Thursday, November 1, 2018

Vivisectors Love Animals - the Second to Last Part. Slaugherhouse designer used as moral icon.

Vivisectors love animals and other lies the shitheads tell.

In Vivisectors Love Animals, Part 1, Part Deux, Part 3A, Part 3B, and Part 4 Dogs and Cats, I looked at the misleading images and some of the claims made in the little pro-vivisection propaganda booklet "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" written and produced by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR: See the SourceWatch report) and 176 co-sponsors including the tax payer-funded NIH National Primate Research Centers. The little booklet was being distributed by the Americans for Medical Progress (AMP: See the SourceWatch report) as part of the vivisection industry's effort to convince the citizens of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin to vote against a revision to the village's public nuisance ordinance that would ban breeding and shipping of dogs and cats for use in a laboratory.

Here's the language that will appear on the ballot:
The following acts, omissions, places, conditions and things are specifically declared to be public nuisances offending public morals and decency: (5) RESEARCH DOGS/CATS. (a) Any place or premises where cats or dogs are possessed for the purpose of taking or sending the cat or dog outside the village to be used for any medical, surgical, or chemical investigation, experiment, research or demonstration OR (b) any place or premises where cats or dogs are used for medical, surgical or chemical investigation, experiment, research or experimentation involving pain or distress to the animal.
The industry is at a loss as to how to deal with the public's concern for animals. One industry front group claims that the real goal of those who claim(!) they are opposed to hurting animals is really to "impede health research."  I don't recall ever running into a vivisector willing to debate the real issue. They seem to understand the ugliness of their fundamental claim and to recognize the likely disgust that would result if they spoke more matter-of-factly. The little pro-vivisection propaganda booklet "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" is just more evidence that this is the case.

They seem to know that the public would recoil at the truth, so they publish misleading pictures and text and claim that they love animals too, which is like veal farmers saying they love calves.

The notion that people like me who recoil at the reality of what is occurring in the animal labs are really trying to impede health research is ludicrous. Why would I or anyone else be opposed to medical research? You don't have to be opposed to medical research to be adamantly opposed to some medical research. I suspect that an overwhelming majority, let's say all reasonably thoughtful and caring people, would be adamantly opposed to research like this, this, and this. But history is sadly unambiguous, there are plenty of people who thought that experimenting on unsuspecting poor people or prisoners or orphans was just dandy; there is no reason to suppose that laws making such evil things illegal did anything to reduce the number of people willing to conduct such experiments.

Here's the second to last image in the little booklet:

The caption reads: "Many research institutions encourage staffers to adopt research dogs through vetted partners like Homes for Animal Heroes and proven programs such as Lab to Leash, a part of Beagle Rescue League." (As if that dog had been used in a lab.)

At least they are consistent. The Beagle Rescue League is a project of Americans for Medical Progress, the group that put on the presentation where I picked up the little booklet. The Beagle Rescue League was an industry response to some limited success by an organization founded in 2010 called the Beagle Freedom Project.

The Beagle Freedom Project got state laws passed mandating the public adoption of dogs and cats who survived after being used in a lab. The were successful in California, Nevada, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Connecticut. In response, the industry ginned up their own "rescue" groups and has tried to return the decision-making to the labs.

 Here's the last image in the little booklet:

The caption reads: "Love Animals? Support Animal Research. Dr. Temple Grandin Does! She's an animal welfare expert and professor of animal studies at Colorado State University."

In this context, "animal welfare expert" is a euphemism. It means that she looks for ways to move animals through slaughterhouses more efficiently. She is paid to design slaughterhouses. Here's an interesting essay from Marc Beckoff about Grandin's position on animals: My Beef With Temple Grandin: Seemingly Humane Isn't Enough.

The dog in the picture does not seem to want to be with her. I wouldn't either.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Vivisectors Love Animals - Part 4 Dogs and Cats

Vivisectors love animals and other lies the shitheads tell.

In Vivisectors Love Animals - Part One and Part Deux, I reported on the nature of the event that led to me picking up the little booklet -- "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" -- from the Foundation for Biomedical Research, paid for by 176 companies including a number taxpayer-funded laboratories and institutions. 

In Vivisectors Love Animals - Part 3A, I began looking at how FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors attempt to bamboozle the public. Nowhere in the little booklet is there an honest representation of what is done to the animals used in the labs.

In Vivisectors Love Animals - Part 3B, I also pointed out the little booklet's misleading claims regarding the federal and local oversight of the labs and FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors continuing use of intentionally misleading images.

The presentation in Mount Horeb by three "experts" brought in for the occasion, was part of the industry's effort to defeat an amendment to the village's public nuisance ordinance making it illegal to breed dogs or cats for research or to transport dogs or cats bred for research through Mount Horeb. Ridglan Farms, a beagle breeding farm, is in Mount Horeb.

