Wednesday, September 19, 2018

NIH and misleading news about lifespan extension

On September 18, 2018, the National Institutes of Heath (NIH) published an article in their news-feed titled "Fasting increases health and lifespan in male mice."

I suspect the agency's regular reporting on what it deems discoveries and breakthroughs from experiments using mice might have something to do with NIH Director Francis Collins being a mouse vivisector.

Be that as it may, whenever I see a claim about the benefits of caloric reduction or fasting based on experiments on animals, I'm immediately suspicious. There is no doubt that obesity is associated with morbidity, but the claims from vivisectors about extending an animal's lifespan through a lifetime of hunger always turn out to be suspect.

The NIH provides a summary:
At a Glance

Long periods of fasting between meals helped male mice live longer and healthier lives, regardless of the content of their diets.

More studies are needed to confirm these results and understand how different fasting periods may impact health.
More studies are needed... of course.

The article's first brief paragraphs triggered my BS neurocircuit:
Studies have suggested potential health benefits from long-term calorie restriction. In long-term calorie restriction, average daily caloric intake is kept below what is typical or habitual, but without malnutrition or deprivation of essential nutrients. Calorie restriction can be achieved through simply eating less overall, or through specific periods of fasting.

One decades-long study in rhesus monkeys found an extension of lifespan with calorie restriction. However, another did not. Differences between those two studies—including the type of food used—made comparisons difficult.

Researchers from NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA), led by Dr. Rafael de Cabo, wanted to better understand if the type of food eaten, and when it is eaten, alters how calorie restriction affects the body. They divided almost 300 male mice into two diet groups. One group was given a diet low in sugar and based more on whole foods. The other group's diet was higher in sugar and more processed.

NIH can't get its story straight. The two monkey studies referred to are the one at UW-Madison, started in 1989, and the one at National Institute on Aging, started in 1987. Over the years, the Madison vivisectors reported frequently on the great benefits they were seeing in the calorie-restricted monkeys. Then the NIA reported that they saw no benefit in their study. No benefit.

They essentially said that the Madison scientists had no clothes.

As one might imagine, the Madison scientists were embarrassed. It turned out that the NIA monkeys -- both the caloric restricted group and the control group -- were fed a nutritionally decent diet, while the Madison monkeys were not. The NIA diet was 4% sucrose while the Wisconsin diet was 28.5% sucrose. The Wisconsin group had actually demonstrated that, like humans, obese sedentary monkeys on a high sugar diet were more likely to develop diabetes and other ailments than are monkeys who eat less of the poisonous diet. Additionally, and as shown repeatedly in Wisconsin's PR photos, the monkeys in the control group were morbidly obese.

Later, after laborious statistical contortions, authors of both studies reported in a joint paper that maybe there was some benefit to caloric restriction after all. Why the NIA group tried to save their Wisconsin colleagues reputations remains debatable; only they know the answer to that question.

It is worth noting that still today, as seen here, the NIH is saying that the two studies had different results. Indeed.

For much more on the colored history of this line of research in rodents and monkeys see Chapter 12, "Lo-Cal Immortality," in my book, "We All Operate the Same Way."

Thursday, August 23, 2018

We suck is a hard lesson.

Mrs. Trautwein (I’m not sure of the spelling) was my 7th grade English teacher at Johnston Jr. High in Houston. Her classroom was in what were referred to as one of the "temporary buildings," wooden buildings on pylons -- with two rooms sharing a common porch and set of steps. I failed English that year. I am forever in her debt.

She allowed me to write.

I didn’t write what she wanted me to. I was called up to her desk numerous times; the conversation was always the same.

When told to write, even when given a specific topic, I always found a way to twist my response in a way that allowed me to talk about our detrimental effect on the planet and its other inhabitants.

That was in 1965 or 66 (I’m not good with dates.)

She’d say, “Rick. Rick, Rick.”

She had very short hair. It was dark, maybe with a peppering of gray. Her face was round and pock-marked from acne. The hair on her face was a thick soft pelt; it’s funny the things we remember.

I don’t know how it got into my head. I recall reading lots of nature books -- or at least the captions -- and I’d been reading novels since I was ten. Mostly science fiction, so it’s likely some were dystopias.

My recurring unwavering theme in response to Miss. Trautwien’s many writing assignments was my worry that we would develop space travel. I did and do envision the possibility as strongly parallel to the biology of viruses; consuming our hosts and using them to scatter our spore; or in the case of us, scatter humans, to the detriment of our next host.

I wonder if she got it or just wrote it off as the angst of a twelve or thirteen-year-old boy?

In any case, I’m glad I had her as a teacher.

Recognizing Fake News

It can be hard for many of us to spot some fake news. This becomes even more difficult when the purveyor is believed to be honest and forthcoming. A case in point is the propensity of universities to publish statements and articles that are not true. I looked at numerous examples from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in my book "We All Operate in the Same Way."

Peta has recently been running bus ads and billboards pointing to the plain fact that vivisectors kill animals.

UW-Madison responded with a fake news blast. I'm copying it here because I don't trust them to change or delete it.
PETA bus ads target animal research

Posted on August 15, 2018

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers study animals, including monkeys like the one depicted in an advertisement on a Madison bus, to learn about human disease and to explore basic biological processes.

Alternatives to animals are always considered before research begins, and whenever possible methods without animals are used. However, animals remain the only way to study many vital aspects of human and animal health. UW–Madison scientists rely on animal studies to design new treatments and advance our knowledge of AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dangerous infections like influenza, many types of cancer and more.

All animal research on campus includes the attention of skilled veterinarians. All animal research is closely reviewed and regulated by our animal care and use committee and several federal agencies.

Everyone benefits from what scientists have learned from these studies. Where there is a better way, UW–Madison researchers use it. To exclude animals from research would leave us without the opportunity to answer many questions about the way our bodies work, and leave many people — and future generations — struggling with deadly and debilitating conditions without prospects for help.

That is why UW–Madison is committed to conducting responsible and ethical research with animals.

Learn more about animals in research and teaching at UW–Madison at

Posted in UW News

Let's deconstruct this nonsense. Like all good propaganda, they start out with some facts. They use monkeys like the one seen in the ads. And they use animals in research on human diseases and biology. But from there, the truth quickly falls apart.

1. "Alternatives to animals are always considered before research begins, and whenever possible methods without animals are used."

In 2008, the British government reviewed the use of goats in research on rapid decompression, like that experienced in diving or submarine accidents. They reported that: "the remaining associated areas of uncertainty in submarine escape and rescue relate to events that are considered highly unlikely and do not therefore need to be addressed by means of animal testing."

And yet, the university refused to stop its horrifically cruel decompression experiments on sheep. (There was just too much money associated with it.) And that's just one example.

2. "However, animals remain the only way to study many vital aspects of human and animal health."

The misleading implication is that every terrible thing they do to animals is done only because there is no alternative. In fact, I don't think that is ever the case. One way to test this is to look at whatever it is that the vivisectors say they are studying and check the National Library of Medicine's database of research publications, PubMed, to see if there is research on the topic that was not a report on research using animals. I'll wager there is no human medical research topic at the university that isn't being explored somewhere with non-animal methods, vital or otherwise.

3. "UW–Madison scientists rely on animal studies to design new treatments and advance our knowledge of AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dangerous infections like influenza, many types of cancer and more."

This is straight-up fear-mongering. Why didn't they include trivial topics? For instance, Paul Kaufman's invasive experiments on monkeys to study presbyopia -- the age-related need for reading glasses. And just what are those "new treatments" for Alzheimer’s? Gibberish.

4. All animal research on campus includes the attention of skilled veterinarians.

This is like saying that all the experiments on people at Auschwitz had the attention of medical doctors. That's true, but that only added to the depravity. Likewise, the ranks of vivisectors claiming to be studying human disease are filled with veterinarians. A case in point is the attending veterinarian at the university's primate center, Saverio (Buddy) Capuano III. Capuano is a co-author of many papers reporting on the terminal course of monkeys infected with infectious diseases.

5. All animal research is closely reviewed and regulated by our animal care and use committee and several federal agencies.

