Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Responding to Another Pile of VS* from UW-Madison

One way to tell whether or not your criticisms are having an impact is to consider the response from those you criticize. Using that measure, it is clear that Dr. Ruth Decker's criticisms of UW-Madison psychiatrist Ned Kalin's experiments on baby monkeys and her criticisms of publicly-funded experiments on monkeys across the country is having a significant impact on vivisectors at the University of Wisconsin Madison. They seem to be pooping their pants.

The UW primate vivisectors' knee-knocking response to Dr. Decker's new petition is understandable. Her first petition was a large factor in forcing the university to (slightly) modify the cruelty to the infant monkeys being used in one of Kalin's richly-funded projects. He was forced to abandon his use of maternal deprivation. Dr. Decker's new petition casts a much wider net, putting the university's tax-dollar gravy train in some jeopardy.

I have included a link to their tiresomely long effort to defend themselves and discredit Dr. Decker below. (The university did not include a link to Dr. Decker's petition.) Here, I am going to make some observations about a few of their claims. Keep in mind that the university's new chief vivisection propagandist, a likely co-author of the university's unattributed essay, is Allyson Joy Bennett, a primate vivisector with close ties to Stephen Suomi, the co-inventer of the diabolocal "vertical chamber" or "Well of Despair," as his co-inventor Harry Harlow liked to call it. Bennett is a leading member of the pro-vivisection anything-goes extremist cult "Speaking of Research," a branch of the pro-vivisection anything-goes extremist cult "Pro-Test," started by a 14-year-old boy in England.

The title of the university's essay is "Responding to another Ruth Decker change.org petition," which makes it pretty clear that she has their attention. I wonder how the authors' time to write this essay was billed? Whenever the university has to respond to a public records request they always make claims about the labor costs of having to do so. I don't wonder about the billing too much though, they are being paid by taxpayers to hoodwink taxpayers; what a job.

The university starts out with their most stinky bit of VS and says that they "appreciate and share the concern for animals that leads people to add their names to the petition." They share the same concern for animals that leads people to ask them to stop hurting and killing animals? Up is down.

The university's anonymous authors say that Dr. Decker's petition piles up mistakes, myths, exaggerations, omits important information, and tells people with "little understanding" of "real science" to speak out. The authors expound on what they imply is the evidence of Dr. Decker's purported failings and say that those failings are unfair to the people who signed the petition, are unfair to Kalin and Suomi, to other vivisectors, or to the millions of people suffering from mental illness.

It must be reassuring for the vivisectors to believe that most of their critics are simple bumpkins who don't understand science. But in fact, the vivisectors either don't understand science or else know that what they are doing isn't good science and simply don't care. It's apparently easy not to care when you are getting rich by doing so.

You may think that my statement about the lack of good science in the animal labs is hyperbole or simple rhetoric, but it's not, and the problem has been recognized and written about in mainstream science journals for a fairly long time now which makes its continuation all the more troubling, particularly when those being paid for conducting the junk science, like the university's vivisectors, keep telling the public that they are doing important work.

The most recent example (as of 2-16) was the June 9, 2015 paper, "The Economics of Reproducibility in Preclinical Research." The authors lead off with this matter-of-fact observation:

"Low reproducibility rates within life science research undermine cumulative knowledge production and contribute to both delays and costs of therapeutic drug development. An analysis of past studies indicates that the cumulative (total) prevalence of irreproducible preclinical research exceeds 50%, resulting in approximately US$28,000,000,000 (US$28B)/year spent on preclinical research that is not reproducible—in the United States alone."

("Preclinical" includes all animal-based biomedical research outside of veterinary research on the species of animals the research is looking at, like studying FIV in cats by using FIV-infected cats.)

The authors go on to say that. "Flawed preclinical studies create false hope for patients waiting for lifesaving cures; moreover, they point to systemic and costly inefficiencies in the way preclinical studies are designed, conducted, and reported." It is exactly this false hope and fear that the vivisectors cultivate as they prey on the public; a public misled by the vivisectors into thinking that what they are doing is "real science."

A foundation stone of real science is reproducibility. If no one working in another lab can reproduce another scientist's work then it is of no merit. The vivisectors' work largely fails on this point alone. But equally damning is the very poor applicability or translation rate of the preclinical studies. This problem too has been written about ad nauseam. In response, using a tactic seeming out of Orwell's 1984, the bloated research universities fell all over each other rushing to establish this and that "Center for Translational Research," (be sure to use a grandiose intonation) as if saying that they were doing "translational research" would magically transform junk data from animal experiments into wonder drugs for humans.

Again, you may think that my statement about the overall failure of the science in the animal labs is hyperbole or simple rhetoric, but it's not. Here's a passage from the June 5,2014 BMJ that provides a nice summation:
Ten years ago in The BMJ Pandora Pound and colleagues asked, “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?”(doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7438.514). Their conclusions were not encouraging. Much animal research into potential treatments for humans was wasted, they said, because it was poorly conducted and not evaluated through systematic reviews.

