Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mindful magazine and the new age hoodwink

We just received an offer in the mail to subscribe to a new age magazine called Mindful. The piece was high-end glossy and filled with images of seemingly happy people. One image, apparently the lead off to an article from a past issue, was titled, "A Kinder, Gentler World." What really caught me eye was the image above, both on the envelope and then again as the largest image in the enclosed advert.

The universe is complex. Things that seem impossible sometimes aren't. So, it isn't absolutely impossible that a university program led by a primate vivisector could teach people to be kind, but the notion is creepy and the endeavor somehow tainted. It is sort like the faith healer Benny Hinn urging people to be charitable.

It seems to be little more than a charade, a bamboozle of sorts, a gimmick that benefits the purveyor. The benefits to the buyer, though not necessarily always zero, are secondary to the interests of the seller. Even faith healers sometimes heal people; even snake oil has had its successes; the mind is complex and the placebo effect is real.

But there is something particularly distasteful about a primate vivisector telling people that he has discovered an ancient secret from the Great Masters of the Himalayas for becoming more compassionate, and that really is Richard Davidson's schtick. And then he dresses it up in science to make it appear respectable. And boy, people really lap it up.

Of course, most of his adorers have no knowledge of his long intimate relationship with Ned Kalin or the nature of their twenty-five year collaboration into the neurobiology of fearful young monkeys' brains.

It seems to me that if someone peddling a way to be more compassionate is hurting and frightening young monkeys who they have identified as having "excessively fearful dispositions," is publishing reports on the invasive surgeries on the monkeys, is comfortable isolating newborn infant monkeys in order to induce heightened anxiety and depression, that this is proof that their claim of being able to teach someone how to be more compassionate is probably nonsense and at least suspicious.

I've written thousands of words about Davidson already, so I won't go on. If you are interested in learning more here are some resources in (almost) no particular order:

"Compassion." Chapter 11 in "We All Operate in the Same Way."

June 22, 2008 Primate research at the University of Wisconsin. Host Neil Heinen moderates the discussion on this 22, 2008 episode of For the Record, WISC-TV.

June 24, 2008 Looking at Richard Davidson's Assertions

April 13, 2008 Richard Davidson's Mushy-Headedness

Tuesday, March 6, 2007 Could You Recognize Evil if It Stared You in the Face? (Will the anti-Christ come wearing a t-shirt saying I'm the anti-Christ?)

February 3, 2009 Richard Davidson's Choices Are Evidence That Thinking Good Thoughts Won’t Make You a Good Person

November 27, 2007 A minimal amount of suffering

October 24, 2007 Compassion and Kindness Redefined

May 9, 2010 The Dalai Lama is Coming Back to Madison, or "'Callooh! Callay!' He chortled in his joy."

April 25, 2010 Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

March 20, 2009 Richard Davidson

September 3, 2010 Monsters: Lojong

And, if you want to know even more about Davidson's use of monkeys, this is a current bibliography of a his work in this area: A selected Davidson bibliography. Reports on his experimental use of monkeys:

Heightened extended amygdala metabolism following threat characterizes the early phenotypic risk to develop anxiety-related psychopathology. Shackman AJ, Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2017.

Connectivity between the central nucleus of the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in the non-human primate: neuronal tract tracing and developmental neuroimaging studies. Oler, Jonathan A., Do PM Tromp, Andrew S. Fox, Rothem Kovner, Richard J. Davidson, Andrew L. Alexander, Daniel R. McFarlin et al. Brain Structure and Function. 2017.

Intergenerational neural mediators of early-life anxious temperament. Fox AS, Oler JA, Shackman AJ, Shelton SE, Raveendran M, McKay DR, Converse AK, Alexander A, Davidson RJ, Blangero J, Rogers J, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015.

Extreme early-life anxiety is associated with an evolutionarily conserved reduction in the strength of intrinsic functional connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the central nucleus of the amygdala.mBirn RM, Shackman AJ, Oler JA, Williams LE, McFarlin DR, Rogers GM, Shelton SE, Alexander AL, Pine DS, Slattery MJ, Davidson RJ, Fox AS, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2014.

Evolutionarily conserved prefrontal-amygdalar dysfunction in early-life anxiety. Birn RM, Shackman AJ, Oler JA, Williams LE, McFarlin DR, Rogers GM, Shelton SE, Alexander AL, Pine DS, Slattery MJ, Davidson RJ, Fox AS, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2014.

Neuropeptide Y receptor gene expression in the primate amygdala predicts anxious temperament and brain metabolism. Roseboom PH, Nanda SA, Fox AS, Oler JA, Shackman AJ, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Biol Psychiatry. 2014.

Neural mechanisms underlying heterogeneity in the presentation of anxious temperament. Shackman AJ, Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013.

CRHR1 genotypes, neural circuits and the diathesis for anxiety and depression. Rogers J, Raveendran M, Fawcett GL, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oler JA, Cheverud J, Muzny DM, Gibbs RA, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2013.

Central amygdala nucleus (Ce) gene expression linked to increased trait-like Ce metabolism and anxious temperament in young primates. Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Nanda SA, Davidson RJ, Roseboom PH, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012.

Evidence for coordinated functional activity within the extended amygdala of non-human and human primates. Oler JA, Birn RM, Patriat R, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Burghy CA, Stodola DE, Essex MJ, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Neuroimage. 2012.

Amygdalar and hippocampal substrates of anxious temperament differ in their heritability. Oler JA, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Rogers J, Dyer TD, Davidson RJ, Shelledy W, Oakes TR, Blangero J, Kalin NH. Nature. 2010.

Orbitofrontal cortex lesions alter anxiety-related activity in the primate bed nucleus of stria terminalis. Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Converse AK, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. J Neurosci. 2010.

Subgenual prefrontal cortex activity predicts individual differences in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity across different contexts. Jahn AL, Fox AS, Abercrombie HC, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Biol Psychiatry. 2010.

Serotonin transporter binding and genotype in the nonhuman primate brain using [C-11]DASB PET. Christian BT, Fox AS, Oler JA, Vandehey NT, Murali D, Rogers J, Oakes TR, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Neuroimage. 2009.

Serotonin transporter availability in the amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis predicts anxious temperament and brain glucose metabolic activity. Oler JA, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Christian BT, Murali D, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. J Neurosci. 2009.

The distribution of D2/D3 receptor binding in the adolescent rhesus monkey using small animal PET imaging. Christian BT, Vandehey NT, Fox AS, Murali D, Oakes TR, Converse AK, Nickles RJ, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Neuroimage. 2009.

Trait-like brain activity during adolescence predicts anxious temperament in primates. Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. PLoS One. 2008 .

Automatic physiological waveform processing for FMRI noise correction and analysis. Kelley DJ, Oakes TR, Greischar LL, Chung MK, Ollinger JM, Alexander AL, Shelton SE, Kalin NH, Davidson RJ.PLoS ONE. 2008.

The serotonin transporter genotype is associated with intermediate brain phenotypes that depend on the context of eliciting stressor. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Fox AS, Rogers J, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ. Mol Psychiatry. 2008.

Automatic physiological waveform processing for FMRI noise correction and analysis. Kelley DJ, Oakes TR, Greischar LL, Chung MK, Ollinger JM, Alexander AL, Shelton SE, Kalin NH, Davidson RJ. PLoS One. 2008.

Role of the Primate Orbitofrontal Cortex in Mediating Anxious Temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2007.

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.

Calling for help is independently modulated by brain systems underlying goal-directed behavior and threat perception. Fox AS, Oakes TR, Shelton SE, Converse AK, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005.

The role of the central nucleus of the amygdala in mediating fear and anxiety in the primate. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. J Neurosci. 2004.

The primate amygdala mediates acute fear but not the behavioral and physiological components of anxious temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kelley AE. Related Articles, J Neurosci. 2001.

Cerebrospinal fluid corticotropin-releasing hormone levels are elevated in monkeys with patterns of brain activity associated with fearful temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2000

Asymmetric frontal brain activity, cortisol, and behavior associated with fearful temperament in rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Larson C, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Behav Neurosci. 1998.

Individual differences in freezing and cortisol in infant and mother rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Rickman M, Davidson RJ. Behav Neurosci. 1998.

A new method for aversive Pavlovian conditioning of heart rate in rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Lynn DE. Physiol Behav. 1996.

Lateralized response to diazepam predicts temperamental style in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Behav Neurosci. 1993.

Lateralized effects of diazepam on frontal brain electrical asymmetries in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Biol Psychiatry. 1992.

Monday, December 25, 2017

This Little Mutant Pig Might be Seriously Impaired

Wisconsin miniature pigs, an image used in both articles mentioned below.

To help kids battling a rare disease, scientists forge a genetic link between people and pigs []
December 19, 2017 By Kelly April Tyrrell

This is a recent PR piece from UW-Madison. If you don't read it very carefully, you will come away with the belief that creating mutant pigs has in some way helped children suffering from a rare genetic disease. But a careful reader will learn that no children have been helped. The article is the same sort hype that has filled newspapers ever since the mid 1930s as a result of the wildly successful fundraising for polio, the first commercialization of medical research. (See Polio: An American Story. David M. Oshinsky. Oxford University Press. 2005.)

The author, a UW-Madison news writer (aka propagandist) is a past mouse vivisector, so it makes some sense she gets giddy about "advances" in the scientific use of animals. In this article she describes symptoms children with neurofibromatosis type 1, or NF1, can experience; she makes no mention of the symptoms in the pigs.

Oddly, perhaps not, a version of the article was published in The Atlantic a week earlier: "Turning Piglets Into Personalized Avatars for Sick Kids." The author was Ed Yong, he also left out any description of the disease in the pigs.

It may be that neither author plagiarized the other. They are after all telling the same story, but the parallels are suggestive, For instance:

Ed Yong: "... Once Mason’s diagnosis was in, [Charles “Chuck” Konsitzke, Mason's father] started asking around about NF-1 research. In particular, he wanted to know where the bottlenecks are. What was the single thing he could do that would most accelerate research into his son’s condition? And the answer that he kept hearing was: Find better animals to experiment on."

Kelly April Tyrrell: "Upon Mason’s diagnosis [Charles “Chuck” Konsitzke, Mason's father] began to delve into published NF1 research. He wanted to know where it was happening, who was doing it and how he might be able to help. He sought opinions from experts, wondering how the field could be improved. Many identified the same bottleneck: the lack of a good research model."

Ed Yong: "When studying diseases, scientists often turn to laboratory animals like mice and zebrafish. They can use these so-called model organisms to work out how mutations cause diseases, and to find and test possible treatments. But the usual lab animals aren’t a good fit for NF-1. They’re too small, and they don’t react in the same way to the mutations that cause the disease in humans. For example, studies in mice suggested that a drug called lovastatin might help to address the learning and attentional problems that accompany NF-1. But when the drug was tested on actual children, in a large clinical trial, it did nothing.

"To better understand NF-1, Konsitzke learned, you need a species that’s closer in both size and biology to a person, and yet is still relatively easy to raise and study. That is, you need pigs. “Pigs closely represent humans,” says Neha Patel, who directs the UW neurofibromatosis clinic. “People with NF-1 have varied cognitive deficits, from severe learning issues to subtle problems. If you imagine studying those in a rat, you’d only get a crude picture of how that translates to humans. But pigs are intellectual animals."

