Saturday, March 30, 2013

Conflicts of Interest

The University of Wisconsin-Madison promised four years ago to provide public forums to help the public understand its use of animals in it various research programs. You can read about those promises here.

But even the organizers have admitted that the promised forums have not met the goals spelled out by Martin T. Cadwallader, Professor of Geography, Vice Chancellor for Research, and Dean of the Graduate School. Lots of titles, but Mr. Cadwallader should have asked a real teacher or two to help organize the forums because the university staff involved either don't know how to design a meaningful and effective educational activity or else don't really want to talk about the university animal labs, or both.

I've written enough about the "forums" elsewhere. I'm writing here because I have recently gained a little bit more insight into ways that the university tries to control their image. The forums are an example of the university saying one thing and then doing another. The thing they say gets some news exposure, and then the thing they actually do, doesn't. A recent example is the things they said to media about the cats in Tom Yin's lab and PeTA's complaint, and the things they actually did about the problems and about the USDA citations. Their claims were dutifully dispersed by media, but when caught in a series of lies, nothing got reported.

It all comes down to their active propaganda effort. It turns out that you can actually earn an undergraduate degree, a Masters, and a PhD in how to manipulate public perceptions at the university.

Degrees and certificates in "science writing" are offered by a handful of colleges and universities around the country. UW-Madison offers a handful of degree programs in UW-Madison's Department of Life Sciences Communications (LSC).

The LSC webpage explains: "As a department, we further fulfill The Wisconsin Idea through our relationships with UW-Extension, WSUM Madison Student Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television."

To begin to see why local media won't report on the problems, lies, cover-ups, and suffering associated with the use of animals at the university, consider the staff at LSC.

It is far too idealistic or naive to imagine that Wisconsin Public Radio or Wisconsin Public Television would ever cover the problems at the university. According to a conversation I had with the NPR Ombudsperson, self-censorship by NPR affiliates associated with universities is a recognized problem that no one has taken the time to address.

In the case of UW-Madison and Wisconsin Public Radio, the reason for the self-censorship could be related to the fact that the Madison station is physically on the UW campus, in a UW building, and that some of the senior staff are university employees. The most obvious example is Larry Meiller, host of the Larry Meiller Show. Mieller is also a Professor, and the Director of Undergraduate Advising and Career Placement, and the Department Chair of UW-Madison's Department of Life Sciences Communications (LSC). You won't ever hear Meiller say something critical of the university's use of animals.

One of his common guests, and his co-host of Calling All Pets, is Patricia B. McConnell, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Zoology at the university. I remember once hearing them on the show laughing together about what was being done to rats in an experiment they were talking about. You can't expect to hear any criticism of the university's use of animals on that show either.

And things aren't any better at the Wisconsin State Journal. Ron Seely is the science and environment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal and a Senior Lecturer at LSC. Seely ought to be talking about the treatment of animals at the university but steers clear of the issue. It's easy to see why.

And then there is Tom Still, former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal and a currently a regular columnist in the business section. Still is a Lecturer at LSC.

Still is also president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which has strong ties to the university. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors of the very creepy Wisconsin Security Research Consortium (WSRC), a UW sock puppet. Over the years, Still has been a defender of all things harmful to animals that might be economically profitable.

This incestuous intertwining of the university's interests with the programming and reporting in the Wisconsin State Journal and on Wisconsin Public Radio goes a long way to explaining why there isn't much local coverage or discussion of the problems at the university.

But the problem isn't just these obvious conflicts of interest.

UW-Madison's Department of Life Sciences Communications is worth digging into a bit. For instance, the statewide effort to recruit children and turn them into adults who like to kill animals, was apparently designed by staff at LSC:
A new initiative called the Hunters Network of Wisconsin, led by LSC Assistant Professor Bret Shaw, aims to understand how social networking technology may be used to promote hunter recruitment and retention in Wisconsin.....

"The Hunters Network of Wisconsin is targeting people who are interested in hunting but have not been raised in families that hunt,” said Bret Shaw, environmental communication specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension and assistant professor of life sciences communication at UW-Madison. “Many people, particularly young people, are heavy users of social networking technologies, and this may be an important way to inform them about hunter education opportunities in their local communities and connect with others who are interested in hunting,” said Shaw. "
It is interesting to read through some of the info at the LSC scimep lab (Science, Media and the Public.)

They explain that the lab is involved in "experimental studies of message processing and public understanding of controversial science, and long-term tracking of media coverage." But as far as I can tell, out of the approximately fifty papers from the lab over the course of its seven years of existence, there hasn't been even one paper concerning the public's perceptions of, or the media's framing, or anything whatsoever, regarding the use of animals in science. This is distinctly odd. The Department of Life Sciences Communications, the department's lab looking at public understanding of controversial science, the matter-of-fact reality that the use of animals is the epitome of controversial science, and yet nary a word. Maybe someone has alerted them to the institutional strategy of keeping the subject hushed up.

It is notable that investigators in a lab that is supposed to be involved in experimental studies and analysis of message processing and public understanding of controversial science aren't looking at the most controversial topics. They aren't looking into the messaging about and the public perception of abortion (When does an embryo begin to feel pain?) or medical testing on animals, or cloning animals, or the use of stem cells from human embryos, or even cloning humans. No, their big investigations and research are focused on the public's perception of nanotechnology. This might seem odd until one realizes that they aren't interested in the topic. They are interested only in how public opinions about controversial areas in science are formed, with the goal, apparently, of being able to manipulate them.

It seems to me that when taken together the unavoidable conflict of interests in media employing UW staff and quasi-staff to report on the university, the university's active encouragement of harming animals, their undeniable financial dependency on harming animals, and their managed propaganda campaign, it all adds up to a likely explanation for why all critical reporting has been dependent on one or two reporters independent enough to report the facts. Now that they have left the field, there is no one left who doesn't have their hand in the university's pocket in one way or another.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Paid to lie, to you. (Updated 3-28-2013)

"Furthermore, in two separate complaints filed with the USDA, PETA accused UW-Madison of multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. When two comprehensive, multi-day investigations by USDA veterinarians failed to substantiate PETA's accusations, PETA changed its tune and now says they don't care that the study is being conducted responsibly, they still think it's wrong." -- Eric Sandgren. February 16, 2013. In "Eric Sandgren: Cat research, after all the drama." Wisconsin State Journal.
"Sandgren said an investigation will validate the department's handling of the research cat, calling PETA's complaint 'a stunt.'" September 12, 2012. "PETA complaint alleges mistreatment of cats in UW research." Wisconsin State Journal
Eric Sandgren | September 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Reply

At UW-Madison, we heard about the complaint, and received a copy from a reporter, at 10:00am on a Wednesday, By 1:00pm that afternoon we were able to state verbally to reporters and anyone else who asked that all of PeTA’s statements were unsupported (we could not respond to specific charges until we knew what they were going to be). That’s 3 hours! The detailed written point-by-point response went up on Monday the next week, after careful review by a lot of people, and we may consider posting something like that sooner should we find ourselves in a similar situation. This all worked because we have developed excellent cooperation among University Communications, our animal research program, and faculty and staff regarding animal activist attacks. We also have people willing to respond immediately. I too am amazed that PeTA keeps getting away with this stuff. How do we put them on the defensive? From the fringe group "Speaking of Research" website/blog
Federal inspectors have cleared UW-Madison on charges by the animal rights group PETA that university researchers violated multiple provisions of the federal Animal Welfare Act in their treatment of cats used in a 2008 eye movement study.

"I believed all along that we had remained in compliance," said Eric Sandgren, animal research oversight director at UW-Madison. "I'm comforted that the USDA agrees." " On Campus: UW-Madison cleared by feds in PETA cat research complaint." October 11, 2012. Wisconsin State Journal

Those damn lying animal rights activists; making up things about the University of Wisconsin. How dare they impugn the integrity of the vivisectors at UW-Madison!
The excerpt above is taken from the University of Wisconsin, Madison's appeal of the USDA citations that resulted from PETA's complaints regarding the care and use of the cats used in Tom Yin's highly invasive and cruel experiments on cats.

This is the opening of their appeal of the results of the USDA inspection report dated December 14, 2012.

Less obvious is that the citations they are appealing are the result of a four day investigation that resulted in the USDA documenting the chronic infections endured by the cats in the Yin lab.

So, all the while Eric Sandgren was telling anyone who would listen that PETA's assertions concerning the cats suffering in the Yin lab were false, he obviously knew otherwise -- because he is the university's head vivisector, the university's animal research public apologist, and he is the director of the university's Research Animal Resource Center. The cats in Tom Yin's labs were and are suffering from chronic infections so severe that some cats' eyes have had to be cut out of their heads.

