Dear Dane County Board Supervisors,
I am writing in reply to a letter which was sent to you by the University of Wisconsin-Madison urging you not to support Resolution 275 introduced by Supervisor Matano. I hope you will find the following points helpful in coming to your decision.
The university begins its argument by presenting a false and misleading characterization of the specific research program addressed in Mr. Matano's resolution. They say that the monkeys taken from their mothers will be raised by human "caregivers." But the monkeys will not be held, comforted, or allowed to form normal emotional bonds with these so-called caregivers. They will be provided food and water by them and their isolation units will be cleaned by them, but such limited hands-off care would be judged abuse if human children were being raised in the same way.
The university says that once the infants are able to feed themselves, that they will be in the company of "other young monkeys." But they will simply be placed in a small cage with one other infant of the same age similarly deprived of psychologically important contact comfort from their mother or other nurturing caregiver.
The university falsely claims that this isolation and pair-housing is no different from what happens in zoos when infants are rejected by their mothers or even on a typical Wisconsin dairy. But even zoos try to provide a semblance of contact care and social interaction with caregivers; zoos try to ameliorate the impact of the loss of an infant's mother, the university's plan is to exacerbate that impact.
The university goes so far as to say that even infant humans are similarly separated from their mothers in neonatal intensive care units. If there is much similarity between the care provided to the infant monkeys being taken from their mothers and the level of care provided to human infants at the UW Hospital, then a thorough investigation is needed immediately because such isolation and social neglect would be a clear case of criminal child abuse.
The university isn't being honest with you.
A paper cited by Ned Kalin, the lead scientist in the research that is causing so much concern, explains that increased crying, decreased environmental exploration, and increased huddling, and lying-down are common symptoms of the despair typically seen after maternal separation in infant monkeys.
The impact of early-life stress, frequently induced by maternal separation during infancy has been extensively studied in non-human primates. Thus, rhesus macaques that grew up either alone or with peers only show several signs of behavioral despair, i.e. decreased locomotion, environmental exploration and play, disturbed sleep, decreased, or sometimes increased, food intake. These behavioral changes resemble many of the cardinal symptoms of human depression. (The role of corticotropin-releasing factor in depression and anxiety disorders. J Endocrinol. 1999. See below for one reason behind Ned Kalin's and the university's keen interest in corticotropin-releasing factor.)
The well-documented severe psychological insults of maternal deprivation (the method that the university falsely equates to the way they care for children in neonatal intensive care units) and peer-rearing are exactly why they are being employed in this project.
This is the third time I am aware of that the university has resorted to what seems to be the intentional misleading of local government officials about its actions or intent regarding the use of monkeys in its labs.
The first time was their eight years of repeatedly reporting to zoo officials that the monkeys owned by the university and housed at the zoo were exempt from being used in harmful experiments. Leaked documents revealed that their repeatedly written reaffirmations of the policy were never honored and that while claiming otherwise, the university was selling monkeys from the zoo to labs around the country and killing them in their own labs. The university's maneuvering successfully derailed the County Board's efforts to safeguard the remaining animals.
The second case was the university's response to Supervisor Matano's effort to establish a citizens' advisory committee to examine the question of whether or not the university's use of monkeys is ethical. In what seems to have been given as a promise to County Board Chair Scott McDonald and others on the County Board in exchange for killing the proposal, the university said that it would institute a public discussion about the use of animals in its labs. But that promise was never substantively fulfilled; the university did begin having speakers from around the country come in to talk about animals in society generally, but very little about the university's own use of animals was addressed, and essentially none of the specific details it said would be, were. Nearly everyone involved in or familiar with the so-called forums has admitted they have failed to meet the university's promise.
Now, yet again, the university has chosen to mislead the Board. Its characterization of what will be done to the infant monkeys and the effects those procedures will have on them is far from the truth. The university seems to think that the County Board is made up of enough people who are either good UW soldiers or awed by its authority, that it need not address the factual details of the project under discussion.