Kelly April Tyrrell: "In biology, research models are animals, cells, plants, microbes and other living things that allow scientists to study biological processes and recreate diseases in order to better understand them. Good models yield information relevant to humans, but the right model can sometimes be difficult to find.

"NF1 is especially complex, affects many systems of the body and touches many areas of scientific inquiry, from cancer research to neurobiology. Chuck began to search for a better model and in 2013, when Mason was 3, he settled on pigs. Pigs are similar to humans in many ways that other common research animals, such as mice and flies, are not. That includes their size, which means drugs and devices that work on humans can also be tested on pigs. They have a robust immune system, which rodents lack. And they’re intelligent, so scientists can study changes to their cognition."

In any case, there at least seem to be some prepared talking points that both authors heard from some of the people they interviewed.

One thing that caught my eye in both articles was the bit about Charles “Chuck” Konsitzke being told that no one was making progress on treating the disease because their was not a good animal model. Ed Yong describes Konsitzke as an "administrator at the University of Wisconsin’s Biotechnology Center." Kelly April Tyrrell is less vague, she notes that he is the associate director of universit’s Biotechnology Center, "a sort of one-stop shop for scientists in need of DNA sequencing, genome editing and other services."

Konsitzke may have gotten a different answer to his questions if he had spoken with someone outside the animal research bubble. The Biotechnology Center he helps direct is deeply involved in promoting and facilitating animal use. His intimate involvement in this part of the university helps explain the talking points repeated in both articles.

A significant difference between The Atlantic and the UW-Madison articles is that the university article implies that individual children's disease will be modeled by a group of pigs with the gene defect from the child, and that the course of the disease in the pigs will inform doctors about the disease course in the children. The Atlantic article quotes the researchers saying that ethical problems might arise if they do do that, so the researchers might blind themselves to the source of the pigs' mutations, which eliminates one potential benefit claimed in the university article.

Missing from both articles was mention of the need for genetic counseling for couples intending to have children. The prudent course would be to forego breeding in cases with a likelihood of producing children with genetic illnesses. I suspect most readers will come away from the articles thinking that making pigs sick is a good thing.

And who knew that UW-Madison has a 1,500-pig research facility? I learn new things every day.

Monday, December 18, 2017

APHIS-AC, the Vivisectors' New Confessor

Oversight and enforcement of compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (Title 7 – Agriculture. Chapter 54 – Transportation, Sale, and Handling of Certain Animals Sections 2131 - 2159) is largely the responsibility of a unit of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, named Animal Care. The usual abbreviation in the literature is APHIS-AC. AWA is shorthand for the Animal Welfare Act.

APHIS-AC has become a sort of guard dog for those who use animals, an version of what is known as regulatory capture, defined by Wikipedia as a form of corruption:
Specifically, it is a government failure which occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.

Over the years, the agency has removed evidence of AWA violations and then grudgingly restored the records only when forced to do so by threats of lawsuits or legal settlements. The records have typically been restored in a significantly degraded form.

Over the years, the agency has occasionally taken steps to impede the public’s access to the records it has been forced to provide. Today, on the agency’s web page, “AWA Inspection and Annual Reports,” one can review a limited set of records. The agency has been captured by those it is supposed to be regulating.

The agency did at one time seem to honor its responsibility to the public. Now, not so much. It hasn’t always been like this. At one time the records were kept for years and easily searched. Why should purportedly public records be password protected and non-searchable? Moreover, available electronic data storage space is now essentially unlimited. And yet, APHIS-AC deletes records after only three years. Some animals in labs are used for decades; repeated violations that cause them harm are expunged. This is not much different than police destroying records of child abuse to protect the abusing parents. Records demonstrating a pattern of federal law violations are routinely destroyed.

Over the years, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General has evaluated APHIS-AC’s enforcement of the AWA. The OIG has reported that the agency does a very poor job of monitoring and enforcing the AWA. See:

1/1995 - APHIS Animal Care Program Inspection and Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.
(Report No. 33600-1-Ch.)

10/20/2005 - APHIS Animal Care Program Inspection and Enforcement Activities.
(Report No: 33002-03-SF.)

05/25/2010 - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Care Program, Inspections of Problematic Dealers.
(Report No: 33002-4-SF.)

12/18/2014 - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Oversight of Research Facilities.
(Report No. 33601-0001-41.)

06/02/2017 - APHIS: Animal Welfare Act - Marine Mammals (Cetaceans).
(Report No. 33601-0001-31.)

The NIH Office of Laboratory Welfare (OLAW) is responsible for overseeing and enforcing compliance with the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Enforcement is pro forma. OLAW almost never inspects a lab or verifies claims made by NIH-funded institutions. When the local oversight committee, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) discovers a violation of the policy, it is reported in a letter or phone call to OLAW along with a statement briefly explaining what the institution is doing to avoid a repeat violation. OLAW seems to always say, “Sounds good.” And that’s the end of it.

Not too long ago, it was discovered that OLAW was not sharing this information with APHIS-AC. A well-known watchdog organization began using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of OLAW’s correspondence with the labs and then filing complaints about the violations with APHIS-AC which is legally required to investigate allegations of violations of the AWA. And, when they did, they found records of the violations which in turn required them to cite the institutions. This did not sit well with the vivisectors or APHIS-AC. The agency was unhappy at being forced to do its job.

A couple interagency agreements resulted, but still, the labs’ animal welfare violations were at risk of public exposure. Now, APHIS seems to have come up with a plan to better shield the labs; they call it: “Incentives for Identifying, Reporting, Correcting, and Preventing Noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act.”

Those incentives? Not being cited in writing. It appears that the agency has come up with a plan to collude with the industry to make it even harder for the public to find out what is happening to the animals. A friend likened the new system to the Catholic confessional -- what’s said remains confidential and absolution is all but certain.

It seems to work like this: A lab official learns that a violation has occurred. A call is made to APHIS, just as a call will be made to OLAW. APHIS makes a record of the call without mentioning the name of the facility. The violation will not show up on an inspection report. When an annual inspection occurs, a violation will not be mentioned in the inspection report if there was no mention of a violation in the last inspection report and the lab had previously self-reported it.

Additionally, apparently, unless the inspector witnesses the violation during the actual inspection, the violation will not be recorded in the inspection report.

One thing is clear: the animal welfare records of the labs are going to show improvement, it will be much more difficult to recognize a pattern of violations, and the apparent reduction of recorded violations will make APHIS look like it is doing a better job. Yes sir, its win-win for everyone except the few people who take the time to try and find out what’s really going on in the labs and the animals.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Making Waves, or, How Dickheads are Everyone’s Fault but Women Have the Largest Role to Play in Fixing the Problem

I’ve always spoken up about unfairness and injustice, and it has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion. (I was once arrested twice in one day for having the temerity to defy the authorities. A sense of moral responsibility can be a burden.) I’ll keep doing so.

As an elementary school teacher and an animal rights activist, and coincidentally in other realms, the large majority of my relationships have been with women, both as a superior and as an employee, as a leader and as a follower, and in most cases, as a collaborator. It galls me now to be told that I ought not voice my opinion on the spate of examples coming to light of women being taken advantage of or otherwise harmed by men, because I am a man. But, I’m not a dog, a monkey, or a chicken, and I speak up for them, so I’ll keep voicing my opinions on whatever injustice, unfairness, or misleading claims I think I see, and making suggestions about how to fix the problems; I am after all, a man.

Most recently, I agreed with a man who commented on a FB post that to him it did not appear that Al Franken was actually groping Los Angeles morning TV host Leeann Tweeden. It does not look to me like he is actually touching her. He seem to be miming a grope. If he did touch her after the photo was snapped, then he did. But the photo does not seem to me to show him groping her.

I was chastised for saying this, even though I said that his behavior was inappropriate or juvenile. I was told that if Ms. Tweeden felt like she was being groped then we should just accept that she was. Who was I to question her? I was told to stop defending Franken, even though I commented only on the photo. Franken says he is sorry for having taken advantage of her.

This was the second time that I commented on a FB post related to the rash of women speaking up about their previous experiences with men’s sexual predation. In both cases, I was told that because I am a man, I can’t really know what it would be like to be one of those women, and thus, I can’t have a valid opinion on the subject. But that’s like saying that I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a monkey strapped in a chair and having someone experimenting on my eye. I think I can.

All that aside, here I am writing mostly to affix blame and offer suggestions for how to fix this ugly problem.

Gentlemen, stop being dickheads; treat everyone like you would want to be treated if you were them. If you see or hear about someone acting wrongly, abusing their power, speak up. Tell someone. If something isn’t done about it, yell louder. Make them stop. Do all you can to fix it. Intervene. Don’t be a dickhead.

Ladies, the same thing goes for you. Because you are so often the victims, the burden on you is much heavier, but you must speak up because if you don’t, you may be allowing it to happen to someone else. This isn’t fair, but much in life isn’t. Further, whether we like it or not, essentially every man who treats women or anyone else in their power unkindly, unfairly, or disrespectfully, was raised primarily by a woman. This means that men’s behavior and mores can be changed by the group from which the greatest number of victims come. Fathers, uncles, brothers, or male friends also have a responsibility to instill an ethic of fairness and compassion, but the weight of the solution to the problem again rests more squarely on women’s shoulders.

I wish life was a lot more fair than it is. I’m working on it. I am, after all, a man.

I stand with all the victims, no matter their color, creed, species, gender, sex, or any other damn thing. I will not stand mute. And, finally, if you, dear reader, don’t want to read comments you disagree with about the things you post to FB, well, tough. Want to stay in your bubble? It’s easy to un-friend someone.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"What would happen if all Americans went vegan?"

I am responding here only to the article in Science announcing the publication of "Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. I've not read the original because it is not yet available to me. Assuming that Science's reporting is accurate, it just goes to show that dominant paradigms and financial interests are overwhelming confounds in the world of normal science. "The authors declare no conflict of interest," says PNAS.

But given the author's affiliations, it seems matter-of-factly otherwise. Robin R. White is an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, and and Mary Beth Hall is a scientist employed by the US Dairy Forage Research Center, US Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service. Her office is in the Animal Science Building at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In any case, from the Science article:
“Our logic was to start at the extreme scenario [and work backward from that],” says Robin White, the study’s lead author and an animal sciences researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She and fellow animal sciences researcher Mary Beth Hall, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, began by estimating the impact of converting all land now used by the livestock industry to cropland for human food.
What? They began by estimating the impact of converting all land now used by the livestock industry to cropland for human food. Why in the world would they have done that?

Consider this: "Some 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed ... And the vast majority of that land — about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat." (The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production. Time. 2013.)

So, we use about 10% of the world's land surface to grow all the non-animal food we eat. So, following the authors' methods, presumably, if we don't eat meat, dairy, etc., we will need four times the amount of everything else we eat. What? They must imagine a vegan diet as something akin to a county fair all-you-can-eat-contest. Maybe they think we eat out of a big bucket. My evening meal?