Last year, animal rights activists gained entry to the buildings and videoed what they saw. You can read an in-depth article about their efforts and the use of beagles in research here, it includes numerous pictures and video clips.

Here is an image from "Love Animals" (the middle one, as if that needs saying), and two from inside Ridglan:

All the images in the little booklet are intended to deceive the public; there isn't any other rational explanation for using pictures of seemingly happy and well-cared for animals rather than pictures actually illustrative of what is happening in the labs and in the breeding sheds.

The claims, in the text accompanying the happy beagles, are equally skewed and misleading. The entire book is clearly meant to mislead readers.

FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors write: "The number of dogs involved in research is small (less than 1/2 percent)." Presumably, they mean 1/2 percent of all animals used, but it is certainly an even smaller percentage if all the invertebrates, fish, mice, and rats are included. But so what? Why does the number of animals being hurt matter? Further more, the largest consumer of dogs are the product testing labs like Covance in Madison, which reported consuming 4,297 dogs in 2016.

FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors pose the question, "But can't you just use rats and mice?" They say "No, not really. The path from concept to cure is complicated." They make the tired claim that researchers begin with cell cultures, tissue samples, and computers and then must add animal models to their study. They say, "Most start with mice and rats. When they get positive results, they advance to an animal model that more closely resembles humans. That's where dogs usually come in."

But that is pretty much gibberish, a commonly told story told to quell alarm and anger. Reality is much different.

A recent case in point is the outbreak of birth defects associated with the Zika virus. On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared that the association between Zika and the cluster of birth defects in Brazil was a public health emergency.

Within a few months of that news, vivisectors who had been (and are) infecting monkeys with an AIDS-like virus began infecting pregnant monkeys with the Zika virus. There was no gradual build-up to using monkeys, they simply went right to them. This is a common pattern. In the 1950s, scientists injected human tissue from people with Kuru into the brains of two chimpanzees to see whether they would become ill; they did.

Having looked for about 20 years at the research conducted by vivisectors around the county, it has become quite clear to me that the NIH-funded scientists are not involved in some sequential series of steps as is claimed in "Love Animals." Those whose work I've followed and examined have done the same sort of experiments on the same species for decades; most of the animal experiments taxpayers are forced to pay for is basic science that rarely -- essentially never -- gets translated into clinical care.

FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors also make the crazy claim that dogs are used because humans and dogs share 4 out of 5 genes. That's sort of true, but its like saying that because two concertos use many of the same musical notes that we will learn the melody line of one from hearing the other. Here's an interesting resource on comparative genomes.

And then, there's this caption and image:

I suggested previously that FBR et al's claim concerning dogs and muscular dystrophy was probably motivated by Peta's campaign to stop Texas A&M's hideously cruel experiments using dogs with an inherited mutation causing them to develop severe symptoms reminiscent of the human disease.  I pointed out that FBR's income is generated by defending institutions and labs that come under fire for the terrible things they do to animals.

I suspect that the allusion to cochlear implants and cats might be a similar case. A few years ago it came to light that a vivisector at UW-Madison was using cats in his research on hearing. and that he had photographed some of the cats who had undergone surgery to implant the cochlear devices and hardware in their brain and screwed to their skulls. His name was Tom Yin. (An aside, he had never used mice, rats, cell cultures, or tissue samples.) You can read about that case here.

This orange tabby used and eventually killed by Dr. Yin was aptly named Double Trouble:

Can you see the difference? FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors want the public to think about the cat with the cone around his/her neck when they imagine cats being used in research. They too must believe that were the public to learn the truth that their ilk might be driven out of business or at least dramatically constrained compared to what they are allowed to do right now.

The two images, the happy beagles playing together and the cat with the cone around his neck make it abundantly clear that the reality of what is happening in the labs is so terrible that those associated with the industry will do everything they can to keep the reality hidden from the public. And not just hidden; they aim to deceive. There isn't an easy alternative explanation for publishing the little booklet. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Vivisectors Love Animals - Part 3B

Vivisectors love animals and other lies the shitheads tell.

In Vivisectors Love Animals - Part One and Part Deux, I reported on the nature of the event that led to me picking up the little booklet -- "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" -- from the Foundation for Biomedical Research, paid for by 176 companies including a number taxpayer-funded laboratories and institutions. 

