only moral option would be to save the child from the burning house and leave the mouse behind to be burned to death.

That's fine, but he could have used other examples, like this one:

A more germane image would have been one like this:

Ringach says things like: "... those working with animals also feel in such a way, but they also feel for the mothers that fight breast cancer, the children with leukemia, the elderly with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s."

"While searching for answers to difficult problems (such as developing a cure for cancer), it is expected for many paths to lead to dead ends..."

"... cancerous tumors can certainly be grown in humans as they are in mice, but we do not consider the practice morally acceptable."

"... if you learn that a member of your family has terminal cancer, you will suffer in ways that a mouse cannot comprehend. If you are exposed to the sights of millions of children with AIDS in Africa, you will suffer in ways monkeys cannot understand. This is real suffering and it should matter to you."

And he is entitled to his opinions. But his frequent appeals to mothers, children, and cancer, particularly cancer, are indeed odd when considered against the backdrop of his own research. Interestingly, when he was asked various questions, he said more than once something like: "Well, I don't do those things," or "I'm not talking about product testing on animals." Indeed. But he wasn't talking about the things he does do either. This image fairly demonstrates his actual practice:

It looks like the hundreds or thousands of humans in the burning skyscraper matter less to Ringach than the people who might be trapped in the smoking house. He must really hate people. Why else would he decide to spend his time working on theoretical details about ocular dominance rather than try to find a way to cure some mother's baby of cancer? Why does he talk primarily about the diseases that frighten people rather than his actual work? Maybe he intuitively recognizes that most people wouldn't be so quick to choose the human over a mouse, or a dog?

Since about 2000, according to the National Institutes of Health, Dario Ringach has recieved about $5 million in taxpayer dollars to investigate "the nature of ongoing cortical activity, what it represents, and how it interacts with external stimuli to generate a "real-time" response in primary visual cortex." From: 5R01EY012816: QUANTITATIVE STUDIES OF CORTICAL VISUAL PROCESSING. $2,839,896.


"A hallmark of primary visual cortex is its organization into maps of visual space, orientation and ocular dominance. Despite remarkable advances in our ability to measure the structure of cortical maps and their mutual relationships, many important questions remain unanswered. How do these maps develop? Why are maps missing in some species? What role do maps play, if any, in cortical computation? The central goal of our research is to seek answers to these fundamental questions of cortical development, organization and function that have eluded us for decades." From: 5R01EY018322: THEORETICAL STUDIES OF VISUAL CORTEX. $2,083,837.

According to the National Federation for the Blind the number of non-institutionalized, males or females, of all ages, all races, regardless of ethnicity, with all education levels in the United States reported to have a visual disability in 2011 were:

Total: 6,636,900
Age 18 to 64: 3,372,400
Age 65 and older: 2,743,600

About 1.2 million people in the U.S. die each year from cancer or heart disease.

No one dies from a visual disability.

Taking him at his word, he'd rush into a burning building and save a child rather than a mouse. But the implication of his actions is that he'd rush into a burning house rather than a burning skyscraper, no matter the number of people who might suffer the consequences of his ethical intuition. It looks to me like his intuition might be colored by the millions of dollars that he thinks is stuffed under the mattress in the house. He studies the arcane details of animals' brains, but defends his choices with appeals to mothers and cancer. It's dishonest, but if he actually used his own work to justify his industry's cruelty, well, even he seems to be less than convinced.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Dreaded Question

Are you vegan?

It's a simple question. And it brushes aside a lot of posturing and pontificating.

Dario Ringach was bothered enough at being asked this simple question during his recent presentation at UW-Madison that he felt compelled to write about it.

His response offers some insight into his perceptions of the animal issue. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, yet again, he seems confused by the lack of compartmentalization of concern on the part of people who are opposed to cruelty.

If one genuinely believes, as Ringach and essentially everyone who experiments on animals claims to do, that he wishes he didn't "have" to hurt and kill them, but that animal experimentation is exactly like having to choose between saving a child or a mouse from a burning building, then he wouldn't eat animals. Deciding to have a meat burger rather than a bean burger is nothing like having to choose between a child and a mouse.

If one chooses the meat burger, then why bother with highfalutin excuses for experimenting on animals? Clearly, someone who is motivated by the simple gustatory delight of flesh isn't dependent on the notion of saving children from a burning building to justify their actions.

Ringach seems to think that in a discussion about experimenting on animals that one ought not talk about one's food choices, but that one should talk about burning buildings.

Ringach provided some evidence to help us make sense of his claim that talking about being vegan in a discussion about the use of animals in research isn't appropriate. He showed this slide, or a different photo of the same display:
It seems to me that someone who eats animals but then reaches to the stars to find a justification for experimenting on them is either a liar or a dolt.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


In Dario Ringach's presentation to university vivisectors, he relied heavily on his claim that the development of Trastuzumab, or herceptin, as a breast cancer treatment is a glowing example of the tremendous benefits that stem directly from animal experimentation.*

It's been my experience that whenever a vivisector makes a specific claim in a public venue about the benefits of animal experimentation that it always bears close scrutiny.

Well, I didn't have to scrutinize very much:
From Wikipedia: Trastuzumab (INN; trade names Herclon, Herceptin) is a monoclonal antibody that interferes with the HER2/neu receptor. Its main use is to treat certain breast cancers.

The HER receptors are proteins that are embedded in the cell membrane and communicate molecular signals from outside the cell (molecules called EGFs) to inside the cell, and turn genes on and off. The HER proteins stimulate cell proliferation. In some cancers, notably certain types of breast cancer, HER2 is over-expressed, and causes cancer cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

The original studies of trastuzumab showed that it improved overall survival in late-stage (metastatic) breast cancer from 20.3 to 25.1 months. In early stage breast cancer, it reduces the risk of cancer returning after surgery by an absolute risk of 9.5%, and the risk of death by an absolute risk of 3% however increases serious heart problems by an absolute risk of 2.1% which may resolve if treatment is stopped. Trastuzumab is controversial partly because of its cost, as much as $54,000 per year, and while certain private insurance companies in the U.S. and government health care systems in Canada, UK and elsewhere have refused to pay for trastuzumab for certain patients, some companies have since accepted trastuzumab treatment as a covered preventative treatment.