They also make the wild claim that even if we eat bucketfuls of nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables, that we will all have serious vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. You just can't be healthy on a vegan diet say these unbiased animal agriculture professionals:
Looking at the nutritional content of crops now produced, the team also found that a plant-only system wouldn’t be able to meet the U.S. population’s requirements for calcium, vitamins A and B12, and a few key fatty acids. “With carefully balanced rations, you can meet all of your nutrient requirements with a vegetarian diet,” White says. “But the types of foods that seem to do that, we don’t currently produce in sufficient quantities to make it a sustainable diet for the entire population.”
What? We don't currently produce sufficient quantities of brightly colored vegetables and dark leafy greens? Wow. And unexplainably ignorant of basic nutrition.

One of the claims that sounds on its face like it might be a real problem is the questiomn of fertilizer. The authors seem to believe that everyone is fertilizing their fields with manure. As if. Here's what Wikipedia says about the production of modern fertilizers: "Nitrogen fertilizers are made from ammonia (NH3), which is sometimes injected into the ground directly. The ammonia is produced by the Haber-Bosch process. In this energy-intensive process, natural gas (CH4) usually supplies the hydrogen, and the nitrogen (N2) is derived from the air. This ammonia is used as a feedstock for all other nitrogen fertilizers, such as anhydrous ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and urea (CO(NH2)2)." No cows or manure involved. Discomfort with the various costs of these processes was an impetus for the organic farming movement.

But if we all embraced a vegan diet and also wanted it to be organic, that wouldn't be an issue either. By freeing up so much land, crop rotation and fallow fields over-planted with nitrogen fixing legumes would easily supply more than the space and fertile soil needed to grow a bounty of foods. And, greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatically reduced, ground water pollution and runoff from feedlots and dairies, etc. would end, people would be much healthier, we would end the farmed animal holocaust. That's win, win, win, win, win.

That's what would happen if all Americans went vegan.

Friday, November 3, 2017

No one should have kids, not even vegans.

A friend asked me to respond to a blogger’s argument that vegans should have kids.

The author, the mother of twins, makes the same argument that most modern somewhat progressive parents who decide to have children rely on. Because they are good people, their children will grow up to be good people. There is at least some evidence that no one can say with much certainty just how their children will turn out.

I’m going to address the arguments she expressed here:
Adoption is often suggested as the solution to overpopulation. Here’s a good breakdown of why that’s probably not true. [linked in the original] Even if adoption were a winning solution to overpopulation, is overpopulation really a problem everywhere equally? In some countries, yes, it’s most certainly an issue; in other countries, the government is offering as many incentives as it can to motivate more couples to have babies. I have two biological children, and I will not be having any more. My husband and I have simply replaced ourselves, and we’re working hard to ensure that our replacements will be kind, thoughtful, compassionate people who choose to remain vegans as adults, who will influence others to do the same, and who will probably do more than I ever have to help animals, the planet, and other humans. I think you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel too guilty about that. I think the world would be a nicer place if more vegans would do the same.
The post she points to as evidence that adoption probably doesn’t help reduce population says clearly and a couple of times that the data is extremely unclear. There isn’t much evidence to draw on. The article is interesting but far from conclusive. (The author of that article has a passel of children -- her own and adopted -- and raises goats.)

In any case, adoption would help with the overpopulation problem if the people adopting would have had children if they hadn’t adopted. It isn’t adoption that reduces population growth, it is not having children that reduces it.

She asks, “... is overpopulation really a problem everywhere equally?” and then answers her question: “In some countries, yes, it’s most certainly an issue; in other countries, the government is offering as many incentives as it can to motivate more couples to have babies.”

But overpopulation is a problem everywhere. Equally. The rainforests in Indonesia are not being destroyed because of overpopulation in Indonesia. Polar bears and penguins are not starving to death because of overpopulation at the poles. Corals are not dying because of too many sailors. Life on earth is interconnected; the population of humans worldwide has created an unsustainable demand for the space and other resources other animals need in order to survive, let alone flourish.

The current U.S, government denies that climate change is caused by us; pointing to governments’ policies as evidence that a problem does not exist is an unwise appeal to authority.

The hope that one’s children will be better people and amount to more than oneself is probably natural and maybe even universal. All sorts of justifications are available to people who decide to have children. None of them are part of the solution to the harm we are causing. Humans are killing the other beings who live here. Fewer humans means less harm. No one should have kids, not even vegans.

Finally, though the best thing we can do for the planet’s other inhabitants is to not have children, once someone is born, a baby, a calf, a kitten, a chick, we have an absolute obligation to treat them as we want to be treated. Once they are here, they count and have rights.

Stand Up to Cancer.

Game 4, 2017 World Series

“Colon cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death in men and women combined, affecting people of all ages. Surgery is often an option for those patients whose cancer is caught early, but sadly, we have just a few lines of treatment for patients with advanced disease. The hope is that our research will one day develop better therapies for patients whose cancer is too advanced for surgery.” Nita Ahuja, M.D., and Nilo Azad, M.D. The State of the Fight: Colon Cancer. Stand up to Cancer. (Here’s some info on the drug they are testing: Griffiths, E. A., et al. "SGI-110: DNA methyltransferase inhibitor oncolytic." Drugs of the future 38.8 (2013): 535.

Eat more hotdogs.

The World Health Organizations classifies processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen. "This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans.

In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer."

Friday, March 28, 2014 Press Release from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council"
WASHINGTON, D.C.-It's a love affair that has spanned generations and baseball fans will once again make hot dogs their number one choice at the ballparks this summer. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) estimates that fans will eat a whopping 21,357,316 hot dogs and 5,508,887 sausages during the 2014 Major League season, enough hot dogs to stretch from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to Wrigley Field in Chicago....

This year's total includes a new single season record for most hot dogs at one stadium as the Los Angeles Dodgers anticipate fans will consume 3,077,537 hot dogs, a jump of more than 800,000 hot dogs from last year. That is enough to round the bases at Dodger Stadium 4,274 times and based on last year's attendance, means if everyone had just one, 82 percent of fans at every Dodger home game will eat a hot dog.
Meanwhile, disease mongers define prevention as early diagnosis. Money can be made from studying a disease but not from pointing to an avoidable cause. And there is enough money in "early detection" to motivate it's promotion. But there's not a dime in telling people to stop eating animals. There's no money in it for the pharmaceutical industry, the disease "charities," or the vivisectors and their universities. People can't be told to stop eating animals, the potential monetary costs to the meat industry are astronomical.

It's win-win for everyone but the people who get sick.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Vivisectors Unite!

A friend sent me a new example of the seeming endless stream self-serving pro-vivisection propaganda. (More Institutional Support for Animal Research Is Needed. Opinion. Mar Sanchez. Inside Higher Ed. October 19, 2017.) At first, it seemed pretty typical: Christine Lattin, a morally bereft bird vivisector at Yale University who was called out by Peta, was being defended by Mar Sanchez, a morally bereft monkey vivisector at the Yerkes primate death camp. It was somewhat, if darkly, humorous that monkey vivisector Sanchez, was urging more institutional support for vivisectors. I mean, come on. The institutions already provide them with lavish salaries, require almost no work from them, shield the details of their cruelties and violations from the public, make ridiculous claims about the potential value of their work, spend huge sums to build them laboratories, and provide them with golden retirement parachutes. More support? Yeah, right.

But all that is just the regular bill-of-fare. A vivisector was called out and another vivisector said vivisection is great. What caught my eye was mention of the University of Wisconsin, Madison by Sanchez. She starts out: “The University of Wisconsin Madison is a leading example of institutional openness on animal research and preparedness to respond to animal-rights extremists.”

Now, I don’t expect a Yerkes monkey vivisector to know too awful much about UW-Madison’s openness about it animal research, but it does seem like she would do a little checking before making a claim like that. Or, of course, maybe she’s right and UW-Madison is indeed a leading example of what passes as institutional openness about the atrocities occurring in its labs.

Coincidentally, the very same day that the editorial from Sanchez was published, Oct. 19, 2017, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Animal Legal Defense Fund had prevailed in a lawsuit they had filed almost exactly three years earlier regarding records that the university had refused to give them in response to a public records request. (Animal rights group wins court fight for UW monkey research records. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Oct. 19, 2017.)

The records in question were related to monkey vivisectors Ned Kalin and Richard Davidson, who were planning on maternally depriving infant rhesus monkeys. They claimed it was a well-known and proven method of causing anxiety in infant monkeys, citing the cruelties of his infamous predecessor at the university, Harry Harlow.

After I discovered and publicized their plans, a couple of years of campaigning led to them abandoning that small part of the project with the wild explanation that he had discovered that maternal deprivation really doesn’t cause anxiety in infant monkeys. Paradoxically, Sanchez has cited and used Harlow’s methods in her own nightmarish experiments on infant monkeys to disrupt their “emotional regulatory brain circuits,” precisely what Kalin wanted to do. An aside, when I looked at the piece in Inside Higher Ed, it had one comment. It was from Rick Born, a monkey vivisector from Harvard. He thought it was a great piece.

And, in fact, the University of Wisconsin, Madison has a long, extensive, and well documented history of obfuscation and stonewalling. The exemplar case, involving Ned Kalin’s experiments on the brain chemistry of fear in his monkey victims, was the university’s decision to destroy 628 videotapes and myriad other records documenting decades of research at the Wisconsin primate center to keep the Kalin tape from being seen by the public. Sanchez’s claim: “The University of Wisconsin Madison is a leading example of institutional openness on animal research and preparedness to respond to animal-rights extremists,” was just more of the same confused, inaccurate gibberish fed to a gullible public to advance the fortunes of some of the most unethical and morally bereft people on the planet.

But as quirky and oddly coincidental as all that cruelty and false claims are, they were not what grabbed my attention. In the article, Sanchez pointed to the “the Common Ground on Animal Research Initiative within the university and the surrounding community,” an “initiative” being led by the university’s prior PR front man, Eric Sandgren. That surreal reality warp is what caught my attention.

Eric Sandgren’s “Common Ground on Animal Research Initiative”

(If you are landing on this page, Vivisectors Unite! will provide some context.)

For at least the two previous decades, University of Wisconsin, Madison’s previous chief spokesperson for all things vivisection Eric Sangren’s university webpage has been “under construction.” He had been the director of the university’s Research Animal Resources Center and a part-time vivisector up until 2015. There was a news blurb somewhere that I can’t now locate that quoted him saying something to the effect that he was looking forward to getting back to his research and doing more teaching. He has finally gotten to his webpage and is using it to promote something he is calling the Common Ground on Animal Research initiative.

His description of his “initiative” gives me the creeps. Much of what he says is out of sync with history and much of it is frank propaganda. It suggests some muddled thinking. Maybe after decades of having to twist his words to deflect the public’s concerns it has become hard to think or write in a clear and straightforward manner.

He could have been much more straightforward, but maybe he recognized he couldn’t or oughtn’t. If he had been straightforward he would have said that he found personal satisfaction in defending vivisectors and trying to convince the public that the university’s animal welfare violations, state law violations, cover-ups, stonewalling, lies, and misleading propaganda are not important. He could have said that he misses being a spin doctor and seeing his name in the news.