Since then, as Pound and Michael Bracken explain this week (doi:10.1136/bmj.g3387), the number of systematic reviews of animal studies has increased substantially, but this has served only to highlight the poor quality of much preclinical animal research. The same threats to internal and external validity that beset clinical research are found in abundance in animal studies: lack of randomisation, blinding, and allocation concealment; selective analysis; and reporting and publication bias. The result, said Ioannidis in 2012, is that it is “nearly impossible to rely on most animal data to predict whether or not an intervention will have a favourable clinical benefit-risk ratio in human subjects.”

Such wastage is as unethical in animal as in human research. Poorly done preclinical research may lead to expensive but fruitless clinical trials exposing participants to harmful drugs. And of course there is the unnecessary suffering of the animals involved in research that brings no benefit.

Again, the fact that animal-based studies are usually worthless, frequently misleading, and usually altogether forgotten isn't a secret. Anyone the least bit tuned in to the debate about the use of animals knows about these problems, the junk science, the waste of public dollars. And yet, university vivisectors continue to sing the same siren song -- all medical progress relies on animal experiments. That's wrong. If they know it, and say otherwise, as the authors of the university's attack on Dr. Decker do, then they are liars who have no concern for the people suffering from the ailments and maladies putting their trust in the decision-makers at the university and the NIH. It appears to me to be wholly immoral.

The authors go on to say that the truth doesn't matter to "activists" trying to stop the vivisectors. But as the evidence above makes clear, it is they who deny the plain facts as reported in the mainstream science journals.

The authors then attempt further wool-pulling by ginning up some nonsense that they believe will fool the average reader.

They claim that the "scientific and medical leadership of our country have determined that animal research plays a fundamentally important role in scientific studies that advance the health of the nation." But that's far afield from the actual facts. Taxpayer dollars are used to fund the NIH's lobbying efforts. The senior scientists at the NIH are for most part vivisectors who have gained positions of power. When they send a letter or meet with a member of Congress, it is understandable that they are believed when they say that NIH is making good decisions. We tend to believe those we deem to be authorities. This is what the university and the NIH bank on -- all the way to the bank.

Then the authors make the claim that experiments on monkeys are "critical" to scientific research and as evidence they provide a list of serious ailments that are understood, prevented, and treated they say, as a result of experiments on monkeys. They are in good company. In 2000, NIH/NCRR (a defunct branch of the NIH) endorsed an expansion of primate-based biomedical research in the "Full Scale Evaluation of the Regional Primate Research Centers Program—Final Report (Office of Science Policy and Public Liaison, National Center for Research Resources/NIH. 2000), saying that experiments on monkeys and chimpanzees were "crucial" to the study of the most frightening diseases. I looked into their claims in 2003, and found them to be as silly then as the university's are now. See the accompanying article here.

The university's authors say, "Although the petitioners may believe that animal research supported by NIH is a waste, there is no evidence that the majority of the American public concurs." But they are again being misleading, which they must realize. The Pew Research Center wrote in 2015 that: "The general public is closely divided when it comes to the use of animals in research. Some 47% favor the practice, while and a nearly equal share (50%) oppose it. Support for animal research is down somewhat since 2009, when 52% of adults favored and 43% opposed the use of animals in scientific research." They went on to report that 62% of women are opposed to vivisection.

The authors then make the wild assertion that they have the moral high ground! "... failing to engage in and support research that is ethical, humane, and well regulated would be an abdication of our moral obligation...". Wow. Torturing baby monkeys will never be seen as the moral high ground.

Then they say that Kalin's and Suomi's career-long torture of young monkeys is valuable and ethical and calls them "two of the nation’s leading scientists." While they could be among the richest and while Suomi must be one of the tallest, they lead only those who conduct similarly worthless, non-replicable, cruel experiments. The university then claims that Kalin's work must be good and important because it was "reviewed and supported by panels of scientists at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH)."

But again, they know full well that the majority of the scientists serving on the panels that approved Kalin's cruelty are themselves vivisectors. Again, the authors seem intent on hoodwinking their audience.

They appeal to authority rather than facts when they write that Tom Insel, director of NIMH until November 2015, claimed that the Ebola outbreak proved the importance of animal research. The authors fail to mention that Insel is a past Director of the NIH's Yerkes Primate Research Center, a mega-lab at Emory University in Atlanta infamous for its cruelty to monkeys and to chimpanzees, or that Insel was an outspoken proponent of the use of chimpanzees in HIV studies, a completely discredited line of research. His opinions on any matter having to do with the ethics of animal experimentation are biased at best.