From December 14, 2012, Sandgren knew that the USDA had indeed found problems that even they  thought deserved citations for violations of the minimal standards set by the Animal Welfare Act.

Come on, say it with me: Eric Sandgren is a paid liar.

Update: A few days after posting this demonstration of the most recent example (among many) of Eric Sandgren's and the university's matter-of-fact lying to the public, I was sent a reminder of Sandgren's appearance on the Jane Velez-Mitchell show with me on February 15, 2013.

The university issued a statement which starts out like this:
The information now being disseminated by People for the Ethical Treatmentof Animals (PETA) and advocates like James Cromwell about research at our university is unsubstantiated and flawed. We have conducted a detailed review of PETA's complaint and can find no evidence to support a single claim the organization makes. Moreover, a lab inspection was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to PETA's complaint and their review found no substance to any of PETA's allegations.

The pictures released by PETA show an animal undergoing surgery to receive cochlear implants. Just like in human surgeries, such procedures are performed under anesthesia and animals receive pain-relieving medication during and after a surgery. After surgery, the cats adapt readily to the implants, which do not cause discomfort or distress. They are healthy and behave normally.
This propaganda is chocked full of lies. In fact, the university was secretly appealing the USDA's citations at the same time they were saying that no violations had been found. There is little about what is being done to the cats in the Tom Yin lab that is "just like" therapeutic surgery on willing humans. In fact, the university knew full well that the cats were not readily adapting to the implants and that the  rate of very serious life-threatening infection from the surgeries was sky-high. Sandgren and the university knew all of this, but said the opposite on a nationally-broadcast television program.

Come on, say it with me again: Eric Sandgren is a paid liar.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"It's important to know what the cost is to the animal. It's important to know what the potential benefit is to, in this case it's humans, but a lot of animal research also benefits animals. And then you you you come up, you compare those, and decide for yourself whether or not something you think it's ethical, and that where people have a right to differ." -- UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center Director and university spokesperson Eric Sandgren, February 15, 2013, in a statement to WMTV, NBC 15, on the occasion of James Cromwell's participation in a disruption of a meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to protest the Regents continuing support for highly invasive and painful brain and ear experiments using cats in Tom Yin's laboratory.
Pictured here is one of Yin's victims, Double Trouble. 

I can't get Sandgren's statement out of my head; it is grotesque and matter-of-factually misleading and dishonest. Moreover, many people at the university and at the Wisconsin Department of Justice must know the facts and yet they stand mute.

PeTA spent three years in court trying to get these photos from the university. The Wisconsin Department of Justice acted as the university's counsel -- at the public's expense -- and argued to the court that the photos shouldn't be released.

It was only when they were caught lying about the "proprietary" nature of the hardware that can be seen in the photos that the university, through their Department of Justice de facto accomplices, finally gave up, tacitly admitting that their arguments had been fabricated nonsense.

"Decide for yourself whether or not something [is] ethical," says Sandgren, all the while knowing that the university had unsuccessfully tried for three years to keep you from knowing, to stop you from seeing the pictures of only one of the cats butchered in Tom Yin's lab.

"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.

The Calculus of Deceit

Liars calculate the costs of telling the truth and the potential costs of lying, weigh the results, and then choose to tell a lie.

This seems pretty straightforward.

Liars convince themselves that their lies won't be found out. Or, maybe they reason that the costs of being caught lying, while embarrassing and perhaps costly, are less of a problem than the results of telling the truth. After all, if one lies, the truth might not come to light. Maybe the  benefits of the lie, if it remains unrealized, are great enough that the risks of being caught lying simply pale in comparison.

When I was a kid, I lied. The risk of telling my parents the truth was greater than the risk of telling them the truth. I reasoned that the punishment for admitting to having done something that I knew they wouldn't approve of was no worse than the punishment I would have to endure if they caught me in a lie. So, all things being equal, even as a ten-year-old, I understood the odds: certain punishment vs. possible punishment. A no-brainer.

But I grew up. Honesty actually matters. And it matters a whole lot when one is in a position of public trust.

When people involved in the public's business lie to the public, their lies are much more serious than the lies of someone else, or the lies of a ten year old boy.

In the case of the University of Wisconsin, Madison's claim that the United States Department of Agriculture didn't find anything wrong with the treatment of the cats in Tom Yin's laboratory, the institution lied to the public.

It's important to understand this point.

The state university lied to the citizens of the state. 

It's not that they misspoke. They weren't mistaken. No one misled them.

 They lied.

They lied to you.

They lied knowingly. They told calculated lies. Repeatedly.

They hoped and banked on the likelihood that you would never learn the truth. They miscalculated.

But they knew all along that there was at least some possibility that their lies would be discovered.

They must believe that the public, you, are simply too stupid to notice. They believe that you are too stupid, too dull to do anything about it.

It's true that PeTA's first complaint to the USDA about the conditions in the Yin lab was dismissed. But the USDA is filled with people who have varying degrees of respect for animals, so big deal.

Their follow up complaint included statements from a UW veterinarian who added to and validated their observations. The USDA was forced to pay more attention.

The USDA inspected the lab and found wide-spread suffering and evidence of sloppy surgical procedures that failed to meet modern aseptic standards. Many of the cats had serious life-threatening infections associated with the screws driven into their skulls and the surgically implanted eye coils.

And the university knew this. 

And they told the public repeatedly that the USDA had found nothing amiss.

They believe that you are too stupid to notice or to do anything about it.

They might be right.

The university has lied to the public so many times over the years that they have come to believe that they are never, ever, held accountable for their lies.


The willing gullibility of reporters and newscasters makes any genuine discussion of the details of the university's use of animals nearly impossible.

Liars. Matter-of-fact habitual liars lying about the things they do to animals in their hidden labs. Despicable.

Get active. Get involved. Speak out. Call your state legislators today.

UW-Madison caught lying yet again and again and ... Wake up Wisconsin.

USDA Cites UW for Violation of Law: Cats Suffered From Infections, Deprived of Food, and Burned in University Laboratory

For Immediate Release: March 18, 2013

Contact:Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Madison, Wis. -- A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report has confirmed PETA's allegations of unrelieved, ongoing suffering of cats in the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW) laboratory that was first exposed by the animal rights group with the release of photos of a cat with a steel post screwed to her skull. The graphic photos prompted a high-profile protest by actor James Cromwell at the February 7 Board of Regents meeting.

According to the report just obtained by PETA through the Freedom of Information Act, the USDA cited UW for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act by negligently burning a cat named Broc so badly with a heating pad that she required surgery. The USDA report—which includes federal inspectors' photos of seven mutilated cats who are still being used in the invasive brain experiment—also details widespread suffering of cats who had steel posts screwed into open wounds on their heads and metal coils implanted into their eyes. The federal inspector stated that there was "a pattern of recurring infections" and that all the cats profiled by PETA in its complaint had been "diagnosed with chronic infections."

"When I close my eyes at night, I'm haunted by the images from inside UW's laboratories of cats whose heads had been sliced open, skulls penetrated by metal rods, and infected eye wounds from metal coil implants," says Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell. "It's torture for these animals, plain and simple. Now the government has confirmed what PETA has been saying all along: UW left these cats to suffer from chronic infections, with some dying slow, lingering deaths."

The USDA noted that some cats have died from the infections and that one cat named NJ, who is depicted in one of the new photos, even had to have her eye removed after the metal coil caused an incurable infection.

"The USDA has confirmed what PETA alleged and what UW tried so hard to distort: that UW has inflicted tremendous suffering on the cats it has imprisoned, mutilated, and killed in its laboratories," says PETA Director of the Laboratory Investigations Department Justin Goodman. "Federal funding for this pointless cruelty must end now."

The USDA report, which was written in December but just now released to the public, starkly contradicts UW's many recent op-eds, media statements, and interviews claiming that it has not been cited by the USDA for these cruel experiments and that PETA's allegations were "unsubstantiated."

For more information, please visit

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A brief history review.

More discussion about Kalin's goals and methods

These are observations from "The Ethics of Animal Experimentation: A conversation between bioethicist Rob Streiffer and research critic Rick Marolt" that was held on March 11, 2013, sponsored by the UW Animal Rights Society and recorded in the video at the end of this post. I've written here in regard only to the part of the conversation that specifically addressed the details of Ned Kalin's project.

Both Rick Marolt and Rob Streiffer are familiar with the details of the procedures; they both had access to the protocol for months, and in Streiffer's case, many months. In Streiffer's case, this has to have included significant focused discussion about those details with people who were also familiar with the protocol.

Their difficulty with these details underscores just how devilishly hard it is to talk with people about these matters. I don't understand why it is so hard to understand what is in store for these baby monkeys, but quite clearly, even people familiar with the protocol and who have had ample opportunity to think about it still find it difficult to understand.

(Times here are fairly accurate but could be off by a few seconds.)