The university appeals to the possible results of Ned Kalin's project as a justification for the short abused life these infant monkeys will endure. But Kalin's prior three-and-a-half decades of identifying fearful young monkeys, frightening them, damaging their brains, and then killing them and analyzing the results have led to no discernible benefit for people suffering from depression. There is no reason that the current experiments will fare any better.
One goal of Ned Kalin's work not mentioned by the university is his identification of patentable gene sequences thought by him to be implicated in a greater susceptibility to the development of clinical depression. Kalin is the founder and principal owner of a company, Promoter Neuroscience, which is "focused on developing tools and finding drugs that affect expression of genes in the CRH family." (CHR is shorthand for the brain chemical: corticotropin-releasing factor.) He and WARF hold at least four patents on these gene sequences identified by Kalin in his invasive rat and monkey brain experiments.
It looks as though he and his company are focused on patenting gene sequences that they believe might one day be part of a genetic pathway affected by a drug used for the treatment of depression, and thus could be leveraged into a share of potential profit should someone invent an antidepressant that acted through those promoter gene sequences.
The university continues to mislead the Board with its claim that the study was approved only after rigorous scrutiny. This study was the subject of more scrutiny by university oversight committees that any previous project because it is an affront to any notion of the humane use of animals. But when changes were demanded, the resulting rewrite was approved by only two unnamed people, both of whom are likely to have supported the project earlier or who are also using animals in their own research. That's the opposite of rigor.
The university closes its argument by claiming wildly that if the County Board condemns Kalin's project that it could lead to an end of all basic research and that progress against disease would slow drastically. But a growing body of respected scientific evidence suggests that the opposite may be more likely.
Over the past decade or two, researchers have undertaken a number of very large meta-analyses of the results of animal-based models of human disease and illness, and the results have not been encouraging to the industry. Overwhelmingly, these very large analyses have found that the results from experiments on animals are not translating into treatments for humans. Proffered explanations for this sweeping failure have included the less than rigorous design of the projects and the underlying genetic differences that plague cross-species applications. But no matter the reason, the failure of animal models to productively mimic human biology is the subject of much and increased scientific discussion.
See for instance:
Comparison of treatment effects between animal experiments and clinical trials: systematic review. Perel P, Roberts I, Sena E, Wheble P, Briscoe C, Sandercock P, Macleod M, Mignini LE, Jayaram P, Khan KS. BMJ. 2007.
Where Are the Cures? Sharon Begley. Newsweek. 2008.
Translation of Research Evidence From Animals to Humans. Daniel G. Hackam, Donald A. Redelmeier, 2006, JAMA.
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. John P. A. Ioannidis. PLoS Med. 2005.
Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans? Pound P, Ebrahim S, Sandercock P, Bracken MB, Roberts I. BMJ. 2004.
Does animal experimentation inform human healthcare? Observations from a systematic review of international animal experiments on fluid resuscitation. Roberts I, Kwan I, Evans P & Haig S. BMJ 2002.
Evolution and translation of research findings: from bench to where? Ioannidis JP. PLoS Clin Trials. 2006.
Survey of the quality of experimental design, statistical analysis and reporting of research using animals. Kilkenny C, Parsons N, Kadyszewski E, Festing MF, Cuthill IC, Fry D, Hutton J, Altman DG. PLoS One. 2009.
The university has shown itself unwilling to engage is substantive dialog regarding its use of animals. It has misled the Dane Count Board in the past. It has destroyed public records concerning its use of monkeys to keep them out of the public eye. It builds barriers to public scrutiny of its operations. It worries now that if the Dane County Board condemns Ned Kalin's use of maternal deprivation, that it may lead to more questioning from the public.
Undoubtedly, County Board Supervisors are being lobbied by people on one or the other side of this issue. I imagine that they generally fall into one of two camps: people who are concerned for the monkeys and are outraged at having to pay for these cruel dead-end experiments, and people who have a professional or financial interest in basic research using animals. I do think it is that simple.
I hope you will not let yourself and the County Board be again convinced to shelter the university and to hold them harmless for their past lies, manipulations, and cover-ups. Taken as a single instance of the research underway at the university, Kalin's maternal deprivation project warrants great condemnation.
5133 Maher Ave.
Madison, WI 53716
Dane County, District 24