Secondary to his probable self-interested motives, his initiative’s goal is plainly the public’s acceptance of hurting and killing animals in the name of medical science. The appeal to medical science though is slight-of-hand, perhaps unrecognized even by those using it; it dresses up his, the university’s, and the near-universal moral position on the treatment of animals generally. Sandgren was at one time, prior to its forced dissolution, the chair of a sort of super animal use oversight committee called the All Campus Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. One of the committees under its authority was the College of Agriculture Animal Care and Use Committee. The status quo of animals being food was never questioned in the minutes of the All Campus committee. If an animal’s life is less important than the taste of the sausage she is turned into, an appeal to a cure for cancer seems an unnecessarily highfalutin justification for killing them.

Simply, to Sandgren and the university, animals’ lives are less important than the taste of their flesh. That bedrock status quo makes any defense of hurting them in a lab wholly unnecessary. Why bother with some pie in the sky possibility that in some distant day in the future some terrible thing done to animals will be of benefit to a small number of humans?

Sangdren writes:
As part of the first common ground initiative, I have established a new program of research in the social sciences. Members of the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) are world-recognized experts in studying how people make decisions about complex scientific issues that have strong ethical, political, and social components. Simply trying to “present the facts” does not constitute effective communication.... I will apply what LSC is learning about science communication to the issue of animals in research. ...
Over the years, I’ve noticed that many life science related articles centered on the use of animals that one reads in the popular press are written by people who have come out of university science writing programs. It is my impression that they are largely pro-animal use propaganda. UW-Madison’s Life Sciences Communications program is part of the College of Agriculture. The description of the program and the expected career paths of its graduates reinforces my impression about the nature and intent of these programs:
Undergraduate courses in the Department of Life Sciences Communication focus not only on writing, editing, and producing messages, but also on planning, designing, and evaluating effective communication programs....

About one-third of LSC students pursue double majors, combining their interest in communication with another discipline, such as animal sciences, forest and wildlife ecology, or entomology. These students have been particularly attractive to prospective employers.

Our graduates get jobs as reporters, editors, advertising and marketing professionals, technical writers, broadcast producers, and public information staff at universities, and in many other science- and agriculture-related industries.

Students can complete an undergraduate major in LSC under two concentrations:

Communication Strategy
Focuses on the skills and theory necessary to effectively communicate with audiences in the life sciences context, while satisfying the long-term strategic goals of an organization. This concentration includes courses in advertising, social marketing, and risk communication.

Communication Skills and Technologies
Focuses on the skills required to translate organized information into informative and persuasive messages for a variety of media, such as news writing, documentary photography, publications editing, web design, and video production.
So, apparently, the goal is to produce writers who can write persuasive messages for their employers. That is, by definition, propaganda. So, Sandgren wants to hook up with the Collage of Agriculture’s propaganda writing program to develop “communication models” that “help an audience make good decisions about if, when, and how animal research can be acceptable, and to understand the consequences of those decisions.” Creepy.

But Sandgren has already embraced one of the standard models of hoodwinking the public about the use of animals at his and the other zillion animal labs around the world. Vivisectors have embraced the ruse that the animals in the labs are treated well and that the people who hurt and kill them also care about them. There’s some double-talk for you. Sandgren writes:
The second common ground initiative seeks to measure and improve research animal wellbeing through scientific identification of ways to improve animal care, and development and application of tools to quantify wellbeing. This line of research builds on my training and experience as a veterinarian, and takes advantage of the outstanding animal research capabilities at UW-Madison.
A little more than a decade ago, Sandgren attended a meeting of the Alliance for Animals’ antivivisection committee. One of the first things he told us was that he had just adopted two cats and was very surprised by the differences in their personalities. How could a veterinarian not have known that all animals are individuals? Well, largely and until somewhat recently, schools of veterinary medicine were primarily focused on producing veterinarians to assist farmers. The veterinarians and veterinary students I have known have been in general agreement that the programs are desensitizing and do not promote a caring ethic.

Also, it seems from his CV that Sandgren has never been a practicing veterinarian. He learned a little bit about the biology of a few species, but he seems never to have been responsible for caring for them.

He graduated after four years of study from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. To get a sense of the culture of vet schools during the time Sandgren was a student, he once volunteered his opinion on the Thomas Gennarelli case, at the the University of Pennsylvania which made national headlines in 1984. He said that he didn’t think at the time that there was much going on in the lab to be concerned about.

So, when Sandgren says that one of his goals is to improve animal care, develop and apply tools to quantify wellbeing, and build on his training and experience as a veterinarian, it rings hollow. Particularly in light of him defending every horror at UW-Madison that came to light during his decades of tenure as the chair of the All Campus animal use oversight committee and director of the Research Animal Resource Center. No, this flimflam is the standard bill-of-fare from the vivisectors. Nothing new, just more of the same muddying the waters so the public can’t see what lurks below. Maybe the new part is that he says matter-of-factly that he wants to get the School of Ag’s propagandists more involved. Creepy.

Sandgren writes:
Mission statement for the wellbeing initiative: “When using animals in research, teaching, or outreach, we must acknowledge our responsibility to maximize animal wellbeing, as measured at the level of the individual animal, each animal care and use protocol, and the entire animal program. We have established three objectives that address this responsibility. First, we will support scientific studies to identify best practices in the provision of species-specific medical, environmental, and social wellbeing. Second, we will develop metrics to quantify animal pain, distress, or long-term impairment caused by experimental procedures or animal husbandry. Third, we will demonstrate how to apply these metrics to achieve significant and continuous improvements in animal wellbeing, as consistent with both sound science and rigorous ethical review of every proposed animal use.”
This is a crock. The first step in maximizing animal wellbeing is to stop hurting them. A couple other easy steps: Stop breeding them. Stop buying them. Stop putting them in cages. Stop paying people to hurt them. Stop defending those who hurt them. Just stop.

Rigorous ethical review my ass. Like the lip service given to wellbeing, this is rhetoric intended to hoodwink the public. The last thing the industry wants is rigorous ethical review. Currently, there isn’t any ethical review, rigorous or otherwise. I suspect the vivisectors understand that rigorous ethical review would be a death knell for the industry.

And “sound science,” what the heck does that mean in the context of an animal lab? I suspect that an average reader would assume, if they took a moment to ponder the notion, that at the very least, it would mean not doing the same thing over and over again if what you are doing isn’t working. But, in fact, most of what is happening in the vivisection labs is not sound science. It is dressed up to look like science, but more than not, it is redundant dead-end cruelty that continues only because it is what the vivisectors have always done and other vivisectors in positions of authority keep sending money their way to keep it up. Sheesh.

And here’s the creepiest thing of all:
I have developed a course entitled “Addressing Controversy: The Science, Ethics, and Communication of Animal Research”, to be offered to undergraduate students in the spring of 2017. This course builds on my appreciation for the complexity of communicating scientific issues like research with animals, in which ethical, political, and social considerations may have as much or more impact on people’s opinions as do facts. This course has two overarching goals. The first is to provide a background in the rationale and history of animal use in science, ethical principles relevant to this subject, and key requirements that have been identified for effectively communicating about complex science of this type. Second, the course will give students experience in critiquing and then creating presentations that incorporate both the benefits and costs of animal research. The overall objective is to guide students to develop honest and well-justified views of animal research, and learn how to communicate those views to others. This course is a part of my larger research program that seeks to develop and share validated models of communication about animal research that avoid the “sound bite” approaches typically used in the debate. I plan to develop course alternatives that can be offered to either advanced or beginning undergraduates, as well as students in K-12.
Vivisectors targeting children, using tax-payer money to do so. That sounds unethical to me.

Over and above this unethical use of public funds to promote his personal agenda, I think it is particularly problematic because of the unbalanced power relationship between an instructor and their students. I don’t think it is possible for a dishonest person to guide anyone in an honest evaluation of the very thing that the instructor has lied about.

Sandgren says that he has involved UW ethicist Robert Streiffer in the development of his Initiative. That doesn’t speak too well for the university’s philosophy department. Quite simply, anathema to academic philosophers perhaps, some ethical/moral issues are not complex. Eating animals is not a complicated moral conundrum. Slavery isn’t either. Or raping children. Or nuclear war. There is not meaningful nuance in everything. Some things are plainly wrong. Vivisection is plainly wrong.


Sandgren points to four examples of his public communications and outreach on his website:

“Using Animals in Research: A Debate”, debate at UW-Madison with activist Rick Bogle, 3-23-2006.

“Are Animal Models Predictive for Humans?”, debate at UW-Madison with activist Dr. Ray Greek, 7-26-2007. [Transcript]

“Animal Research Ethics Discussion”, debate at UW-Madison with bioethicist Jeffry Kahn about UW-Professor Ned Kalin’s controversial research with monkeys, 10-9-2014.

“Animal Research Regulations and Oversight”, lecture and panel discussion for UW-Madison FARE, 12-11-2014.

A couple he missed:

Primate Research at UW - For The Record 2008 - YouTube Monkey experiment controversy |

The Ethics of Animal Research
A Forum addressing the topic of animal, and more specifically primate research at the University of Wisconsin. undated
Rick Bogle, Alliance for Animals
Prof. John Webster, Biomedical Engineering
Eric Sandgren, Dir. UW Research Animal Resource Center
Moderator: Michael Schuler Parish Minister
First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin

Friday, September 29, 2017

Killing Dangerous Animals

The article, “Why pit bulls will break your heart,” from the on-line magazine Animals 24-7, was posted to Facebook earlier this week (September 24, 2017); it had been published in the magazine in January. It was written by Beth Clifton, the magazine's social media and photo editor. Beth is married to the magazine’s editor Merritt Clifton, who at one time wrote and published the widely-read Animal People monthly newspaper.

The Cliftons have written numerous articles critical of pit bulls. In an article from January 16, 2017, “Purging the pit bull cancer from the heart & soul of animal advocacy,” they wrote: "At this writing, barely two weeks into 2017, nine of the most recent 30 articles posted to ANIMALS 24-7 have documented various aspects of pit bull proliferation and the consequences thereof."

To an extent, I agree with them. Pit bulls should be banned. (I’d make the unlicensed breeding of all animals illegal, and I’d make it devilishly difficult to get a license.) I think a ban on pit bulls is a reasonable place to start if someone decides to attack the problems associated with keeping pets in general, breed by breed. The fact that pit bulls are so likely to be used in ways that cause them great harm is reason enough to start with them.

Beth Clifton’s article was the story of her experience with a pit bull she adopted as a puppy. She named him Trooper. Trooper had a series of serious medical problems, had an unstable early life, and he was aggressive at times. He was involved in a fight with another pit bull that resulted in serious injury to both. Beth says that she was not comfortable having her grand children be near Trooper. When he “demonstrated” that “he would have done [a] tortoise grave injury,” she choose to have Trooper killed.

Jonathon Paul, a long time animal activist, commented: "Why would you make the choice that this dog must die? What gives you that right? Don't get me wrong as a deep ecologist and a vegan I believe we have to breed out all domestic animals out of existence and allow all the wild ones to thrive, although the difference between us is that I am not going to just kill an animal because I don't think it should be here I advocate more of stopping breeding by spay neuter, and this also includes humans. I do no understand the animal welfarist point of view....."

