Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Basso. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Basso. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Basso's Relevance

As readers of this blog know, the likely upcoming exposure of Michele Basso's running battle with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's veterinary staff has been a very long-time coming (if it comes to pass.)

A few things to keep in mind, if and when the story breaks tomorrow:

Basso is part of the university's neuroscience training program. That is, students have been receiving their training, in part, from her. This suggests that a number of UW-Madison-generated neuroscience PhDs will have been taught that veterinarians' concerns and directives regarding animal care can be dismissed out-of-hand. And, indeed, it appears they can.

The veterinary staff began calling the university's oversight committees' attention to the serious problems in Basso's lab at least seven years ago. And essentially nothing was done. I have to qualify my observation with "essentially" because in fact, details were recorded and letters were written; but nothing changed.

Her work was suspended for a time, but the suspensions were kept hidden from the public. The veterinarian who suspended her refused to reinstate her, so another vet was called in to do so. Neither the NIH nor the USDA mentioned this highly unusual circumstance in their inspection reports, which suggests that the details were kept from them (or that they were complicit in trying to keep the problems out of the press, but this seems unlikely to me.)

The simple and straightforward fact that it has taken so many years for the university to deal with such blatant malfeasance even while monkeys were being so seriously harmed, is undeniable evidence that the oversight system doesn't work. It never has, and likely can't. It's a poor and toothless design that primarily benefits the researchers by providing a smoke screen or illusion of meaningful regulation.

Here's an example of the repeated requests we have been making over the past eight months:
December 20, 2009

Rick R. Lane
Associate Director
Research Animal Research Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison
396 Enzyme Institute
1710 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53726-4087

Dr. Mr. Lane,

This letter is in response to your November 16th request that I provide more clarification and specificity regarding my records requests of August 1, 2009 and October 27, 2009.

Briefly: I am requesting all records created during and or included in the recently concluded investigation of Michelle Basso’s lab.

In order to help you identify those records, I have described below in more detail the records I am requesting:

*Copies of all correspondence to or from Mr. Richard Moss, Professor, Department of Physiology, regarding Dr. Michelle Basso and/or any members or associates of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab, dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from any staff member of the UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center (RARC) regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from any of the University of Wisconsin Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from any federal agency (i.e. the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) and the USDA/APHIS) regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab from July 20, 2008 to the present.

Please send me any portion of this request as soon as it is located.

Your prompt attention to this matter will be appreciated. I am willing to pay up to $100.00 for copying costs. If the cost will be greater than this, please let me know when copying costs approach that limit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Basso Affair

An October 4, 2010 letter from an executive committee of UW-Madison’s Faculty Senate to Chancellor Biddy Martin is the newest bit of the ever growing mountain of evidence that oversight of research using animals at the university is out of control and grossly ineffective.

The failures were recognized by the university’s senior administrators years ago, according to them, but left uncorrected until a crisis loomed, threatening the immense flow of cash from the public coffers, now said to be over $1 billion annually. (That's a lot of motivation.)

As a result, a dramatic and controversial restructuring of oversight was announced by Chancellor Martin and Provost Paul DeLuca in 2009. Martin explained in a letter to faulty and students that restructuring was needed because: “a number of safety and compliance problems ... have led to investigations and fines by major federal funding agencies and have required crisis-like efforts on the part of the university administration to avoid harsher sanctions...”. Biddy Martin. “From the desk of the chancellor: Chancellor addresses Graduate School proposal.” Oct. 21, 2009.
The provost says that the complexity involved in administering a research enterprise as large as UW-Madison’s was shown in a pair of incidents during the past six months.

A threatened loss of accreditation through the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care could have caused “a suspension of research funding in all areas using animals,” DeLuca says. “Only by a last-ditch effort were we able to put into place needed facilities and processes to engender a successful review,” he says. “That’s an example of not aligning our resources to our needs.”

The second concerned biosafety compliance, he says. “We were behind in biosafety protocol management by hundreds of protocols. We had not marshaled the resources and manpower, and did not have a mechanism to get that done,” he says. (“Graduate School proposal aired at meetings.” David Tenenbaum. University of Wisconsin News. Oct. 21, 2009.)
[For more on this second problem, see: "Say no to new UW-Madison germ lab." Rick Bogle. Isthmus. October 8, 2009.]

The current case puts the lie to the university’s perennial claim that all is well in its animal labs. It underscores in bright red the plain undeniable fact that the care of the animals is the lowest priority and that their welfare is the first thing jettisoned when egos clash.

From late in 2009 throughout most of 2010, the Alliance for Animals worked to establish a county-sanctioned citizens’ advisory panel to consider the use of monkeys at the university. Opposition to this idea came almost entirely from university staff paid to experiment on monkeys and from a few others outside the university also with financial interests in the use of monkeys. [See: "Opposition to Res 35."]

Scott McDonell, Chair of the Dane County Board of Supervisors and his protégé Jeremy Levin apparently worked with the university behind the scenes to successfully scuttle this effort. [See "UW animal research agenda merits closer community scrutiny." Rick Marolt. Isthmus. October 14, 2010.] They argued that what's happening in the labs is no business of the public’s, that we are too dull to understand why the animals are being used, that the university is completely trustworthy, that the university is the best arbiter of its animal use, and that the experiments are fully and meaningful regulated. (Toadies or just duped? Either way, they are poor public representatives.)

Unknowingly, even as we worked to establish a citizens’ panel, the UW Faculty Senate was investigating researcher Michele Basso’s allegation that she was treated unfairly and without due process when her experiments on monkeys were suspended in February 2009. [An aside: public access to the Basso lab web page is now blocked and requires a password. See: "Visit the Basso Lab."]

A common concern raised by UW researchers regarding the proposed citizens’ panel was the possibility that it would be biased; because the panel was never convened, the validity of their concern cannot be determined. Arguably, this concern doesn’t apply to the University Committee, which makes its findings particularly worthy of notice.

Their report is made up of thirty-seven Findings, four Conclusions, and nine Recommendations.

To understand the nature and severity of the problems exposed by this internal report, consider the weight and implications of Findings 3, 4 and 6:
3. Professor Basso’s research is more invasive that that of any other UW-Madison non-human primate researcher.

4. Due to the invasive nature of Professor Basso’s research, there are predictable complications for her research animals.

6. By all accounts, neither her department nor the School of Medicine and Public Health were prepared to support Professor Basso’s research program. The Medical Sciences Center facilities, where Professor Basso conducted her research, did not have veterinarians on staff who were adequately trained/prepared in the care of the non-human primates Professor Basso used in her studies, nor did it have a sufficient number of veterinarians....
Basso apparently agrees that her procedures may be the most invasive ones using monkeys (and probably any other animals) on campus. She wrote in her response to Welter:
Our experiments are more complicate than [redacted] or [redacted] We have multiple cylinders (up to three) on our explants. This leaves the underlying support structure [a monkey’s skull] less stabile and reduces the life expectance of the explants. We perform recording experiments from very deep midbrain and brainstem structures making each penetration more risky than experiments performed on cerebral cortex for example.
Basso has been at UW-Madison since approximately 2000/01. During the past decade she has had a number of problems, documented as early as 2002. In her May 4, 2009 letter to William Mellon, Associate Dean for Research Policy, chief campus veterinarian Janet Welter wrote: “Starting 4/24/02, an animal (# 09089) was noted to have 9 eye coil replacement surgeries, with the last one being 9/21/06. Despite multiple instances of eye coil failure, the PI sought no assistance until pressured by the SMPH [School of Medicine and Public Health] ACUC.”

Now we know, from the University Committee letter to Chancellor Martin, that in spite of multiple deaths, recurring problems, and unending bickering between the Basso lab and campus veterinarians, nothing substantive was done for half a decade.