In Vivisectors Love Animals - Part 3A, I began looking at how FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors attempt to bamboozle the public. Nowhere in the little booklet is there an honest representation of what is done to the animals used in the labs. The pictures they chose to use are evidence that they believe the public would be disturbed and would not be supportive if they knew the truth. In this regard, FBR and the 176 co-sponsors have chosen to ignore the reasons people are opposed to what they do to animals. "Love Animals?" is proof-positive that the industry thinks they need to mislead the public. They're right.

According to "Love Animals?", "Lab people ♥ their lab animals." Yes sir, love, love, love. As proof they have this picture:

The image is from Americans for Medical Progress (AMP; see the SourceWatch profile) on a website they call, "Come See Our World," which is just more hornswoggle. But they did reveal that the dog in the picture is named Peanut, and is being used to study Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and that caught my eye.

One website explains:

Golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD)

Golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD) is a progressive, fatal disease characterized by degeneration of skeletal and cardiac muscle, but some muscles paradoxically undergo hypertrophy. Signs of disease show soon after birth because affected pups are often ineffectual sucklers. Although all Golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD) dogs feature a total absence of dystrophin, phenotypic variability is frequently observed. Some severely-affected pups survive only a few days, while other dogs that survive for years with mild clinical involvement have also been documented.
Laboratories maintain colonies of these sick dogs; they breed them knowing that they will suffer until they die or are killed. This is another dog, Jelly, who was also used in these experiments:

It makes a sort of sick sense that AMP and FBR would use a photo of a dog being used in muscular dystrophy experiments because Texas A&M University has been under fire for breeding these sick dogs, and AMP and FBR's reputation among vivisectors is enhanced when they defend a lab and do what they can to fool the public.  It isn't a coincidence that they chose a picture of cute puppy being held on someone's lap; their goal is to mislead people so that the labs' income steams are not negatively affected. Accompanying the misleading picture of the puppy is misleading text. They say:

It's hard to reconcile the claim that everyone involved in the use of animals makes the animals' physical, physiologic, and behavioral needs a top priority when they breed them to be sick and suffer and keep them in barren cages, often alone. It's hard to reconcile those claims with the experimental surgeries, the pain they inflict, the fear they intentionally cause, and the secrecy they maintain. It's hard to reconcile those claims with the stark reality of the laboratories, the reality that FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors are working so hard to keep hidden.

And they treat them "with the utmost dignity and compassion"? Like the Nazi's did the Jews.

And that bit about the law? The industry must be very happy with the changes the Trump administration is implementing. 

And then, FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors assert that the U.S. research regulations are "among the strictest on the planet." Well, maybe. It's hard to imagine that a tumor-burdened rat in a plastic box could differentiate an American lab with, say, a Chinese lab. And according to a map near the bottom of this page, only New Zealand, India, and Europe have banned cosmetic testing. And given what is allowed to be done to animals in American labs, the possibility that American laws are among the strictest speaks volumes about the world-wide plight of animals being used in the name of money and science.

FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors point to the fact that some institutions are required to have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee; "Love Animals?" doesn't clarify which labs have to have oversight committees. A product testing lab that uses only mice, rats, fish, and/or invertebrate animals does not have to have such a committee. A lab involved only in agricultural research doesn't either.

But every lab using Animal Welfare Act-covered species or receiving federal funding does. But sadly, these committees are not much more than rubber stamps. It is telling that in spite of institutions' violations of the Animal Welfare Act and research that has pointed to the weaknesses of these committees, that those within the industry have never cared enough about the problems to look into them; or if they have, they've kept the results a secret.

The simple fact that these committees are comprised of people whose own projects will be subject to inspection by the researchers they are evaluating has made the system ineffective at best, and in practice, little more than a rubber stamp.

Interestingly, the two-page spread that claims the U.S. has strict laws, features this image supplied by the Jackson Laboratory, of mice, captioned with the observation that there are more than 9,000 strains of mice available to the vivisectors. Here's the image:

Someone reading the little booklet would assume that those mice are protected by the laws being touted in the text, but they aren't. Purpose-bred mice, like those in the image, are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act. They are nominally covered by the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy, but that policy is little more than a mirage.

USDA inspectors make annual visits to labs and institutions and make spot checks to see whether the vivisectors are complying with the Animal Welfare Act. When they find a violation, they tell them to do better. About the only real result occasional embarrassment if the public learns that the university down the street isn't too concerned about the animals it hurts and kills. Monetary fines are exceedingly rare and almost always paltry. But as weak and hollow as enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act has become, the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy makes it look like a police state.

Compliance with the PHS is only promised. Institutions need only promise in writing that they will follow a set of very weak policies. There are only rare and very occasional inspections to check that the policies are being followed, and those occur only when some issue has become too big to sweep under the rug. The PHS requires only that an institution promises to follow the recommendations in a small book called the Guide for the Care and Use of  Laboratory Animals (the Guide.) And even after long-running serious violations have been discovered, action is rarely taken. For more the Guide this see my essay: "The New Watered-Down Version of Oversight of U.S. Government-Funded Experimentation on Animals,"(7-26-12).