In fact, veterinarian Capuano has argued during these committee meetings that the committee has no right to stop funded projects. He was outspoken on this point when Ned Kalin's plan to revive some of Harry Harlow's grotesque methods became public and the shit hit the fan.

The referred to regulations are cursory and proforma. Worse, enforcement has become secretive and opaque to the public.

6. "Everyone benefits from what scientists have learned from these studies. Where there is a better way, UW–Madison researchers use it."

By "everyone" maybe they mean the people at the university whose salaries are tied to tax-payer-funded research. Certainly, most people, the overwhelming majority, will receive no benefit from killing sheep by means of decompression, staging fights between mice, raising birds in isolation, blinding monkeys, inventing more mutant rodents, or breeding dogs with genetic illnesses. And clearly, someone who has been getting paid for twenty years isn't about to change course.

7. "To exclude animals from research would leave us without the opportunity to answer many questions about the way our bodies work, and leave many people — and future generations — struggling with deadly and debilitating conditions without prospects for help."

Wow. Just wow. Talk about dissing one's colleagues. I suspect there is a clinical researcher or two who might think that their efforts might someday provide a prospect for help. In fact, their work is exactly where all advancements come from.

8. "That is why UW–Madison is committed to conducting responsible and ethical research with animals."

Well, at least they end with a joke! Everyone knows its all about money. Everyone knows how irresponsible it is. And no one but a fake news glutton could believe it is ethical.

Finally, there is something particularly ethically distasteful when those who the public is told to trust mislead them; and doubly so when they knowingly mislead them to benefit themselves. It's despicable. But then, this isn't even news.

"It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect for the sake of science will hesitate to lie about it afterwards...." -- George Bernard Shaw. "The Doctor's Dilemma." 1909.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

The parallels between the way Catholic dioceses and the NIH and USDA deal with priests and vivisectors who harm those in their power are hard to miss. I wrote a little about this last year.

There is something in our nature that can make us turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of those we have a responsibility to supervise. The more intimate we are with those misdeeds, the more we relate to those committing them, the more likely we are to make excuses for them and to offer only mild rebukes.

The parallels between the two cases -- priests and vivisectors -- are not uniform. In the case of Catholic priests, there are no reports of them killing their victims or letting them die of hunger or thirst. Another difference is that there are probably many genuinely compassionate and kind priests.

One of the similarities that struck me is shuffling people around. If a priest becomes too obvious, his Bishop sometimes just moves him to a new parish. In the case of vivisectors, they sometimes find jobs elsewhere if too much noise is made over their abuses. It is likely that a good recommendation is common. Michele Basso is a case in point. Even UW-Madison's hardened staff had to admit that her brain experiments on monkeys were slipshod error-filled nightmares. And so, she moved to UCLA, got a promotion, and kept at it.

I couldn't help but notice too, that the universities, NIH, USDA, and the Catholic dioceses seem to share opinions on when to redact information in written records; particularly embarrassing facts that implicate specific people are held back. Though, in defense of the Catholics, this is much more common among the vivisectors.

A particular similarity between these parallel worlds of abuse is that confession is often sufficient for forgiveness. In the case of priests sodomizing children, asking for forgiveness results in a letter of sympathy for the stress the priest has endured in fighting his urges. In the case of a university reporting violations of animal welfare laws, a letter from NIH expresses their thanks for reporting the problem and the hope that it isn't reported again.

You can read the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report here:

You can read about the Michelle Basso case and a host of other similar hideous examples in my book, "We All Operate in the Same Way."

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hurry up, lab grown meat!

Miss Virginia Smith -- Smitty -- on my back watching the deer. Circa 1996.

I'm 65 years old and (knock-wood) in good health. I suspect that my 46 years of veganism is a contributing factor. Living another 20 years is a mixed bag, what with climate change and the totalitarian direction of the country and world in general, but barring an accident, I think it reasonable to suppose that I'll be around for another twenty years.

I'd like to spend those years with a couple of cats. We don't have cats right now because of the ethical morass of feeding them. Maybe we should bite the bullet and feed them a taurine-fortified cat food, but I have doubts about the effects of those products on cats' long-term health.

Lab-grown meat, grown in a non-animal medium of some sort, has the potential of being win-win.

Hurry up lab grown meat people, I don't have forever.


grifter: someone who cheats others out of money. Grifters are also known as chiselers, defrauders, gougers, scammers, swindlers, and flim-flam men. Selling a bridge and starting a Ponzi scheme are things a grifter might do. The difference between a grifter and a thief is a grifter tricks you out of money through lies, while the thief takes it by force. [From]

UW-Madison is a textbook case of "experts" overlooking obvious nonsense and falsehoods from the charlatans in their midst when the elixirs they are selling are bringing in lots of money -- typically taxpayers' money. The most straightforward and incontrovertible example was Rick Heber. For some reason, the university doesn't remind people about the miracle cures he was selling or about the university's head-over-heals embrace and promotion of his snake oil. I briefly summarized the Heber incident in my book, "We All Operate in the Same Way."

Peas in a pod.

Before continuing, I need to address the question of why Waisman was chosen by the Kennedy Foundation if his research had been largely unnoticed by clinicians working in the PKU arena. If his work did not contribute to the identification or treatment of the condition, if his research was worthless, as I believe the evidence at hand makes clear, why was the university singled out as the Foundation's very first recipient of funding?

There are two likely contributing factors. The first is straightforward: Waisman had been Rosemary's physician at St. Coletta up until his death. Both Rose Kennedy and her daughter Eunice Kennedy Shriver wrote letters of condolence to the school when Waisman died.

The second involves the Kennedy Foundation's push into the area of cognitive disabilities and the subsequent President's Panel on Mental Retardation, both the result of the efforts of Eunice and Sargent Shriver. The Foundation and the Panel were intimately interconnected; two of the Shrivers' three original advisors, Robert E. Cooke and George Tarjan, both medical doctors, were members of the President's Panel. Tarjan was the Panel's vice-chairman. The Panel's chief staff member, sometimes referred to as its Director of Research, was Rick F. Heber, sometimes referred to as F. Rick Heber, a University of Wisconsin professor in the School of Education.

Heber's inclusion in the panel is probably due to his authorship of A Manual on Terminology and Classification in Mental Retardation in 1959. Heber's definition of mental retardation was used and widely accepted at the time the Foundation was determining its possible grant recipients. Eunice Shriver and others mention Heber or conversations with him in the oral histories preserved in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Heber knew Shriver, Cooke, and Tarjan. He probably knew Waisman; they were both speakers at the 1960 World Conference on Mental Deficiency in London. It seems probable and understandable that he would have used his influence to steer funds to Waisman and his institution regardless of whether or not there was merit in Waisman's experiments on monkeys and rats.

It is not likely that Heber cared one way or the other, but if asked, he probably would have said that Waisman was on the verge of a miraculous cure, whether he believed it or not. When Waisman died, Heber was chosen to succeed him and officiated at the ceremony renaming the facility in Waisman's honor. Rick Heber was the Waisman Center's director from October, 1973, until December, 1980, when he was summarily replaced.

Heber was a crook. I learned about Rick Heber's exploits while trying to find an answer to the question I posed above regarding the reason anyone would have noticed Waisman and given him any money. Those who have written about Heber mention that the scandal was not well-reported outside Madison, or in the science journals. In 1981, he was convicted on multiple counts of diverting institutional funds into his own pocket and was sentenced to three years in federal prison. Wisconsin then sentenced him to an additional four years.

Heber was a charlatan. Heber was the principal investigator on a NIH-funded project that is reported to have paid him $14 million over fifteen years for something called The Milwaukee Project. The prestige he had gained from his work on the Presidential Panel and his subsequent directorship of the Waisman Center must have contributed to the NIH and the university supporting him and overlooking many of the problems associated with his work. Heber said that he had recruited children of black mothers with low IQs for the project. Twenty children received the experimental treatment and twenty did not. The treatment consisted of various educational and enrichment activities. Reports in the popular press said that Heber's methods had resulted in miraculous improvements in IQ; in some cases over 30 points and raising the average IQ of children in impoverished neighborhoods to over 125. His results were incorporated into numerous textbooks and reported as fact. But Heber's results were never reported in a scientific journal, leading some to question whether the project had even taken place.

