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...


Gina said...

It did change - they removed the "kalin".

Rick Bogle said...

Like vampires hiding from daylight.