Back when the Guide said that labs had to obey state laws, the University of Wisconsin, Madison was violating them regularly, and thus violating the Guide. You can read more about the case that brought these criminal acts to light here. [The university succeeded in getting the law changed to exempt them and did so in a way that made public comment impossible. They were loath to have the public engage in discussion about their use of animals.]

The image of mice was misleading. First, this is the way mice are commonly stored in a lab: 

Second, an image of seemingly healthy mice is altogether misleading. The fact that FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors chose not to include images like these:

reinforces the my impression that FBR and the little booklet's 176 co-sponsors do not want to have a frank public discussion about using animals as mere tools.Why wouldn't they? The reason is neither complex nor nuanced; the simple answer is money.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Vivisectors Love Animals - Part 3A

Vivisectors love animals and other lies the shitheads tell.

In Vivisectors Love Animals - Part One and Part Deux, I reported on the nature of the event that led to me picking up the little booklet -- "Love Animals? Support Animal Research" -- from the Foundation for Biomedical Research paid for by 176 companies including a number taxpayer-funded laboratories and institutions.

I think it reasonable to assume that all 176 of the sponsors and Temple Grandin, who is featured in "Love Animals", want the readers -- the general public -- to believe that the information in the little book is accurate and forthcoming. They must know it isn't, but want the public to believe it is.

The pages aren't numbered, but about 8 pages in, there a 2-page spread showing a closed to door and caption: "To see what's going on in America's research institutions, turn the page."  And when one does, the lying shifts into hyper-drive. There is this photograph from the Oregon National Primate Research Center:

The caption may be hard to read. Here it is again:

Every item on this list is grossly misleading.

"Living spaces are carefully designed to meet the specific needs of every laboratory species." 

Utter nonsense. 

The law requires the Secretary of Agriculture to issue "standards, rules, regulations" regarding the humane care and use of animals which have to include minimum requirements concerning "handling, housing, feeding, watering, sanitation, ventilation, shelter from extremes of weather and temperatures, adequate veterinary care, and separation by species where the Secretary finds necessary for humane handling, care, or treatment of animals."

The law requires that dogs have the opportunity to exercise and that primates' environments promote their psychological well-being. The law also requires researchers to consider alternatives to procedures likely to cause pain or distress, and that steps be taken to limit and ameliorate the pain and distress when alternatives are not available or used. In practice, these requirements are weakly adhered to and the stipulated minimums are de facto standards. For instance,

Dogs over 12 weeks of age, except bitches with litters, must be provided a regular opportunity for exercise if they are individually in enclosures that provide less than two times the floor space required for that dog under section 3.6(c)(1) (i.e. length of dog in inches + 6) x (length of dog in inches + 6)/ 144 = required floor space in square feet. (3.8(a)).

My dog Micky is about 22 inches long. The law says that a dog his size would have to be provided an opportunity for exercise only if the cage he was in was smaller than about 10 1/2 square feet. In other words, as long as the cage was just over three feet by three feet (3.2 ft on a side), a laboratory or university would not be required to ever provide him with more space. Micky has a large backyard and goes on two long walks around the neighborhood everyday. Sometimes we go to a dog park. He loves chasing a tennis ball. He has the run of the house. Keeping him in such a small space would be inhumane. It would be cruel. Worse, the "acceptable" minimum space for him would be a mere 28 inches on a side. As long as he was given some opportunity to be in a larger space for an unspecified period of time, to be determined by the attending veterinarian, he could be kept forever in such a tight space. Keeping Micky in these conditions would meet the legal requirement of a lab having to provide an opportunity to exercise. (From "We All Operate in the Same Way." p 280.)

Mice and rats and other rodents are kept in small plastic boxes. Birds can't fly. More about "Love Animals?" absurd claim below.

"Specially trained veterinarians oversee their well-being and care."

Consider this: Doctors complete a 4-year undergraduate degree program, spend 4 years in medical school, and then complete 3-7 years of residency training before they are eligible for medical licensing. Veterinarians complete a 4-year undergraduate program and a four-year veterinary medical degree program. Doctors learn to treat one species. At a vet school like the University of Wisconsin's, students learn to treat dogs, cats, cows, and horses. The curriculum is focused on animals used in agriculture and dogs and cats. Lab animal vets commonly spend 2-3 years of residency training and may be called on to treat many different species.