When the university finally dismissed Heber, they said it was because of his repeated and protracted absences. He is reported to have had a horse breeding farm that took up most of his time. Heber's apparent disregard for those he claimed to be trying to help and his disregard for the possible consequence of his behavior coupled with what appears to have been his very successful efforts to manipulate and influence those around him to benefit himself suggests to me that he was probably a psychopath. It seems reasonable to suppose that it was Rick Heber's manipulations that resulted in the university receiving the Kennedy Foundation grant and subsequent rich support from the NIH.

For his conviction in federal court, Heber served three years at the federal prison in Bastrop, Texas. Fifteen years later, I and thirty or so other people protested for three days at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Bastrop where about 175 chimpanzees were incarcerated; they were innocent and being treated much more poorly than Heber probably was. It is a small world.


Driving to work the other day, I heard a stealth PR spot on Wisconsin Public Radio about a report from the university's HealthEmotions Research Institute that the brains of some boys and girls 11 to 14 years old who played a video game that encouraged empathy were different from the brains of other children who played the game, and that the game might teach some people to have empathy. Sounds like more flim-flam to me. From the university's PR piece:
“If we can’t empathize with another’s difficulty or problem, the motivation for helping will not arise,” says [Richard] Davidson, who headed the research team.

Well, duh. And the cost? According to the published paper: Funding of an amount I have not been able to run down, came from a Gates Foundation grant OPP1033728 to Richard Davidson, a core grant to the Waisman Center from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) P30 HD003352, and from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health award number T32MH018931.

Easy-to-come-by money seems to make some people soft in the head... most people? The core grant from NICHD has been funding the Waisman Center for about fifty years. Harry Weisman died in 1971, that's when Heber was named the director of the center named in his honor. Funding details are incomplete, but over the past 35 or so, it has paid out $39,474,602.

T32MH018931 is one of Davidson's grants. Since 1996, it has paid out about $9.5 million. He currently has 10 active projects with annual yearly combined payments of over $6 million. About a million of that is for his research on meditation. There have been numerous papers and articles generated by the money proving (or at least strongly implying) that meditation is a good thing and, of course, that more money is needed to study it further. One thing they say occasionally, much like the big news about the video game, is that meditation can make one more compassionate. But then, Davidson is a long-time collaborator on a long-running project led by his fiend, whoops, friend, Ned Kalin. They have been making even more money with the claim that what they learn from the brains of young monkeys who were frightened and killed will one day lead to a cure for anxiety and depression.

Hey, if someone tells you they're looking for ways to make people more compassionate, kind, and empathic but is also making money from frightening anxious young monkeys and mutilating their brains, you ought to notice the dichotomy; a red flag ought to go up. A frickin cannon ought to go off when they tell you that they have a personal compassion meditation practice. It's a dark concept indeed. By thinking compassionate things -- trying to feel love for all beings -- one gains something. Maybe you feel better some way. And then you go look at brain scans of young monkeys being frightened.

This is very similar to why some people give to the poor, not for the poor so much, but more to gain merit for themselves. And, seemingly, the dichotomy is so plain and blatant that the people at NICHD giving Davidson such obscene amounts of money, may also think along the same lines as he does.

Davidson's claimed quick fixes seem to be of an absurdity of the same sort as Heber's claims that a little extra tutoring could turn amazing numbers of impoverished inner city kids into near geniuses. But in both cases, the university was and is eager to promote whatever rings the cash register.

There is a distinct pattern of flim-flam from the Waisman Center. I'd be surprised if there isn't good work going on there too, but the leadership, the most senior people, beginning with Waisman and Heber and down to the present, have been less than stellar. The current director is a veterinarian. A veterinarian leading a facility, "Dedicated to the advancement of knowledge about human development, developmental disabilities, and neurodegenerative diseases." [My emphasis, as if you couldn't tell.] Messing's own research is on Alexander disease. calls it an "extremely rare" disease. NIH says, "The prevalence of Alexander disease is unknown. About 500 cases have been reported since the disorder was first described in 1949." In 2018, NIH gave Messing more than $1.5 million to study the disease. Wow. A million and a half bucks to study a disease that has only rarely been seen. His work will never be tested. What gig. What a scam.

Messing's predecessor at Waisman was Marsha Mailick, who now is the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the university. I don't know much about her work, but skimming the titles of her papers back to 1977, it looks to me like her work has been entirely clinical in nature, but then, so was Heber's. Replacing a clinician with a veterinarian is a decidedly backward step. The one thing I know she got completely wrong was Waisman's research on PKU or phenylketonuria. It was a sham, based on monkey and rat models that later reviewers dismissed as unimportant and misinterpreted (flim-flam in layman's terms.) That was the area of Waisman's work that got the most promotion from the university, so maybe Mailick was just duped by the universit's PR, like the local press was.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How Ought We Behave During the End Days?

It seems to me that people have only a few choices in in response to the research on climate change. We have to believe it, disbelieve it, or just ignore it. Maybe there are more choices if one thinks that some part of some of the research is accurate, but generally, I suspect most people who pay attention to the news on climate change can generally be sorted into one of two groups: believers and nonbelievers.

I'm a believer.

When Trump was elected, the American science community freaked out (understandably and at least somewhat appropriately, I think) and organized marches and probably increased its already obscene spending on lobbyists. If you have an interest in science, you are probably familiar with the common theme of that community's efforts.

A recent extended piece from the New York Times Magazine is very worth reading, and also depressing. Here's the short version: we had a chance to avert a cataclysm but missed it.

Assuming that numerous climate scientists are right that we missed our chance to avert a heat wave of apocalyptic intensity and duration, how ought we be spending our time?

There are some things that seem pretty clear. The first is that everyone should stop having children. If things don't get as bad as most experts expect they will, the children already here can have babies sometime down the road. But bringing new people into the world right now shrieks of ignorance, insanity, grandiose selfishness, or a complete lack of regard for those who will experience the worst of what's to come. I wonder how many of those who marched for science are still having children?

Second, we ought to cancel all research on fertility. Why in the world should we be inventing new ways for couples to get pregnant?

Third, we should all stop eating animals and animal products right now. No one who trusts science and cares an iota about people can justify even one more burger or glass of milk in light of the scientific evidence that animal agriculture is a big contributor to the production of green house gasses. I wonder how many of those who marched for science are still eating animals? I'll wager that at least some of those who marched are actively involved in so-called meat and dairy sciences.

Fourth, we should forego any and all research that causes harm. With Armageddon just over the horizon, most forward-looking research appears to be rooted in denial of the climate science and more than a little indulgent. Where research isn't harmful to others, it probably doesn't matter too much, but when it entails hurting or killing, it just can't be justified.

In the face of the climate science, the future looks bleak. The four suggestions above respond to that science with things that we should stop doing. But how ought we live our lives if we believe the reports that say we missed the chance to avoid turning Earth into Venus?

I can't help but think of Nevil Shutes's novel On the Beach. For those unfamiliar with it, it is set in Australia after WW III, a nuclear war of planetary annihilation. Everyone else in the world has been killed. Everyone in Australia is going to die from the radiation at some fast approaching time.

The sane course is to love each other. To be kind, to listen to each other, to the cicadas, birds, and crickets; to notice the sunsets and sunrises, the small things.

We had a chance. We are smart enough to have preserved the Eden our planet is. But greed, the thirst for power, hatred, bigotry, all those kinds of things got in the way. At the very least, we ought to stop hurting each other.

Making Waves.

Thanks to A.E. for sending me this flash from the past.

Monday, July 30, 2018

To the best of my knowledge...

About a month ago I wrote about trying to get locally-based NPR host, Anne Strainchamps (that's her on the right in the picture above) to ask UW-Madison professor Richard Davidson about his continuing involvement in the use of young monkeys to study the neurobiology of anxiety and fear during her live public interview with him. He was promoting his new book promoting meditation. He and the university cultivate his public persona as a personal friend of the Dalai Lama's and a man of compassion. Unless pointedly asked, he never mentions the young monkeys frightened, hurt, and killed in that part of his work.

Ms. Strainchamps didn't ask him about it; she left her audience in the dark.