And it turns out that the All Campus Animal Care and Use Committee* suspended her animal use only after years of multiple serious problems, yet did so in a bumbling manner that violated the university’s internal due process for disciplinary matters.

This isn’t a surprise because the animal oversight committees seem unable to comply with any regulations, whether internal, state, or federal.

So Basso’s research methods were known ahead of time to be highly invasive. Yet no provisions were made to provide the animals with qualified veterinary care. Even after the SMPH ACUC twice tried to suspend her work, the senior university administration stood by and did little; they allowed more surgeries, abscessed brains, and more deaths.

There is a suggestion hidden in the University Committee’s letter to Chancellor Martin that Basso’s methods and problems were whitewashed, that she received tenure in response to criticism of her experiments by animal rights activists.
Finding 13: Former Chancellor John Wiley distributed a letter date 13 March 2006 to residents of Madison’s Nakoma neighborhood alerting them “that animal rights activists may be protesting the use of animals in biomedical research ... in your neighborhood because many of you are faculty, staff, or students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, some of whom are involved in biomedical research.” He goes on to make reference to Professor Basso’s work and states that “professor Basso’s laboratory has passed all inspections with no reports of non-compliance.”
How would it have looked if the university had admitted that her research was being challenged internally as well, that the university was doing a poor job overseeing her research or even supplying her animals with adequate veterinary care? They needed to downplay claims being made by activists that her research was causing profound suffering (which in fact, internal documents say was indeed the case.)

Later on in 2006, she testified before WI Congressman Petri’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security's Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4239, the "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act," saying that she had received unwanted magazine and book club subscriptions in the mail.

In her testimony she said:

“It is critical to point out that biomedical research is subject to very strict regulations and oversight.”

“We have an animal care and use committee for each school at Madison and an all campus committee that oversees all schools. My research meets or exceeds all standards set by the USDA, Public Health Service Policy as well as local guidelines for the care and use of non human primates in research.” [See: "Basso: Cover-Up? Conspiracy? Scandal."]

But in spite of “no reports [from USDA/APHIS] of non-compliance,”...
Finding 15: In late 2008, SMPH administration sought to have the SMPH ACUC shut down Professor Basso’s research program. Subsequently, there were two motions by the School of Medicine and Public Health Anima Care and Use Committee to revoke professor Basso’s animal use privileges, both of which failed on tie votes. SMPH administration then sought successfully to have the All Campus ACUC shut down her research.
We need to place all of this in context.

First, the admission/claim/assertion that Basso’s experiments are the most invasive is remarkable given the extreme invasiveness of Ei Terasawa’s experiments on monkeys’ pituitary gland, Kalin/Davidson’s monkey brain ablation experiments, or even Paul Kaufman’s experiments on monkeys' eyes.

Second, this new evidence of the university’s long failure to provide qualified veterinary care to the monkeys in Basso’s lab is diametrically at odds with official and unofficial university statements concerning its animal care program.

Third, as was pointed out in the coverage of the University Committee’s report, no one other than Basso has claimed that the monkeys she was using were appropriately care for.

Fourth, and I will write more about this later, the Basso affair and the university’s assertions that all is well must be seen against the backdrop of the unprecedented scrutiny being paid to their animal care and use program by the USDA and NIH.

And fifth, all efforts by the public to look more deeply into the university’s use of animals have been either rebuked outright or else, when legal constraints force them to comply, have resulted in a reluctant release of heavily redacted documents.

Clearly and beyond any silly assertion to the contrary, oversight of animal care and use at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is a catastrophe for the animals. It could be a significant problem for the university as well since a team of federal investigators is now on campus trying to determine exactly where things fell apart, why they were not corrected, who is responsible, and what fines, if any, should be levied.

It should be clear at the very least that the responsibility for the many problems and great suffering rests ultimately with the Chancellor. But just below her in the chain of command, and arguably even more personally responsible are Provost DeLuca and Vice-Chancellor for research Martin Cadwallader.

But more than them, it would be difficult to find anyone who failed more miserably in their responsibility to maintain the paltry minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act than the current director of the Research Animal Resource Center and past chair of the All Campus ACUC, Eric Sandgren.

It is past time to open the university to public scrutiny and to get rid of the deadwood protecting the bad apples and bamboozling the public. This long history of bamboozing, hoodwinking, and cover-up, brings us right back to the university’s efforts to deflect public concern over the use of monkeys and other animals.
Finding 21: The members of the All Campus ACUC had little expertise/experience with non-human primate research.
[But see “Campus Connection: Panel says ethics considered before monkey research.” Todd Finkelmeyer. The Capital Times January 9, 2010.] Chancellor Martin felt that the All Campus ACUC was the appropriate body to consider the ethics of experimenting on monkeys. During Biddy’s short tenure at the university she has demonstrated a rather remarkably poor decision-making ability when it comes to anything regarding the use of animals. She has argued that there is no reason to debate the use of animals, but then has told the All Campus ACUC to consider the ethics of experiments on monkeys; she has argued that there is no reason for the public or the county to look into the university’s use of animals, but has announced a series of “public forums” to address the matter. She also wrote a long rambling letter to faculty, staff, and students about the Basso affair, but then had the letter taken off the university website.

In her defense, when it comes to the use of animals in laboratory-based research, few if any defenders are able to mount a consistent cogent argument.

Finally, there is one bit of ironic dark humor in the University Committee’s letter to Chancellor Martin. The committee’s first recommendation is this:
1. Whenever the welfare of a research animal is at risk, the institutional official should be promptly informed and that institutional official should make a decision whether to suspend the investigator’s animal use privileges. In dire situations it may not me possible to convene the responsible ACUC to examine the situation.
This naiveté is mind-numbing. “Whenever the welfare of a research animal is at risk...”? The welfare of every animal used in research on campus is at risk. It is precisely this risk that necessitates the implementation of laws and regulations – regardless of their limited effect – to govern animal use. If the institutional official was actually notified and expected to make a decision “whenever the welfare of a research animal is at risk,” that is all that person would do day in and day out. Right now, their only job is to sign a statement to NIH promising that their institution will obey all local and federal regulations. The UW-Madison institutional official hasn’t even been able to keep that promise.

*Unlike most (all?) other institutions using animals, UW-Madison has multiple Animal Care and Use Committees. There is one each for the vet school, the grad school, the ag school, Arts and Sciences, the med school, and (now said by NIH to be in violation of the Public Heath Services regulations) the All Campus ACUC. Most institutions (all the rest?) have only one.

Related posts:

UW panel violated Basso's rights
Who killed Res 35?
Opposition to Res 35
What's Bucky Afraid Of?
Biddy Martin’s Argument
Planet Biddy
Primate Center Director Hopeful Calls Sifting and Winnowing “Undemocratic”
Biddy Urges Less Winnowing
Basso: Cover-Up? Conspiracy? Scandal.
Biddy Martin on Basso
Dane Co. Board Debates Controversial UW Animal Research
Public Debate on the Ethics of Monkey Research
"No real accountability."
The pattern is easy to see
UW Madison's New Chancellor
New USDA Investigation at UW-Madison
WSJ: Much more than a day late
I told you so...
Basso's Relevance
Dirty laundry to be publicly aired: Basso's cruel crap
Dogma: Basso's lab's best argument?
UW-Madison Animal Research - More Problems Ahead
The "Best Science"
Michele Basso is Being Investigated
The Party Line
"Stay the course!"
Ethics at UW-Madison
Not So Deep Thinking
Eric Sandgren: “We do not make excuses.”
“Is experimenting on monkeys ethical?”
UW's Big Rug

Friday, March 19, 2010

Biddy Martin on Basso

This is the letter sent to all UW staff regarding the Basso affair:
Subject: Statement on animal research
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010
From: Chancellor Biddy Martin
To: Students, faculty and staff,

Animal-based research, at UW-Madison and across the nation, raises complicated issues that are also emotionally charged. Reasonable people can disagree about the appropriateness of animal research, and we respect people's rights to make their views known.