Additionally, they are sometimes directly involved in using the animals in their care, much like some of the Nazi doctors who worked in the death camps and experimented on the prisoners.  The attending veterinarian at the Wisconsin National Primate Center, Buddy Capuano for instance, oversees the care of thousands of monkeys and co-authors papers on their illnesses after being intentionally infected with various viruses. You can review some of his publications on PubMed. The animals' well-being is a secondary concern for many lab animal vets.

 "Temperature is monitored 24/7, including weekends and holidays."

 In the many sets of laboratory oversight committee meeting minutes I've reviewed, deaths from overheating as a result of faulty cooling have not been uncommon. The minutes have reported on animals left in overheated transport vehicles, animals dying of thirst from clogged or broken watering systems, animals gnawing on hoses left on the tops of cages, and on and on. The labs are supposed t monitor the animals closely, but in practice entire roomfuls of animals are sometimes overlooked. Animals in dire situations are sometimes left overnight without care. I learned of these events from the oversight committee meeting minutes and USDA inspection reports, back when the USDA was still sort of enforcing the Animal Care Act.

"Lab animals drink clean filtered water."

In some cases, the animals are given very little water in order to keep them thirsty. Thirst is used to motivate them to perform in ways the vivisector desires. In some cases, the water is laced with any of numerous chemicals or drugs. USDA inspectors have found animals having to drink stagnant water; they have found animals having to wade through mud and scum.

"The air they breath is significantly cleaner than the air inside our homes."

This is probably true in some cases. But, many animals are caged outdoors, even in urban settings near busy streets. Also, some animals are used in experiments that force them in breath noxious and harmful fumes and gasses. A paper from vivisectors at the University of Colorado published in 2018, reported on the effects to rats forced to breath in chlorine gas. They wrote, "Massive chlorine inhalation caused severe acute respiratory failure, hypoxemia, decreased cardiac output, neuromuscular abnormalities (ataxia and hypotonia), and seizures resulting in early death." And the knew it would.

"They eat healthy because an expert nutritionist monitors their diet."

Like the previous assertion, this is probably true that in in some cases, animals in labs are receiving adequately nutritious food. The notion that "expert nutritionists" are involved is simple blather. In fact, labs to a terrible job meeting the dietary needs of many animals, even when diet and nutrition are the focus of the research.

The most straightforward example I know of is the Wisconsin National Research Primate Center's twenty-five years-long study on caloric restriction using monkeys. They reported that the monkeys in the control group were dying younger than the monkeys in the experimental group who received less food. (They claimed, based on that data, that reducing one's caloric intake might make one live longer.)

But a parallel study conducted by the National Institute on Aging reported that the monkeys in their caloric-restricted group didn't live any longer or have better health than the monkeys in their control group.

It turned out that the Wisconsin monkeys were being fed a diet very high in processed sugar. The monkeys in the control group, allowed to eat all the wanted, were morbidly obese, as the picture below shows.

The scientists involved in this long running project were squarely focused on diet. They were, arguably, just the sort of experts being referred to in "Love Animals?" Of course, the authors of the little booklet were simply saying whatever they thought might quell the public's concerns. Truth was obviously not their goal.

Primates regularly snack on fruits and veggies cut into bite-sized pieces.

How lucky they are! In fact, efforts are made to make such food items less than easy to eat. A universal problem in the monkey labs is self-injury. The monkeys in the labs are kept in profoundly small barren cages. These animals are smart and in the wild are confronted with complex problems that they must think about to solve.

Like human prisoners in solitary confinement, the common laboratory conditions cause many of them to harm themselves, to develop repetitive behaviors to cope with the mind-numbing dullness and constant threat from humans. They are trapped, there is no escape, and as you or I would, they try to cope. The labs are forced to deal with their self-inflicted wounds and related chronic diarrhea. To reduce some of these problems, the labs have developed ways to take the monkeys' minds off their situation. Many of these involve making prized food items hard to get forcing the monkeys to have to work to get them. FBR's claim is misleading and hides the hard truth.

And environmental enrichment (like the example shown here) helps promote psychological enrichment.  

Of all the claims on their list, this is the most misleading and absurd. It is the most dishonest. The fact that NIH National Primate Research Centers help finance the production and distribution of such misleading propaganda underscores their dishonesty and desire to fool the public. The people who hurt these animals are lying about what they do to them and how they are treated. Look again at the photo they are using from the Oregon National Primate Research Center. This is a photo of one of their outdoor breeding colonies. Compare the proffered Ptempkin village with the reality:

Monkeys are harvested, just like the Morlocks harvested the Eloi in H.G. Well's The Time Machine. Claiming that an outdoor breeding colony is representative of how these animals are treated is the epitome of dishonesty and hoodwinking. It shows in spades that the people who work in these places, the people who try to fool the public about what goes on in them them, who mislead the public about how the animals are treated, should not and cannot be trusted. They are liars who get rich hurtiing those who are much weaker than themselves.