I used to think that thoughtful people who don't care about animals just hadn't taken the time to learn and think about the likelihood that they have inner lives and experience a range of emotions that are probably similar to ours. But that was before I took off my rose-colored glasses.

The unfiltered world is bleak. It is filled with people like Richard Davidson who not only believe that animals share emotions like fear and anxiety with us, but exploit those similarities and get rich from doing so. I think people who hunt likewise imagine the animals' fear and pain. Certainly this is true for other horrific activities like dog and bull fighting.

On the Saturdays I work, I sometimes catch Ms. Strainchamp's show on the radio. Its called "To the Best of Our Knowledge - Exploring the Deeper End of Ideas." This past Saturday, the show was titled “Loving Bees.” (A cause du jure rather than a concern for small animals?) In any case, the program featured a brief interview with a neuroscientist who had some interesting ideas about the mind of insects, something I've also written a little bit about.

Here's a transcript from part of that section of the show: “How Do We Wrap Our Minds Around Bee Consciousness?”
Anne Strainchamps: “Every couple of months, it seems like, there’s some startling new discovery about bees intelligence.... for Christof Koch, a neuroscientist in the field of consciousness, the moral is never underestimate the intelligence of another species...”

Christof Koch, : “...yes, I do believe, and I try not to kill bees or other wasps or other insects anymore, that it feels like something to be a honey bee, and it probably feels very good to be dancing in the sun light, it feels very good to have access to some nectar and be able to drink that and carry that back to the hive.” ...

I’m talking about the potential for sentience in individual bees, that’s correct, because a priori, there is no reason to exclude them. Why, because they can’t talk? Well, lots of people can’t talk. Babies can’t talk, patients can’t talk. That’s rather arbitrary, because they don’t have a human brain? Well, that’s completely arbitrary. So it’s very difficult on any fundamental grounds to presuppose that they are totally different from us. And of course they share a lot of the basic metabolism, a lot of the basic machinery of the brain they share with us. They have action potential, they have neurons, they have ionic channels, they have neurotransmitters, they have dopamine, just like we have, they have some of the same reward circuitry that we have...”

Interviewer and the program's Executive Producer, Steve Paulson, also in the photo in the image above: “So brain size is not the be-all and end-all here of consciousness.

Koch: “That’s entirely correct. There’s no principal reason to assume that brain size should be the be-all and end-all.”

I don't know, but I'll wager that no one associated with the show will alter their behavior toward animals as a result of this expert opinion that it feels like something to be a bee. No one had much doubt that it felt like something to be an Indian or a slave, and yet the most highly educated people in colonial America bought and sold slaves and killed Indians and took their land.

There is something odious about educational and news programing that does not seem to affect even the people producing it. It has to have something to do with the altitude of their lofty towers; the rarefied atmosphere somehow interferes with putting two and two together. To the best of my knowledge, in most cases no amount of data is sufficient to sway the opinion, let alone behavior, of someone with a vested interest in the status quo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Weighing Suffering

Vivisectors are a breed unto themselves. For some reason, some of them feel like they have to justify the terrible things they and their ilk do to animals; not all vivisectors of course, most of them don't say a word in public about the things they do to animals in their labs, and when asked are circumspect about it. Those who are driven to defend their industry frequently lament the fact that most of their colleagues would rather not draw their neighbors' and non-vivisecting friends' attention to the nitty-gritty of their gritty work.

If it weren't for the few outspoken apologists, we wouldn't have as much insight into their beliefs and worries as we do, albeit limited as it is.

One of the claims made by the outspoken vivisectors, and by all the pro-viv public front groups, is that they really do care about the animals and wish they didn't have to hurt and kill them. Images like this are common on the pro-industry propaganda websites:

The impression is that, doggone it, vivisectors are animal lovers too. The impression, not necessarily the truth.

In fact, some vivisectors don't think the animals they hurt can suffer. As wild as that sounds, it is worth noting that there are white doctors and nurses who still don't think people with skin darker than theirs feel pain the way they do. [Hoffman, Kelly M., et al. "Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113.16 (2016): 4296-4301.] This is nothing new.

Juan Carlos Marvizon is a vivisector who likes to share his thoughts. He is a regular contributor to the misleadingly-named pro-vivisection group Speaking of Research. He uses rats to study pain. Here's a recent piece from him: More Thoughts on Animal Suffering, and a couple passages from the essay:
...I think that suffering requires the presence of a self because otherwise the existence of the subjective experience of suffering doesn’t make sense. This is a variant of the problem of consciousness: do non-human animals have a self? That’s doubtful. Maybe apes and dolphins do, rats and mice probably don’t. But, again, that is highly speculative. Hence, there has to be a scale of suffering. In that scale, humans are capable of much deeper suffering (and much deeper happiness) because we can see ourselves as selves with an existence extending in time, so we not only suffer in the present, but we can see that we have suffered in the past and that we will suffer in the future. Without episodic memory and extended consciousness, animals do not have selves with that continuity in time.

Questioning the ability of animals to suffer doesn’t mean that scientists are looking for a justification to inflict pain on animals. Rather, here scientists face two different moral imperatives. The first is the fundamental dictate of science of looking for the truth unhindered by cultural and societal biases. This leads us to examine the questions of animal pain and suffering in an objective way. The second moral imperative is not to be cruel to animals that can potentially suffer. It is because of this and the cautionary principle that we treat animals like rats and mice as if they can suffer, even when we don’t know for sure that they can. However, we do know with absolute certitude that humans can suffer, which is an additional argument to put human suffering before putative animal suffering. Therefore, it is morally justifiable to use animals in biomedical research to alleviate human suffering, while at the same time taking all possible measures to minimize the distress of animals involved in research.
He doesn't believe the rats he hurts can suffer because he thinks they don't have a sense of self. So, seemingly, whatever nominal welfare standard he is required to give lip-service to, it is to him not really necessary since rats are little more than animated machines, an opinion that has been relied on to absolve vivisectors since it was first voiced by Rene Descartes 1640.

He explains the terrible things he does to rats on his webpage:
Biography Dr. Marvizón’s research field is pain neurophysiology. He investigates chronic pain disorders at the physiological, cellular and molecular levels using the Latent Sensitization animal model. Latent Sensitization is triggered by injuries that cause long-term inflammation or nerve damage, such as skin incision, injection of inflammatory agents or nerve transection. This is followed by a period of increased sensitivity to mechanical (for example, poking with nylon filaments known as von Frey filaments) or thermal (focusing a hot light on the paw) stimuli. The key part of the Latent Sensitization model is that when that period of hypersensitivity has ended it can be reinstated temporarily by an injection of an antagonist of opioid receptors (mu, delta or kappa) or of alpha-2 adrenergic receptors. This reveals that the neural pathways that process pain remain sensitized but at the same time are suppressed by the activation of these opioid or adrenergic receptors. It is likely that similar process occur in chronic pain patients. Another important characteristic of Latent Sensitization is that pain can also be reinstated by stress (like making a rat swim in a bucket of water or exposing it to a new environment). Again, this happen to chronic pain patients.
All Marvizón’s nastiness aside, what initially caught my attention was his claim that "there has to be a scale of suffering." I think he's wrong in the context he is talking about. Obviously, suffering isn't the same for everyone in every circumstance. I suffer a heck of a lot more when I stub my toe really hard. Marvizón’s claim is that humans suffer more than other animals, and there is some sort of step-wise increase in their potential for suffering in species more like us.

This suggests to me that we should be able to compare these imagined levels of potential for suffering and come up with some sort of calculus that would give us the ability to weigh the potential benefits against the certain harms.

A straightforward case might be something like this: If we test some drug on 1,000 rats (and kill them) and it leads to saving 1,000,000 humans, would that be ethical? If we had some unit of measure, say a potential for suffering (pfs) score that we could assign to humans and rats, we could plug in the numbers and get an objective answer. Of course, such a scheme could be used to justify human vivisection as well, so maybe that plan would be too dangerous.

Nevertheless, if there is a scale of suffering, it could at least shed some light on the amount of suffering animals of different species might be subjected to from us using them. I suspect though, that people like Marvizón don't actually believe there is a meaningful scale of suffering. I think most people who use animals, even most people who simply eat them, actually believe that animals have no ethical weight at all.