Let me affirm once again UW-Madison's support for animal-based research, including research involving non-human primates. We base that support on its benefits to human and animal welfare, and, hence, to society at large. The university is committed to ensuring the ethical care and treatment of those animals, and is responsible for abiding by the standards and regulations set by the federal government.

As you know, UW-Madison is a large university with an enormous research enterprise. We have 530 principal investigators (research team leaders) and 6,700 individuals on campus who are certified to work with animals. Together, they perform research using 1,035 protocols (a detailed research plan). Generally speaking, the people who work with animals do their work with a strong sense of responsibility and without problems.

With the help and investment of dedicated animal caretakers, veterinarians, faculty, and staff, the university has done a very good job of overseeing animal research on our campus. Though there have been few major problems, problems do occur in an environment such as UW-Madison that is as large as many small cities. It is our responsibility to take timely and appropriate measures when they do. The details of a troubling and complicated case are being made public this week and I would like to take this opportunity to establish some context for what you will read and hear.

Federal regulations give responsibility for compliance in this area to animal care and use committees (ACUC). These are made up primarily of researchers and veterinarians with expertise in the care of animals; all committees also include at least one community member. UW-Madison has five local committees that are coordinated by an All-Campus Animal Care and Use Committee (AC ACUC). The committees report to an institutional official, a position that is mandated by federal regulation, and carries authority and responsibility for compliance. The institutional official for UW-Madison is Professor William Mellon, an associate dean of the Graduate School. The institutional official reports to the chancellor. The provost is my designee for the oversight of safety and compliance on campus.

The particular case at issue concerns a UW-Madison researcher whose work on brain function in non-human primates has been published in major international journals and whose research is widely considered among her peers to hold promise for the treatment of disorders as debilitating as Huntington's and Parkinson's disease.

The researcher, Dr. Michele Basso, has been cited by university animal care committees for a range of problems over a five-and-a-half-year period. Despite repeated efforts and an unambiguous warning by the School of Medicine and Public Health's (SMPH) ACUC, problems recurred. When the SMPH ACUC reached an impasse in its efforts to make a decision about problems that arose in 2008, the case was taken to the All-Campus ACUC. Her privileges to conduct animal research and her research protocols were suspended by that committee on Feb. 13, 2009. The AC ACUC decided that a move to different facilities with significantly more oversight by veterinary staff should be a condition of reinstatement, as should the researcher's commitment to correcting the problems the committee attributed to her. The suspension of a principal investigator's privileges or protocol is unusual, and can be damaging not only to the research, but also to the career of the investigator. In this instance, the decision reflected the committee's effort to maintain ethical animal care and safety.

There is a dispute about whether or not Dr. Basso had sufficient information to respond effectively to the offenses for which she was suspended. She has also raised questions about the university's timely reporting of the offenses to the appropriate federal agencies. These issues remain in dispute. From my perspective, the changes made recently by the AC ACUC in the location and oversight of Dr. Basso's work should have been made earlier, but I arrive at that view from reviewing records of actions taken prior to my arrival.

Dr. Basso has argued that many of the problems in her research program were the result of inadequate veterinary care and facilities. I cannot speak authoritatively about conditions in the past or judge whether or not they affected the negative outcomes for Dr. Basso's animals. I can report that in 2004, former Chancellor John Wiley authorized the addition of significantly more veterinarians on campus, and called for greater coordination and centralization of veterinary care for research animals. The record shows that questions about responsibility for the negative outcomes in Dr. Basso's program were matters of lengthy deliberation and debate for the animal care committees. Let me emphasize again that Dr. Basso's research is sophisticated, complicated, and carries inevitable risks. In many cases of the animal deaths, committees identified multiple factors. In some cases, the committees were able to assign responsibility to factors unrelated to the work of the researcher, and in at least a couple of cases, the committees hold Dr. Basso primarily responsible.

In the summer and fall of 2009, Dr. Basso requested an independent investigation of her case, a request that Provost DeLuca declined because the federal government grants authority for decisions about research protocols and privileges to ACUCs. In this case, the AC ACUC's work on the matter was ongoing.

Last week, the AC ACUC voted to reinstate Dr. Basso's protocols, approving them on condition of fundamental changes in the extent of oversight and monitoring of Dr. Basso's research program. Every experiment will be conducted under the supervision of veterinarians. All decisions regarding the health and medical care of animals will be made by the veterinary staff. The attending veterinarian will report to the relevant animal care committee on the activity and the outcomes of Dr. Basso's research on a monthly basis, or more frequently if needed. I have been assured by the attending veterinarian for Dr. Basso's research program that there is no room for non-compliance under these conditions. Given Dr. Basso's own belief that inadequate veterinary care and facilities accounted for her problems, these changes appear to respond to perspectives on both sides of the issue. Should any problems of non-cooperation or non-compliance arise, I expect that the committee will take even stronger action.

Many of you will remember hearing or reading about the December 2009 USDA visit and report, which cited several problems in what was deemed to be a generally successful animal research program. At the time of its release, I convened a group of campus officials with whom I could discuss the report and its implications. Based on that discussion, I decided to examine in detail the entire record outlining the problems in Dr. Basso's research between 2003-2008. What I found in those records led me to ask an outside consultant to visit campus for a review of the structure and the decision-making processes of the animal care and use committees. I wanted to know from an impartial outside expert whether or not our processes were appropriate. Dr. James Fox, a noted veterinarian and director of comparative medicine at MIT, submitted his report in late January. In neither his oral nor written reports did Dr. Fox give me a reason to second-guess the overall work of the AC ACUC. As was true of the USDA report, Dr. Fox's report identifies some weaknesses in specific areas and makes recommendations for change. Last month, I gave Eric Sandgren, director of the campus animal program, and William Mellon, the institutional official, a copy of Dr. Fox's report. I asked them to work on a plan to implement changes that would improve animal care oversight. They are working under the supervision of Provost DeLuca and any resulting recommendations will be included in the changes we make to the research enterprise.

Let me end by reiterating what I said at the beginning of this statement. This is a troubling and complicated case. It will elicit strong feelings about a range of issues, if my own personal reaction is any guide. Though personal feelings are important, and can inform the views we ultimately take, my job as chancellor requires that I consider all the relevant information, complexities, and the broader context and let the deliberations of experts shape my understanding and decision making. In fact, I believe every one of us has a responsibility to educate ourselves about the complexities of the issues that concern us and to think things through carefully and thoroughly, drawing on relevant expertise. What matters at the university, is that we make good on our commitments to the ethical treatment of research animals and to the importance of independent research, not only or even primarily for the sake of individual investigators, but also for the good of society as a whole. Universities are the only institutions charged specifically with ensuring freedom of inquiry and independent research.

For more than 100 years, UW-Madison has engaged in critical and groundbreaking studies of human and animal health and well being through the use of animal models. Key findings, such as the discovery of vitamins; Warfarin; methods for extending the shelf life of donated organs for transplant; and clues to the etiology, progression and treatment of diseases such as cancer and AIDS, among others; have emerged and continue to emerge from the laboratories of our university. There is no doubt that this work is vital and our best hope for improving human and animal health. Many lives have been saved and the quality of all our lives has been improved through research using animal models.

In return for the freedom to pursue independent research, universities must be able to assure the public that freedom is coupled with responsibility. My observations since my arrival suggest that the system of accountability for research compliance and safety on campus, which has improved over time, and is certainly not broken, is still not where it needs to be. Getting it there is a goal for which I take responsibility and one I will continue to pursue aggressively.