They are despicable.

Vivisectors Love Animals - Part Deux

Vivisectors love animals and other lies the shitheads tell.

I am writing here about information in a booklet I picked up at a public presentation put on by Americans for Medical Progress (AMP; see the SourceWatch profile.) See "Vivisectors Love Animals - Part One" for more info on the booklet and why this national organization put on their show in a rural village in Wisconsin.

In Part One I pointed out that the booklet is funded in-part, according to the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR; see the SourceWatch profile), by tax-payer supported institutions, including the NIH National Primate Research Centers.

Early on in this little booklet, FBR claims that the issue of hurting and killing animals in the name of medical science is "a really complicated issue," but that seems misleading to me. While there are many ways animals of many species are hurt and killed by vivisectors and others, the notion that we shouldn't hurt and kill them doesn't seem complicated at all. This uncomplicated notion is one that vivisectors, like those who participated in the presentation, prefer not to confront.

The booklet starts out with the debunked but still employed claim that every medical advance is the result of experiments on animals.

This claim was debunked in the 2008, February 1 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Those who repeat the claim and who purport to be experts are abusing their authority; they are violating the public's trust. [Matthews, Robert AJ. "Medical progress depends on animal models-doesn't it?" Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 101.2 (2008): 95-98.]

I looked carefully at twenty-one such claims made by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in my book, We all Operate in the Same Way. According to the university, those twenty-one claims were "tangible evidence" of the benefits of animal research. Only one of their claims was mostly true, the development of a live-organ preservation fluid, and even that was probably delayed by the use of dogs' organs instead of humans'. The other twenty were a mix of speculation about potential future benefits of on-going research, the retelling of the institution's myths, and frankly erroneous assertions.

There isn't an easy way to explain the industry's continuing insistence that virtually every medical advance has been the result of experiments on animals other than believing that they must know they are making shit up and spinning the facts to mislead the public. And given their paranoia and extreme secrecy it seems likely that they are deeply worried, terrified, of the public's reaction were the horrors in the labs more widely known. The truth is their enemy.

One thing we were told during the presentations -- one of the speakers was a researcher, the other a lab animal veterinarian -- is that animal research helps pets. I don't think there is any debate over the question of whether experimenting on dogs or cats could lead to improvements in clinical care for other dogs and cats. But at the heart of this appeal from those within the industry is the very dark notion that it is justifiable to hurt you or yours to help me and mine. It doesn't get much more selfish than that.

For real-world examples of veterinarians doing just that, see my essay, "UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine." The old bait-and-switcheroo. 4-16-2018.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Vivisectors Love Animals - Part One

Vivisectors love animals and other lies the shitheads tell.

I recently attended a public presentation put on by Americans for Medical Progress (AMP; see the SourceWatch profile.) The presentation was in the Mount Horeb, Wisconsin Community Center. AMP's Executive Director, Paula Clifford, ran the show.

She started out with spin: "This is not about the ballot measure, not about defending any company." But everyone one in room know she was full of shit. In fact, she had a table full of pro-vivisection materials, and glued into the front cover of one glossy little booklet was this:

Local activists succeeded in getting enough signatures to put a measure on the Nov. 6 2018, ballot to add breeding dogs and cats for research to Mount Horeb's public nuisance ordinance. That's the only reason AMP had come to Mount Horeb, a town of about 7,000 people. Well, that and the fact that Mount Horeb is home to Ridglan Farms, a beagle breeding outfit that sells about 3,000 dogs a year to laboratories across the country.

The little booklet, produced by AMP's twin, the Foundation for Biomedical Research  is chocked full of misleading claims and assertions. (FBR; see the SourceWatch profile.) Here's the cover:

I have lots to say about the self-serving lies and misleading claims in the book, but here I want to point out something I learned from it that I either never knew or else put out of my mind because of its grotesque perversion.

I'll set the stage with this hypothetical case. First, some facts: The Republican National Committee reported receiving $118,753,927 in contributions for the 2018 election cycle. This money, seemingly, came from corporate and private donors. But, what if much of the RNC's funding came from federal agencies and public institutions receiving many large federal grants? And what if the Democratic National Committee didn't receive similar support? It seems to me that federal agencies and institutions receiving large federal and state grants ought not be allowed to give taxpayer money to political campaigns or to special interest lobbyists, and particularly not when the issue they are supporting is very controversial. And even more so when they have a vested financial interest in the matter.