Many people at least claim to care about other humans. This led me to wonder about the horrible things we do to each other. Among the worse, and almost universally decried as heinous (in public) is genocide. There have been a lot more cases of genocide that I thought, and they have been of various size. Here's a little graph I made based on data from Wikipedia; a range is given, I chose the high end number in every case:

43,003,883 people killed since 149BCE simply because they had the wrong religion, language, color... this led me to wonder how many people have been killed in wars. The upper estimate is 1 billion. When compared to the genocide deaths, genocide starts to look a little less serious (as if 43 million deaths aren't serious):

So combined, between war and genocide, we have killed somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion, 43 million people, or 1,043,000,000 of us. The population of the U.S. is about 325,000,000 right now.

But, compare that number, a tally of killings over about 2000 years, with the number of animals we killed in commercial slaughter in 2017 alone: [Data for the animal numbers for this chart comes from and]

In this chart, genocide has been dwarfed to near nonexistence. The entire history of war deaths is a small slice of the pie. That's the number of animals killed in one year and the number of each other we have killed for as far back in history as we can look.

I was surprised by this data. It's hard to grasp the numbers involved, the individual animals it represents. Moreover, this pie chart represents a single year. The chart from the previous year is essentially exactly the same.

The purple section is repopulated every year. Every year. While the other sections, the white and sliver of blue, represent what happened in the past -- no new human victims are being represented in previous or succeeding charts.

We, as in the general public, think the war and genocide deaths are bad, evil things, yet, we kill many times over that number of animals every year. And that number does not include the animals we kill hunting and fishing, the millions of mice and rats killed in the labs, the dogs and cats killed because no one wants them, the poisoned animals, the trapped animals, the animals hit by cars, killed for fun, or culled in some notion of population management...

And for the most part, we say those deaths are proper and OK because they are legal or regulated or whatever.

And if that is so, then we must have in our heads some calculus, some ethical ratio that says one human life is worth, a billion animals? This is why the planet is in such dire shape. We are consumed by our own image. We believe ourselves to be gods.

In 2005, I launched an effort to establish a sort of living animal holocaust showcase between the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the Harlow lab. It turned out to be just another animal rights failure. The Anti-Defamation League wrote to tell us that they thought it outrageous to compare what was happening in the monkey labs to the Holocaust. This is my reply to them:

Mark Juster
Lonnie J. Nasatir
Anti-Defamation League
Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest Regional Office
309 W. Washington St., Suite 750
Chicago, IL 60606-3296

Dear Mr. Juster and Mr. Nasatir:

We are writing in response to your June 28, 2005 letter. You expressed concerns regarding the explicit comparisons the National Primate Research Exhibition Hall is making between the Holocaust and harmful experiments using animals.

The sentiments you express seem to be based on the simple implicit claim that whatever is done to an animal other than a human, cannot rise to the same level of moral concern as it would if it were being done to a human.

This is the common, widely held view of most people today. It is however, based on pre-scientific assumptions. Consider the following experiment:

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, held in restraints, 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 powerful and painful electric shock to the restrained 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 the other monkey. Monkeys who had been shocked in previous experiments themselves were even less willing to pull the chain and subject others to such torment. [Masserman J, Wechkin S, Terris W. 1964. ‘Altruistic’ behavior in rhesus monkeys. American Journal of Psychiatry vol. 121: 584-5.]

Quite clearly, the monkeys in this study were following the Golden Rule. If we choose to live a moral and ethical life, it would seem profoundly wrong to intentionally hurt others who seem to understand this radical and history-changing idea. It seems monstrous that we would take such animals from their homes in the wild, destroy their social systems, breed them, experiment on their children, and on them, and justify the entire endeavor with the claim that it might be beneficial to us. This seems to be a profound case of hubris.

You stated that it is disrespectful to compare the “alleged mistreatment of animals with the enormous human suffering that took place during the Holocaust.” You state that calling the National Primate Research Exhibition Hall “another” Holocaust museum “evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of the Holocaust.”

We are offended that decades of documented cruelty are dismissed in such an offhand manner. There is nothing being "alleged". We state the facts.

You claim that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Holocaust. My personal understanding of the Holocaust is based on years of reading and teaching. I brought the National Holocaust Museum’s traveling exhibition to my small community in 1995. That same year I had a survivor come to my classroom and speak with my students. I have read most of the works written for adolescents many times over the years with my students. I have read many scholarly works devoted to various aspects of Germany’s policies and practices during the Nazi era.

When learning about the Holocaust, slavery, racial strife, the Killing Fields, and other examples of our inhumanity to each other, my students invariably asked why people allowed such things to happen; why didn’t they do some thing to stop them. Although I had no concise answer for them, we always agreed that the people who spoke out, who hid Jews, who helped blacks escape to freedom, who stood with the oppressed, were acting as we hope we would have acted if we had lived through those times.

Once the implication of the discoveries regarding animal mind are understood, the realities of the current situation become impossible to describe in terms other than those used to talk about past atrocities.

The Holocaust, I hope you agree, was not an experience unique to the Jews. The Final Solution was a unique aspect of the Holocaust. We do not claim that a parallel event is occurring today. There is no genocide occurring today in the primate labs. We do not claim there is.

I finished reading Vivian Spitz’s Doctors From Hell (Sentient Publications, 2005) just recently. As you may know, she was a court reporter during the Medical Case (Case #1) of the Subsequent Proceedings of the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials. The convicted medical doctors and medical assistants were found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity. Their victims – their experimental subjects – were a very heterogeneous group comprised of common criminals, political prisoners, Russian prisoners of war, Gypsies, Poles, the infirm, Jews, and others.

It is this aspect of the Holocaust and the fact that no one was speaking out in protest, that we draw attention to in our literature. Given that in both situations, medical doctors and scientists were and are being given authority to make society’s moral decisions; given that the justifications are the same: we will benefit from their suffering and death; given that science has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, that the brains of monkeys and humans are so similar that the species’ subjective experiences are necessarily similar; given that scientists claim that monkey psychological reactions are directly applicable to humans due to our close evolutionary relationship and the attendant physiological and emotional similarities; given the demonstrable horrors of laboratory life, we feel that the parallels we draw are appropriate.

Further, given the lack of education regarding animal mind, the historic willingness to ignore that which government tells us to ignore, and the historical facts regarding the consequences of doing so, we feel obliged to call attention to the issue and to draw parallels with the Holocaust where parallels exist.

We believe that, if you consider this issue with an open mind and compassionate heart, you are bound to understand the accuracy and importance of what we are doing. Given your commitment to keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive and trying to assure that it does not happen again, we sincerely hope that you will lend your voice to our growing list of supporters.

You state that our “objectionable use of Holocaust imagery ultimately taints your campaign and detracts from the message your organizations seek to convey.”

I hope you can see why I believe you are wrong. The message we seek to convey is that the suffering today is indistinguishable from past suffering. The silence today is indistinguishable from the past silence.

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. I have enclosed information about the Exhibition Hall. Please do not hesitate to contact us with further questions or concerns.


Rick Bogle

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Notion of Tansparency - This Too Shall Pass

The recent public relations scheme to make the labs more transparent in order to make the public believe that hurting and killing animals in labs isn't so bad is probably the result of vivisectors not being able to come up with a winning argument in answer to the truth behind the chant, "Nothing to hide? Let us inside!"

In modern times, they have ginned up a handful of excuses for keeping the public in the dark about what is going on behind their locked doors. They say things like: "visitors will disturb the animals," "the animals' health would be put at risk," or, in the case of activists, "they might go berserk."

Those claims are a harder sell when it comes to the vivisectors' reticence at providing copies of photographs or videos. Then the arguments become something like "people wouldn't understand what they are seeing," or, "the photos would divulge trade secrets."

But really, the reasons are the same ones that drove vivisectors from more than a century ago to keep what they were doing a secret. When their neighbors found out, they picked up pitchforks and ran them out of town. It is the vivisectors' recognition of their neighbors' potential outrage and disgust that explains more accurately why the labs are so secretive.