*When asked about animal experimentation that was apparently an uncomfortable question for him, he side-stepped the issue with the excuse that he didn't do that sort of work -- like product testing. His work deals with the minutia of brain function in (previously, monkeys) in mice. That did not stop him from cloaking himself in the new clothes of a "cure for cancer."

Dario Ringach Talks to UW Vivisectors

Dario Ringach's talk was sort of interesting. It was very well attended, but judging from the people I recognized and the various greetings I heard as people were coming in, it appeared to me that the overwhelming majority of the attendees were vivisectors. This makes sense because as a group they are worried by the continuing drumbeat of criticism leveled at them and the evidence that the animal rights movement isn't going away. To them, Ringach's willingness to speak in public must seem to be a ray of hope, a balm to their chronic worry, an exception to the near uniform cowardice they see among themselves and their peers.

You can view a portion of the talk here. Unfortunately, the videographer experienced some technical glitches, so all the Q&A (including him attacking me) isn't here. Alas.

I'll share a few of my impressions.

One thing that might seem surprising to readers is the simple fact that I sort of liked him. This has been a fairly common experience for me; most of the vivisectors I've met have seemed like people I wouldn't mind visiting with over a beer.

I suspect that many people are surprised by the fact that very few people are wholly one thing or another. We are patchwork quilts. There is good and bad in most of us, and from work by psychologists like Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo it is matter-of-factly clear that nearly all of us are capable of doing horribly evil things.

It is hard to reconcile the atrocities they committed with the happy faces in this image of Auschwitz staff enjoying a sunny day. But facts are facts.

Back to Ringach's talk. He started out with an image that looked something like this:

He then asked, by a show of hands as he defined each "extreme," where people stood. No one raised their hand to indicate that they believed that animals are mere machines, and I don't think many if anyone raised their hand to say that they agreed with the animal rights view as defined by him, which was that all animals should have rights identical to those claimed by humans. He argued that if you don't hold that view then you can't really be an animal rightist, and must, like "everyone" in the audience, actually be an animal welfarist, like him. (That makes me chuckle.)

For the record: I don't think dogs ought to have the right to drive, but I can't imagine that giving them the right to vote could make the political scene any more discouraging.

Giving Ringach the benefit of some doubt and assuming he wasn't knowingly misleading his audience, maybe he actually believes that someone who thinks animals are mere things or at least could be treated as mere things would identify themselves in public.

Given the long dark history of atrocity in human culture, it is likely that a significant percentage of people don't give much thought to the feelings of others or care at all about their suffering. It seems reasonable to me that the animal labs must appear to be somewhat safe havens for such people. I suspect that the percentage of sociopaths and quasi-sociopaths is much higher in the animal labs than in the general population. It is the nature of sociopaths to try and blend in. Asking for a show of hands from all of those who don't believe in, care about, or give any thought to the potential subjective experiences of animals is like asking the audience how many of them have children chained in their basements.

I don't think Ringach knows what consensus means.

Giving Ringach the benefit of some doubt and assuming he wasn't knowingly misleading his audience, I have to assume that he has a somewhat limited reading comprehension level.

He claimed that there is a scientific consensus that "Animal research is essential to the advancement of biomedical science." As proof, he pointed repeatedly this graph and, if I understood him correctly, said it was from a Zogby poll:

But it's actually from a poll conducted by the journal Nature. He said that the respondent's weren't "just animal researchers," but were also geologists and other scientists.

That's a bit misleading. The graph above is better understood when looked at side by side with another graph from the same article:

What a shock that the majority (but not all?) of those who experiment on animals "strongly agree" that it is necessary. And exactly who were and what did the 29.7% who say they don't experiment on animals actually do? Maybe some of them were "lab animal" veterinarians or were in some other way involved.

Towards the end of his talk, during the Q&A, he singled me out by name and told the audience that I was there to threaten them; he told them that I was there to tell them to stop hurting animals or else I would hurt them. I don't think he's read much of what I've written, and if he has, he certainly doesn't understand or at least believe what I've said.

All in all, it was a pretty typical example of the university vivisectors engaging in an exercise much different than that which they had promised to do. No one who attended learned even one thing about the use and treatment of animals in the university labs. Not one image was shown by them, not one study described. When asked about things that he was uncomfortable answering, Ringach said, "But that's not what I do." That fine point didn't seem to matter too much when it came to asking the audience whether they would save a child or a mouse from a burning building. How stupid. If I could grab the mouse, I'd stick her in my pocket and then grab the kid. Dario would apparently leave everyone but the child behind.

Check out these impressions of his presentation by another blogger:

Dario Ringach… Wrong, Wrong, Speciesist

Dario Ringach… Wrong Again on Animal Research

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I am an extremist. I hope you are too.

Below, you can read UW-Madison's hyped announcement that Dario Ringach will be speaking at the university this week.

He was invited, it seems to me, because Eric Sandgren, Director of the university's Research Animal Resource Center (RARC) has become enamored with Dario's tiny fringe cult that misleadingly calls itself "Speaking of Research." I say misleading because Speaking's representative at the university, Allyson Joy Bennett, quoted in the university's propaganda below, has refused to speak in a public venue about her dead-end often cruel research on abused monkeys. Go figure.

All that aside, I wanted here to simply call attention to the ubiquitous and absurd rhetorical device used by those who do things that they know are morally questionable: namely, the notion that they hold the middle ground and that their critics should be dismissed because they are "extremists."