24:10 Marolt: My understanding is that the researchers are interested in developing an anxious personality.

This is sort of right, but it misses Kalin's main point. A significant part of Kalin's decades of experiments on monkeys has been based on his ability to identify monkeys with the trait-like characteristic of being highly anxious. (They use the term "trait-like" and phenotype, because the genetics underlying this characteristic is not understood.)

See my post from July 8, 2008: "Trait-like anxious temperament in primates." And see too the the papers: Lateralized effects of diazepam on frontal brain electrical asymmetries in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Biol Psychiatry. 1992. And, "Lateralized response to diazepam predicts temperamental style in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Behav Neurosci. 1993.

Since learning that he could identify monkeys with an anxious temperament, Kalin's experiments have used such monkeys almost exclusively.

His point in this case is to record brain development over time in an effort to identify the molecular differences between the brains of monkeys who were raised under adverse conditions and those who were raised under less adverse conditions.

At about 26:00 Streiffer explains that the surrogate the infant will be kept with during the first three to four weeks of his life will have the ability to "rock back and forth, which past research has shown, helps infants develop [more normally, he seems to imply.] Kalin's protocol says: "While in the incubator, an upright surrogate covered with a soft material that is able to move back and forth at the infant's discretion will be provided for the animal."

Streiffer's comment regarding past research is correct. But from the very limited description offered in the protocol, it isn't completely clear what the surrogate will actually be. There is research showing that the "standard" moveable surrogate that seems to be referred to in the protocol, isn't the best choice if one wants the infants to develop normally, which of course, in this particular case, they don't. See: Surrogate mobility and orientation affect the early neurobehavioral development of infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Dettmer AM, Ruggiero AM, Novak MA, Meyer JS, Suomi SJ. Dev Psychobiol. 2008.

At about 26:48, they try to explain the changes in housing over the course of the babies' lives. When they are removed from the surrogates, Marolt thought they would be placed in a colony situation at some point, but Streiffer corrected him and said that they would remain with a peer throughout their life. Marolt was sort of right when he says that they will be re-caged with a different peer later on, but he mistakenly thought it was to facilitate the study of the formation of a new social relationship. This is understandable because Kalin does make this claim, but it appears to be a second thought.

In fact, the babies will be placed with a new peer at six months of age because that is the age at which the 20 control monkeys will be taken from their mothers and placed with a peer, a common husbandry method used in the labs. (In the wild, infants remain with their mothers for a year, and can remain in the same troop as their mother throughout their life.) The change in peers of the peer-reared monkeys is intended to mimic -- at the same developmental time point -- the social upheaval that will be experienced by the mother-reared monkeys when they are removed from their mothers.

The idea in and of itself seems to make some sense in an experimental design sort of way, but a moment's thought suggests that it's pretty silly; it flies in the face of the fundamental design claim. The whole idea of maternally depriving the infants and subjecting them to other various stressors is to alter their brain development. It makes sense that it will, but at six months, many, research suggests most, of these changes are likely to have already occurred. So, the brains of the monkeys in the two groups, the deprived-adversely-effected group, and the control group, will already be too dissimilar to think that the removal from their peer, and the removal from their mother, will have similar neurodevelopmental effects, yet that is the reason given by Kalin.

At about 28:25, Streiffer says that the surrogate-reared babies have to be placed with other surrogate-reared babies rather than mother-reared babies because the peer-reared monkeys "don't know how to behave in a normal social environment."

It's not clear to me how he came to this conclusion. I cannot find such a claim in the protocol, but maybe I keep missing it. In any case, if this is what he was told, or what Kalin has claimed, it seems unlikely.

The infants are placed with a peer sometime between their third and fourth week of life. Kalin says that they cannot be placed with a peer earlier on because there isn't room in the incubator for two infants, and that they cannot be taken from the incubator until they are able to self-thermo-regulate, or control their own body temperature.

At three to four weeks of age, a macaque's social environment has been nothing other than close physical contact with his or her mother. "Social behavior" in a monkey of this early age is simply clinging and some exploration of the mother's body. The immediate reaction by a "normally socialized" four week-old infant to being taken from his mother is unlikely to be any different than the reaction of a surrogate-reared monkey taken from his "mother." They would both suffer profound emotional distress.

There actually isn't a reason not to pair the maternally deprived infant with a mother-reared infant (if you could even call being with one's mother for three to four weeks rearing); the actual reason is that they have the orphans on-hand because they created them. There isn't a need to look for some other rationale, and Kalin does not appear to offer one, but again, maybe I missed it.

Beginning at about 30:10, Streiffer explains Kalin's goals. He begins with Kalin's claim that he will discover changes in gene function and the genes involved in the development of an anxious phenotype. (Phenotype is the word used in biology to say observable or observed characteristics, like hair color, behavior, etc. It is commonly used to mean the characteristics that result from an organism's genotype, or genetic make-up.) I've recently written about this line of study here, and about Kalin's methods regarding the genetics underlying depression here.

At about 30:43 Streiffer quotes Kalin's protocol and says that the research has the "potential" to identify new targets for the treatment of the effects of early adversity.

But in correspondence with others, Kalin hasn't been so guarded. He has said that "Using primate models allows us to be certain that the knowledge we acquire is directly relevant to understanding the causes of human suffering." But even using humans hasn't meant any certainty about the knowledge gained being relevant to the understanding of the causes of human suffering. See: Molecular Neurobiology of Depression: PET Findings on the Elusive Correlation with Symptom Severity. Smith DF, Jakobsen S. Front Psychiatry. 2013.

It you have an interest in the philosophical framework of ethics, you may find the discussion of interest in spite of the occasional misunderstanding of Kalin's methods and goals.

The Ethics of Animal Experimentation from luciano M on Vimeo.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Vivisection in the Name of Genetics and Gene Therapy

Over the first nine days of July, 1997, I protested the use of monkeys at the Washington (then) Regional Primate Research Center by leafleting for 16 hours a day outside one of the main entrances to the building that houses it. ("The Warren G. Magnuson Health Sciences Building is part of the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington and the world's largest single university building with a total floor area of 533,000 square metres (5,740,000 sq ft). Although the building is made up of over 20 wings built over more than 50 years, the interior hallways are fully connected." Wikipedia).

While there with the Ape Army, I had the opportunity to visit with a number of passersby who stopped to talk with me about the issue. One of the people I talked with was a PhD student who talked to me about the impending completion of the first-ever sequencing of a multicellular organism's genome. Scientists published the Caenorhabditis elegans genome the following year.

The student believed that this event would mark the beginning of the end of the use of animals as models of human biology. He reasoned that knowing C. elegans's genome would lead to an immediate cascade of insights and a deep understanding of gene function that would be able to take full advantage of the human genome when it was eventually published.

These were not the wild imaginings of an overly excited doctoral student. His optimism was shared widely throughout mainstream science. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

As it turns out, the chemistry underlying the genome, of even the simplest organisms, is wildly complex and has yet to be understood.
Exactly how many genes make up the human genome remains a mystery, even though scientists announced the completion of the Human Genome Project a decade ago. The project to decipher the genetic blueprint of humans was supposed to reveal all of the protein-producing genes needed to build a human body.

“Not only do we not know what all the genes are, we don’t even know how many there are,” Steven Salzberg of the University of Maryland in College Park said October 11, [2011], during a keynote address at the Beyond the Genome conference, held in Boston. [More than a chicken, fewer than a grape. ScienceNews.]
In spite of the very limited understanding of gene function, vivisectors are richly rewarded with tax dollars to study the action of genes in animals. For instance:
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Macaque monkeys are the most important animal model for AIDS vaccine development and are increasingly being used in biodefense research. An individual's immunogenetics can profoundly influence susceptibility to AIDS viruses and other pathogens. Indian-origin rhesus macaques have the most thoroughly characterized immunogenetics; however, their availability for research is extremely limited. Chinese-origin rhesus macaques, cynomolgus macaques, and pig-tailed macaques are increasingly relied upon to alleviate the shortage of Indian- rhesus macaques. As studies with these macaques become more common, there is a newfound appreciation that they may offer compelling advantages over Indian-origin rhesus macaques for specific studies. To study cellular immunity to AIDS viruses and biodefense, a comprehensive understanding of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and killer immunoglobulin receptor (KIR) genetics is required.... PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE (provided by applicant): Macaque monkeys are widely used in the development and testing of prophylactic vaccines against AIDS viruses and pathogens with biodefense potential. Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and killer immunoglobuline receptor (KIR) genetics influence susceptibility to these diseases. We will sequence novel alleles and define their functional attributes in macaque populations used for infectious disease research. (From Title: IMMUNOGENETICS OF MACAQUES USED FOR BIODEFENSE AND AIDS RESEARCH Project Number: 8R24OD011048-08. O'CONNOR, DAVID H. Awardee Organization: UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON. Total Funding for 2012: $554,521)
The very complex chemistry underlying the functioning of genes is undoubtedly involved in many if not all biological phenomena. In spite of the massive public expenditures, research, and significant media hype regarding genes, genetics, the genome, gene therapy, epigenetics, etc. there still isn't a deep or firm understanding of exactly how they are involved. At best, our knowledge is cursory. The precise mechanism and control of the seemingly infinite details of biology remain largely a mystery.