Biddy Martin

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Basso: Cover-Up? Conspiracy? Scandal.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported on the suspension and reinstatement of Michele Basso, PhD, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who uses monkeys in her research into on the neurology of voluntary movement. (See: UW-Madison suspends researcher over animal welfare problems. Deborah Ziff. March 19, 2010.) Her method entails sewing scleral search coils to monkeys’ eyes, screwing hardware to monkeys’ skulls, implanting electrodes in their brains, limiting their access to water in order to motivate them to perform certain visual tasks, and restraining them for periods of many hours.

Some of her publications are available on the Internet. See for example:

Substantia Nigra Stimulation Influences Monkey Superior Colliculus Neuronal Activity Bilaterally Ping Liu(1) and Michele A. Basso(1,2) J Neurophysiology 2008. First published June 25, 2008. (1)Departments of Physiology and (2)Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin. (If the above link doesn't work, try this one:

UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin sent a letter to all university staff trying to explain the situation.

Neither the Wisconsin State Journal nor Chancellor Martin provided much detail on the reasons for Basso’s suspension. In fact, problems associated with Basso’s lab began to be documented and to generate internal discussion by at least 2003.

Basso herself was anxious to keep those details out of the public’s view. This may have been related to her 2006 testimony before WI Congressman Petri’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security's Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4239, the "Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act." The subcommittee’s hearing seems to no longer be available, but a rebuttal to the claims Basso made during the hearing is. See: Letter to Howard Cobb, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, May 25, 2006.

Of particular note, and germane to the situation at hand, are the following assertions in her sworn testimony:

“It is critical to point out that biomedical research is subject to very strict regulations and oversight.”

“We have an animal care and use committee for each school at Madison and an all campus committee that oversees all schools. My research meets or exceeds all standards set by the USDA, Public Health Service Policy as well as local guidelines for the care and use of non human primates in research.”

“We abide by the well-known 3R principle concerning the use of animals. Whenever we can, we reduce the numbers of animals used, we replace the animal model with some other or we refine the technique we use to ensure maximal well-being of the animals.”

“Working on animals is a privilege that neither I, nor my colleagues take lightly.”
She made these sworn statements on May 25, 2006. But for the preceding three years, UW Research Animal Resource Center vets, the university officials charged specifically with direct monitoring and assuring federal regulatory compliance of researchers’ approved protocols, had been citing her lab for serious problems. See for instance the minutes from a special meeting of the medical school IACUC held on October 30, 2003. See too the September 30, 2006 Grad School IACUC minutes.

It seems fairly clear that her claims about exceeding federal standards were self-serving at best. But now, only years later, we read the Wisconsin State Journal's article and the Chancellor’s veiled apology for the university’s failed oversight of her activities.

What the Chancellor and the paper didn’t tell the public about Basso’s work are the details of the lab’s many and continuing problems. This, in and of itself, is cause for grave concern; it at least appears to be a cover-up and an effort to keep the details out of the public discussion. If the university and the paper had any communication about how the story might be reported, then this could be a conspiracy to confuse the public or at least to limit the scope of the scandal.

In a letter dated May 4, 2009, written to William Mellon, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research Policy, Janet Welter, DVM, Chief Campus Veterinarian, summarized in clear and unambiguous language, the history of problems associated with the Basso Lab.

The May 4, 2009 letter was purportedly included in the binder of information that the university gave to the Wisconsin State Journal, and from certain statements in the article, this appears to be true. You can read Welter’s letter to Mellon here.

How should we balance the statement made by Basso that tap water is chlorinated sufficiently to sterilize materials that will be placed in living brain with Chancellor Martin’s claim: “The particular case at issue concerns a UW-Madison researcher whose work on brain function in non-human primates has been published in major international journals and whose research is widely considered among her peers to hold promise for the treatment of disorders as debilitating as Huntington's and Parkinson's disease”?

Basso's "peers" are likely other scientists also using animals and not making any more progress than she is. Martin must not have felt it wise to mention Basso's supporters by name.

Does it make any sense to believe that someone with a poor grasp of germ theory will lead us to a cure for complex neurological diseases, or that someone who disregards the veterinary advice of her own institution’s vets is genuinely refining the techniques she uses “to ensure maximal well-being of the animals”?

The bigger questions here seem to be:

1. Why did the Wisconsin State Journal keep the details so vague?
2. Why did the university allow Basso to run amok for so long?
3. Why did the university reinstate her, particularly after it banned Ei Terasawa from using monkeys for two years?
4. Why has the university refused to provide any documents regarding the Basso case in response to formal open records requests from its critics?
5. Why would anyone believe anything the university has to say about its animal care and use?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The "Best Science"

I am sometimes asked, if animal experimentation is so heinous and dead-end, why does it keep getting funded?

In simple terms, we’re stupid.

Humans have the capacity to create complex systems that are too large and multifaceted for us to manage. UW-Madison vivisector and chair of the university’s Research Animal Resource Center, Eric Sangren, has used this plain fact as an excuse for the continuing problems associated with the university’s animal use. This inability to manage large complex organizations is akin to an economic diseconomy of scale.

We continue to receive information from within the university concerning Michele Basso. Basso has a long history of inept surgical implantation of hardware on the skulls of rhesus macaques. Veterinarians have repeatedly called attention to her clumsy ways, the unplanned deaths of the monkeys she tortures, and her pre-germ theory theories about cleaning surgical tools.

I write about Basso here because of a recent article in titled “NIH Continues to Support the Best Science through R01s: A response to accusations that the agency is biased against senior scientists.” The NIH office of Extramural Research says R01s are “an award made to support a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by the named investigator(s) in an area representing the investigator's specific interest and competencies, based on the mission of the NIH.”

The notion in the article that R01s represent the “best science” caught my eye. I looked at Michele Basso’s currently funded cruelty and saw that she has an R01:

5R01EY013692-06 Principal Investigator(s): BASSO, MICHELE A
FY 2009: $359,754

Is this an example of the “best science”?

NIH grants are awarded when proposals receive high ratings from “Study Sections” made up of scientists working in the area that the research addresses. Turning decision-making over to small groups is like General Motors breaking its business into smaller units; giant complex enterprises do this in order to reduce the inefficiencies that come with diseconomies of scale.

This made me wonder about the Study Section that would have approved Basso’s cruelty. That Study Section is the Central Visual Processing Study Section, referred to as the CVP.

The CVP has seventeen members. There are eleven vivisectors (~65% of the committee) and six clinical researchers (~35% of the committee). It is small wonder that this Study Group would give high marks to vivisectors’ research. Of the eleven vivisectors, 1 uses cats, 1 uses frogs, 1 uses mice and ferrets, 1 uses rats, and 7 use monkeys

I’ve listed the members of the Study Group below and have included a citation of a representative paper if they use animals.

The fact that vivisectors are chosen to determine which studies will get funded, especially vivisectors like Basso who has such fumbling methods and pre-germ theory ideas, suggests that this so-called “best science” is really something else entirely.