The Middle Ground

It seems to me that very many moral issues don't have a defensible middle ground. Here are a few examples:

Nuclear war. Call me an extremist, but I'm 100% against it. Those in the "middle" of the issue appear to me to be very very dangerous people. Ditto on a nuclear arsenal. Nuts. Pure and simply nuts. Maybe Dario and Joy think a little nuclear war is a good thing.

Dog fighting. Call me an extremist, but I'm 100% against it. Is there really a middle ground? The middle grounders ought to be put in jail in my opinion even if people enjoy watching dogs rip each other to shreds. Maybe reasonable middle grounders like the folks at Speaking for Research have a different more moderate and reasonable view on the matter. Or, maybe they are extremists too.

My list could go on and on. I'm an extremist on many issues: whaling, women's right to vote, slavery, sex with children, protecting the remaining ancient forests, and hurting animals, to enumerate just a few of my extremist positions.

I wonder what the middle ground is on slaughtering dolphins? Or on draining toxic chemicals into our rivers and lakes? Undoubtedly there are many people who hold very un-nuanced views on these issues. They are extremists.

Imagine the arguments put forth by the middle grounders on issues like these: A little mercury in the stream won't matter; saving old growth forests will cost us jobs; there's a fortune to be made by drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

When the middle "moderate" position leads to more pain and suffering, more environmental devastation, more poor people, more money for the rich, it's easy to understand why those opposed are labeled by the "middle" as extremists. Instead of feeling uncomfortable with the brand, extremists ought to acknowledge that on important ethical matters, the "extreme" position is frequently the right view to hold.

UW-Madison News Release:
Target of animal rights protests kicks off animal research ethics forum
Oct. 17, 2013
 by Chris Barncar

Any research that includes animals presents ethical questions, but they are questions Dario Ringach believes we rarely address together.

“There is a moral dilemma everyone has to recognize,” says Ringach, a professor of neurobiology and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Rejecting that isn’t responsible, and is not based on any sound ethical thinking. But once we recognize that, there is a very useful discussion to have.”

Ringach, the next speaker in UW–Madison’s Forum on Animal Research Ethics (FARE) series, believes that nearly all conversation on the controversial topic is driven by the most extreme opinions on the issue.

He was invited to deliver a lecture — “The Ethical Dilemma of Animal Research,” at 7 p.m., Oct. 24 in the Madison Public Library’s Central Branch, 201 W. Mifflin St. — because he hopes to bring some informed discussion to the middle.

“Dario has been very interactive with the public on this issue,” says Eric Sandgren, director of UW–Madison’s Research Animal Resource Center and a FARE organizer. “He is one of the few people out there from the scientific community actually engaging people in conversation about the ethics of animal research no matter their background or stated feelings on the topic, and that is exactly the point of FARE.”

The forum, which began in 2011 to provide a venue for discourse on the use of animals in science, is free and open to the public. Speakers — including researchers who conduct experiments that include animals, scientists advocating limited use, philosophers and animal rights leaders — have been chosen by a committee representing campus and the Madison community.

Ringach, who studies the way the brain represents images, knows the arguments of those who oppose animal research well.

He became a target of animal rights groups more than a decade ago while working with non-human primates in his UCLA lab, and his family endured some rough treatment.

“In my case, late at night, anywhere between 30 to 40 people wearing ski masks would surround my house, banging on windows, chanting that they are going to burn the house down,” Ringach says.

A colleague was singled out by activists who left an unlit Molotov cocktail on her doorstep as a message — though they got the address wrong, and delivered it to the scientist’s neighbor.

“When this happens, you are forced to ask yourself what kind of beliefs drive these people to act this way,” Ringach says. “That’s how I got interested in the moral philosophy behind this movement.”

That philosophy is not always articulated by the critics of animal research in a way that acknowledges the true moral dilemma, according to Allyson Bennett, a UW–Madison psychology professor who blogs with Ringach on animal research at

“The speakers on the animal rights side often do not articulate their position — as in, are there any instances in which your ethics would allow animal research?” Bennett says. “And they will almost never acknowledge that there is any benefit from animal research. You can’t have a genuine discussion about the ethics without that.”

Ringach’s run-in with protestors was well known, but it did not keep him from writing and speaking about the issue.

“What happened to Dario was a wake-up call to the scientific community,” Bennett says, and one example of intimidation she worries will keep grad students from entering academic research, and chase the work into parts of the world that have not established the sort of structure and oversight established in the United States.

While it was terrifying for Ringach and his family, the experience did not keep him from conducting research with animal models. These days his lab includes mice in its work. And it only served to focus his thinking on the animal research issue.

“I felt an obligation to defend work that I think is producing the benefits that will improve the lives of my children and the children of others. There are lives at stake here,” says Ringach, who plans to leave plenty of time for discussion with the audience after his FARE presentation. “And I believe scientists have the obligation to talk to people about their work, but you should not be obligated to talk to someone who says it is justifiable to kill you.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

When pigs fly

I was both shocked and delighted to read an opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times [10-5-2013] by a neuroscientist talking about his experiments on dogs. See: "Dogs Are People Too."

Neuroscientists who use animals in their research are callous assholes. This is a truism, "a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting," explains one dictionary.

But Gregory S. Berns, a scientist at Emory University of all places*, is the exception that proves the rule.