This plain fact has far reaching ethical implications. The one most germane to the topic of using animals in harmful experiments is that idea that there isn't a good or even a logical reason to use animals as tools in research on genetics, the function of genes, or the mechanisms of gene-controlled or mediated biological function. Looking for gene-influenced effects on the biology of animal models of human disease and health isn't worthwhile without the requisite knowledge of the chemistry underlying all gene-influenced phenomena.

Because so little is understood about the functioning of genes, the choice to use mice, monkeys, or mole rats to study the way they function -- rather than using plants or fungi -- can't be supported by a rational argument that claims even a hint of ethical grounding or a concern for the animals being used.

A very large sum of tax-payers' dollars is made available annually to scientists who want to create and consume ever more mutant mice, but the money flowing from the public coffers doesn't justify hurting and killing animals.

Consider this explanation for why someone would harm animals in the name of genetic research:
Bipolar disorder (BPD) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by episodic mania and depression. It is a common mental health problem, with an estimated lifetime prevalence of approximately 1–5%. A meta-analysis of family, twin, and adoption studies found that relatives of BPD patients have a 10-fold higher risk of the disorder than those without relatives with BPD, demonstrating that BPD has a strong heritable constituent. Though ongoing efforts to elucidate the genetic basis of BPD using varied approaches have yielded promising results, a convincing molecular etiology of BPD remains elusive. There are at least a few good reasons for this difficulty in finding a genetic basis for BPD. First, BPD is a complex disorder at the molecular level, involving perturbations of not just single genes, but of systems of genes. Second, it may be more proper to speak of bipolar disorders in the plural; the pathology may have multiple heterogeneous molecular bases, a hypothesis consistent with the multiple heterogeneous findings in different genome-wide studies of BPD. Third, deriving mechanistic explanations of human psychiatric disorders using classical genetics presents difficulties due to practical constraints on experimental power and the possibility of epigenetic components of these disorders.

Because a convincing BPD molecular etiology poses significant technical and theoretical challenges to human geneticists, animal models for BPD have a strong potential to extend understanding of this disorder. (A new mouse model for mania shares genetic correlates with human bipolar disorder. Saul MC, Gessay GM, Gammie SC. PLoS One. 2012.)
Who hasn't heard of gene therapy? It'd be great if I could get an injection of some new genes that would replace the ones in the cells that comprise the fascia of my left hand (and now my right) and stop their over zealous production of collagen. But that isn't going to happen anytime soon. We just don't know enough about the mechanics of how the molecules that comprise DNA and RNA work to affect biological systems. We know they do -- somehow -- but the fundamentals and the details elude us.

For all the hype, gene therapy for any malady remains the stuff of science fiction. Or fictional science in the case of most labs using animals as genetic test beds.

The big news on the gene therapy front is that the European Union has for the first time (anywhere) approved the use of a gene therapy. Glybera was developed by Amsterdam-based uniQure for patients suffering from a very rare lipid-processing disease called lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD). The condition apparently affects only one or two people in a million.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any human gene therapy product for sale.

In order to actually modify, re-engineer, or build new genes and gene networks that will have therapeutic value we will have to have a depth of understanding that is somewhere over the horizon.

The study of genetics or the genetics underpinning disease in humans does not requite the use of animals.

The real work in genetics and its promised ramification, gene therapy, is cell-based; the species of the organism from which the cells come is of no consequence given our current knowledge. If we understood genetics well enough, we could, theoretically, build essentially any kind of cell we wanted and could enhance any characteristic of interest. We could analyze an organism's genetic code, spot problems, and replace, eliminate, or even enhance any characteristic of interest.

Not only are animals unneeded, but their use in research that purports to be studying a specific disease or family of diseases thought to have a genetic component frequently entails the generation of so-called animal models of this or that human malady that are misleading and wasteful. This doesn't make good sense from a problem-solving or funding perspective.

Almost uniformly, induced conditions in animals are said to have some similarity to the human condition, but very few are anything more than somewhat similar. Perhaps as the result of this inappropriate tool-use, as it were, gene therapy hasn't proven to be helpful. The scientists conducting these experiments are hardly to blame -- other than for their cruelty -- for the lack of progress; they don't understand the real fundamentals of the very complex system they claim to be studying. No one does.

The fundamentals are likely to be the same for all gene-mediated life.

These fundamentals are as likely to be gleaned from studying plant cells as they will be from studying the biopsied cells of an animal with an induced or even a naturally occurring malady.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kalin's cruelty unlikely to be of benefit

A key component in Ned Kalin's justification for using baby monkeys to model the effects of what he implies to be the universal effect of all forms of child abuse, neglect, and poor parenting, is his claim that he will discover new molecular pathways associated with possible differences between the brains of male rhesus babies who are isolated, maternally deprived, peer-reared, and repeatedly frightened when compared with the brains of other male rhesus babies who haven't had to endure quite as much cruelty. He says that these discoveries are certain to lead to better treatments. [Sneezing sound in closed fist muffles: "Bullshit!"]

He will look for differences in the development of the baby monkeys' neuromolecular pathways involved in emotion and mental affect by conducting three positron emission tomography (PET) scans of their brains over the course of their short lives.

Positron emission tomography utilizes radioactive atoms (isotopes) that are used to replace non-radioactive atoms in biologically active molecules like glucose. These atoms emit radioactive particles (or rays) that can be recorded by a PET scanner and translated into three dimensional images. As a result, when the radioactive version of the molecule or "tracer" is taken up by many cells in a particular area, a computed three dimensional image of that area can be created.

PET has been used for a number of years to investigate the biological underpinnings of the effects of various therapies for depression. Radioactive tracers that are used in PET scans can be radioactive versions of neuro-active chemicals. In theory, this means that someone, whether a retired banker or a baby a monkey, who has been diagnosed with depression or driven crazy by a vivisector, can be treated and then pre- and post-treatment  PET scans can record locations of the tracers and show where changes occurred. (In some cases, such changes might even be imaged in real time.) Such knowledge could, maybe, lead to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of depression and the mechanisms that alleviate it.

It is perhaps worth mention that the monkeys Ned Kalin is using won't receive any therapy for their suffering. He is simply looking for variations between the brains of abused and not so abused baby monkeys.

Ned Kalin's use of PET scans must be based on an assumption that any changes disclosed by the scans between the two groups of baby monkeys will be associated with the detrimental impacts of the maternal deprivation, peer-rearing, and repeated frightening experiences they will be forced to endure. This assumption must be based on his belief that PET scans have provided us with knowledge of the specific changes in the molecular pathways associated with successful treatments for depression.

A recently published review of the results of PET scans by scientists in Denmark on the reported changes in brain chemistry of patients diagnosed with and treated for depression suggests quite strongly that Kalin's assumption is wholly unwarranted. It is likely, essentially certain, that the information generated by the PET scans he plans to conduct on the baby moneys will be of no consequence whatsoever to the victims of child abuse whose sad experiences he appeals to as a justification for the unquestionable harm he is causing.

The paper is "Molecular Neurobiology of Depression: PET Findings on the Elusive Correlation with Symptom Severity" by Donald F. Smith and Steen Jakobsen [My emphasis throughout]:
Molecular mechanisms in the brain are assumed to cause the symptoms and severity of neuropsychiatric disorders. This review concerns the elusive nature of relationships between the severity of depressive disorders and neuromolecular processes studied by positron emission tomography (PET). Recent PET studies of human depression have focused on serotonergic, dopaminergic, muscarinic, nicotinic, and GABAergic receptors, as well as central processes dependent on monoamine oxidase, phosphodiesterase type 4, amyloid plaques, neurofibrillar tangles, and P-glycoprotein. We find that reliable causal links between neuromolecular mechanisms and relief from depressive disorders have yet to be convincingly demonstrated. This situation may contribute to the currently limited use of PET for exploring the neuropathways that are currently viewed as being responsible for beneficial effects of antidepressant treatment regimes.
And later, in their general discussion:
The search continues for PET radioligands that can disclose causal links between the binding properties of central neuromolecular processes and the clinical condition of people suffering from depressive disorders. Our account of PET findings presented in this review is both critical and harsh, based on our serious concern regarding the current lack of clear-cut relationships between neuromolecular processes as measured by PET and changes in the severity of depression. In particular, beneficial effects of potent antidepressant treatments have typically failed to affect neuroreceptor binding of PET radioligands in subjects who were depressed at the start of the study, but who experienced clear-cut reductions in symptom severity.
The paper is available for free here: Molecular Neurobiology of Depression: PET Findings on the Elusive Correlation with Symptom Severity. Smith DF, Jakobsen S. Front Psychiatry. 2013.