And, Insel's claim that animal research had any impact whatsoever on the course of the recent Ebola outbreak is far afield from reality, but hey, as we've seen already, facts hardly matter to those whose incomes are dependent on bamboozling the public. The World Heath Organization is hopeful but says clearly that, "At this time, there are no vaccines to protect against EVD [Ebola virus disease] licensed for use in humans."

The authors repeat Kalin's debunked claims about the importance of his experiments on monkeys, blowing more spoke up the behinds of those they hope don't understand science or take the take the time to do a little research on their own. That's the sort of thing charlatans count on.

And the VS just keeps coming. The authors -- and let me remind you that Allyson Joy Bennett is a past co-author with Suomi -- claim that because Suomi published over 500 papers and that because he has been cited over 10,000 times that his work must be important. But there are a lot of citations of various claims made in all sorts of matter-of-factly wrong reports. I hate to say it, but no one has risen from the dead -- no matter how many times it is claimed otherwise. Sillier still is their claim that because professional associations of vivisectors defended Suomi after it was announced that the NIH was shutting his lab down, that his work was important. The assertion simply underscores the fact that they assume their readers are ignorant, wowed by big numbers and too stupid to see through their fiction.

The claim that publishing many papers proves someone's work is important is just another example of the authors not really understanding science. Quantity and quality have little to do with each other. In case you think being published in a science journal means that someone's work is important, consider this: "Why most published research findings are false." (John Ioannidis. PLoS Med, 2(8), e124. 2005.)

The authors claim that the decision to use animals to study human psychiatric disorders (or for any other reason, presumably) is not made lightly, and they are right. It is made only after one learns that they can get rich doing so, regardless of the results.

And then, heaping absurdity upon absurdity, they state that "consideration of viable alternatives to research with live animals is a basic ethical principle that undergirds the conduct of all research with nonhuman animals." What a sad joke on the animals. Ethics and the use of animals have nothing in common. They are opposites. If it were otherwise, lifetimes would not be spent moving from animal experiment to animal experiment as so many vivisectors do.

The authors claim that Dr. Decker and those who have signed her petitions may not be aware that there is a regulatory system in place that is supposed to assure that animals are used only when necessary and only as humanely as possible. They claim that "the petitioners" ignore this "to further their agenda." But the authors are in a position to know full well that the regulatory system does not work. They are in a position to know that the university violated Wisconsin's anticruelty statutes for years while killing sheep in decompression experiments and staging fights between mice. They are in a position to know that researchers have hidden expired medications from federal inspectors, have paid no attention to dogs suffering after surgeries, have let cows die of starvation, allowed slipshod surgical procedures on monkeys's brains to continue for years, let hundreds, maybe thousands of animals die of thirst, to mention just a few of the problems that have come to light while operating under the "stringent regulatory oversight system" they claim should put everyone at ease.

It is possible that the authors simply can't recognize suffering when they are so enmeshed in the system that causes it.

The authors write: "Research animals are treated humanely. Research conducted with animals is highly regulated at the local, state and federal levels. The No. 1 priority for UW–Madison’s scientists, veterinarians, animal care personnel and institutional animal care and use committees is ensuring the welfare and humane treatment of animals used in ethically and scientifically sound research. In addition to honoring their ethical obligation, scientists maintain the highest standards of animal care to ensure that research results are scientifically valid."

I don't think one single assertion in that statement is correct. Not one. This would have been much closer to the truth: "Research animals are treated like the tools they are. Research conducted with animals is not regulated at the local or state level and is only nominally regulated at the federal levels. The No. 1 priority for UW–Madison’s scientists, veterinarians, animal care personnel and institutional animal care and use committees is cashing their pay checks. They have no ethical obligation to maintain anything other than the most minimal standards of animal care and get angry when someone says otherwise. They all know that their research publications pretty much meaningless."

Publicly-funded scientific research with animals receives no meaningful review; career scientists receive rubber stamp approvals. Proposals for research undergo scientific review from other vivisectors who know that their own proposals will be treated similarly. The importance of the research questions don't matter too much, the quality of the research approach and investigators, and the likelihood of the project’s success is of little account. Senior researchers get long-term funding even though everyone knows or should know that nothing of value will result from their tortuous experiments.

The authors conclude with the hollow observation that oversight at the university is the obligation of committees that include veterinarians, members of the public, scientists and others; but they fail to mention that these committees have been handmaidens to all the regulatory and legal violations that have occurred at the university over the years. They must have forgotten to say that.

Here is a link to Dr. Ruth Decker's petition, I urge you to add your name to it: https://www.change.org/p/members-of-congress-stop-wasting-tax-dollars-to-torture-and-kill-monkeys-for-bad-science

The university's VS: https://animalresearch.wisc.edu/responding-to-another-ruth-decker-change-org-petition/

* VS is much stinkier than plain old BS.

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