Center For Scientific Review


Macaque V1 activity during natural vision: effects of natural scenes and saccades.
MacEvoy SP, Hanks TD, Paradiso MA. J Neurophysiol. 2008


On and off domains of geniculate afferents in cat primary visual cortex.
Jin JZ, Weng C, Yeh CI, Gordon JA, Ruthazer ES, Stryker MP, Swadlow HA, Alonso JM. Nat Neurosci. 2008


Integrating motion and depth via parallel pathways. [macaques]
Ponce CR, Lomber SG, Born RT. Nat Neurosci. 2008


Parallel processing strategies of the primate visual system.
Nassi JJ, Callaway EM. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009


Molecular correlates of laminar differences in the macaque dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus.
Murray KD, Rubin CM, Jones EG, Chalupa LM. J Neurosci. 2008

Netrin participates in the development of retinotectal synaptic connectivity by modulating axon arborization and synapse formation in the developing brain. [Xenopus]
Manitt C, Nikolakopoulou AM, Almario DR, Nguyen SA, Cohen-Cory S. J Neurosci. 2009

Different neural strategies for multimodal integration: comparison of two macaque monkey species. Sadeghi SG, Mitchell DE, Cullen KE. Exp Brain Res. 2009

Fine discrimination training alters the causal contribution of macaque area MT to depth perception.
Chowdhury SA, DeAngelis GC. Neuron. 2008

Ablation of Ca2+ channel beta3 subunit leads to enhanced N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-dependent long term potentiation and improved long term memory. [mice]
Jeon D, Song I, Guido W, Kim K, Kim E, Oh U, Shin HS. J Biol Chem. 2008


Neuromodulators control the polarity of spike-timing-dependent synaptic plasticity. [rats]
Seol GH, Ziburkus J, Huang S, Song L, Kim IT, Takamiya K, Huganir RL, Lee HK, Kirkwood A. Neuron. 2007




Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dirty laundry to be publicly aired: Basso's cruel crap

For eight months we have been making formal public records requests to the University of Wisconsin - Madison. We have been asking for specific records related to Michele Basso's inept surgical methods, her history of defying campus veterinarians, and the suffering and deaths in her labs that has bothered even those inured by constant exposure to the suffering in the university's labs, like the head campus veterinarian.

We still don't have them. Stonewalling is a way of life for Rick Lane, associate director of UW's Research Animal Resources Center whose mission in life appears to keeping the labs' ugly secrets out of the public eye. He'll probably get a handsome bonus this year.

But, the university apparently turned over a "binder" of records on this matter to the Wisconsin State Journal today, and it is rumored that the story is slated to come out on Friday.

It will be interesting to see how the paper handles this and whether their documents jive with the few we do have.

For the record, we tried to call media's and the public's attention to Basso's butchery five years ago, but in the wake of the Terasawa disclosures, media was suffering itself from vivisection fatigue.

The Basso affair puts the lie to the claim that the oversight is meaningful, that the animals are respected, or that the researchers rely on healthy animals... apparently, many of Basso's publications are based on data from animals with significant infections and much unrelieved trauma.

And, it now appears that Basso is looking for work elsewhere; I imagine she will get a rosy recommendation.

And, Basso is one of the people who determine whether other people's experiments should be funded.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Michele Basso is Being Investigated

Michele Basso is being investigated for possible misconduct (likely related to her use of monkeys.)

We received an email a few weeks ago from someone at the University of Wisconsin – Madison asking whether Eric Sandgren--currently the Director of the UW Research Animal Resource Center(RARC)--had made a statement regarding Michele Basso. Included with the enquiry was a copy of a Tuesday, August 16, 2005 article from the Capital Times titled Uw Monkey Deaths Raise Questions: Researcher Suspended After 2001-2002 Experiments. The email pointed to a claim made by Sandgren. Here it is in context:
Last summer, three monkeys died after being left in a cage at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center while it was being sanitized.

Sandgren said that overall, two principal investigators, one lab technician, and two animal caretakers have been suspended from animal use at UW-Madison in the last two years.

“This is evidence of the process of oversight working,” Sandgren said of Terasawa's research. “We investigated, we determined a particular procedure was too risky and could no longer be performed at all.”

But Rick Bogle, a Madison representative of the Primate Freedom Project, said it's unclear why these problems are just coming to light now.

“It just looks like it's a mess,” Bogle said.

The university put out a press release after the cow deaths, but these problems were reported only to the federal government.

“It just did not come up in discussions,” Sandgren said of publicly announcing Terasawa's suspension at the time. “Now we've decided we will start announcing these things.”

Starting with the cow incident, the committee has begun making a public statement whenever a researcher is suspended from working with animals, Sandgren said. (my emphasis)
The email we received made it seem as if this promise hasn't been kept.

Following up on the email, we filed a public records request asking for:
… correspondence, notices and communications, electronic and otherwise, from July 20, 2008 to the present, between any of the University of Wisconsin Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees or the members of any of those committees, or the RARC or RARC staff, or the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) and Michele Basso regarding any and all unexpected animal deaths, adverse results to an animal’s health, possible or actual deviations from her approved protocols, possible or actual violations of federal or state policies or regulations concerning the use of animals conducted or proposed by her or members of her lab.
We received a denial from the university citing Wis. Stat §19.36(10)(b) which allows a denial of records containing information relating to current investigation of possible misconduct connected with employment prior to disposition of the investigation.

Time will tell what’s up. In the mean time, it’s interesting to recall a germane part of Basso’s testimony at the May 23, 2006: House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing on H.R.4239, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

Available via the World Wide Web.

It is critical to point out that biomedical research is subject to very strict regulations and oversight. We have an animal care and use committee for each school at Madison and an all campus committee that oversees all schools. My research meets or exceeds all standards set by the USDA, Public Health Service Policy as well as local guidelines for the care and use of non human primates in research. We abide by the well-known 3R principle concerning the use of animals. Whenever we can, we reduce the numbers of animals used, we replace the animal model with some other or we refine the technique we use to ensure maximal well-being of the animals. When we already meet the 3R requirements, we are required to justify why we cannot reduce or refine more. Working on animals is a privilege that neither I, nor my colleagues take lightly.
It's hard to tell what the investigation will turn up, but if it's related to her use of animals, and apparently it is, then it will cast her comment in a somewhat questionable light. Maybe someone will forward this on to her and she or someone from her lab will shed some light on the matter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) and the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act (FACE) have some similarities. I began thinking about this after an anonymous comment was left in response to my posts [here and here] about the silliness of the graph published in American Scientist (May-June 2008. p 186.) and the spurious supporting data from the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

Here’s the comment:
Of course, one has to divide the number of attacks by the size of the group under attack and compare to the baseline rate. But the basic point is that people are being targeted because of the (legal) work they do.

If one were to follow your twisted logic abortion doctors should not have been granted any additional protections (as killing people is already illegal.)
Considering the parenthetical point first, the anonymous commentator understood me correctly. Premeditated murder is illegal and carries with it the stiffest of penalties. It makes little sense to me to make the premeditated murder or attempted murder of some people a worse crime than the premeditated murder or attempted murder of other people. Doing so really does seem like twisted logic and seems wholly at odds with notions of equality.

But what about the definitions of the crimes and enhanced penalties spelled out in the AETA? Are these commensurate with the defined crimes and penalties stipulated by FACE?

Consider the AETA:

Offense- “Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or uses or causes to be used the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce-- for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise; and in connection with such purpose-- … shall be punished as provided for…”

Sec. 43 (b) (1): “a fine under this title or imprisonment not more than 1 year, or both, if the offense does not instill in another the reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death and-- (A): the offense results in no economic damage or bodily injury;”

Get that?

If you send a letter to someone (maybe even post to a public blog) and say that you think they should stop addicting monkeys to nicotine and killing them, and some local district attorney construes this to be harassment, even though the recipient of the letter does not fear for their safety and no economic damage is done, you could end up being fined and spending a year in jail.

Same thing if you cross a state line to protest at a puppy mill or slaughterhouse, apparently.

During the Congressional hearings that led to the enactment of the AETA, Republican Thomas Petri of Wisconsin, the primary sponsor, had Michelle Basso testify before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Basso is a primate vivisector at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Basso was, apparently, a prime example of a victim of “animal enterprise terrorism.”

Basso’s testimony can be read here. My rebuttal can be read here. The “terrorism” leveled at her was allegedly unwanted subscriptions to book clubs.

If true, this is harassment. But it pales in the face of anything historically described as terrorism. Here, it seems, because she is a vivisector, special laws have been passed to single her and her ilk out for special protections.