It isn't likely that the labs will become more transparent. They might develop little quasi-Potemkin villages to help with the big hood-wink, but the people involved are, it seems to me, constitutionally incapable of recognizing what it is that the public is slowly coming to understand, namely, that animals are people too, beings with interests, concerns, emotions, precisely the things that are said to endow us with inherent rights. This means that if they proceed with a transparency gambit, it will be short-lived because they are unable to see animals through the eyes of the growing number of people who recognize them for who they are.

A case in point is a picture used to introduce an article from a recent edition of News from Science titled "'Gene drive' passes first test in mammals, speeding up inheritance in mice.":
This mouse and her pups are being used here simply as props. Mice are adverse to open fields; they naturally hide and avoid being out in the open, particularly during the day. In this image, the mouse and her pups appear to have been placed on a white surface and brightly lit. It is very likely that the open field coupled with the exposure of her pups is causing the mouse significant anxiety.

Science magazine is a long-time defender of vivisection. It is using it's wide circulation to help promote the idea that vivisectors are pushing for openness and transparency; but the editors were blind to the plight and likely distress of this mouse. This ethical blindness is at the root of every failed attempt to promote and defend the the use of animals in harmful experiments by engaging with knowledgeable critics. Vivisectors can't really prepare for such encounters anymore than a deaf person can prepare to discuss the tonal qualities of musical instruments.

But it is apparently impossible to know what you are incapable of knowing, and so, every so often a vivisector can be convinced participate in a public debate or speak frankly about what is happening in a lab, but these events are very rare because even a blind person gets burned when they touch a flame.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Propaganda, Fake News, Echo Chambers, and the Sway of Authority

Evolution has fitted us with the propensity to believe what we are told, to do as we are ordered, and to march behind those we take to be our leaders, those in authority, the bosses, the experts. Those of us who say, “Wait a minute, let’s talk about this, let’s do some fact-checking, let’s think about this for a while first,” are in the minority. We are the doubters, the square pegs, the friction in the otherwise smooth road the totalitarians, the corporations, the self-interested would otherwise see before them.

Doubt has led me to read much more slowly than I used to back in the days before the Internet. Now, when I read something, I find myself fact-checking the author or reading up on some bit of history or scientific claim alluded to. And now, I find myself much more skeptical when an authority makes claims about themselves or their field of endeavor when those claims are laudatory, because, mainly, I’ve learned that some authorities are prone to spin the plain facts or else just make things up. More dangerous than the liars, are those who have been told and have believed falsehoods. When they claim this or that, and are wrong, they aren’t lying, they are simply repeating a lie they believe to be true. In some cases, the original lie is many steps back in a chain of dupes unknowingly bamboozled.

I don’t think it is always possible to tell whether someone repeating a falsehood is doing so knowingly, but there are cases when there simply isn’t an adequate explanation or justification for passing on false information. If a coworker repeats something they read that turns out to be wrong, they can be excused for have been misled. But if a reporter for a news outlet does this, it is harder to excuse them.

In reputable news sources, the information being reported should be, and I expect it usually is, vetted or reviewed prior to public dissemination. Sometimes, particularly when reporting on breaking news, it might not always be possible to be as thorough as might be the case in a weekly publication. That’s understandable, and I see the better newspapers and periodicals occasionally printing corrections. Unfortunately, our propensity to rely on the veracity and integrity of those we deem experts can and too often does result in otherwise prudent media outlets unwittingly misleading the public. A well known example was the New York Times’ gullibility and reporting on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But they owned up. Germane to this blog, a case in point was the recent USA TODAY article, “Let's continue animal testing: America's scientific community.” June 20, 2018. [See my comments: “Vivisectors call for more transparency.... yeah, right. June 23, 2018.]

There are some news sources that we expect to hold themselves to a higher threshold of accuracy than do daily papers. Among these are the top-tier science journals. While I understand that a headline on a checkout line tabloid should be read with doubt, a headline on the cover of the flagship journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science should be accurate. When top-tier science journals massage the facts to influence public opinion, the harm is great.

The cover of the June 29, 2018 issue of Science featured an article on our future titled “Tomorrow's Earth.” Too little too late, I fear, but I haven’t read it, so I’ll reserve judgment. The titles of three other featured articles were printed across the top of the cover. The first one promoted the article “Opening the lab door,” by staff writer David Grimm. The blurb on the cover read: “To fight critics, animal researchers urge greater transparency.”

The article itself is (as I write this) available here and here.

There seem to be only a few, two I think, possibilities to account for the misleading nature of Mr. Grimm’s article and claims in the Science Podcast, transcribed at the end of this essay. He might be actively and knowingly misleading readers and listeners. He might believe and accept the industry’s propaganda without question. Whatever the actual reason, his editors bear equal responsibility.

The notion that vivisectors are going to let the public see what they do to animals is ridiculous. No one who has read, even passingly, the history of the industry’s understandable reticence at letting the public see the things they do to animals will believe that the vivisectors have had a change of heart. So the headline alone teeters toward frank nonsense; and given its placement and claims, I think it fair to call it fake news because the editors and Mr. Grimm must know it isn’t true. If they know it isn’t true, they are passing on propaganda dressed up to look like truth. This violates the public’s trust and is part of the academy’s long seedy pattern of ethical deficit.

Below, I have annotated the pod cast Mr. Grimm participated in and inserted some links. To the journal’s credit, the host seems to express some doubt that the proposed PR gambit will shift the tide in the labs’ favor.

Increasing transparency in animal research to sway public opinion, and a reaching a plateau in human mortality By Sarah Crespi, David Grimm, Jennifer Golbeck Jun. 28, 2018 , 2:00 PM

~1:13. Sarah Crespi: Welcome to the Science pod cast for June 29, 2018. I’m Sarah Crespi. In this week’s show David Grimm has the story on sharing more on how and why animals are used in labs in an attempt to counter animal activists and win back the public.

~1:55: First up we have David Grimm; he’s here with a story, a new story, on animal research. Hi Dave.

David Grimm: Hey Sarah.

Sarah: Here in the U.S, public opinion about animal studies appears to be on the move. A poll last year recorded a substantial change since 2001. Back then 65% of adults found animal studies morally acceptable. As of 2017, only 51% feel that way. And this changing attitude appears to be having an effect on policies, like what Dave?

Dave: Well Sarah, there are a couple of new animal advocacy organizations on the scene. When people think of animal rights or animal advocacy organizations, often they tend to think of Peta, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the Humane Society of the United States.

One of these new outfits is called the White Coat Waste Project which just came into being a few years ago. It’s shtick is basically trying to capture conservative voters and politicians as well as liberals. Not only do they talk about torture inside laboratories, but they also talk about animal research being a waste of taxpayer money.

[I think it telling, in a Freudian way, that Mr. Grimm characterizes the efforts of an organization dedicated to ending taxpayer support of serious harm to animals as their shtick, a term he is unlikely to affix to the claims of the vivisectors.]

Dave: There’s also a group called the Rescue and Freedom Project. And their goal is basically to also get animals out of labs; they’ve been advocating for laws at the state level around the country too, what are called “beagle freedom bills” to force researchers to adopt out their lab animals, typically cats and dogs, at the end of research studies. They’ve had success in eight states so far, two in just the last six months. And the White Coat Waste Project has helped shut down a nicotine study on monkeys at the FDA and also a bunch of canine research at the USDA system.

[I think he meant the VA system.]

Dave: And all of these efforts have been really opposed by the scientific community [Sarah: Um-hum.] at the state and federal level. And yet, these animal advocacy groups keep on winning.

Sarah: Right. And so there is this change in public opinion and there’s some concern that, you know, as it gets below 50%, which is what is projected, a lot of laws are going to come into effect and that’s going to have a serious, that’s going to cause serious problems for researchers.

Dave: Yeah. Researchers are really worried that funding is going to dry up when public opinion reaches this tipping point. It’s going to be a lot harder to do animal research. And so they are really tying to come up with a way to combat a lot of this stuff that’s been happening, not only public opinion but in the legislations as well.

Sarah: Okay. So one of the places you focus on in your story that’s trying this, I guess we’d call it transparency approach, [Dave: Right.] was out in Oregon. So you got to visit a different a different kind of primate research facility for once.