The authors' findings suggest strongly, essentially prove, in my opinion, that the results of Kalin's cruel maternal deprivation and repeated fearful experience protocol have no chance of being of benefit to the victims of child abuse. (I'd emphasize the no chance even more, but Blogger has some limitations.)

In a sane world, Smith and Jakobsen's findings would result in the immediate cancellation of any project based on the assumption that PET scans would result in benefits to human patients if the project entailed harming animals.

But the liklihood of Kalin's project being canceled simply because one of his key claims has been shown to be scientifically baseless is nil. This is because the actual results of the overwhelming majority of experiments on animals are of such little value. The demonstration that this particular project is just more of the same is highly unlikely to matter at all.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Numbers Game

An on-line article from the International Edition of the New York Times caught my eye as I skimmed the news today. The article, "Amid Suffering, Animal Welfare Legislation Still Far Off in China" draws attention to the widespread very public cruelty heaped upon animals in Asia. One is tempted I think to imagine that Asians are even more cruel than Americans.

But the article, which I think points to a very horrible situation, is itself part of the common phenomena of measuring the evil or ugliness of an atrocity by counting the victims. History counts the Holocaust as more serious than the World Trade Center bombing because millions of people were killed by the Nazis while only thousands were killed by... well, that particular question is still open.

Nevertheless, we tend to rank some instances of cruelty by how many were harmed and killed. But I think this misses the reality of suffering, by a very wide mark.

Suffering isn't experienced by a population, a species, or a class. Suffering is always personal.

It hardly matters that billions of chickens are killed in the US every year. What matters, to me, is the experience of the individual chicken.

When vivisectors claim (wildly) that tormenting only twenty baby monkeys will lead to incalculable benefit, the simple fact of each individual monkey's suffering remains. It is him, whose name, whose serial number is never mentioned by the vivisectors for fear of putting too intimate a face on him, who suffers. It is his personal fear, longing to be held; it is his nightmares and pain that matters.

It is a numbers game, but the number that matters is simply the one we know who is being hurt.

Postscript: One might infer from this that working to end broad scale suffering isn't the right course; but we don't pass laws to protect Jane, Rover, or rhesus 24917-A2. We pass laws that protect wide swaths of individuals. I guess what I'm saying is that we must work to pass laws and regulations to protect ever larger classes, but all the while keep in mind that it is the individual who is actually suffering. It's sort of the Yin to the Yang of thinking globally but acting locally.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A few loose ends re UW-Madison's defence of Ned Kalin's cruelty

In my response to UW-Madison's Research Animal Resource Center Director Eric Sandgren's defense of Ned Kalin's cruel use of baby monkeys, I failed to mention a couple of his claims.

I think it worthwhile to address those few claims.

Let me first say that his assertion that monkeys' brains are good models of human brains may have some merit when one is interested in simple gross anatomy and the general concept of physiological compartmentalization of some neurological phenomena. But as even the most casual observation demonstrates, neuroanatomical similarity does not necessarily result in similar affect or capability. This is one of the much written about problems that stem from trying to model complex systems with other differently complex systems. I'll not belabor this point; I leave it to readers to pursue this matter on their own if it is of interest to them.

Eric Sandgren: Peer-rearing will measurably increase anxiety, as required by the experimental design, but does not make a monkey “crazy”.

This is an odd claim. In this context, crazy means mentally ill. Crazy, like insane, are terms that aren't generally used by mental heath professionals any more. Claiming that the maternally deprived, peer-reared, repeatedly frightened monkeys being used by Ned Kalin aren't crazy as a result of these manipulations undermines the very reason for him using maternal deprivation, peer-rearing, and repeated frightening experiences.

Mental health professionals today speak in terms of specific symptoms.

According Wikipedia, "A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological pattern or anomaly, potentially reflected in behavior, that is generally associated with distress or disability, and which is not considered part of normal development in a person's culture."

Kalin hopes and expects his methods will induce "a psychological pattern or anomaly, potentially reflected in behavior, that is generally associated with distress."

Sandgren's claim that the monkeys aren't crazy, is wrong in two ways.

In lay terms, the monkeys are being driven crazy, intentionally.

Secondly, if the monkeys aren't going to develop a psychological pattern or anomaly, potentially reflected in behavior, that is generally associated with distress, then Kalin's methods shouldn't have been approved, because that's exactly the point of the methods he was approved to use.

Sandgren challenges Professor Lori Gruen's recommendation that public funds would be better spent on direct care and intervention:
She proposes that the research funds be redirected to social programs that “can prevent the psychological harms that arise from childhood trauma.” But when dealing with complex problems, multiple approaches are almost always more effective than putting all of our eggs in one basket. By all means, let’s spend money supporting parenting skills classes, affordable childcare, and so forth. But that approach will never eliminate the problem or reach everyone in need. Given the cost of social programs, redirecting all the research funding from these studies would barely make a dent.
The idea that redirecting the tax dollars going to support Kalin's experiments on monkeys would be like putting all of our eggs into one basket is absurd to an extreme degree.

Sandgren is correct when he observes that solutions to complex problems are more likely to be discovered if many people are working on a problem from a number of different angles; but it isn't true that each and every idea ought to be pursued. In Kalin's case, his decades of frightening monkeys and rats haven't been very helpful to children living in abusive, deprived, or otherwise distressful environments. We wouldn't pay someone to hum to crystals; not every idea warrants funding.

We simply don't have an infinite number of eggs; we should look carefully and critically at the baskets we are putting them in. Right now, there is research going on around the country and even at the UW-Madison that uses human volunteers in research on adult and childhood anxiety. These studies are diverse and come at the problem in a number of different ways.

Additionally, communities across the country use taxpayer dollars to help children directly. I don't know with certainty, but I'll wager that many social workers feel overwhelmed and long for additional help. Sandgren's offhand comment about "supporting parenting skills classes, affordable childcare, and so forth" seems to dismiss the difficulties that social workers deal with everyday.

Sandgren seems to imagine that even unlikely avenues ought to be explored and funded (with other peoples' money) but this is like a poor man spending his money on a lottery ticket rather than on food for his children.

Sandgren argues that even if we were to redirect the money Kalin is consuming and spend it on social programs intended to help children, that it would barely make a dent (in the problem?).

But he hasn't done his homework or else doesn't seem to have thought very carefully about this.

It's true that the approx $1 million a year Kalin gets to experiment on monkeys seems like a small amount when compared to the $235 million Dane County Department of Human Services requested in its 2012 budget, but to understand the impact that an extra $1 million could have had, you have to look at the way the money pie was sliced. Here's a spread sheet that helps give some perspective on the costs of the county's various efforts. It looks like $1 million might have helped a lot some areas.

And consider this from the Wisconsin State Journal:
Parisi: Boost help for victims of child abuse

September 29, 2012 • State Journal staff

MADISON — Dane County Executive Joe Parisi will recommend adding three child protective services social workers when he introduces his 2013 budget on Monday, his office said.

The proposal follows several troubling cases of child abuse and neglect in the area, he said.

The additional positions would increase the number of licensed social workers in child protective services from 51 to 54, said Lynn Green, the county’s human services director. "This is huge for us," Green added.

In one case still working its way through the courts, a 15-year-old girl was found walking outdoors in February in pajamas and bare feet near her home on Madison’s Southeast Side. Authorities say she was starved, tortured and kept in the basement by her father and stepmother and sexually abused by her stepbrother.

Parisi said he also will propose a new "unified family court" to streamline legal proceedings. And he wants $25,000 to go to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services to help the group get adult and child victims out of abusive situations.
Three new licensed social workers in child protective services is "huge." And Parisi seems excited about being able to put an additional $25,000 toward getting children and adults out of abusive situations.

It seems reasonable to wonder how many more children and adults could have been helped if the $1 million being spent to make baby monkeys' lives hell had gone to direct intervention and help for people being abused right now.

Sandgren says: "So to achieve the benefit of reducing anxiety disorders, let’s tackle the problem from several directions. Fund social programs. But when that approach fails to prevent disease, let’s supplement it with effective treatments that only the research can give us."

But "that approach" has never been fully funded. "That approach," because the people served are frequently members of disenfranchised segments of society, is obviously very underfunded, and starkly so when considered next to the arcane and dead-end cruelty of Ned Kalin's project.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

UW-Madison: Rewriting history, again.