Even more exceptional is the strong pro-dog side-taking in one of his recent scientific publications: Functional MRI in awake unrestrained dogs. Berns GS, Brooks AM, Spivak M. PLoS One. 2012. The authors write:
The possibility of future canine fMRI must be tempered with the acknowledgement that dogs will do almost anything humans ask of them, and this makes them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. In the design and implementation of this study, we adopted a set of principles that places the dogs' welfare above all else, and which we hope will provide ethical guidelines for future work in this area. First, no harm must occur to the dogs. With MRI, the main concern is for the dogs' hearing, which is more sensitive than humans'. Considerable effort was spent fitting and training the dogs to wear ear muffs and head wraps that mitigated the effects of the scanner noise. Second, the dogs should not be restrained. Although it is technically possible to implement a wide range of restraints, from harnesses to implanted fixation devices, we believe this violates a basic principle of self-determination that is normally reserved for humans, but in this case should be extended to dogs: they should be free to exit the scanner at all times. Similarly, this means that purpose-bred laboratory dogs should not be used as they have no choice. Third, positive reinforcement should be used whenever possible. Although we can imagine experiments in which one would like to know the differential effects of positive reinforcement versus punishment, we favor positive reinforcement for ethical reasons. The use of punishment should be carefully weighed against the alternatives, especially since the animal training literature does not indicate that punishment leads to more effective learning than positive methods.
You should read the entire Discussion section.

*Emory University is home to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and a consumer of large numbers of animals in cruel experiments.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Raving silliness ascendant in Wis. politics

The Republicans took control of Wisconsin a couple of election cycles ago, and one of the things they were quick to do was to install pro-hunting/trapping/fishing/gun nuts in decision-making positions in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). An article this week in the Wisconsin State Journal that reported on the issue was surprising for its balance and its deviation from the paper's traditional ballyhooing of activities centered on hurting and killing animals. But then, it was written by the Associated Press, not someone with the WSJ. "Wis. GOP efforts to expand hunting irk opponents."

The Capital Times, a Madison weekly, ran an editorial on the same topic written by local animal-advocate Charlie Talbert. It was titled "Why is taxpayer money being spent to promote hunting and trapping?"

But the reason I'm writing here about these articles is because of a response to Talbert's editorial that was just published. As a character sketch it provides a good idea of just who is being catered to by the DNR. Anyway, its raving silliness gave me a chuckle, its dark implications aside.

Nathan Weber: Yes, spend tax dollars to promote hunting and trapping.

Friday, September 20, 2013

We need more leaks and whistleblowers

Systems are optimized for their own survival and preventing the system from doing evil may well require breaking with organizational niceties, protocols or laws. It requires stepping outside of one’s assigned organizational role.

A good entry into this notion:

The Banality of Systemic Evil
Opinion. New York Times.
September 15, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

More on the Double-Trouble Tom Yin Case

Regular readers of this blog will recall that nearly five years ago, PETA made a public records request from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for copies of records involving invasive brain experiments on animals. One of the documents they received in response was a description of Tom Yin's sound localization experiments with cats. They read in the documents that Yin had been photographing some of the cats' surgeries to implant cranial caps, eye coils, and cochlear implants. PETA followed up with a request for copies of those photographic records.

The university refused to comply. PETA filed a lawsuit, and after a three-year-long court battle, paid for by Wisconsin taxpayers, the university finally settled, but only when their key argument turned out to be a complete fabrication. The university had claimed that the surgical methods and devices being used were proprietary and that they had promised the company that developed them that they would keep them secret. If they had been telling the truth, the pictures would never have been made public.

But PETA investigators were able to track down and speak to the purported owner. They learned that the company's research was being paid for by an NIH grant that required them to make public as soon as possible, everything they produced as a result of the grant. This discovery by PETA demolished the university's key argument. They were, once again, caught in yet another matter-of-fact bald-faced lie.

As part of the settlement agreement, the university extracted a promise by PETA that they would not divulge Tom Yin's name. They argued falsely that if animal rights activists learned who was responsible for doing these things to the cats, that Yin's safety would be put at risk. Anxious to get the photos, PETA (unwisely perhaps) agreed to the terms and entered into a binding agreement not to divulge Yin's name.

But the university didn't mean what it said. They were lying. They are liars. Liars lie. They believe that the public is simply too stupid to notice.

So now, because so many people have written to them after seeing the pictures and told them that they won't donate to them until the cat experiments are stopped, they have made Yin's name public and put his face on YouTube. They have produced two little propaganda films filled with nonsense and some matter-of-fact lies -- what a surprise.

Their fundamental defense of Yin's cruelty is this: The use of bilateral cochlear implants is the result of Tom Yin's experiments on cats.

They assume (perhaps accurately; propagandists understand the implications of the bell curve) that viewers won't take the time or have the knowledge needed to check out the facts.

If they are telling the truth the evidence ought to be pretty easy to find. If they are making it up, then there won't be any evidence of Yin's work contributing to the early use of bilateral cochlear implants.

According to Colorado State University's Writing Center, "A review paper for the biological sciences serves to discuss and synthesize key findings on a particular subject."

A review paper published in 2008 by researchers at the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, titled "Restoring hearing symmetry with two cochlear implants or one cochlear implant and a contralateral hearing aid," makes no mention of Yin and includes nothing published by him even though it includes 105 published papers in the bibliography. The authors apparently didn't find his work -- if they'd even heard of it -- worth mention. [Restoring hearing symmetry with two cochlear implants or one cochlear implant and a contralateral hearing aid. Firszt JB, Reeder RM, Skinner MW. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2008. Review.]

Bilateral cochlear implants have been in use for over a decade. See for instance the studies referred to in Systematic review of the literature on the clinical effectiveness of the cochlear implant procedure in paediatric patients. Forli F, Arslan E, Bellelli S, Burdo S, Mancini P, Martini A, Miccoli M, Quaranta N, Berrettini S. Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2011. Review.

In the second of the two videos below, you'll hear Yin say that the cat in the video "seems quite content" and "his tail is wagging." It's odd that someone who has experimented on cats for decades thinks a cat "wagging" his or her tail is content. Even more odd, is that the film makers and reviewers must think so too.

An aside: A few years ago, veterinarian Eric Sandgren, the very well-paid director of the UW's Research Animal Resource Center, came to one of our anti-vivisection meetings and told us that he had recently adopted two cats and that he was surprised that they had different personalities. The go-to university spokesperson for all things vivisection didn't know that individual animals are, well, individuals. It's no wonder that the the history of animal care at the university is filled with suffering and federal violations.