I commented: "I agree with Jonathan. Sometimes it helps to recast the situation by replacing other animals with humans and looking at the situation. I do not think the State has the right to kill someone convicted of any crime. Dangerous humans might have to be kept in prison, but it seems unethical to me to execute them. If we ought not execute proven very dangerous humans we should not kill potentially or proven dangerous dogs. To me, the philosophy of animal rights is identical to the Golden Rule applied to all sentient beings."

Merritt Clifton replied: "What about the rights to life & safety of other dogs, gopher tortoises, small children, et al? The late Tom Regan and Peter Singer would have made exactly the same choice that Beth did, as Tom explained to me personally when we discussed pit bulls, years before I met Beth. Neither any widely accepted theory of animal rights nor any tenet of the generally pro-life Buddhist and Hindu religions precludes killing a demonstrably dangerous animal to prevent harm to oneself & others, as Mohandas Gandhi, for one, explained at length in an essay specifically about the necessity of killing dangerous dogs."

Merritt’s appeal to authority notwithstanding, his reply unintentionally goes to the heart of the animal rights debate. In general, should we treat other animals the way we think other humans should be treated? I think we should, the Cliftons believe otherwise. This matters because Merritt Clifton has spent a goodly portion of his life writing about things going on in the animal rights movement. He has always appeared to be a part of the movement, though he might think of himself simply as a reporter. In any case, he tries to influence public opinion. On the matter of killing nuisance animals, he runs way off track.

In the U.S., in 2016, only 20 humans were executed. And all of those were killed only after extensive legal proceedings. Nineteen states have banned the death penalty altogether. No state has made inconvenience a capital offense.

Beth Clifton responded to Jonathan Paul: “The answer to your question Jonathan ‘why would I make the choice that this dog must die?’ If you thoroughly read my essay about Trooper and I, you have your answer. And I believe your compassion for animals should be extended to ALL of them, both human and non-human. We don't know each other all that well, but when I met you at the AR conference, you were sincere and I immediately took a liking to you so this is why I am answering your comment. My decision to euthanize Trooper was to protect my family and as the matriarch of my family it was my right and duty! I would do it again. You never knew Trooper, and you don't really know me. And it is so typical of many in the animal rights movement to judge before understanding the issues. You may be willing to risk harm to those around you. I had the intelligence, compassion and empathy to avoid a tragedy that was 100% avoidable!"

Jonathon Paul replied: "I did read the article Beth Clifton. Just don't see eye to eye with you. I am not also the typical animal rights activist however you seem to be the typical animal welfarist. I would agree that domestic animals are and can be a problem mostly because they have been created by humans. As a deep ecologist and vegan I feel we should our breed out of existence all domestic animals but not necessarily exterminate them. The part that makes me the most uncomfortable is the attitude of controlling and deciding the fate of other creatures while we don't even consider the most dangerous and aggressive species on the planet and that is the human race. All I know is that I could not euthanize a dog I raised from a puppy because I wanted to remove a potential problem."

Beth Clifton: "I never claimed to be an “animal rights” anything! Frankly many of you seem to be extremists! Furthermore, public safety is not at the top of their agenda or yours apparently. I consider myself a free thinker and I don’t have to follow anyone’s party line. You seem to be old school ALF. And by saying you are a deep ecologist explains your approval of fighting dogs as pets. If you hold that we as humans are an invasive species, pit bulls will take care of that problem. I feel better about our disagreement Jonathan. You hold extreme beliefs that I could never philosophically agree with."

To me, aggressiveness and inconvenience do not justify killing anyone. I thought that, perhaps, the Clifton’s focus on pit bulls might have led to a sort of ethical myopia, so I tried reframing the matter in other terms. I asked: “Merritt Clifton, what if Trooper had been a lion? Adopted as a cub, with the thought that maybe he could learn to get along with other animals in the house? When Trooper the lion began, well, being a lion, would you recommend killing him?”

Merritt Clifton replied: "If your aunt had balls, would she be your uncle? I deal in realities, not hypotheticals."

His humorous quip and follow-up sidestepped the question altogether, perhaps he could foresee the problems ahead had he tried; he seems to have decided to punt rather than to think. But what if Trooper had been a chimpanzee who had actually hurt a human rather than a dog who might one day hurt a tortoise? Apparently, from the many comments in the thread, those who supported Beth Clifton would have said either, yes, kill the chimpanzee (they would have used the common euphemism no doubt), or else it’s OK to kill a dog but not a chimpanzee. Likewise, they must either support the death penalty for humans, or else argue that the death penalty applies only to animals.

Moreover, with regard to animals, they would have to argue that the decision to kill an animal is the owner’s alone. Convention aside, I do not hold to the notion that I have ever owned any of the animals with whom I have spent my life, and I don't have the right to kill them.

In response to my question about whether she would have chosen to kill an aggressive lion, Beth responded: “Rick, come on, lol, please re-read the article for the details. Susan summed it up very succinctly.”

The succinct statement Beth referred to was this: “Pit bulls are sold to the public as domesticated family pets. It is a lie of course. Many people believe that lie. Normal dogs do not suddenly and with no provocation attack people and other animals. To compare pit bulls to wild animals is accurate but the fly in the ointment is the lies told to the public that pit bulls are perfectly wonderful family pets when they aren’t.”

And that, the Clifton’s et al. seemingly agree, makes it OK to kill them.

Two final things: here's an example of a more respectful way to deal with animals who might pose a danger to others.

There are situations that might morally require us to kill someone. I've read of Jews escaping the Nazis inadvertently smothering their infants when trying to keep them quiet to protect everyone in the group. I've personally killed a few animals whose pain had become unmanageable as the result of aggressive cancers or inoperable terminal conditions involving intractable pain. Killing isn't in and of itself wrong, but killing someone who has become a liability, a nuisance, or an inconvenience, in most instances, definitely is.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Slow News Day at NIH

“NIH-funded mouse study sheds light on neural risks associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.”

“The team administered alcohol to pregnant mice at levels that resulted in peak blood alcohol concentrations approximately like those of people who either drink socially or who have severe alcohol use disorder. They then examined fetal brain cell response to alcohol and two other environmental stressors --hydrogen peroxide and methyl mercury—all known to induce oxidative stress...”.


Project Number: 1R21AA024882-01A1
Total Funding: $207,813.
Direct Costs: $118,750. Indirect Costs: $89,063

Project Number: 1R01AA025215-01
Total Funding: $368,513.
Direct Costs: $210,579. Indirect Costs: $157,934

BIOMARKER FOR INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY IN CHILDREN PRENATALLY EXPOSED TO ALCOHOL [“The Hashimoto-Torii lab will perform the single-cell droplet digital PCR- based biomarker analyses (drop-PCR) with both human and mouse blood samples. The Torii lab will collect the mouse blood samples, perform comprehensive mouse behavior analyses, and statistically evaluate potential correlations between the animal behaviors and drop-PCR results.”] Project Number: 1UH2AA026106-01 Total Funding: $261,791.
Direct Costs: $157,340. Indirect Costs: $104,451


In 2007, it was reported that women who received 10- to 15-minutes of counseling from a nutritionist about the risks of drinking were 5 times more likely to report abstinence during their pregnancy. [O’Connor, Mary J., and Shannon E. Whaley. "Brief intervention for alcohol use by pregnant women." American journal of public health 97.2 (2007): 252-258.]

Friday, June 16, 2017

Up is Down, or Happy Lab Rats

It seems to be a law of human nature that whenever someone or some group is routinely doing something evil, and the public learns of it, the person or group denies it and is compelled to dress it up in a way that is nearly or even exactly the opposite of reality.

The propaganda from people and organizations whose incomes rest squarely on hurting and killing animals in the name of $cience are examples of this phenomena. For as long as I have been reading about the use of animals in science, people like me have have been pointing to the terrible things occurring in the labs, while the people working in or in support of the labs have been claiming that the people hurting and killing the animals care about them and respect them.

Most of the images above come from a somewhat new website created by the not-so-new Americans for Medical Progress, whose name is an Orwellian twist on the group's actual work and goal which is clearly the defense and promotion of vivisection.

This strategy isn't new. Not at all.

As criticism of slavery in the South escalated, pro-slavery propaganda made absurd claims about how much slave owners cared for their slaves and how very happy they were.

The National Holocaust Memorial Museum explains that in response to growing international awareness of Nazi atrocities, that the Red Cross was allowed to visit the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia.

"Elaborate measures were taken to disguise conditions in the ghetto and to portray an atmosphere of normalcy. This footage, showing an orchestral performance, is part of a German propaganda film made following the Red Cross visit to Theresienstadt."

The term used for such intentional deceit, the effort to make those on the outside think things on the inside are much better than they are, is Potemkin village.
To my knowledge, the most extreme case(s) of using a Potemkin village to delude people are the websites run by the vivisection industry's lobbyists and front groups. They vary a bit, but a common deception is the use of images of attractive people holding seemingly happy animals in a friendly manner, but that representation is a facade that hides a cold and gruesome reality.

These images serve the same purpose as the drawings of happy slaves and the Nazi's staging at Theresienstadt. They are intended only to deceive.

It seems that the elaboration of the facades, the absurdity of the falsehoods, increase in step with the degree of horror the perpetrators are trying to hide. Covering up and hiding atrocities is always despicable. It is particularly odious when taxpayer-funded entities become participants. At that point, it is tantamount to government trying to fool the public into believing something that is the opposite of what it is actually doing and paying others to do.

Treason is the term used when a citizen betrays their country; I don’t think there is a word for government hoodwinking citizens, but betrayal comes close.

The reality hidden behind the smiling faces is much different.

USDA inspection reports, the materials and methods sections of published papers, undercover videos and photographs reveal an altogether different world than the happy nonsense and fake news from the industry's propagandists. To them, the animals are disposable.

Plain unalterable facts make it clear that in many cases the animals are treated poorly. And even when they are treated relatively well, it is a prelude to their eventual use. In essentially all cases, their living conditions are severely constrained and commonly bleak.

There is no way to dress up vivisection without a gross misrepresentation of the plain facts.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Speaking of misleading people...

There is a big and important difference between being wrong and trying to fool people. Anyone who writes very much about things done in secret is bound to get things wrong every now and then. But knowing the truth and telling people something different is a whole other matter.

When one knows the truth, but tells someone something different, to financially benefit oneself, it is an example of the worse sort of lying. It will come as no shock to my regular readers to learn that a very recent case of this sort of swindle involves the group of self-interested vivisectors who misleadingly call themselves Speaking of Research.

The group wrote on their website something they titled “Open letter: Private workshop on the “necessity” of monkey research does not represent broad public interests or the scientific community.” (Isn’t everything on a public website an “open letter”?)

They were up in arms that Jeffrey Kahn, Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, had the gall and timidity to convene a workshop centered around the question of using monkeys in biomedical research. How dare he, they complained, since the NIH (forced by concerns from member of Congress) put on a workshop less than a year earlier (“Continued Responsible Oversight of Research with Non-Human Primates”) that came to the (NIH-wanted) conclusion that the use of primates in NIH-funded research was just as it should be.