The "Love Animals?" booklet says that the booklet has 176 co-sponsors; I take that to mean that FBR receives money from them to produce it:

But, it seems that they do receive government funding. While most of the listed co-sponsors are private corporations and companies involved in vivisection (Ridglan Farms is on the list), there are also taxpayer-funded institutions. Some, like Johns Hopkins University, the recipient of the largest amount of taxpayer dollars from the National Institutes of Health, can probably play a shell game to disguise the source of the money they give to FBR, but others have a more narrow source of support.

For instance, on the list are the California, the Oregon, the Southwest, the Washington, the Yerkes, and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Centers. These labs receive most of their funding from the National Institutes of Health.

It seems inappropriate for public funds to be funneled to front groups that promote and defend controversial practices that half the public is opposed to. It seems transparently clear that the NIH primate centers are doing so out of self-interest. This seems to be yet another bit of evidence that those associated with the vivisection labs are unable to discern or uninterested in choosing the ethical course of action. This fits the pattern.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

So-Called Progress

A Facebook friend recently shared an article from Global Meat News reporting that Maple Leaf Foods' is investing in "world class" animal welfare technology.

I snarkily quipped, "So enlightened!"
They answered, "I want the production of animals for meat to end, but, in the meantime, I want animals to suffer less in the process."
I replied, "I think things like this slow progress because they lull public concern. To the degree they do, they cause many more animals to suffer in the long term."
To which they said, "What is the evidence for that position? People are becoming vegan/vegetarian/reducitarian at the same time incremental steps towards more humane animal slaughter are being taken, with more being debated."

I like being challenged; it makes me look more carefully at what I believe and why I believe it. In this case, the first thing that came to mind as I wondered about my reaction was the history of animal welfare in the labs. It is my studied opinion that vivisectors' and their institutions' claims of humane care are fraudulent and entirely self-serving. It appears to me that their claims of humane care are used only to deflect public concern. Their secrecy supports this notion. My twenty-plus years of observation make me doubt the claims made by those who say the harms they inflict and the deaths they cause are achieved humanely.

From its website, it seems that Maple Leaf Foods is genuinely trying to treat the animals it raises and kills more humanely. My friend, and probably many others, says that is a good thing.

This is what the company says:
Maple Leaf Foods has strong values that define our culture and have a direct relationship on how we treat the animals we raise or source.

As the largest value-added meat protein company in Canada, we must be a leader in animal care. Animal welfare is an integral part of our culture and business. Our commitment to animal care focuses on progress in all of these areas:
Minimize or eliminate the use of antibiotics in animal care
Transition sows from confining gestation crates to open housing
Build a world-class animal care program that will be the foundation of a strong animal careculture
We are committed to enhancing our animal wellness practices in a manner that advances the Five Freedoms – the most widely accepted global standard for responsible animal care.

It may seem matter-of-fact and obvious that any reduction in suffering is a good thing. But reality is often complex. As I wondered about my intuitive aversion to the use of humane care as a marketing tool, I thought about examples from history. I wondered whether there might be examples that supported my worry that soft-peddling harm might, in fact, cause greater harm.

The electric chair came to mind. Prior to its invention and adoption as the preferred method of execution, most people condemned to death were hanged. The electric chair was promoted as a more humane method of killing, and it probably is.

One sad and interesting thing I learned is that electrocution was primarily developed using dogs, though other animals were also used. See

In any case, it appears, at least in the short term, that the development of a more humane way to execute people led to an increase, a large increase, in the number of people executed. The chart below is from

Between 1850-1899, 58 people were electrocuted and 3,781 were hanged. Between 1900 and 1949, 3,564 people were electrocuted and 2,677 people were hanged. It looks to me, from this data, that the number of executions increased because there was a purportedly humane way to kill people.

This isn't definitive, but it reinforces my impression that telling people that some terrible thing we are doing to others is now being done humanely promotes or at least sustains those practices.

It appears to me that the embrace of "humane" practices is a result of suppliers worrying about the public's increasing embrace of the idea that animals have rights. So, while these changes are good in a sense, they should more accurately be seen as rear-guard ploys to maintain and sustain the livelihoods of those who depend on hurting and killing others.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Another Day, Another Dire Warning. Or, How the Experts and Our Leading Institutions Continue to Fail Us.

The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say “There is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the body found.

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change. (The Washington Post. October 7, 2018)

It's pretty clear that most of the scientists in decision-making roles at the National Institutes of Health, at the the Department of Agriculture, and at our large universities don't believe this. They might give lip service to the idea of climate change when they want or need to appear informed, but actions always speak louder than words.

There are numerous things the average person can do to combat our plant's warming. We can use low energy consuming light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, and low volume toilets. We can wash clothes in cold water, and turn off their lights, appliances and electronics not in use. And all told, those things will make a smidgen of a difference. But only a smidgen.