You can watch the propaganda videos here:

"It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect for the sake of science will hesitate to lie about it afterwards...." -- George Bernard Shaw. The Doctor's Dilemma. 1909.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Counter-terrorists strike back in Wisconsin

anonymous report:

"Around 7:00am on August 26, a cell of the Animal Liberation Front entered the back yard of Brian L. MacMillan, 1245 Mockingbird Lane in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Brian is the Vice President of Wild Fur Operations at North American Fur Auctions, the largest fur auction house in North America. Brian is a terrorist who deals in the skins of wild animals tortured and killed in steel-jaw leghold traps. The counter-terrorists of the Animal Liberation Front broke his double paned window, and inserted his own garden hose; completely flooding his home.

Most people would be amazed at the sight of a bobcat, a creature so majestic and free. Brian's empty heart sees only profit.

There is no doubt Brian and NAFA will attempt to portray themselves as victims. They have the audacity to call us terrorists, when every penny they have made is at the torture and subjugation of what is wild and free. All who contribute to industries of earth and animal destruction shall take note. There is a higher law.

Animal Liberation Front"


Statement on Relocation of NIH Chimpanzees at New Iberia Research Center September 21, 2012 -- The NIH today announced that it will be relocating the NIH-owned chimpanzees currently located at the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in New Iberia, La., because NIH funding to the facility will end in September 2013. This circumstance, combined with NIH’s anticipation that there will be a substantial reduction in the number of chimpanzees needed for research that meets the Institute of Medicine (IOM) criteria, prompted NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., to designate all of these chimpanzees permanently ineligible for biomedical research. As of that date, there were 110 NIH-owned chimpanzees at NIRC.

Approximately 10 to 20 of the chimpanzees will be relocated to the federally supported chimpanzee sanctuary operated by Chimp Haven, Inc. in Keithsville, La., which would put Chimp Haven at or near full occupancy. NIH is continuing to evaluate options to move additional animals to Chimp Haven. It is expected that the remaining chimpanzees will be relocated to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Tx. Texas Biomedical has the specialized resources, experience, capacity, and funding mechanism to provide continued high-quality care for the chimpanzees. The animals being relocated to Texas Biomedical are considered permanently ineligible for biomedical research and therefore are retirement eligible. Relocation of the chimpanzees will be conducted on a timescale that will allow for optimal transition of each individual chimpanzee with careful consideration of their welfare, including their health and social grouping.

NIH will continue to keep the community informed throughout this transition which is expected to occur over several months.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


You can quote me on that.

A few months ago we learned that agents of the United States Department of Agriculture routinely watch their dogs kill animals caught in traps. They apparently enjoy watching their dogs attack and rip them apart. They like to the them defecate from pain and fear.

If you've ever had the (dubious) opportunity to listen to someone who is involved in some activity or industry that involves hurting and/or killing animals you have undoubtedly heard them say that they care about animals, that the animals are treated humanely, and that they cause the least possible amount of suffering.

This nonsense is ubiquitous. It doesn't matter whether the person doing the telling is a hunter, whaler, vivisector, elephant trainer, dairy operator, carriage horse company, greyhound breeder, or trapper. If someone is involved in an activity or industry that hurts and kills animals, dollars to donuts they'll tell you lies about how humane they and their kind are.

I've heard trappers lie to public officials about the humane traps they use and how animals released from the traps scamper away completely unharmed. It's nonsense. But people who hurt animals certainly aren't adverse to lying about the things they enjoy doing. Sickos are, well, sick.

The most recent issue of The Wisconsin Trapper is an example of the sort of thing sickos say to each other when they think they are talking only to each other.
(The two adults don't appear to be too happy in this picture. The clinched fist of the guy on the right doesn't communicate kindness or compassion to me.)

It's pretty clear from the advertisement on page 32, that the Wisconsin Trapper' Association seems to think that their members will want to learn more from the USDA agent who let his dogs attack and kill trapped animals.
Promoting a book that puts such cruelty on its cover sends a pretty clear message that the Association believes its members would enjoy watching animals gripped by fear, pain, and suffering while being killed.

I too have a dream

From The Monitor, Hidalgo County, Texas
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
This week’s 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington is being observed with marches, speeches and speculation on what causes Dr. King would embrace today.

I believe that he would certainly continue to work for racial equality. But I think he would also advocate for a rapid troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, workers’ rights, gay rights and animal rights.

Yes, animal rights. Although he is best known for advocacy of racial equality, Dr. King opposed all violence, like the Vietnam War. And there is no greater violence than that perpetrated each day against billions of cows, pigs, and other sentient animals in America’s factory farms and slaughterhouses.

The day before his assassination in 1968, Dr. King came to Memphis to champion the most oppressed human beings in America — African-American sanitation workers. I believe if he were alive today, he would champion the most oppressed living beings in America — animals raised for food, experiments and entertainment.

Although he did not live long enough to extend his circle of compassion, justice and nonviolence to non-humans, his wife Coretta Scott King, and his son Dexter Scott King have by embracing a vegan lifestyle. This would be a great way for us all to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

Joel Kriviak, McAllen

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Butter Cow

Generally speaking, I don't think it's very productive for animal activists to spend their time criticizing the work other activists are doing, and I generally don't. Generally.

 By now you may have read that people vandalized a sculpture of a cow made out of butter at the Iowa State Fair. It's even been called eco-terrorism. I personally think it was a good thing, but Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), was so bothered by it that he took the time to write an editorial condemning the vandalism. I suspect that pro-ag groups were very happy about that.

Pacelle invited comment about his criticism when he mused: "Can you think of any action more inane and counterproductive?" Well, yes I can.