This “terrorism” needs to be placed in perspective. Right now, in bookstores you can read all about creative ways to get even with people you don’t like. For instance:

The classic Getting Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks by George Hayduke (2000).

and the sequel, The Big Book Of Revenge: 200 Dirty Tricks for Those Who Are Serious About Getting Even by George Hayduke (2001).

Spite, Malice and Revenge: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Even (3 Diabolical Volumes in 1) by M. Nelson Chunder (1988).

Sweet Revenge: The Wicked Delights of Getting Even by Regina Barreca (1997).

Getting Even: Revenge As a Form of Justice by Charles K.B. Barton (1999)

And on and on. Calling these authors “terrorists” seems a bit of a stretch. Apparently, following the logic of the AETA, if your neighbor offends you and you send him or her a subscription to an unwanted magazine, you might be guilty of harassment, but if you send the same subscription to a vivisector when you learn that they are hurting animals, you are a terrorist.

Now consider the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE.) Unlike the AETA, FACE grew out of multiple premeditated murders, attempted murders, and multiple very serious attacks on clinics. In spite of the lopsided violence on the side of anti-abortion, the penalties stipulated by the AETA are either equal to, or greater than those under FACE. “For an offense involving exclusively a nonviolent physical obstruction, the fine shall be not more than $10,000 and the length of imprisonment shall be not more than six months, or both, for the first offense.”

The first point raised in the comment is interesting: “[O]ne has to divide the number of attacks by the size of the group under attack and compare to the baseline rate.”

According to the 2008 New York Times Almanac, the violent crime rate in 2005 (the most recent year of data reported) was 469.2 per 100,000.

Comparing the national rate with the rate of crime committed against vivisectors, even including crimes against those targeted because of their weak associations with vivisection (like most of the “incidences” included in the FBR database related to Huntington Life Sciences) there is virtually no crime committed in the name of animal rights, statistically speaking.

How many vivisectors are there in the US? This is a hard question to answer, but a very conservative estimate can be derived from statistics and estimates regarding the number of animals used. For 2006, UDSA-APHIS reported that there were just over 1 million animals of covered species used in US labs. The most common estimate of the number of rats and mice used annually in the US is 30 million. Let’s round the total to 30 million animals.

If we assume that the average vivisection lab uses 1000 animals a year (some primate vivisectors use less than 10 animals), there are 30,000 labs using mice, rats, and members of covered species. If there are 5 people working in each lab, then we can guess that there are maybe 150,000 vivisectors in the group that we want to compare to the baseline rate. (I suspect that the actual number is much higher; this doesn’t account for the animal breeders, dealers, equipment manufactures, food manufacturers, etc., but here, the conservative estimate will suffice.)

Using the FBR data, in 2005, considering only entries associated with vivisection, there were 34 “incidents,” the highest number ever, according to the FBR data.

Some examples of the incidents tallied by FBR for 2005:
“Over the previous two weeks, automatic dialing machines were used against HLS Investor Dalton-Grenier Company. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11, between 400 and 600 calls were placed every business day to Dalton offices and, eventually, direct to executives.”

“Activists vandalized 6 vans of a company that works with HLS.”

“Activists made home visits to executives at Boston Private, which owns 80% of a company that holds HLS shares.”

“Activists were arrested for giving a police officer fake identities after they were stopped on foot outside the Hoffman-LaRoche facility in Nutley, police said. The activists were later with charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespassing in connection with other vandalism of a home.”

“Activists reportedly contacted the pastor, secretary and parishioners of the church of the president of an HLS client and reported him as a child molester.”
None of the 34 reported incidents would have been included in the serious crime statistics reported in the New York Times Almanac. None.

Dividing the number of attacks by the size of the group under attack and comparing this to the baseline rate, we see there are at the very most 34 incidents per 150,000 vivisectors, or 24 (usually petty crimes) per 100,000 vivisectors compared to 469.2 serious crimes per 100,000 in the general population. (Serious crimes are murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, and motor vehicle theft.)

All of this suggests a certain mania sweeping through the vivisection community. It is in the vivisectors’ interest to fan the flames of fear and further insulate themselves from public scrutiny. Scrutiny leads to criticism and outrage and threatens their livelihood and dark pastimes. Animal rights terrorism is a manufactured myth.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

UW panel violated Basso's rights

Report: UW panel violated primate researcher’s rights
TODD FINKELMEYER | The Capital Times | October 19, 2010

The animal care committee on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus that temporarily shut down a researcher’s lab in a high-profile case violated her right to due process and failed to follow established procedures, a faculty committee says after conducting its own investigation.

The seven-page report, which was obtained by The Capital Times, was dated Oct. 4 and addressed to Chancellor Biddy Martin. It outlines the University Committee’s findings from an investigation into a grievance filed by Michele Basso, an associate professor of physiology whose neurological research using monkeys was the subject of a long letter to the entire campus from Martin earlier this year.

In particular, the report says two committees that oversee the care of research animals failed to conduct formal investigations into allegations that Basso improperly cared for her animals, that the All Campus Animal Care and Use Committee overstepped its authority in suspending her research .... much more

Saturday, April 3, 2010

WSJ: Much more than a day late

My last post, Basso: Cover-Up? Conspiracy? Scandal. generated some (unpublished) letters to the Wisconsin State Journal asking them why they had not made the details of the Basso case public after having received at least 180 pages of documents from the university.

Perhaps embarrassed by their apparent soft-pedaling of the hard truth about the failures of their patron, the paper has now, after the fact and thus unlikely to be noticed by the general public, placed two documents on line. The first is the one first made public here, the May 4, 2009 letter from Welter to Mellon, and the second is Basso's and her lab's response to that letter, a document I did not have.

They are both now available on the WSJ website here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I told you so...

UW-Madison suspends researcher over animal welfare problems

By DEBORAH ZIFF | | March 18, 2010

UW-Madison suspended a professor who studies Parkinson's and other brain diseases from working with animals last year, a rare move prompted by what officials called a "clear pattern" of problems with animal welfare, according to university records released this week.

University administrators say researcher Michele Basso has had a bumpy history, citing a lack of respect for veterinarians, incomplete record-keeping and instances where monkeys developed brain injuries. But Basso said she hasn't violated any rules. She said the charges against her are vague, and that the university knew that her experiments were risky when they approved them.

Her animal research has since been reinstated, but her experiments are under strict supervision, officials said.

The Wisconsin State Journal requested documents in Basso's case, which was concluded only a few days ago, after a federal agency cited UW-Madison for not reporting to them that her research was suspended.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Dogma: Basso's lab's best argument?

I haven't written here in some time, but a recent dicovery motivated me to the tap out the following:

While refreshing and updating Madison's Hidden Monkeys, I clicked on a link to Michele Basso's lab's webpage. The web address is, but that address now redirects to the article by George Poste (which I have copied below) if you are trying to visit the lab's webpage from Madison's Hidden Monkeys. Cute. (If you want to visit her lab page, paste the address into your browser.)

What caught my eye in the Poste article was the statement: "Animal studies continue to be necessary for advancing human and animal health and have played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance."

I had just finished reading Adrian Morrison's swan song (hopefully): An Odyssey with Animals: A veterinarian's reflections on the animal rights and welfare debate, and remembered that he had written: "virtually every major advance in medicine has resulted directly or indirectly, from research performed on animals. The contributions of animal research to public health cannot be overestimated."