Dave: Right. This is the Oregon National Primate Research Center [ONPRC]; it’s one of the biggest, it’s actually is the biggest primate research center in the country. It’s located in Beaverton, Oregon, just a few miles outside of Portland, and their whole thing is transparency. And what they mean by that is they’ve got about 5000 monkeys there. And what they do is they actually bring the public in to take a look at the monkeys in their habitat. To take a look at them in the places that they live; also meet the scientists there, and the scientists talk to visitors; sometimes its high school students, when I was there it was a group of high school students, sometimes it’s Rotary Clubs, sometimes it’s wedding parties; just anybody who wants to visit. Everyday of the year they offer tours. And the goal is: ‘Let’s break down these barriers,’ because labs have traditionally, at least in the past couple of decades, been pretty shy about their animal research.[Sarah: Right.] Not posting about it on the web, not talking about it in their press releases, and certainly not inviting the public into the laboratories or even their animal facilities to see what’s going on. So this Oregon center is really at the forefront. What a lot of advocates are saying that a lot of other research facilities in the U.S. should be doing which is being a lot more transparent, a lot more proactive in engaging the public, here are the animals we use, and here’s why we use them.

[It is grossly misleading to say that ONPRC’s “whole thing is transparency.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The visitors (wedding parties?) are shown some of the breeding colonies. You can see these outdoor corrals in the image below from Google maps.
A USDA inspector resigned about 10 years ago after nothing was done when she reported, among many other problems, that during one spring it became very muddy and the monkeys were having to wade through feces and mud to get their food. I suspect it still rains in Portland.

Also in the image, you can see some large buildings. Visitors are not shown what is happening in them. In a previous article on this topic, “‘A cataclysmic wake-up call’: Can more candor win back support for animal research?” David Grimm. Science Jun. 26, 2018. Mr. Grimm tried to explain why the buildings are off-limit to visitors. He reported:
More than 3000 macaques live in enclosures like those or in larger open-air arenas. Another 1500, which researchers are actively studying, are housed in a building off-limits to the tour. Gordon says those animals may be susceptible to human diseases and, unlike the others, aren’t used to seeing large groups of people and would be stressed by visitors.
This puts the lie to the notion that ORPRC’s “whole thing is transparency.” It demolishes the claim that there is any truth to the claim that vivisectors want the public to know what they are doing. In the two undercover investigations of ONPRC I am aware of, the images and videos that came out were startling. In one case involving capuchin monkeys, other researchers at ORPRC were so disturbed by them that they forced the project’s closure. You can see one on the monkeys in this video at about time: 2:54. The short video demonstrates why visitors are not allowed to see what is happening in the labs.]

Sarah: Now that’s a stand-alone facility. Their main thing is animal research. But there are animal research labs all over the country, especially in universities, and that’s been, there’s a long history of universities kind of hushing up any animal research; is that something you see changing?

[Just to clarify, no, ORPRC is not a stand-alone facility. Like most other large primate centers, it is part of a larger institution. In the case of ORPRC, it is part of Oregon Health & Science University.]

Dave: Right. And one of the big motivators for that was, you know, a lot of extreme animal activism in the 80s and 90s, and not just protests and letter-writing campaigns, but car bombings and things like that.

[Mr. Grimm is not right. In fact, the labs’ secrecy dates back even earlier than 1921, when the Journal of Experimental Medicine began refusing to publish photographs or detailed descriptions of what was being done to the animals. [See: Lederer, Susan E. "Political animals: The shaping of biomedical research literature in twentieth-century America." Isis 83.1 (1992): 61-79.]

Mr. Grimm may have accepted the hyperbole regarding “bombings and things like that” from organizations with a financial interest in frightening vivisectors. See my essays: “American Scientist.” 4-4-2008, and “‘Illegal Incidents’ on the rise?” 5-8-2008.]

Dave: That made a lot of scientists and universities very shy about, even though they thought they were doing very important work, shy about promoting about it.

[But, as Lederer’s work and history demonstrate, that’s not true. They have never been transparent or forthcoming. And really now, would someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year really say that what they are doing isn't important?]

And so, one of the goals is, like the Oregon primate center, let’s talk more about the animals we use, you know, and even if we don’t let the public come in on a tour, if people come to our website, you know, they should be able to see all the animals we are using, but more importantly, why we’re using them, what therapies they’re leading to, you know, what we do to them, you know, as one of the people I talked to in the story said, ‘It’s always worse in people’s minds when a lot of the public hears animal research or animal experimentation, they conjure up these very, almost like sci-fi frightening images which aren’t always the case. And the researchers say, you know, if people saw what we are doing, they wouldn’t be as willing to buy into what they see as propaganda from the animal rights animal advocacy community.

[But the reality is that what is going on in some of the labs is far beyond what many people might imagine; and even in research projects not using permanently attached devices or surgically altered animals, the animals are frequently sick, are in environmentally bleak surroundings, have nothing to do, and are permanently stressed or hypersensitive to the presence of laboratory staff. [Balcombe, Jonathan P., Neal D. Barnard, and Chad Sandusky. "Laboratory routines cause animal stress." Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science 43.6 (2004): 42-51.]

Sarah: Is there any evidence that, you know, this transparency approach, letting people into labs, letting people see what’s happening, you know, with animal research in much more detail, is there any evidence that that works to sway public opinion?

Dave: So, the U.K.’s actually been kind of ahead on this. And they started doing this a few years ago; they launched a thing called the Concordat which a lot of UK institutions sign on to in fact a majority have signed sign on to which they promise to be more open and what U.K. has seen since that happened, there’s been a up-tick for the first time in years, in support for animal research, and one of the sources I quote in the story says there has also been a lot less negative news stories in the press about animal research. Now that’s just a correlation, but the U.S. looks at that and says, well, it seems to have had success in the U.K., will it work here as well.

[As of July 5, 2018, the Concordat website [] was not working. The associated “Understanding Animal Research” was though. They pointed to a page featuring images and videos from four labs. The term Potemkin village comes to mind. See my essay: “Up is Down, or Happy Lab Rats,” 6-16-2017.]

Sarah: I mean but, in the past couple months you’ve been reporting on, you know, the changes in the status of chimps in research, and then there’ve been some stories that come out about, you know, how often inspections are going to happen in labs, and where those results are going to be posted and how often. You know, it doesn’t seem like that is the trend in terms of like animal research in the U.S. right now.

Dave: Yeah. I mean, you know, again, animal researchers, animal facilities have been pretty shy. So I think the big open question is A: is transparency the answer? Is that the way to sort of bring the public back, to combat some of these animal activist campaigns? But, B: are scientists and you know, universities in the U.S. actually willing to do that? [Sarah: Um hum.] You know, are they willing to sort of expose themselves? Are they willing to expose themselves tin a way they haven’t for decades and sort of risk maybe more animal activity, but perhaps along with that get more public understanding about what they are actually doing, and why they are doing it.

And that ended his segment.

Maybe Mr. Grimm does not live near a large university. Or, maybe the one I live near is the exception. UW-Madison’s public relations department has consistently kept pro-animal research articles in the local press, and these have frequently been picked up by national news outlets. Two examples are fair bookends to this phenomena: misleading reports about Harry Harlow’s experiments were printed across the country for thirty years, and recently papers have featured misleading articles about the university’s caloric restriction research with monkeys.

Claims about why they are using animals abound; details of what they are doing to them not so much.

A couple small things just to tie up loose ends. Mr. Grimm says that ORPRC is the largest primate center. Here’s some dated info from PrimateInfoNet.

Oregon National Primate Research Center
Supported Species: 244 Macaca fuscata (Japanese macaque), 3659 Macaca mulatta (rhesus macaque)

California National Primate Research Center
Supported Species: 72 Callicebus cupreus (coppery titi), 242 Macaca fascicularis (long-tailed macaque), 5111 Macaca mulatta (rhesus macaque)

New Iberia Research Center
Supported Species: 1200 Chlorocebus aethiops (grivet), 1200 Macaca fascicularis (long-tailed macaque), 1500 Macaca mulatta (rhesus macaque), 450 Macaca nemestrina (pigtail macaque), 350 Pan troglodytes (common chimpanzee)[now relocated.]