The number one most counterproductive thing I've ever heard of any group purporting to be acting on behalf of animals doing is HSUS's association with an event called Meatopia. If you don't see the direct connection, maybe it will help you to know that Miyan Parks, seen in the video, was previously a vice president at HSUS, and is now the executive director an organization called Global Animal Partnership, of which Pacelle is a member of the Board of Directors. Here's HSUS's showcase of Joe Maxwell, their Vice President of Outreach and Engagement who is featured in the video.

HSUS's involvement with the meat industry is by far the most counterproductive action by purported animal activists that I've ever heard of. In my opinion, Pacelle would much more productive if he was helping to vandalize cows sculpted out of butter.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let's Develop a Super-Duper Planet-Destroying Bomb

or, Why the Tsar Bomba Simply Wasn't Good Enough.

According to Wikipedia, the Tsar Bomba, detonated in 1961, was the most powerful bomb ever tested. It was a hydrogen bomb with a yield about 1,350–1,570 times the combined power of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As dangerous as the Tsar Bomba sounds, it's destructive force is probably peanuts compared to what could be built today. And who's to say that some bigger and more destructive bomb might not be built in the future? The only way to protect ourselves from this potential threat is to go ahead and build the biggest most dangerous bomb we can and then try to figure out what sort of bomb shelters we might need just in case someone actually detonates something like it someday in the unforeseeable future. The explosion in the photo above from the U.S. hydrogen bomb test on the Bikini Atoll is a pipsqueak; we need to be ready, we need to build the biggest bomb imaginable, no, even bigger!

Sound stupid? Mental? Needlessly and obviously too dangerous? Well, you just don't understand science.

The precise number of people killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts isn't known but estimates of about 200,000 are common. Most died almost instantly, vaporized by the intense heat. The actual number, over the ensuing years from radiation-related causes, must be much larger. But whatever the number, it's much smaller than the number of people who have died from other causes.

The greatest number of human deaths over the shortest period of time was due to the 1918 Spanish flu.
John M. Barry, in his bookThe Great Influenza says:
Although the influenza pandemic stretched over two years, perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.
Estimates of the number of deaths range from between 20 and 100 million. This puts the 1918 Spanish flu on a par with World War II. But in the case of WW II, the deaths occurred over a period of about six years. Quite simply, humans have never encountered anything else as deadly as the Spanish flu. But that might change in the very near future.

It now appears that scientists with a history of biosafety violations and questionable judgement working at institutions with faulty biosafety oversight and a history of lying to the public and hiding their violations are going to be given permission (and paid) to continue to create particularly virulent strains of influenza. The reasons they give to justify gambling with our species' very existence are very nearly the same ones I mentioned above to justify the creation of the biggest bomb imaginable.

We should have learned by now from things like the Challenger disaster, Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the multiple biosafety melt downs at the USDA's "secure" Plum Island labs, the 2011 foot and mouth disease virus escape in Pilbright, UK, the many other laboratory accidents and mistakes that have occurred in just the past few years, and the matter-of-fact tendency of universities to lie about what they do and the problems and violations that plague their labs, that no guarantee of safety should be given much credence.

The likelihood of an eventual accident or personnel problem (like the lab tech murdering the Yale scientist in 2009) amounts to a time bomb that could explode at any moment. As more labs invent more and ever more dangerous versions of influenza viruses, the likelihood of an escape through natural disaster, accidental and unrecognized infection of a lab worker, or even an intentional release of the virus becomes ever more likely.

And once out of the lab and spreading in the population, containment is probably impossible. People infected and spreading flu viruses often remain asymptomatic for a while. By the time it is recognized by the victim or someone else that they are sick, they've already had the opportunity to infect other people, who then infect others, with the rate increasing exponentially. Were something as deadly and fast moving as the Spanish flu to escape or be released, the consequences would dwarf the death rate that occurred in 1918/19 due to increased air travel and higher population densities.

Worse, many knowledgeable scientists are frightened at the prospect of labs around the world working to create such dangerous germs. They're not taken seriously enough and those who want to get in line for the hefty NIH grants that will fuel this endeavor tell them to compromise, that the labs can be made safer, that better safeguards can be put in place. They are winning the argument.

Worse, the traditional watchdogs have all ceded the battlefield to the eager influenza creators or else have gotten into step behind them and are helping delude the public about the safety of the labs that will be doing this work. The article linked to here portrays the Kawaoka lab as "half a notch below the top level anywhere" in safety, but that is very misleading and never does the paper alert the public to the lab's biosafety violations or the university's inability to adequately monitor the biosafety and compliance with federal biosafety regulations in the many labs on campus. If and when a disaster occurs, the responsibility will be shared by the labs, the universities hosting them, and local media outlets that have opted to keep the public confused or in the dark.

The creation of ever more virulent influenza strains makes the outlook for humans on the planet somewhat bleak. Maybe that's a silver lining for the rest of Earth's inhabitants.

Friday, August 2, 2013

More images from the Yin Lab.

Sound Localization Images Released to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Below is a series of images released in July 2013 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) under Wisconsin’s open records law. The images, from a procedure performed in 2009, show a surgical procedure to place a cochlear implant into a cat, the subject of a hearing study. Earlier images were used by PETA, an organization that objects to the use of all animal models in research, to misrepresent the clinical and technological value of the work, as well as the treatment and condition of the animals used in the study. We are posting the images to preempt their misuse and continued mischaracterization of a study that has demonstrated clinical and technological benefit for humans.

I was going to title this "It's official: they believe you're an idiot," but didn't. The Yin Lab in the title might help search engines.

The title of this image on the university's page is "Cat fitted for ear molds." Here's the sad image:
Where are the cat's ears? Odd. Self-censored?

Be sure to watch video that they refer to in the sentence: "We are posting the images to preempt their misuse and continued mischaracterization of a study that has demonstrated clinical and technological benefit for humans."

The only reasonable interpretation of this sentence, linking as it does to the UW-produced video, is that the video is clear unambiguous unequivocal evidence supporting the sentence's claim. The university is saying that the benefits to the boy in the video rest on the experiments on the cats in the Yin Lab.