Even driving a high-efficiency car like a Prius will help, but even if we all drove one, we'd still be careening toward the cliff.

At the very top of the list of things the average person can do to slow global warming is not have children. Humans are the engine of climate change. There are just too many of us. Moreover, every child is likely to have children, and so on in turn, all of them contributing to poisoning the planet. There is nothing with as large a positive impact as not having children.

And yet, the National Institutes of Health spends gazillions trying to find ways for women with reproductive problems to get pregnant. For instance, Anna Krueger Allen, at Howard University received $388,397 to study reproduction in tiny worms.(Project Number: 1R15HD084253-01A1) She explained her main reasons for doing so:
Despite fantastic advancement made in reproductive technologies within the last few decades, approximately 10% of reproductive age couples in the United States still remain infertile. Unfortunately the existing assisted reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, are not the cure-all answer to this significant societal problem.
She must believe that women not being able to get pregnant is a more pressing problem than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization.

Institutions dedicated to overcoming infertility and birthing problems are paid for with tax dollars; one example is the Magee-Womens Research Institute [sic] in Pittsburg. I'm sure they do some good work, but they must not believe that our burgeoning population is the largest factor in the pending calamity that climate scientists keep pointing to. They either don't believe the experts or don't care or, and this is the most likely reason, the money they are paid makes them deaf and blind to the warnings.

One example: Since 2014, Kyle Orwig (Project 5P01HD075795-05) has received almost $7 million to find a way for men who have undergone radiation for testicular cancer to father children. He says:
Applying our discoveries on stem cell activity and niche quality in mouse and rat testes, it is now possible to restore fertility in infertile males by transplanting spermatogonial stem cells. ... Men or boys who receive chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer have few options to safeguard their fertility. Spermatogonial stem cell transplantation provides a potential therapeutic avenue. We recently demonstrated that transplanted spermatogonial stem cells could regenerate spermatogenesis and produce functional sperm in infertile male primates rendered infertile by chemotherapy treatment (Hermann et al., 2012). Ongoing studies will systematically evaluate the feasibility and safety of the stem cell transplant technology to preserve and restore the fertility of men or boys who will be rendered infertile due to disease or medical treatment.
He hopes that those men and boys will have children. But we should be encouraging people to not have children. We ought not be spending millions of tax dollars helping infertile women or couples have children. Orwig and his staff must believe that men unable to father children is a more pressing problem than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization.

These are just a couple examples among very many that appear to demonstrate NIH-funded scientists' distrust or frank denial of the repeated warnings from the climate scientists. This proceed-as-if-everything-is-fine mentality permeates science. The journals plow ahead publishing papers on subjects far afield from the problems others point to on the fast-approaching horizon.

This helps explain the sliver of coverage global warming receives in the daily news shows, and until the local news and daily papers start regularly reporting on a problem, it isn't on most people's radar.

Second only to not having children, going vegan will have a greater positive impact than anything else the average person can do. And yet, USDA actively promotes meat eating. So, it seems reasonable to suppose that they don't believe the climate scientists either. Or, they must think that short-term financial gain for meat, egg, and dairy producers is more important than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization. I don't see another way to explain USDA's efforts.

And it's not just NIH and USDA. Many colleges and universities promote animal agriculture. Many universities have large programs dedicated to teaching and promoting the production of meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal derived foods and products. The professors teaching those classes, indeed, the university chancellors and regents and donors must all dismiss the concerns raised by the climate scientists; how else to explain their proceed-as-if-everything-is-fine mentality except, perhaps, by greed and a complete disregard for those who will have to deal with future events?

And it isn't just NIH, the colleges and university, the media, and the USDA, many politicians don't seem to believe the climate scientists either. Tammy Baldwin, one of Wisconsin's U.S. Senators, introduced a bill to outlaw the use of the words milk, yogurt, and cheese in the names of plant-based products. But we should be encouraging people to stop eating the animal derived products because animal agriculture is repeatedly pointed to by climate scientists as a significant factor in global warming. So, Baldwin must not believe the climate scientists either, or else, as I have said above, she must believe that short-term financial gain for meat, egg, and dairy producers is more important than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization. I don't see another way to explain her position and her "DAIRY PRIDE Act."

Given the fact that so many scientists, scientific institutions, colleges and universities, government agencies, media outlets, and politicians don't seem to place much if any weight on the fears of those who study climate, it seems that we will be putting their scientific claims to the test in a real-world experiment.

I grew up reading science fiction and dystopian novels. It looks to me like I might get a chance to experience something akin to one of those stories. To paraphrase an old curse, it looks like we will be living through some interesting times.

See too: UW-Madison says, "Screw you."

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.