There's an interesting but unattributed document on the University of Wisconsin's animal research "blog" that appears to have been written by Ned Kalin. You can read it here.

The page's web-title is "narrative kalin01213." This could change now that I've called it to their attention.

The in situ title is "Understanding the Root Cause of Anxiety and Depression." It seems to be a loose restatement of the letter Kalin sent to a Cap Times reporter which I sliced and diced here.

I wish I could find a way to winnow the liars from those who are merely confused, but the effects on public perception and belief are probably the same, so maybe it doesn't matter which is which.

In "Understanding the Root Cause of Anxiety and Depression," the writer, who I assume to be Kalin, repeats an oft repeated, and completely inaccurate assertion. He writes:

"... famous studies by Dr. Harry Harlow and others yielded groundbreaking insights into mother-child bonding that changed the way young children are cared for in many settings including neonatal intensive care."

That deserves an F. He might as well have claimed that Harlow cured cancer in his radiation experiments.

I think it weird that people who ought to be able to read and draw simple conclusions from simple facts so often don't, or won't. It's hard to understand why someone could argue that Harlow's work was at all important -- let alone groundbreaking -- when everything they ascribe as a beneficial result of his experiments was already widely known and embraced before Harlow began the long series of experiments that they credit as the primary cause, or at least a very important factor in the changes that took place in child care.

In 1946, pediatrician Benjamin Spock published The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. It became an instant best seller and is widely acknowledged to be the most influential source on child care ever written. Encarta notes that it “sharply redefined the course of child care during the baby boom after World War II.”

But Harlow's defenders seem oblivious to history and simple facts like dates. (Do UW employees have sign some sort of secret oath to defend him?) They assign the progress in child care to Harlow when in actual fact, if he had never been born, the history child care would be completely unaffected.

John Bowlby was commissioned by the World Health Organization to study the mental health of children who were “homeless in their native country” in post-war Europe. He began his studies in January 1950. His report, Maternal Care and Mental Health was published by the WHO in 1951. High demand necessitated a second edition, which was published in 1952. The first section of the report is titled “Adverse Effects of Maternal Deprivation.” The only mention of an animal study in his report is brief mention of a study on twin goat kids by H. Liddell.

Here's a passage from the 1962, WHO publication, Deprivation of Maternal Care: A Reassessment of its Effects that looks back on Bowlby's report:
The conclusion Bowlby reaches in his [1951] monograph is that the prolonged deprivation of the young child of maternal care may have grave and far-reaching effects on his character and so on the whole of his future life; and he draws the corollary that the proper care of children deprived of a normal home life is not merely an act of common humanity, but essential to the mental and social welfare of a community. His indictment on the score of the nurseries, institutions, and hospitals of even the so-called advanced countries has contributed to a remarkable change in outlook that has led to a widespread improvement in the institutional care of children.
Harry Harlow entered the field of maternal deprivation research in 1958 with his report on baby monkeys titled "The Nature of Love." This was more than two decades after Rene Spitz began studying and reporting on the effects of maternal deprivation, more than a decade after The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care became a best seller, and nearly a decade after Bowlby’s World Health Organization report. And yet, we repeatedly hear from the university that it is because of Harlow's work that children are treated more humanely.

Kalin's new and still completely erroneous claim about Harry Harlow's place in history appears to be just another instance of senior university staff trying to rewrite history to suit their mythology and to meet their public relations goals.

One of the most telling instances of university senior staff trying to rewrite history is the denial made by Joseph Kemnitz regarding the most fundamental detail of the Vilas Zoo monkey affair, the greatest scandal involving the use of animals in the university's history. Kemnitz's central role in the scandal makes his denial all the more worthy of retelling. He made his denial to a student reporter.
County plans to honor monkeys
The Badger Herald
March 7, 2008

..... Bogle said a whistle blower found documents showing that since 1989 at least 201 monkeys from UW Primate Center had been sold to labs around the country and used in experiments at the UW primate center that resulted in their suffering and deaths, while written promises that they would be safe were in effect.

According to Bogle, Primate Center directors and members signed three different letters in 1989, 1990 and 1995, stating the center would not perform harmful experiments on the monkeys unless a monkey had unique genetic traits.

UW Primate Center director Joe Kemnitz said UW never entered into an agreement like that because it would not make sense.

"It's a biomedical research facility," Kemnitz said. "We are using taxpayers' money to research on animals to improve human health.

Kemnitz said the monkeys living at Vilas Zoo provided entertainment for Dane County residents and were mostly used in experiments observing their social structure.

"In the 1990s we made a decision to abandon the zoo facility. People felt they had learned as much from those monkeys as they could," Kemnitz said. ...
Boy, what a whopper! And the university never tried to correct his lies.

These are the letters spelling out the agreement that Kemnitz denied the university had entered into:
June 15, 1989

Dr. David Hall Director, Vilas Park Zoo
702 S. Randall Ave.
Madison, WI 53715

Dear Dr. Hall:

I want to inform you of the Primate Center’s policy regarding our monkeys that reside at the Vilas Park Zoo in a building we refer to as the “WRPRC Vilas Park Zoo Facility”. This building was constructed with funds provided by the federal government to the Primate Center. Thus, despite its somewhat ambiguous designation, the facility is owned and operated by us and, accordingly, the University of Wisconsin.

More than a few of the monkeys housed at this facility have lived their entire lives there, and animals are removed from their natal groups only to prevent overcrowding. The groups have been established for the principal purpose of studying social organization and social dynamics in stable primate societies. Accordingly, on those infrequent occasions when animals are removed from a group, the removal is guided by procedures aimed at ensuring the least disruption of the group and at preserving social stability.

The research performed on troops housed at the zoo is purely observational in nature. As a matter of policy, no invasive physiological studies are carried out on these animals. In addition, the Center’s policy regarding animals removed from these established groups ensures that they will not be used in studies at our facility involving invasive experimental procedures. Such animals will be assigned to the Center’s non-experimental breeding colony, where they are exempt from experimental use. This policy on the uses of monkeys at the WRPRC Vilas Park Zoo facility has the endorsement of my administrative council as well as the staff veterinarians and animal care supervisors responsible for the care and humane use of all Center animals. As evidence of this, their signatures are also affixed.

Let me take this opportunity to point out that the Center has long taken a leadership role in the humane treatment of research animals. Our housing meets or exceeds all applicable standards. Our 12-person animal care staff has an average length of nearly 20 years of dedicated service to the Center and its animals. In addition, our chief veterinarian is one of just a handful of veterinarians in the state to be certified as a Diplomat of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, and our assistant veterinarian has developed a highly regarded program of pairing caged monkeys to enhance their psychological well-being.

Yours Truly,[Not so much, it turened out.]

[signed] Robert W. Goy, Director

Administrative Council

[signed] William E. Bridson Associate Director
[signed] Robert K. Watson, Assistant Director

Animal Care Unit

[signed] Wallace D. House Chief Veterinarian
[signed] Viktor Reinhardt Assistant Veterinarian
[signed] Stephen G. Eisele Breeding Supervisor
[signed] Milford Urben Vials Park Zoo Facility Supervisor

And this one:
University of Wisconsin, 1223 Capitol Court / Madison, Wisconsin 53715-1299 FAX (608) 243-4031
April 18, 1990

Dr. David Hall, Director Vilas Park Zoo
702 S. Randall Avenue
Madison, WI 53715

Dear Dr. Hall:

I confirm that the existing and future policies of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center are that any animals bred at the zoo are used in non-interventive behavioral research or for breeding purposes only.

We are very pleased to have the zoo facility and will do all in our power to make it an interesting display for the public as well as a significant Center for behavioral studies. We are addressing new ways in which the condition of the animals can be improved. In particular, with regard to the hair loss seen during the late winter months.

In addition, we are currently establishing field research in the conservation biology of stump-tail macaques. We hope to provide some illustrated posters of our studies concerning this endangered species in the wild. The posters will show how studies in captivity strengthen conservation efforts in the wild. I will of course consult with you in the preparation of these posters, which I hope would also be of interest to your Commission and to the public.

My predecessor, Dr. Goy wrote to you last year on June 15 and on July 17. Our policies were spelled out in detail in those letters and these policies will remain in place. In particular, Dr. Goy’s letter of June 15 addresses this topic. You are aware that the Center, which is one of seven federally-funded Primate Research Centers in the USA, carries out basic research in biomedical and behavioral sciences relevant to both human and animal health and conservation.

With best wishes.