To understand the fullness of their deceit, you should review what transpired at the NIH “workshop.” It was a sham, a show-trial for those pesky members of Congress.

Continued Responsible Oversight - Part 1
Continued Responsible Oversight - Part 2
Continued Responsible Oversight - Part 3 (Which you might want to read first.)

Speaking made the outlandish claim: “The scientific community has publicly weighed in on the necessity of primate research,” and pointed to hundreds of vivisectors who support the continued use of primates. (Previously, Speaking was all hot and bothered by the change in U.S. policy regarding the use of chimpanzees.) But the “scientific community” has decidedly not weighed in. Moreover, since it is claimed that science per se is morally neutral, opinions held by scientists on moral questions should not have more weight than anyone else’s. Particularly not when the opining scientists have a clear vested interest in the answer to the question. Examples of scientists accepting cash and then providing a wanted scientific opinion for a company or industry are legion.

The claim that the “scientific community” has weighed in is also very misleading. A tiny number, relative to the size of the entire scientific community, have voiced an opinion, and the opinions of those who have, have been cherry-picked by the vivisection community to bolster their claim that without experiments on animals all medical progress will screech to a halt and babies will die.

But nearly all of those who have added their names to the claim that we must keep hurting and killing monkeys are financially vested in the practice or in the practice of hurting and killing other animals. Characterizing this extraordinarily biased constituency as the “scientific community” is either a grandiose delusion or else just simple propaganda, in other words, a lie. Here’s the vivisection community’s spiel which includes a list of the people who signed on in agreement: “Primate research is crucial if we are to find cures for diseases like Parkinson's.” The Guardian, 9-16.

Reading down the list of people who added their names, almost all have clear professional and financial ties to animal experimentation. It’s like saying that the energy production community says that without coal we won’t have electricity and to prove it, here’s a letter saying so signed by coal company executives and miners.

Moreover, Speaking says that the conclusion of the NIH-convened workshop, stacked with those vested in the system, proves that everything is as it should be, but the self-serving nature of the workshop was blatant.

Speaking’s criticism that the Johns Hopkins workshop on the necessity of monkey research did not represent “broad public interests or the scientific community” is ludicrous. Polls show that public opinion is shifting, with a clear majority of women opposed to animal experimentation. Published surveys have shown unequivocally that the general public has significantly more concern over the use of primates than the use of rodents.

It is clear that the Johns Hopkins workshop was much more in tune with broad public interests than the silly and staged NIH workshop, let alone vivisectors’ self-serving endorsement of hurting and killing more monkeys.

In looking at the publications on this topic, I happened across one in Science that reported on the changes in a response that resulted from changes in the words used in the questions asked by pollsters. [How much does the public support animal research? Depends on the question Science 9-14.)] In the U.K., people seem to be more supportive of “animal research” than they are of “animal experimentation.” That begs the question of whether any words can adequately express what is being asked in such polls. It would tell us much more about public opinion if people could get a good idea what they are being asked about.

Let’s educate people about what is done to the animals, how they are stored, and how the data from the experiments is used. They should see videos of the animals in the cages and bins, and of the animals being used, and be provided with an accounting of the clinical benefits or lack thereof that resulted, and then asked whether they are comfortable paying for it all. Don’t hold your breath though, such video documentation is vigorously guarded by the vivisection community; the very last thing they want is an informed public.

Speaking’s protestation notwithstanding, it is awesome that ethicists are looking more seriously at our treatment of those less powerful but no less sensitive or deserving than ourselves.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

How Like Us Need They Be?

Rick Bogle, 2002
Revised and presented at Kindred Spirits, Indiana University. September 9, 2006.


The laboratory use of monkeys and apes is a potent backdrop for discussing the human/animal relationship. Laboratory research with nonhuman primates has contributed significantly to the large and growing body of evidence that mind is not a uniquely human trait. This knowledge has emerged partly from a century of usually harmful laboratory experiments on monkeys. It is today’s national standard that evidence of mind in another species is an appropriate and sufficient justification for nearly any harm we might wish to impose on them in biomedical or behavioral studies associated with brain function. The evidence gathered by past and current research, when considered alongside the harm we cause in the labs, necessitates a reexamination of our relationship with other species. How similar to us do animals have to be before harming them should be deemed criminal? How like us need they be?

The behavioral repertoire of nonhuman primates is highly evolved and includes advanced problem-solving capabilities, complex social relationships, and sensory acuity equal or superior to humans.(1)

Thomas M. Burbacher and Kimberly S. Grant
Few individuals with more than a passing knowledge of who monkeys and apes are would argue with the assertions being made by Burbacher and Grant. But such an understanding tends to segregate people into one of two groups. Either, like Burbacher and Grant, they see the close similarities between human and nonhuman primates as an opportunity for exploitation, or else, like a growing segment of society, they see the affinities between the primate species as cause for concern, especially in light of the ways that nonhuman primates are being used in the labs.

When Jeremy Bentham wrote:
The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor (see Lewis XIV's Code Noir). It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?(2)
he meant that the similarities between species, even between races, are, in fact, the point on which decisions regarding our interactions with others should turn.

Burbacher and Grant, quoted above, are representative of the group that sees similarity as an opportunity to exploit without much pause for the ethical questions that, for others, spring so readily to mind. Burbacher and Grant reinforce their position quite strongly:
Nonhuman primates are capable of advanced behaviors that share important and fundamental parallels with humans. These parallels include highly developed cognitive abilities and binding social relationships. The behavioral repertoire of these animals makes them valuable models for research on the functional effects of exposure to neurotoxic agents.(3)
Apparently, the “important and fundamental parallels” and the “highly developed cognitive abilities and binding social relationships” that many primate species share are insufficient, in the minds of Burbacher and Grant, to suggest, by way of Bentham, that these animals should not be “abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor.” The neurotoxic agents considered by Burbacher and Grant include methylmercury, methanol, PCBs, lead, as well as other neuroactive agents such as cocaine, LSD, morphine, and PCP. They comment, “Drugs such as phencyclidine (PCP) produced an overall disruptive effect on all test measures.”

The cognitive abilities of monkeys and apes have increasingly been shown to be strikingly like the cognitive abilities of humans. Some of those uncovering these abilities have realized that there is an implication to such discovery. Fagot, Wasserman and Young, writing with regard to their own work on abstract conceptualization in baboons note: “To be sure, the stakes are high. What is at issue is no arcane point, but the very distinction between the minds of human beings and nonhuman animals.”(4)

As the distinction between the mind of a human and the mind of a monkey becomes more subtle and less easily defined, it becomes more obvious that the moral distinctions we make throughout our dealings with them must be more carefully considered. This, also, is no arcane point. Approximately sixty thousand nonhuman primates are used in the U.S. alone every year for various scientific and educational purposes.(6) The methods used to raise, house, and utilize these animals are inherently cruel.(5) These practices result in much mental duress and, not uncommonly, physical pain and death.

Harry Harlow used the similarity between young rhesus monkeys and human infants to study the nature of love. He understood clearly, even in 1958, that the two species’ similarities are such that what is learned about the emotions and psyches of one species informs us of the emotions and psyches of the other.
The macaque infant differs from the human infant in that the monkey is more mature at birth and grows more rapidly; but the basic responses relating to affection, including nursing, contact, clinging, and even visual and auditory exploration, exhibit no fundamental differences in the two species. Even the development of perception, fear, frustration, and learning capability follows very similar sequences in rhesus monkeys and human children.(7)
Harlow used these similarities to the detriment of the baby monkeys on whom he experimented. He showed that rhesus monkeys reared without contact with others – monkeys or humans – developed severe mental problems and behavioral aberrations. He apparently missed altogether, the most profound implication of his work – the moral implications raised by the similarity of emotional need between the species. He seems to have missed the implication of the claim that what is learned about the mind of one of the primate species informs us of the minds of the other species. Thus, what would hurt us also hurts them in very similar and familiar ways.

This similarity and familiarity with the minds of other primates is not surprising. Charles Darwin pointed out there should be a continuum of attributes throughout all species, with the most similar attributes being found in the nearest relatives. We should be able to recognize the emotions being experienced by chimpanzees and monkeys precisely because we are all so closely related. This close relationship means that much about us, about the way we perceive and feel, is the same.

Researchers studying the neurological basis of emotion have exploited our similarities in a manner that suggests that they too have missed the more profound moral implications of the familial relationship that exists within the primate order. David Amaral, at the University of California, Davis, and Ned Kalin, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, experiment on the emotion centers of monkeys’ brains. The techniques used by these scientists are similar.

The amygdala is the almond-shaped region of the brain involved in basic emotions such as fear, anger and aggression. There is an amygdala in each hemisphere of the brain. Amaral and Kalin destroy or otherwise damage these structures in monkeys’ brains and then observe the changes in the monkeys’ behavior.

The monkeys used by Kalin and Amaral are macaques. These monkeys have amygdalae relatively larger than human amygdalae.(8) Comparative neurophysiology suggests that the emotions experienced by these animals are more intense and central to their lives than are the emotions experienced by humans.(9) As relatively reduced as emotional experiences must be in humans, we recognize them to be a fundamental part of our innermost being.

Kalin provides a description of one facet of his work:
“In nonhuman primates, we are examining behavioral and physiological correlates of human anxiety. We have identified a fearful endophenotype that is characterized by high levels of trait anxiety, a specific pattern of prefrontal brain electrical activity, and increased levels of stress hormones in the blood and in the brain. We have developed new techniques to selectively lesion the primate amygdala and these studies have provided new insights into the role of the amygdala in mediating acute fearful responses as compared to states of long term anxiety.”(10)
Amaral et al. write:
The amygdaloid complex is a prominent temporal lobe region that is associated with "emotional" information processing. Studies in the rodent have also recently implicated the amygdala in the processing and modulation of pain sensation, the experience of which involves a considerable emotional component in humans. In the present study, we sought to establish the relevance of the amygdala to pain modulation in humans by investigating the contribution of this region to antinociceptive processes in nonhuman primates. Using magnetic resonance imaging guidance, the amygdaloid complex was lesioned bilaterally in six rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) through microinjection of the neurotoxin ibotenic acid. This procedure resulted in substantial neuronal cell loss in all nuclear subdivisions of this structure. (11)
Amaral writes to justify one federal grant with an implicit statement of the similarity between monkeys and humans:
[C]omplete amygdala lesions will be produced in neonatal macaque monkeys. The effects of these lesions on mother-infant and juvenile-juvenile interactions will be evaluated. Future studies (when the neonates have matured) will analyze dyadic and tetradic social interactions and thus allow comparisons of the severity of effects of neonatal or mature amygdala lesions on social behavior. During these experiments, the pituitary-adrenal activation of lesioned and control monkeys in response to social and restraint stressors will also be analyzed. These studies will provide important insights into the neurobiology of normal social behavior and may contribute to an understanding of pathologies of social communication in disorders such as autism.(12)
The similarities between the primate species’ minds, emotions, and social behaviors are being relied on and used as justifications for modern experiments on the brains of awake, usually restrained, monkeys. Commonly, the monkeys are required to perform some cognitive task in order to receive a small food reward or a few drops of liquid. It is a standard procedure in these types of studies to deprive the monkeys of food and/or water in order to motivate them to perform for the vivisector. The clear recognition that monkeys and humans have minds and thought processes that are very similar motivates some scientists to utilize them as experimental subjects in these ways, as at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
The ability to abstract principles or rules from direct experience allows behaviour to extend beyond specific circumstances to general situations. For example, we learn the 'rules' for restaurant dining from specific experiences and can then apply them in new restaurants. The use of such rules is thought to depend on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) because its damage often results in difficulty in following rules. Here we explore its neural basis by recording from single neurons in the PFC of monkeys trained to use two abstract rules.(13)
Advances in technology are allowing scientists to make ever-finer measurements of physiological processes in alert monkeys performing cognitive tasks. Much of what is known regarding the neurophysiologic similarities of the primates is a result of these technological advances, and an argument might be made that it is only in recent years that the profundity of the discoveries has begun to amass into a noticeable body of evidence. But this is not the case at all.