There are ways one could test this claim. Though not perfect, and no one has offered any rebuttal, I've at least made a stab at trying to determine whether Yin's work led to the use of cochlear implants or was in some other way important to the use or development of these devices. Here's my piece from September 21, 2012: Citations of a Yin Publication.

The university on the other hand, simply makes claims. They offer no real evidence. Unless you accept this as evidence that I helped with lunar exploration:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Deafening Silence

For reasons that are probably tied more or less directly to money, Madisonians rarely read in the paper or hear a discussion on WPR anything about the animals hidden away and being hurt and killed in the UW-Madison and Covance labs.

This de facto censorship allows the vivisectors at both facilities to hurt and kill large numbers of animals without much worry about public discussion about the things they are doing.

It's an odd and schizophrenic phenomena. If someone shoots a dog, it gets reported (as it should); but if someone gets caught torturing cats or monkeys, not so much.

I'm all for a free press. Unfortunately, editors and owners are as biased as anyone else, and as a result, the news carried by the free press doesn't appear to be much less censored than the news that shows up in the less-than-free press in other nations. The censorship is just of a different kind.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tom Yin: Cue the Award

I've mentioned Tom Yin a few times here. Here's a new item that adds a bit more to this collection:

"The William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience was established in 2011 through a generous donation by Bill and Chris Hartmann to the Acoustical Society of America to recognize and honor research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals. The first Prize was awarded at the Spring meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Montreal (2-7 June 2013) to Tom C. T. Yin." From:

See too:

Yin winning this newly created award sounds like something other than a coincidence.

William Hartmann is a physicist at Michigan State University who leads a "group" studying psychoacuoustics, which "deals with pitch perception, signal detection, modulation detection, and localization of sound."

This newly minted award isn't just another case of vivisectors giving vivisectors another award for being a good vivisector (a good vivisector is one who publishes lots of scientific papers); no, this seems pretty clearly to be a case of a vivisector needing additional shielding from public scorn and getting it from his buddies.
Psychophysical and physiological evidence for a precedence effect in the median sagittal plane. Litovsky RY, Rakerd B, Yin TC, Hartmann WM. J Neurophysiol. 1997.

Department of Neurophysiology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 53706, USA.


A listener in a room is exposed to multiple versions of any acoustical event, coming from many different directions in space. The precedence effect is thought to discount the reflected sounds in the computation of location, so that a listener perceives the source near its true location. According to most auditory theories, the precedence effect is mediated by binaural differences. This report presents evidence that the precedence effect operates in the median sagittal plane, where binaural differences are virtually absent and where spectral cues provide information regarding the location of sounds. Parallel studies were conducted in psychophysics by measuring human listeners' performance, and in neurophysiology by measuring responses of single neurons in the inferior colliculus of cats....
Brad Rakerd, one of the authors, is the other principal member of the "group."

You'd have to imagine the press and the public being really, really stupid to think they wouldn't notice the hollow ring to an award like this.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Should vivisectors shelter Nazis?

The Associated Press and other news agencies are reporting that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has launched a poster campaign in several German cities appealing for help in tracking down the last surviving Nazi war criminals.

"About 2,000 posters depicting the entrance gate of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz were put up in the cities of Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne asking the public to come forward with information that may lead to the arrest of Nazis some seven decades after the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich."

See for instance:
New poster campaign aims to find last living Nazi war criminals in Germany
Published July 23, 2013
Associated Press

This effort to find, try, and jail, perhaps even execute, elderly Nazi's must be disturbing to vivisectors. It's hard to miss the fact that slowly but surely and probably inexorably, animals are being seen as sensitive beings with the right not to be harmed -- even if harming them makes us happy or is claimed to help us in some way. See for instance the news that India is moving to ban the use of cetaceans in entertainment and has stipulated that dolphins are non-human persons. Or the change in course by two of the most conservative nominally anti-animal organizations in the U.S., the Institute of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health both stating publicly that chimpanzees are so much like humans that they ought not be treated like, well, like animals are treated in biomedical research. The times, they are a changin'.

The writing is on the wall. People who torture animals in the name of science will sooner rather then later be seen in the same light as the Nazis who experimented on human prisoners in the name of science. Although what both groups of people were and are doing was and currently is legal, even sanctioned by their governments, that little detail hasn't mattered and won't matter in the future. Vivisectors will need to go underground, slip away to Uruguay or Bolivia and change their names. This must give them some pause and some sympathy for the Nazis for whom the vivisectors must feel some affinity.

Click here to participate in an on-line poll to voice your opinion on the question of whether vivisectors should shelter Nazis.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How like us need they be?

The recent decision to reduce the use of chimpanzees in federally-funded biomedical research is a small but highly significant step toward the liberation of all sentient beings. This step was possible because even scientists can learn and consider the implications of new ideas. As a result, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report at the end of 2011 titled "Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity." It is clear that the committee members finally got around to catching up on what is known about these animals. They write:
Chimpanzee research should be permitted only on animals maintained in an ethologically appropriate physical and social environment or in natural habitats. Chimpanzees live in complex social groups characterized by considerable interindividual cooperation, altruism, deception, and cultural transmission of learned behavior (including tool use). Furthermore, laboratory research has demonstrated that chimpanzees can master the rudiments of symbolic language and numericity, that they have the capacity for empathy and self-recognition, and that they have the humanlike ability to attribute mental states to themselves and others (known as the “theory of mind”). Finally, in appropriate circumstances, chimpanzees display grief and signs of depression that are reminiscent of human responses to similar situations. It is generally accepted that all species, including our own, experience a chronic stress response (comprising behavioral as well as physiological signs) when deprived of usual habitats, which for chimpanzees includes the presence of conspecifics and sufficient space and environmental complexity to exhibit species-typical behavior. Therefore, to perform rigorous (replicable and reliable) biomedical and behavioral research, it is critical to minimize potential sources of stress on the chimpanzee. This can be achieved primarily by maintaining animals on protocols either in their natural habitats, or by consistently maintaining with conspecifics in planned, ethologically appropriate physical and social environments...
You can read the report here.