Sincerely yours, [signed] John Hearn
And this one:

[From a fax:]
February 1, 1995
Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center
John P. Hearn, Director

Dr. David Hall, Director Henry Vilas Park Zoo

Henry Vilas Zoo/WRPRC Collaboration

Dear David:

It was a pleasure to review our partnership recently. It was doubly a pleasure to be able to report that the extensive renovations of our Vilas facility now provides year round heating and lighting for the animals. This is overcoming the earlier problems of coat condition that led to misunderstandings by some visitors. We look forward to continuing improvements and we will pursue all possible funding sources to put some trees nearby to soften the rather stark appearance of the building. We will also proceed to obtain a storage shed for the storage of the roof panels, and I will review this plan with you as soon as we have it ready for discussion.

We also reviewed our agreement (since 1989) on the study of animals at Vilas and when they return to the Center. These animals are studied in non-invasive research or assigned to our breeding colony. Investigative procedures include those, with no damage or consequence to the animal required for veterinary health or routine procedures used in human medicine. These procedures cause no physical or sensory deficit and are all fully in compliance and previously approved through the required regulatory steps of the university and Federal employees. In cases where animals are no longer suitable for breeding, they are either assigned to our aged rhesus colony, again for non-invasive work, or euthanized humanely. In cases where animals do not meet criteria for genetic health or inbreeding, similar procedures apply. In cases where exceptional circumstances require a different use, for example unique genetic characteristics requiring more detailed investigation for human and animal health, we will review the proposal in advance with you.

The work at our Vilas facility is proving important for the conservation biology research that the Center is carrying out in Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, and elsewhere. The ability to test non-invasive genetic or endocrine monitoring systems, as well as the studies of social organization and the behavior of large primate groups, is an important role of the Vilas Lab and applies to the parallel field research. We will … [text undecipherable] … to explain and display this dimension of our research to the public through the information …[text undecipherable] … Vilas.

Thank you for your help in these endeavors. I enclose a one page summary of the Centers activities, for your information. As you know, I am available to discuss these matters or to present our work to your Commission or to the Society (of which I am a member) at any time.

With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
[signed] John Hearn
And here's the university's official statement after having been caught lying repeatedly:
Inventory of Monkeys Used by the Primate Center From the Center’s Henry Vilas Zoo Colony
Statement by Graduate School Dean Virginia S. Hinshaw (8/13/97)

An inventory conducted August 11-12, 1997 by officials from the Wisconsin Regional Primate Center indicates that Primate Center monkeys housed in the UW facility at Henry Vilas Park Zoo were used in invasive research projects. This represents a serious breach of the 1989 local agreement between directors of the center and the zoo.

According to the June 19, 1989 agreement, no invasive studies were to be performed on animals housed at the zoo. While federal regulations for research were strictly followed by the center, the assignment of monkeys from the Vilas facility to some research projects did not adhere to that agreement.

I want to reiterate my instructions to the center’s leadership on Monday, Aug. 11, that no monkeys housed in the Vilas facility will be assigned to invasive research projects. No such assignments have been made in 1997, and none will be made in the future....
And on it goes...

Calm discussion would not have had much affect.

An excerpt from The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking, The New York Times Sunday Review. Published on-line, March 1, 2013.
When the research began in 2000, Dr. Megargee said he expected to find perhaps 7,000 Nazi camps and ghettos, based on postwar estimates. But the numbers kept climbing — first to 11,500, then 20,000, then 30,000, and now 42,500.

The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.

In Berlin alone, researchers have documented some 3,000 camps and so-called Jew houses, while Hamburg held 1,300 sites.

Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time.

“You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,” he said. “They were everywhere.”
See too one of my essays reviewing the causes of such wide-spread acquiescence, no matter how terrible the crimes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

UW-Madison, Feeling the Heat

I've been a reasonably close observer of the University of Wisconsin, Madison's use of animals and the things they say about it for quite a while. Over the years, I've watched them lie, pay-off critics, cover-up scandals, strike back at whistle-blowers, censor the information that the law forces them to provide to the public, spend large sums to keep themselves out of a critical spotlight, and just generally cringe whenever the light of day exposes a few tiny details of their very dark world.

One metric of the effect of public criticism on the university is its response to those criticisms. The more they try to defend themselves, the more likely it is that public comment from critics is making them uncomfortable. In my experience, they have never chosen to say too much in public, and rarer still, in the local papers, about what they are doing to animals unless pressed by a news reporter who they believe is going to write something that they fear could be embarrassing to them. This makes Research Animal Resource Center Director Eric Sandgren's two online essays about the university's decision to resurrect its use of maternal deprivation all the more noteworthy. They must be feeling some concern over the growing number of critical voices.

I appreciate Sandgren and his writing team taking the time to defend the university, the people who approved the study, and Ned Kalin. Their assertions provide an opportunity to look at their claims and omissions with some specificity.

Sandgren's two essays can be read here: "Mundane but important facts about the peer-rearing animal protocol review," and here: "The rest of the story."

Sandgren's apology begins with a well-worn bit of misdirection. He says, "Regardless of whether one supports or opposes the research, we can agree that it raises important ethical issues that deserve an open and informed discussion."

That sounds so very reasonable, except that in a case like this, open and informed discussion is meaningful only when it occurs prior to a decision, and particularly so when it's very obvious that the decision will be controversial. After the fact, giving lip service to the notion of open and informed discussion is just plain old spin.

A recurring theme in their post-hoc defense of their decision to approve Kalin's use of maternal deprivation is the claim that taking baby monkeys away from their mothers, keeping them alone, and then pairing them with other babies who were taken away from their mothers just isn't such a big deal:

Sandgren, in "Mundane": "the proposed studies produce at most a moderate early life stress... peer-rearing actually is used to save a monkey’s life when a mother rhesus rejects its infant and a foster mother cannot be found." (A mother monkey isn't an it.)

And then again in "The rest": "this same approach is taken to rearing baby rhesus monkeys whose mothers reject them at birth and who are not adopted by a foster mother. In other words, sometimes peer-rearing is used to save a baby monkey’s life."

This claim is both wrong and very odd; Sandgren seems to be saying that loneliness itself is life threatening, but decades of horribly cruel social deprivation experiments at UW-Madison proved repeatedly and redundantly that it isn't. A baby monkey taken from his or her mother could starve to death, of course, but putting him or her with another orphaned baby doesn't alleviate that risk and placing him or her with another orphan wouldn't save the baby's life.

Moreover and very distasteful, is the implicit claim that there is a concern for an orphaned baby monkey's life. This is one of those cases when someone uses words to mislead, or else is completely unaware that they are using words that has one commonly understood meaning and a much different one elsewhere.

The only reason they take steps to save a baby monkey's life is so that they can decide for themselves later on how to kill him after using him in some income-generating experiment.

Another recurring claim in their public statements is the assertion that the babies aren't really being socially deprived.

Sandgren: "The monkeys are not kept in total isolation. They are reared in a human-style baby incubator by people who feed and otherwise care for these infants...".

This is a very fine point. It is a reference to previous decades of egregious cruelty at the university that most readers will miss. In many past experiments, babies were taken from their mothers and kept in complete isolation for extended periods of time, being unable even to see the person who replenished their food and water. But the claim that the current methods aren't actually cruel because even more horrible things were done to monkeys in the past is a fallacy; it is probably being repeated so often because university spin-Meisters believe it will mollify critics or at least mislead the average reader or listener.

They should have done their homework. The effects of maternal deprivation are well-known; a few brief daily visits from a technician aren't sufficient to rectify them. The human-based evidence of this fact is extensive and has been well known since at least the early 1950s. Even today, studies continue to document the long-term consequences to humans when they are reared in far less-deprived circumstances and to determine the most effective routes to improved emotional well being:
The individuals’ development is continuous, genetically determined and environmentally structured and responsive. Institutionalization of infants and young children in ‘adverse conditions’ provides an environment with low emotional tones and poor stimulation with lack of sufficient responsive caretaking. John Bowlby’s seminal work “Child Care and Growth of Love” written in 1951 and later updated in 1965 with two additional chapters by Mary Ainsworth states deprivation results from lack of substitute mother, inadequate, inconsistent care and lack of sensitive nurturing. In early institutionalization, we can speak about “parental deprivation” instead of “maternal deprivation” as the paternal figure can successfully substitute that of the mother. Studies on the effects of maternal deprivation in the first year of life demonstrate that children show delayed psychomotor and speech development, lack of novelty seeking, poor emotional expression, lack basic trust and they do not seek adults when in distress. These effects are also evident in observations of children institutionalized between 1 and 4 years of age who show the three phases of Protests, Despair and Detachment. Romanian adolescents: literature review and psychiatric presentation of Romanian adolescents adopted in Romania and in Canada. Iftene F, Roberts N. Can Child Adolesc Psychiatr Rev.
In the case of rhesus monkeys, the research is also clear:
Different species of nonhuman primates vary in their response to different nursery rearing conditions. However, studies conducted for over 30 y have shown that in general, raising infants in pairs continuously with the same partner causes behavioral deficiencies. Compared with those raised by using other rearing methods, these infants showed more fear, social withdrawal, aggression, and less nonsocial exploration in this and other studies examining this rearing condition. These differences were thought to be due to the infants' excessive and persistent partner clinging, which precluded independent exploration. Although clinging was initiated by both partners equally often, infants were physically unable to break the clasp of their partners. In addition, infants who received partner clinging often responded to their partner's behavior with aggression.... The effects of four nursery rearing strategies on infant behavioral development in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Rommeck I, Gottlieb DH, Strand SC, McCowan B.J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2009.
Sandgren's use of the term "a human-style baby incubator" is also misleading. Human babies in incubators are cared for much differently than the monkeys isolated in the so-called human-style incubators at the university monkey labs. There is a growing trend to provide human infants confined to an incubator with frequent massage and physical stimulation.