The close mental, emotional, and behavioral similarities between humans and other primate species have been known for many years, while careful scientific observation and experimentation have been demonstrating these facts for nearly a century. Wolfgang Kohler, whose investigations Jane Goodall has cited(14) as among the most important in the literature, wrote in 1925 that: “The chimpanzees manifest intelligent behavior of the general kind familiar in human beings.”(15)

In the early 1960’s scientists were subjecting monkeys, increasingly, to experiments that displayed the emotional vulnerability and cognitive depths of these animals. Harlow’s decades-long career as well as his success at inspiring young experimental psychologists, resulted in an explosion of papers associated with maternal and social deprivation and stress, particularly in infants. These scientists were exploiting what they already believed to be true regarding the similarity between the emotional fragility of infant monkeys and young humans.(16)

Masserman, Wechkin, and Terris published the results of a study that underscores the fact that those who were experimenting on monkeys, even forty years ago, clearly expected them to behave as humans might in similar situations. Rhesus monkeys were trained to pull on one of two chains, depending on the color of a flashing light, in order to receive food. After training, another monkey was displayed through a one-way mirror.

By pulling the chains in the correct fashion, the first monkey would receive the food reward, but one of the chains now delivered a painful electric shock to the other monkey. It was discovered that most of the monkeys would not shock another monkey even if it meant not being able to eat. One of the animals went without food for twelve days rather than hurting his or her companion. Monkeys who had been shocked in previous experiments themselves were even less willing to pull the chain and subject others to such torment.(17) (The scientists who had seen monkeys shocked, however, continued to test more monkeys in the box.)

If evidence for the close similarity between a human’s and a nonhuman’s mind and sense of self was observed and published so long ago, and if continuing experimentation has contributed to and expanded that understanding throughout the century, why hasn’t something been done to bring our treatment of these animals more in line with the guidelines we tend to employ when dealing with those in society less able to care for themselves and assert their own interests?

The answer to this question is moderately complex. Primate vivisection increased rapidly in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Prior to this time the availability of monkeys was more limited and many fewer researchers were using these exotic animals. This changed largely due to the importation of millions of monkeys for polio research(18) as well as the U.S. government’s decision to keep pace or surpass the Soviet’s primate-based biomedical research programs. In the early nineteen sixties the U.S. government began funding facilities for the breeding, housing, and utilization of monkeys and apes for research purposes. Today, federally funded projects around the country maintain many thousands of monkeys and make them available to government-funded researchers.(19) A few large private primate suppliers and consumers of primates imported over sixty-four thousand monkeys between 1995 and 2000.(20)

Part of the answer to the question lies in the fact that the number and type of experiments have increased dramatically in a relatively short period of time. The public was unaware of the issue simply because many fewer experiments were being performed and much less information concerning the minds and emotions of these animals was being published. Now, more people are being exposed to, more people are being made aware of, and also more people are deciding to participate in these studies than only a few decades ago.

Another factor is the absence of checks and balances. No bureaucratic or regulatory mechanisms are in place to assess the information or consider the implications of the body of evidence and guide our policies in this area. Without such a mechanism, the federal government continues to promote primate research, provide animals to researchers, make funds available, and invent reasons to use primates in harmful experiments.(21) There is nothing built into the system to regulate it in any moral manner, to evaluate current knowledge and consider the implications for new proposals. Those in a position to raise any doubt are themselves financially and professionally interested in seeing the practice continue, and they work within a community of similarly interested individuals.

Within the private sphere there are professional organizations that should be monitoring scientific endeavor and providing leadership to lawmakers and the public with regard to the discoveries that animals other than humans have minds and emotions so similar to our own that experimenting on them, that keeping them in concentration-like conditions,(22) that killing them and harming them to further our own real or perceived interests is as unthinkably immoral as it would be if humans were being treated in similar ways. These organizations include the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and the American Society of Primatology. They each have members who claim to be primate experts.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has not published a position specific to the use of primates in research. The AVMA lumps all animals together and states: “We oppose unnecessary restrictions on the use of animals in scientific research” but remains mute on what “unnecessary” might mean. Given the close similarity between the primate species, it is apparent that restrictions are necessary. Given the Association’s claim that it is the authorized voice for the profession (23) and the claim that veterinarians have an ethical duty to: “[F]irst consider the needs of the patient: to relieve disease, suffering, or disability while minimizing pain or fear,”(24) it seems that this possible check on the use of these animals has failed completely. The public tends to view veterinarians as animal experts; the Association’s silence in this area might be seen by policy-makers in Congress as support for the status quo, which it probably is.

The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) is the professional organization for technicians and veterinarians working in laboratory settings. The only reasons the organization might be expected to speak out for these animals are the intimacy that the members have with the many ways the animals are harmed and the fact that the public (mistakenly) expects veterinarians to be advocates for animals. But, the members are financially beholden to the institutions for which they work, and it is rare for anyone to speak out since doing so will jeopardize their livelihood. And, the members are generally willing and enthusiastic participants in the experiments themselves.

AALAS has no policy concerning the care of, or experimentation on, primates. AALAS defers to federal regulation in all matters dealing with animal care and use.(25) This is akin to the National Educational Association or the National Rifle Association allowing the federal government to decide what their policies concerning education or gun control should be. The public cannot look to AALAS for any leadership in this area.

The American Society of Primatology (ASP) should be the body speaking the loudest about the implications raised by the notable similarities between the species. The ASP counts among its members: Sarah Boysen (“The present findings demonstrate that chimpanzees can classify natural objects spontaneously and that such classifications may be similar to those that would be observed in human subjects.)(26); Frans de Waal (“It is really hard for me to imagine that they do not [have an imagination]. Chimpanzees are very innovative creatures - they deceive each other (and us!) all the time and invent many different games for themselves. All of these abilities require some degree of forethought to what might be the outcome of an action.”) (27); Roger Fouts (“Humans and chimpanzees differ in their intelligence by degree, not in the kind of mental processes.”)(28); Robert Ingersol (“Nim’s last words to me were, ‘Out—Hurry—Key—There…. Key—Out’, very sad. Nim passed away March 10, 2000. I did not expect that he would die at a very young twenty-six years old since chimps usually live well beyond forty years quite regularly. It has taken me this entire year to be able to speak and now write about Nim. He was my friend. Maybe my closest friend. He taught me about right and good, and trust and certainty, and he taught me what true friends are. Life long friendship, and if you had ever seen us together you would know what I mean. I knew Nim for twenty-two of his twenty-six years.”)(29); Vernon Reynolds (“There is no satisfactory way to convince ourselves of our separate nature, to be certain we feel or experience something they do not feel or experience; all the evidence points the other way, to commonality.”)(30); Duane Rumbaugh (“Although nonhuman primates such as rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) have been useful models of many aspects of cognition and performance, it has been argued that, unlike humans, they may lack the capacity to respond as predictor-operators. Data from the present series of experiments undermine this claim, suggesting instead a continuity of predictive competency between humans and nonhuman primates.”)(31); and Shirley Strum (“I was constantly struck by how much more like humans the baboons now seemed. They learned through insight and observation, passing new behaviors from one to another both within a single lifetime and across many lifetimes. This is social tradition, the beginnings of what eventually became ‘culture.’”).(32)

In spite of this thread of understanding within the ASP, the leadership is dominated by laboratory researchers intent on exploiting the similarities nonhuman primates share with us. Often, very often in fact, the leadership is involved in research of questionable value and blatant cruelty. The leadership’s understanding of the complexities of monkeys’ minds, the emotional sensitivity of the animals, and the fragility of their developing psyches is cause for these scientists to sometimes devise the most absurd and deviant experiments. A paper published by two past presidents of the Society is illustrative of this point.

John Capitanio is a researcher at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis. His colleague, also at Davis, William Mason, are both past presidents of the Society. Mason was a student of Harry Harlow’s.

Capitanio and Mason write:
Cognitive style, reflected in the generation of novel solutions and the use of identifiable response strategies in problem-solving situations, was contrasted in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) reared individually with either canine companions or inanimate surrogate mothers. Four experiments were conducted over a 5-year period, examining problem solving in relatively unstructured as well as more formal situations. Results indicated that whereas the 2 rearing groups did not differ on most measures of performance, consistent response strategies were identified for the dog-raised monkeys. The results were compared with previously published data from the same monkeys demonstrating rearing group differences in abilities to engage in complex social interaction. The animate nature of the early rearing environment may facilitate the development of a cognitive style that influences problem-solving abilities in both the social and nonsocial realms.(33)
The ASP leadership is comprised of those who conduct harmful experiments on primates themselves or are employed in the support of such experiments.(34) Many members are similarly employed.(35)

So, a second part of the answer to the question of why our treatment of these animals is not more in line with the guidelines we tend to employ when dealing with those in society less able to care for themselves and assert their own interests, is the fact that there is not a regulatory mechanism in place that would cause or encourage an evaluation of current policies, nor is there a professional organization acting on behalf of the animals – due to a vested interest – such as AALAC or the ASP, or else for some other, less clear reason, as the AVMA.

These two factors – the relatively recent mounting of evidence and experiments, and the lack of checks or balances – reinforce the tendency in society to discount the interests of others. This is a third part of the answer. We tend not to notice those who have no voice when no voice of protest nor assertion of their rights has been raised. When a voice does arise, those in power tend to work to discount and marginalize it. When the issue of rights has arisen, whether involving race, gender, mental faculty, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or any other category, history is clear that the group in power has resisted the extension of protected status to other groups. Simply, prejudice against others, bigotry, the perceived protection of one’s own interests, is a fundamental aspect of human behavior.

How like us do they have to be before the evil we do to them should be termed criminal?

This question deserves an answer. Historically, the segregation of nonhuman animals has been based on premises that have evaporated in step with discoveries concerning the animals’ capabilities and characteristics. None of the reasons have been able to withstand close investigation and observation. Whether the claim has been that only humans use tools, make tools, can communicate with language, are altruistic, engage in war, have beliefs, engage in ritual, possess a culture, are capable of abstraction, of humor, of courage, of deceit, or of responsibility to others, the claims have all failed. And they have failed with regard to other primates precisely because, as we attempt to describe ourselves, we also describe those with whom we share such close and intimate ancestry.