The similarity made be wonder. It's a common claim:
"Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century..."
"Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century."
"Without animal research, virtually every medical breakthrough of the past century would not have been possible."
"Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century..."
"Virtually every major medical advance of the 20th century involved the use of animals..."
"Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century..."
"virtually every major medical advance of the last century is due, in part, to research with animals."
"According to Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, chairman of the foundation for Biomedical Research (1981), 'Not one advancement in the care of patients’ advancements that you use and take for granted every day – has been realized without the use of animal research.'"
"virtually every major medical advance of the last century is due, in part, to research with animals."
"During the 20th century, virtually every major advance in medical knowledge and treatment involved research using animal models."
"virtually every major medical advance of the last century is due, in part, to research with animals."
"Former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop says 'Virtually every major medical advance for both humans and animals has been achieved through biomedical research by using animal...'"[sic]
"virtually every medical advance in the past 100 years has been developed in part due to the use, the responsible use of animals..."
"virtually every major medical advance of the last century was the result of research involving animals."

I've commented on this claim before: NABR Spokesperson Misleads Congressional Committee.

This oft repeated mantra probably comes from the National Association for Biomedical (NABR) Research, an industry-sponsored front-group. Some websites that use the phrase attribute it to NABR; the sources and authors above don't.
A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
One thing to note is the qualification in the statements that avoid paraphrasing: Virtually... in the past century... Indeed. Those that use the claim without the qualification are simply and demonstrably wrong.

Those who wisely do use the qualification may be suggesting that advancements in health care from 100 or more years ago are unimportant or insignificant. Or, since many of these advancements were not the result of animal research, maybe they would rather that we not think too much about them and consider their implications for future progress.

Looking back less than 100 years means that we can forget about the literally millions of people saved from continuing cholera epidemics. The story of John Snow's brilliant epidemiology in London 150 years ago is well known to historians.

Likewise, we can ignore the discovery and first applications of immunizations in Europe and America which were the result of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's trip to Turkey in the early 1700's where she witnessed variolation, the insertion of pus from a smallpox lesion into an intentional cut in order to induce a mild form of the disease.

We can ignore Ignaz Semmelweis's discovery in the mid 1840s of the way to prevent puerperal sepsis, also known as childbed fever, a "disease" responsible for a near 30% mortality rate in some maternity clinics. He ordered medical students to start washing their hands before examining a patient.

It is easy to pick and choose one's window through which to view reality, particularly if one is trying to blockout part of the vista. The fact is that these and many similar pre-1900 discoveries were not the result of animal experimentation, and arguably, are responsible for more lives saved than all the discoveries since.

But even since 1900, the results of research into human illness and health that have not relied on animals has rolled up an impressive result. For example, it wasn't animal research that compelled us to give up tobacco. And the famous Framingham Heart Study begun in 1948 and the Nurses Health Study begun in 1976, have provided knowledge directly applicable to human health. One needs only to read the news to see that medical progress isn't reliant on animals.

The article below amounts to bombast. Poste writes: "Opposition to all animal testing would require a life without drugs, vaccines, painkillers, anesthetics and surgery."

This is a common bugaboo, drug out from under the bed and shaken at an unsuspecting public, as if closing the labs would somehow eliminate the manufacture of drugs or cause all surgeosn to throw down their scalpels.

Apparently, this is the best argument that the Basso lab can find for justifying their cruelty and shody science.


Animal testing a necessary research tool, for now

Special for

the republic
Sept. 3, 2006 12:00 AM

As a veterinarian and someone who has spent three decades in biomedical research in academia and the pharmaceutical industry, I know that animal research saves lives.

With the announcement of Covance's plans for a major drug development facility in Chandler, I am concerned by deceptive claims from extremist groups about the need for animal research.

Animal studies continue to be necessary for advancing human and animal health and have played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance. This includes lifesaving drugs and vaccines, new surgical procedures and improved diagnosis of disease.

A hallmark of humanity is our ability to care about other species. It is understandably difficult for people to reconcile this empathy with support of animal studies for medical advances that cure disease and improve the quality of life.

Animal extremists prey on this discomfort and count on society's general lack of scientific insight to advance their agenda. These extremists knowingly misrepresent the ability of computers and emerging scientific techniques to serve as viable substitutes for animal studies.

Government regulations around the world require that new drugs, vaccines and surgical implants first be tested in animals for potential toxic reactions. Beyond these formal legal requirements, research into the root causes of disease at the genetic level and how diseases become resistant to current treatments cannot be simulated by computer programs or duplicated in test tubes.

Although present-day technology cannot yet replace many types of animal research, the research community is committed to finding new ways to reduce and replace animal testing. This ethical commitment is embodied in strict animal welfare protocols at most university, government and industrial laboratories.

In addition to humane considerations, the economic and logistical advantages of replacing animal testing are compelling. Animal studies are time-consuming and resource-intensive. If meaningful alternatives existed, companies could save hundreds of millions of dollars in facilities and personnel costs.

Opposition to all animal testing would require a life without drugs, vaccines, painkillers, anesthetics and surgery. It would demand a rejection of all federally mandated Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency tests that ensure the safe consumption of products in our homes and workplaces, ranging from the testing of components used in computers and cellphones to plastic wraps and chemical additives in our foods and drinks. In short, it would require a lifestyle far removed from that enjoyed by most people, particularly the jet-setting celebrities who oppose animal research.

Reducing complex issues to oversimplified sound bites encourages the thinking that wearing a lapel ribbon is a substitute for education and dedication to seeking solutions. Research scientists, physicians and veterinarians face tough moral and ethical issues in this pursuit and take these responsibilities seriously.

Concern about animal welfare can take very different forms. Some people are offended by the use of leather and fur as fashion accessories but accept that medical research must unavoidably use animals until viable alternatives are found. Some groups argue persuasively against intensive farming practices but, again, recognize the need for animals in medical research. I recently signed a petition in Arizona calling for reform in the raising of veal calves.

My advice is that people carefully consider not just whether or not a group shares their beliefs, but whether or not they behave in an ethical manner. The tactics used by opponents of Covance in Chandler have included false claims about alternatives to animal testing and misinformation aimed at provoking community concerns about potential disasters.

Well-funded national groups often disguise their involvement to make it appear as if local citizens are leading the effort. [Actually, I'm only pretending to live in Madison. I'm really a well-paid agent who lives in Zurich and agitates with the Internets in countries around the world because I hate science and America's freedoms.] In May, The Arizona Republic uncovered deceptive methods and use of false names by a leading opponent of the Chandler drug-development facility in an attempt to camouflage ties to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and involvement in other protest campaigns.

Of greatest concern are those who encourage violence in the name of animal activism. My family and I have been the targets of death threats, as have many of my colleagues. Several animal extremist organizations have been identified by the FBI as serious domestic terrorism threats.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals provides funding to the Animal Liberation Front, which is listed as a terrorist group by the governments of both the United States and the United Kingdom. [This is a very tired claim.]

A publicly available report from the FBI describes People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as an organization that "recruits interns for the sole purpose of committing criminal acts." [Either Poste is stupid or he thinks his readers are stupid. If this were true Newkirk or other ranking PeTA employees would be in jail. It is fear mongering like this that people like the Basso lab folks lap up without thought.]

In 2003, a representative of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, another national group that has been prominent in the local debate, called for the assassination of doctors whose research involves animals. [No, he didn't. If he had, he too would be in jail.]

Fortunately, very few people endorse such extreme views. Surveys show that most Americans support the need for animal studies aimed at medical advances. Even as divergent as the views of animal activists and researchers may seem to be, there is agreement on one key issue: We all look forward to a day when mankind's ingenuity provides a way to completely eliminate the need for animal studies.

I have a challenge to offer to anyone who feels strongly about this topic, especially young people. If you sincerely wish to eliminate the need [Need!] for animal research, put down your picket signs, learn about the subject and invent solutions. I guarantee you'll find a receptive audience in the medical research community, because it's a goal we share.