Additionally, rhesus monkeys mature more rapidly than humans. This could mean that the subjective experience of being kept alone for the first six weeks of life is much more stressful for a rhesus monkey than it would be for a human.

Sandgren goes on to claim that "clinical records show that, in the UW-Madison colony, peer-rearing typically only is associated with thumb sucking behavior (just one young monkey in 10 years injured herself, and she recovered). Peer-rearing will measurably increase anxiety, as required by the experimental design ...".

As I have pointed out many times, the university and its spokespersons, including Sandgren, have a history of telling lies when the lies serve the interests of the university. There is no reason to believe his anecdotal claim about what the clinical records show. If the records substantiate his claim, the university should make them public; to know whether they genuinely demonstrate what he claims, Sandgren would have to make the daily care records, animal care staff comments, and the veterinary records available for public inspection and consideration. Short of such a full disclosure, their history of lying to the public suggests quite strongly that this claim is just more of the same.

In "The rest," Sandgren takes the writer of an Animal Legal Defense Fund blog to task for using the word "relentless." He writes:
The monkeys are not subjected to 'relentless fear'. Instead, approximately once a month for up to 18 months their reaction to a novel situation is observed. What are these novel situations? An unfamiliar human stands in front of their cage. An unfamiliar monkey is housed in an adjoining cage, or the two are housed together in a play cage. And one time, the monkey can see a snake, closed within a solid glass aquarium that sits outside the monkey’s cage. That does not constitute relentless fear.
Once again, Sandgren spins what he knows, or ought to know, to be otherwise. These so-called novel situations were not chosen because of their novelty.

Kalin has been using these "novel" methods for decades. Here's how he explains why he uses an "unfamiliar human":
When threatened, primates commonly engage in behavioral inhibition or freezing behavior. Freezing is an automatic response characterized by the cessation of motor and vocal activity. In monkeys, individual differences in freezing duration are stable over time and reflect individual levels of anxiety. Adaptive freezing helps an individual remain inconspicuous and decreases the likelihood of predatorial attack; however, excessive freezing, or behavioral inhibition, is a risk factor for the development of anxiety disorders. The human intruder paradigm was developed to study primates’ defensive behaviors, such as freezing, and their regulation in response to changing environmental demands... Brain regions associated with the expression and contextual regulation of anxiety in primates. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Fox AS, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2005
And compare Sandgren's description of how and why the snake will be used with Kalin's:
During the snake exposure test, animals will be placed in the small primate cage. The testing apparatus will be placed in front of the cage and the animals will be presented with their most preferred food items placed on top of a clear plastic box at contains a stimulus such as a live snake, rubber snake, roll of tape or nothing. Our previous work has shown that each of these items elicits a response in primates, with the live snake eliciting the most reliable and robust fear response. [Kalin cites published scientific papers at this point in his description, but the citations have been censored by the university.] The items that are not fearful or those that elicit lesser responses are included as comparison and control measures to quantitate the magnitude of the animals' response to the live snake. From Kalin's approved protocol, "Effects of early experience on the development of anxiety and its neural substrates." Pg 18.
Everything Kalin is doing to the babies is intended to cause them anxiety and fear. He expects this ordeal to cause their brains to develop differently than the brains of monkeys not similarly deprived and frightened. Are the fearful experiences relentless? Not in the sense that they continue around-the-clock, but certainly so in the sense that they are frequent and recurring events in these young victims' short and intentionally difficult lives.

After trying to mislead people about the nature of the deprived conditions and stress-filled experiences of the babies, Sandgren then launches into an attempt to justify the cruelty. And again, he either misunderstands what Kalin is claiming or else is just again being a propagandist for his employer and industry.

He begins in "The rest" with an appeal to Kalin et al's past work. he says, "In previous studies, these UW-Madison researchers mapped out pathways in the brain that are overactive in anxious monkeys (it turns out the same pathways are overactive in anxious humans too)." But again, he misleads.

Kalin's experiments on monkeys did not inform scientists about humans' brains; the exact opposite is true. Here's Kalin's quote from "The Neurobiology of Fear," a 2002 Scientific American article that was update from a 1993 article:
To follow up on the finding that humans with a preponderance of right frontal brain electrical activity are more likely to be anxious, we, along with [Richard] Davidson, examined the individual differences in this measure of brain activity in young monkeys. Similar to the observations in humans, we found that each animal's pattern of frontal brain activity was stable over time, such that animals with extreme asymmetric right frontal activity remained that way as they matured.
Continuing his defense of Kalin's project in "Mundane," Sandgren claims that the project has a clear scientific rationale. But he is not unfamiliar with the rationale Kalin used in his letter to a reporter with The Capital Times newspaper:
It is now widely accepted that early stressful environments that include parental stress, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and inadequate parenting are the most relevant risk factors for the later development of psychiatric illness. Unfortunately, this type of adversity during childhood is endemic in our society. These early adverse circumstances can change the trajectory of a developing brain such that it becomes wired in a way that leads less fortunate individuals down a path of anxiety, depression and other forms of psychopathology. Discovering new interventions aimed at preventing the long term consequences of early adversity in children is critical and requires a basic understanding of the influences of suboptimal rearing on the primate brain. Recent advances in neuroscience and molecular neurobiology allow us, for the first time, to identify promising new molecular pathways that have the potential to counter the effects of early adversity on childhood development.
Kalin rationalizes his cruelty with the wild claim that the identification of irregularities in the brains of orphaned male rhesus monkeys isolated during the first weeks of their lives, and then repeatedly frightened, will lead to a drug (that's what is implied by his "new molecular pathways") that will cure or prevent the highly variable results that stem from the even more variable circumstances surrounding "early stressful environments that include parental stress, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and inadequate parenting." That sounds more like pie-in-the-sky than a clear scientific rationale.

Even sillier is Sandgren's faith-based assertion: "this study also will be highly relevant to the causes of anxiety in humans." But he doesn't know this. His assertion is anything but scientific or rational. He plays the role of the soothsayer. The majority of the results from attempts to measure the efficacy of animal models of human biology point strongly to the opposite likelihood.

Moreover, the apparent absence of clear beneficial results for human sufferers of emotional distress that stem from Kalin's decades of previous work using monkeys as models of anxiety and fear in humans stands in stark contrast to both his and Sandgren's assertions that anything of benefit to human patients will result. If there were much to ballyhoo from his previous projects with monkeys, I suspect it would have been mentioned by now, by someone, in neon lights.

Sandgren argues at some length in "Mundane" that oversight of research using animals by the university's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) is not just a rubber stamp. He both admits and denies that essentially all proposed experiments are approved.

First he quotes Wesleyan University Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen: “the oversight committee chairs [at UW-Madison] told me they have never rejected a proposal. Not one.”

Then he says: "When our IACUC chairs say “failure to reject”, they mean that almost all protocols eventually reach a state that the IACUC can accept.

Then he says: "Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that our IACUCs reject 92 percent of the proposals they receive."

But his argument that the oversight system is working boils down to this: The committees eventually approve essentially every experiment that comes before them, even one that is as controversial as Kalin's. A duck, he seems to be saying, is not a duck.

Vivisectors have a very unscientific habit of ignoring evidence that does not support their self-image. Research shows that the use of animals isn't a very productive methodology. Research shows that IACUC committees do seem to act as rubber stamps. Research shows that the workers within the system are uncomfortable with and often embarrassed by what they are forced to do. Research shows that a system like the one surrounding the use of animals at a university will breed secrecy, cruelty, and public denial.

The university must be feeling the heat. As a result, Sandgren has tried to spin the plain facts and has presented false and misleading claims without presenting anything other than anecdotal claims and expressions of his faith and obedience in support. It is worth noticing that he did not point readers to Kalin's approved protocol; that information was made public by the Alliance for Animals.

The University of Wisconsin, Madison has a long, well-documented, and entirely despicable history when it comes to honesty and openness about its use of animals. Sandgren's two essays are simply the newest chapter in this (so far) never ending story of their cruelty.