How like us do they have to be before the evil we do to them should be termed criminal?

This question deserves an answer, and those with the greatest access to these animals should be required to answer it. And until they are willing and able to do so to the satisfaction of society at large, they should be compelled, legally, to cease their manipulations of these animals.

A common concern of the vivisectors is that if primates are acknowledged to be so like us that we should stop our experiments on them, then where will it all stop? If chimpanzees are given the simplest rights today, and monkeys tomorrow, then how long will it be before dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, mice and flies are similarly protected? The answer must lie in the question: How like us do they have to be before the evil we do to them should be termed criminal?

Those wishing to maintain a sharp distinction between humans and all other species must explain what it is that keeps us apart. Why are compassion, sympathy, concern, and justice concepts we should reserve for humans alone? Why should each of these terms be redefined when speaking of humans or other animals? When we speak of humane care, why should the term be differently applied to human children and monkeys?

How like us do they have to be before the evil we do to them should be termed criminal? How like us need they be?

Notes (Web addresses may be stale.)

1. Burbacher TM, Grant KS. 2000. Methods for studying nonhuman primates in neurobehavioral toxicology and teratology. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. Jul-Aug; 22(4): 475-86. Review.

2. Bentham, J. 1823. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chapter XVII, note.

3. See note 1.

4. Fagot J, Wasserman EA, Young ME. 2001. Discriminating the relation between relations: the role of entropy in abstract conceptualization by baboons (Papio papio) and humans (Homo sapiens). Journal of Experimental Psychology and Animal Behavioral Processes. Oct; 27(4): 316-28.

5. United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 1998. Animal Welfare Report, Fiscal Year 1998. Table 6. “Number of Animals Used by Research from First Reporting Year (1973) to the Present.”

6. Normal social bonding in primates begins nearly at birth between the mother and infant. Normal social situations allow monkeys to interact with mothers, siblings, and peers almost constantly. This is critical to normal social and mental development. Repetitive motions such as twirling, pacing, and flipping are termed stereopathies, and are a recognized result of social deprivation in monkeys. Self-mutilation, or self-injurious behavior, is a recognized result of individual housing and social deprivation in monkeys. At the Washington Regional Primate Research Center (WaRPRC) infants are routinely removed from their mothers at birth and nursery reared. There, infants have contact with other infants for one hour a day, five days a week. At the Tulane Regional Primate Research Center infants are removed from their mothers within three days of birth. It is estimated by the New England Regional Primate Research Center that at least ten percent of the monkeys there self-mutilate themselves to such a serious degree that veterinary intervention is required. At the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, at least one thousand monkeys are individually housed; self-mutilation is not uncommon there or at the California Regional Primate Research Center. A veterinarian, who worked at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center a decade ago, claims to have achieved pair housing of seventy percent of that facility’s primate population. After leaving, he believes that the percentage has fallen to no more than thirty percent pair or group housed. This is the norm throughout the industry.

7. Harlow H. 1958. The nature of love. Address of the President at the sixty-sixth Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D. C., August 31, 1958. First published in American Psychologist, 13, 573-685.

8. Amaral DG, Corbett BA. The amygdala, autism and anxiety. Novartis Found Symp. 2003;251:177-87. “The primate amygdala is a relatively small brain region located in the temporal lobe, just anterior to the hippocampus. In the macaque monkey it is approximately 0.6 cm3 in volume and in the human it is about 3.0 cc3.”

The average rhesus cranial capacity is 80 cm(3) versus 1250 cm(3) in humans. Thus, the amygdala makes up 1.5% of a rhesus monkey’s brain .48% of a human’s. See: Gonen O, Liu S, Goelman G, Ratai EM, Pilkenton S, Lentz MR, Gonz├ílez RG. Proton MR spectroscopic imaging of rhesus macaque brain in vivo at 7T. Magn Reson Med. 2008 Apr;59(4):692-9.

9. Comparative neurophysiology teaches that the relative size of the regions or structures of an animal’s brain explains much concerning their abilities and behavior. Cats possess a better sense of balance than humans because their cerebellum is relatively larger. Dogs have better senses of smell because their olfactory lobes are much larger. That humans are so much better problem solvers is related to our own relatively large cerebral cortex.

10. Kalin N. 2001. “Brain Mechanisms Underlying Fear, Anxiety and Depression.” Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin, < > (as of) December.

11. Manning BH, Merin NM, Meng ID, Amaral DG. 2001. Reduction in opioid- and cannabinoid-induced antinociception in rhesus monkeys after bilateral lesions of the amygdaloid complex. Journal of Neuroscience. Oct 15;21(20):8238-46.

12. Amaral D. Neurobiology of Primate Social Behavior. Grant no. 5R01MH057502 National Institute of Mental Health: 1998-2003. CRISP (Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects) database

13. Wallis JD, Anderson KC, Miller EK. 2001. Single neurons in prefrontal cortex encode abstract rules. Nature. Jun 21; 411(6840): 953-6.

14. Goodall J. 1986. The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior (p 7). Boston: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

15. Kohler W. 1925 (2nd edition, 1951, p 265) The Mentality of Apes Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD.

16. For an overview of these experiments up until 1986 see Stevens ML 1986 Maternal Deprivation Experiments in Psychology: A Critique of Animal Models. Published jointly by the American, National, and New England Antivivisection Societies. But maternal and social deprivation experiments continue to be funded by the National Institutes of Health today throughout the country.

17. Masserman J, Wechkin S, Terris W. 1964. ‘Altruistic’ behavior in rhesus monkeys. American Journal of Psychiatry vol. 121: 584-5.

18. “Before the race for the polio vaccine, there were an estimated 5 to 10 million rhesus macaques in India. During the height of the vaccine work, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States alone was importing more than 200,000 monkeys a year, mostly from India. By the late 1970s, there were fewer than 200,000 rhesus macaques in India,” (p. 250). Blum D. 1994. The Monkey Wars. Oxford University Press.

19. See note 5. Of these animals, many are held in National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsored facilities. The eight National Primate Research Centers have approximately twenty thousands monkeys on hand at any one time. Outside this system, other universities such as Wake Forest and the University of Southwestern Louisiana have large populations, also sponsored directly by the NIH. NIH maintains approximately one thousand monkeys itself at the National Animal Center in Poolesville, Maryland. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a large population at the National Center for Toxicological Research just outside Little Rock, Arkansas, and owns another 3000 monkeys kept on Morgan Island off the coast of South Carolina. The Department of Defense maintains monkey colonies at various facilities. Of the nearly sixty thousand primates being used every year, a very large percentage must be paid for directly with tax dollars.

20. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service LEMIS [Law Enforcement Management Information Service]. Data tabulated and itemized at the Coalition to End Primate Experimentation (CEPE) website:

21. As a single example among many: NONHUMAN PRIMATE MODELS OF NEUROBIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS OF ADOLESCENT ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM Release Date: October 4, 2001 RFA: RFA-AA-02-006 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ( Letter of Intent Receipt Date: January 21, 2002 Application Receipt Date: February 19, 2002 “PURPOSE: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) invites applications using nonhuman primate models to focus on the following areas: 1) neurobiological mechanisms and risk factors for alcoholism during late childhood through adolescence; 2) the relative contribution and/or interaction of genetic, environmental, and social factors (e.g., stress, peer influences) with neurobiological mechanisms in the development of adolescent alcohol abuse; 3) evaluation of the immediate and long-term consequences of heavy drinking during adolescence on cognitive/brain functioning; and 4) the contribution of early alcohol exposure (juvenile and adolescent periods) to excessive drinking and abnormal cognitive and social functioning during subsequent developmental stages…. FUNDS AVAILABLE: The NIAAA intends to commit approximately $2.5 million in FY 2002 to fund approximately 6 to 8 new and/or competitive continuation grants in response to this RFA….” (Viewable at as of January 1, 2002.)

22. For instance: On December 15-18, 1998, during an inspection of the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, the USDA inspector, Dr. Isis Johnson-Brown, DVM, noted in her written report that “the area in front of the feeding pads in corral 3 that the animals have to cross to enter the inside feeding area is excessively wet, composed of a mixture of mud, algae, urine and feces, and the same conditions exist in the corners of corrals 4 and 6.”

23. American Veterinary Medical Association Constitution 2000 Revision. Article II.

24. Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), (1999 Revision). Part II, Professional Behavior, paragraph A

25. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. "The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) endorses the United States Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training."

26. Brown DA, Boysen ST. 2000 Spontaneous discrimination of natural stimuli by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology Dec; 114(4): 392-400.

27. DeWaal responding to a PBS broadcasted Scientific American Frontiers viewer’s online question: “Do chimpanzees have emotions?” April 17, 2001.

28. Fouts R. 1997. Next of Kin: What Chimpanzees have Taught Me about Who We Are, p 350 (emphasis in original). William Morrow and Company, Inc.

29. Ingersol B. 2000. (unpublished manuscript) "Chimp Friends: Nim Chimpsky 1973-2000."

30. Reynolds V, Reynolds J. 1993. "Riding on the backs of apes." In Ape, Man, Apeman: Changing Views Since 1600. Evaluative Proceedings of the Symposium Ape, Man, Apeman: Changing Views Since 1600, a part of the Pithecanthropus Centennial (1893-1993) Congress “Human Evolution in its Ecological Context.” Leiden, The Netherlands, 1993.

31. Washburn DA, Rumbaugh DM. 1991. Rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) complex learning skills reassessed. International Journal of Primatology. Aug; 12(4): 377-88.

32. Strum SC, 1987. Almost Human: A Journey into the World of Baboons, p 153. Random House.

33. Capitanio JP, Mason WA. 2000. Cognitive style: problem solving by rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) reared with living or inanimate substitute mothers. Journal of Comparative Psychology. Jun; 114(2):115-25.

34. Besides Capitanio and Mason, past president, Melinda Novak, the current (2002) treasurer, Steven Shapiro, and the current executive secretary, Janette Wallis, are all affiliated with primate vivisection. Novak works with the primate colony at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is a frequent research collaborator of Steven Suomi’s, another of Harlow’s students. Steven Shapiro is a primate veterinarian at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Janette Wallis works in direct support of the Baboon Research Resource Program at the University of Oklahoma, a supplier of baboons to “three colleges of the Health Sciences Center, two non-profit research institutions on the Oklahoma Health Center Campus, the three main university medical teaching and research institutions in the State of Oklahoma, and 10 medical centers located throughout the United States,” (from CRISP entry for grant# 5P40RR012317). (Note not updated.)

35. Of the 797 members listed in the ASP’s 1999 Directory, 101 were either known by name to this author as primate vivisectors or listed themselves as affiliated with institutions such as the NIH Regional Primate Research Centers dedicated to the experimental use of primates. Many others were listed as affiliated with institutions known to be involved in primate experimentation, but not exclusively so. Persons from this latter group are not included among the 101. The percentage of ASP members directly involved with the primate experimentation industry is likely significant with regard to ASP policy decisions.