This resulted in the National Institutes of Health deciding to move toward the elimination of funding for most research using chimpanzees and to move toward the elimination of NIH-funded colonies by not funding any breeding. The news was instantly cheered by most informed people and also instantly criticized by some who "earn" a living by experimenting on animals. The primate vivisectors were particularly outraged.

As they feared, the NIH decision regarding chimpanzees has caused at least a few people to begin wondering about monkeys as well. See Medical Experimentation on Chimps Is Nearing an End. But What About Monkeys? and If We’re Retiring Research Chimps, Why Are We Excluding Monkeys?

Here's a piece I wrote in 2002, asking the same question: How Like Us Need They Be?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beth Griffin Follow-Up: 16 Years Later

In 1997, I was sitting in front of the Stone Gate at Emory University, the last stop of my marathon protest of the then seven NIH Regional Primate Research Centers. Emory is home to the infamous Yerkes Primate Research Center. Coincidentally, the University of Wisconsin, Madison (an earlier stop on my protest tour) was embroiled in a public controversy stemming from their repeatedly broken promises to Dane County and Vilas Zoo officials that monkeys then housed at the zoo would not be used in harmful experiments.

A reporter from the Atlanta Journal Constitution showed up and asked me my opinion of the breaking news (which I hadn't yet heard) about the primate center technician who had just died as a result of being infected with the herpes B virus, a virus endemic in macaques. It turned out that Emory, intimately involved in writing the OSHA regulations governing the required safeguards for people working around macaques, had been derelict in own requirements for its own employees and negligent and incompetent in responding to accidental exposures of staff.

Beth Griffin wasn't wearing any face protection when something got in her eye while she was handling young rhesus monkeys destined to be hurt and killed. When she began developing symptoms, her concerns were downplayed and Emory doctors failed to recognize the likely life-threatening disease she had contracted in spite of the history of her case.

UW-Madison then used her death, callously and misleadingly, to argue that the monkeys at the zoo they had been lying about for years were a public health risk. Creepy cruel liars should never be trusted.

Anyway, here's a recent article that adds some new information to this altogether tragic story.
Daughter’s death leads to mom’s advocacy for biosafety

July 14th, 2013
by Marci Gore
Daughter’s death leads to mom’s advocacy for biosafety

Caryl Griffin now travels the world sharing the story of her daughter’s death and promoting procedures in research and health-care facilities to try to prevent what happened to her daughter happening to others. [This odd image accompanies the article. Maybe she's telling anyone who will listen?]

Caryl Griffin says sometimes it’s hard to understand why bad things happen to good people. “It’s hard to get your arms around life and what it means when there are bad times, especially when you’ve worked very hard to be faithful and allow God to work in your life. The Bible says, ‘You’ll be blessed.’ So, when things happen that don’t feel like a blessing, like the death of a child, it is then you wonder, ‘Where is God?’”

In 1997, Caryl experienced a parent’s worst nightmare when her daughter Elizabeth “Beth” Griffin died at the age of 22 after contracting a virus while working as a primate research assistant.

Caryl worked as a nurse for more than 30 years and, today, is an ordained elder with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Caryl has spent much of the past 15 years working through her grief. But with the help of her late husband, Dr. William Griffin, and Beth’s sister, Kimberly Griffin Hicks, Caryl has found solace — and hope — in traveling the globe to educate others about how to encourage safe practices in research facilities.

Following her graduation from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1993, Beth moved to Atlanta, Ga. to attend Agnes Scott College. She completed a double major in biology and psychology, was a member of the Modern Dance Team, and was a paid researcher in the biology department. Beth graduated with honors from Agnes Scott with a bachelor of science degree in May 1997.

Beth was working as a research assistant at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta in the fall of 1997 where she was engaged in behavioral research on hormonal influences in Rhesus Macaques — or the Rhesus Monkeys — and was in the process of applying to continue her pursuit of graduate studies and research in the field of biological/psychological sciences.

Caryl, answering what she says was a very strong calling to go into the ministry, decided to attend the Candler School of Theology at Emory University at the same time Beth was a student there.

“Beth said, ‘Mom, do this!’ She was there to help me move into my apartment. She had her own apartment and her own friends. But she spent a lot of time with me, too. It was a lot of fun,” Caryl said.

But then, just three months after Caryl got to Emory, she got a call from Beth, saying she had been splashed in the eye while performing annual physicals on 100 monkeys in a research compound. This was in October of 1997.

Eight days after Beth was splashed, the first symptoms of a problem appeared — Beth had “matter” exuding from her eye. Caryl says Beth had worked with monkeys long enough to know she could be in serious trouble and she needed help quickly.

She went to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with pink eye. Beth’s fears that she had been infected with the Monkey B Virus were ignored by the ER staff, Caryl said.

Beth tried calling the Office of Infectious Diseases and was told she needed a referral before she could be seen. A phone call to her internist to obtain a referral resulted in being told she needed to obtain her emergency room records first. Eleven days had passed since Beth was exposed.

The internist referred her to an ophthalmologist instead of the Office of Infectious Diseases. The ophthalmologist said Beth had Cat Scratch Fever. She was placed on an antibiotic. Despite Beth’s pleas, she still was not tested for the Monkey Virus.

Caryl says Beth’s condition continued to deteriorate. She developed a severe and pounding headache, but still could get no help from the medical community. After more phone calls, another visit to the ophthalmologist and Caryl’s insistence her daughter see an infectious disease physician, Beth’s diagnosis was finally confirmed.

Two weeks after she had been splashed in the eye, Beth was tested for the Monkey B Virus, or Macacine Herpesvirus 1. Just as she suspected, Beth’s results came back positive.