Tulane National Primate Research Center
Supported Species: 6 Aotus nancymaae (Peruvian red-necked owl monkey), 2 Aotus trivirgatus (owl monkey), 47 Cercocebus atys (sooty mangabey), 7 Cercocebus atys lunulatus (white-collared mangabey), 2 Chlorocebus aethiops (grivet), 8 Erythrocebus patas (patas monkey), 1 Lophocebus aterrimus (black mangabey), 36 Macaca fascicularis (long-tailed macaque), 3523 Macaca mulatta (rhesus macaque), 670 Macaca nemestrina (pigtail macaque), 217 Papio (baboon), 6 Papio anubis (olive baboon), 18 Saimiri sciureus (common squirrel monkey)

The Washington National Primate Center in Seattle has monkeys in many locations around the country and in Asia. I think it possible that they may have the most monkeys on hand.

And, how should the size of a primate center be determined? Though not a primate center, Covance, here in Madison, consumes about 9,000 monkeys a year. Many of the monkeys in the NIH National Primate Research Centers are used for breeding, and many are used in long term projects. I don’t think they are killing anywhere close to 9,000 monkeys a year.

More transparency is needed, but unlikely, because in truth, the vivisectors are afraid of the outrage and backlash if they were to actually reveal the truth.

Two more bits that may be of interest.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Vivisectors call for more transparency.... yeah, right.

Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018

Let's continue animal testing: America's scientific community
USA TODAY June 20, 2018

We call upon our country’s research institutions — large and small — to embrace openness. — Speaking of Research, et al.

USA Today’s headline slipped across the ethical journalism line. It is an example of what has become known as “fake news,” though in this case I doubt it was an intentional hoodwink. But implying that America’s “scientific community” had reached some sort of consensus on the use of animals was frankly wrong.

It’s hard to know how many people there are in the U.S. who should be counted when thinking about the “scientific community,” but it’s a whole lot more than the roughly 500 people who have signed the letter (as of 6-22-2018). Most of those who have signed are involved in the use of animals; of course they want to keep using animals. Quite clearly, the scientific community hasn’t voted in favor of using animals, but maybe a majority might be in favor of greater transparency, but there is no way to know at the moment.

What can be said unequivocally is that the labs generally keep the ugly details of what they do to animals hidden from the public. They started doing this big-time more than a century ago. See for instance, Lederer, Susan E. "Political animals: The shaping of biomedical research literature in twentieth-century America." Isis 83, no. 1 (1992): 61-79.

A minuscule sliver of the scientific community signed a letter that said in part: “We call upon our country’s research institutions — large and small — to embrace openness. We should proudly explain how animals are used for the advancement of science and medicine, in the interest of the wellbeing of humans and animals.” Indeed.

Peta commented on the letter saying it welcomed the call for transparency. “We urge animal experimenters to video everything they do, from inducing heart attacks in dogs to shocking the feet of mice to cutting open the skulls of monkeys, and release it to the public that funds most of it. We ask them to be open about the fact that 90% of animal studies fail to lead to treatment for humans and to explain why they still use animals in drug research when 95% of new drugs that test safe and effective in animals fail in human trials.”

I have to laugh at the vivisectors' sugary call for greater openness. As of June 23, the directors of six of the seven NIH National Primate Research Centers (Nancy L. Haigwood, R. Paul Johnson, Jon E. Levine, John H Morrison, Jay Rappaport, Sally Thompson-Iritani) has signed on. Only Robert E. Lanford, director of Southwest is missing.

They know full well that they are the ones keeping the public from seeing what is going on in the labs. Implying otherwise is no different than Trump saying that he wishes children didn’t have to be taken from the parents.

Thinking only about the six NIH Primate Center directors who are calling for an embrace of openness, I have a couple easy suggestions for them.

1. When someone asks for a copy of a video or photograph, give it to them.

2. Better yet, put all your video footage and photographs on line.

3. Make your daily care logs accessible to the public.

4. Advertise the time and place of your IACUC meetings. Make sure they are open to the public. Make the minutes publicly available.

There is no reason they can’t do these things any more than Trump couldn’t order a halt to separating children from the parents.

I’ve got $100 that says none of them will.

Like many other claims about their use of animals, this one rings hollow; it appears to be simple propaganda intended to mislead the public about the morality of the participants in their cruel and lucrative profession.

I mention an example of the videos they could easily put on line in my essay, “The Future of Primate Vivisection.” (4-15-2017)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Through the looking glass, or, holy cow, I'm an FBI fan now.

I wanted to vote for Jill Stein. And I understand why many voted for her or Bernie Sanders. But, as I repeatedly said on Facebook, it wasn't a normal race. As the election neared, I commented quite a bit on this; I've included some below and have added a few links where it appears I was correct in my concern and worry:
Votes matter. Individuals vote. I believe Trump could turn out to be Hitler: Moslems and Hispanics rounded up and put in internment camps, deported, that a Trump presidency would give free reign to the KKK, to white supremacy, that things would be off-the-chart bad for animals, the planet... if you live in a state where the outcome isn't absolutely certain and you don't vote for slime-ball dishonest Hillary, you own the the Trump presidency.
I think its OK to vote for Stein if the polls show a high likelihood that Trump won't win your state. I will as well if the polls show a strong likelihood that he isn't going to win Wisconsin. Anything near the MOE and the risk is just too great.
I vote Green and progressive when given the opportunity, but things are a little different this time. It does not seem true to me that Stein could win if only those who don't want either Hillary or Trump would vote for her. First, I don't believe that very many people support Trump because they don't want Hillary. Trump's supporters seem to be sold on racism and authoritarianism. His 40% looks solid to me. Second, only some of Hillary's supporters, people like me, do so because we fear Trump is Hitler. A significant percentage of her supporters are the real deal; they genuinely want her to be President, and would vote for her no matter who she runs against. If Trump's 40% is solid, and if only half of Hilary's is, then there simply aren't enough votes out there to elect Stein, even if everyone like me put fear behind us. If we were to do so, it looks like a plain fact to me that Trump would win.
Yep. internment camps for Mexicans and Moslems, musing about using nuclear weapons, the strong support by police and military, that stuff scares the hell out of me. Enough to vote for a lying piece of shit who will change nothing.
If you live in a state that is clearly going one way or the other, definitely vote for Stein. It you are in a toss-up state one must be pragmatic and help stop Hitler.
Lying sack of shit or Hitler... I'm forced to go with the shit.
And seemingly, at least some people in the FBI also thought, correctly, that Trump would be a danger to the better things about America. And that brings me to wondering what an FBI insider should do, or should have done, if they see a neo-Hitler rising to power.

I never imagined that I would be rooting for the FBI, the agency's history is so very dark; it has actively opposed many of the things I believe are the leading edge of progress. But here I am.

I've truly stepped through the looking glass. We've got picture of Robert Mueller on our refrigerator along with a prayer for his well-being. He was the Director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013, when agents were running amok, and targeting animal rights activists. Crazy.

Trump's base is in convulsions. Peter Strzok and Lisa Page's texts in the DOJ Inspector General's report make it clear that they too were alarmed at the prospect of Trump winning the election. Strzok seemingly had input and some control of the direction of the Clinton email probe and the Russia collusion investigation. The sometimes-rational Chair of the House Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy, was beside himself that Strzok had been involved.

That begs the question, are FBI investigations always staffed by neutral agents? Obviously not. And do FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel prejudge the subjects of their investigations? Of course they do. It would be absurd to think otherwise, and yet, that seems to be what Congressman Gowdy was claiming in his harangue.

And that brings me to the point of this essay: law enforcement officers of all sorts, military officers, FBI and CIA agents, exactly the people I worry are sometimes attracted to their chosen professions because of a lust for power, who might be attracted to the notion of totalitarianism, are also those who will have to act independently and with principle should a Hitler-like person seem to be coming to power in the U.S. And to the degree that they might believe this to be the case, they will have to be counted on to take some affirmative steps to stop him or her. To the degree that Strzok was motivated by a genuine fear that Trump could be a neo-Hitler, I think he is to be thanked.