Dr. George Poste is a veterinarian and director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

"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 30, 2009

Michele Basso

Rumor has it that UW-Madison's investigation of Michele Basso has concluded and that she has lost her "privilege" to use animals, and that she is threatening to file a lawsuit against the university. So far, all of this is from uncorroborated leaks from within the university. If true, it's no wonder they're keeping it a secret. Apparently, according to my sources, even other vivisectors have found her practices to be slipshod and an embarrassment. They have been trying to get rid of her for a number of years. If this turns out to be true, I'll revisit the many times that she and her work has been publicly defended by the UW's lackeys.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Public conversation about important research is a good thing," lied Timothy Yoshino.

I recently had an op-ed published in a local weekly paper warning people about dangerous research being conducted at UW-Madison and urging them to contact their elected representatives and urge them to intervene.

The university's response was a gem. Read it here.

I love the way it starts out. "If Rick Bogle’s credibility wasn’t already on life support, it should be now."

I have to smile at that, but who's their audience? They seem to believe that readers already have an opinion of my credibility. I am a force. I've written about this phenomena before. And here.

They go on. "Bogle’s alarmist and irresponsible opinion piece: 'Flu lab accident could leave millions dead within weeks,' is rife with errors, too many to list in a short response,..."

Not even room to point out one error? The biggest error? Darned too many to mention it seems.

And, true to form, they make misleading assertions. "The work he criticizes as a public health threat is in reality an identified priority of the world’s major health organizations...". Except it isn't.

It's true that the U.S. government and the World Health Organization have official statements on the need to monitor, research, and prepare for seasonal and pandemic influenza outbreaks, but neither the U.S. government nor the WHO has recommended efforts to make flu strains more deadly and unaffected by our immune system.

They note that influenza research at the university has been conducted without incident "for years." That's sort of true. Kawaoka's current BSL-3 lab has been in operation since late 2007, maybe 2008, and there hasn't been a reported accident that I have heard of. But a string of unreported violations and close calls at the CDC and associated labs makes it clear that accidents are essentially inevitable.

In the case of pandemic extremely virulent influenza viruses, the simple fact that there is even the slightest chance of a public infection makes the risks too great. The extremely low probability that the research will yield significant clinical benefit is paltry reason to risk the lives of many millions.

The university says that I have "demonstrated an amazing lack of responsibility."

Wow. Just wow. I criticize research at the university that senior infectious disease experts and the editors of Nature express public concern over, and I'm not being responsible. Newspapers and on-line sources from around the world are talking about Kawaoka and the 1918 Spanish flu, and quoting senior scientists and doing their best to alert the public to the risks inherent in Kawaoka's work. Wild. The university argues that pie-in-the-sky outweighs unlikely cataclysm.

The authors must not know about Kawaoka's Ebola problems, the Vilas Monkeys, Gary Splitter, Ei Terasawa, Michelle Basso, the illegal sheep decompression deaths, the illegal mouse fights, the shredded video tapes, Jennifer Hess, the repeated animal welfare violations, or any of the myriad other examples of the university's irresponsible and reprehensible history concerning its publicly funded bio-research program. They must think it sounds better to just make wild and vague insinuations. They were probably tutored by staff of the university's School of Mass Communications.

They write: Reasoned public conversation about important research is a good thing. Unfortunately the op-ed written by Bogle does nothing to further that objective."

What crap. Total crap. They don't want discussion. People who want discussion, like me, start discussing; the university only obfuscates, resists, lies, reacts, calculates, and whines that it wishes there was more discussion (about how great it is.)

This silly response to my letter was attributed to Timothy Yoshino, responsible official, UW-Madison Select Agent Program, and Susan West, chair, UW-Madison Institutional Biosafety Committee, which has done nothing to assuage my concerns.

I wonder what Timothy Yoshino's title means? Responsible official.

I wasn't a Spock baby. I was spanked when I was young, and later my father beat me with his belt. I have a sense of responsibility that doesn't seem to fit with whatever consequence Timothy Yoshino would have to bear if there is an accident in the Kawaoka lab. I suspect the consequences for Yoshino would be nil, assuming he lives.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Animal Research Ethics

It is probably assumed by most people who stop to think about it that research using animals -- particularly research that hurts or kills animals -- is subject to some required ethical review. But in the United States, there is no required ethical review and largely no ethical review at all.

This doesn't mean that proposed and actual experimental use of animals isn't subject to oversight, only that an ethical review isn't required and generally isn't undertaken.

The oversight of research using animals is limited to an evaluation of a proposal's compliance with existing law and regulation, and then, once approved, an occasional cursory check to ascertain whether the vivisector is adhering to the approved methods.

But this oversight isn't a consideration of ethics; it's more like a city issuing a building permit -- as long as the zoning laws and construction methods meet the legal requirements, there isn't any required discussion as to whether or not you ought to build a new garage or put an addition on your house.

You might think I'm making this up, after all, vivisectors say they care about the animals they hurt and kill and that hurting and killing them is a privilege rather than a right. Surely the industry, filled as it is with caring people, would establish committees that would think carefully about the harm to the animals and whether or not their suffering could be justified by the promised results.

But currently, there is nowhere along the pipeline between the publicly-funded research dollar geyser (the NIH) and the lab where an ethical evaluation can occur. Everywhere along the way the system is staffed by vivisectors -- people with clear unambiguous financial interests in promoting the use of animals.

Projects receiving public funding for research using animals generally start in one of two ways. Either the NIH issues a request for proposals or else a vivisector comes up with an idea on his or her own. The two routes quickly converge at one of many committees acting under the auspices of the National Institute's of Health's Center for Scientific Review(CSR). These committees are called Study Sections.

Study Sections are committees made up of recognized experts in the sort of research they are asked to evaluate. Their task is to determine a proposal's technical and scientific merit. There is no ethical review, and in the typical committee, an unbiased review would be impossible. Michele Basso, a well-known and despised monkey vivisector at UW-Madison was a member of one of these committees. See my essay "The 'Best Science'" to get an idea about the biased make-up of these committees.

Once a project is approved, the next and last step in the approval process is the committee at the vivisector's own institution called either an Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) or an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

The ACUC is made up of vivisectors, their handmaidens, and a token member, sometimes two, to represent the concerns of the community. A 2012 paper looked at the composition of these committees and verified the obvious biases that critical observers have always pointed to. See: Hansen L.A., Goodman J.R., Chandna A. Analysis of Animal Research Ethics Committee Membership at American Institutions. Animals. 2012; 2(1):68-75.

But ACUCs do not generally address the ethics of a proposal. The IACUC Handbook, Second Edition, by Jerald Silverman, Mark A. Suckow and Sreekant Murthy explains:

12:3 Should the IACUC perform an ethical review of protocols?

.... For the most part, the IACUC does not and cannot conduct this explicit ethical review. The IACUC is charged with reviewing the rationale (preferably statistical) for the numbers of animals chosen, for instance, but not whether a particular line of research warrants that number. Similarly, the IACUC evaluates a technical claim that nonhuman primates alone are likely to provide the sort of data sought, not whether a particular projects ethically merits the use of primates...

It's understandable that people sometimes think that there is some sort of ethical review involved in publicly funded research that entails hurting and killing animals, and in fact, even vivisectors have been unclear about whether there ought to be some ethical review.

In the First Edition of the IACUC Handbook, the answer to the question of whether or not IACUCs should perform an ethical review was the exact opposite of what it is today. The First Edition answered the question this way:

You can't help but notice the difference, and moreover, the reason that the authors felt that there ought to be some sort of ethical review: the regulations covering the use of animals might become more restrictive if the public doesn't believe that some sort of ethical review is taking place. It isn't really a matter of ethics, its a matter of public relations.

My deep cynicism makes me wonder about the aboutface. I wrote to the authors and asked what led to the change, but they said only that the Second Edition is the current opinion.

ACUCs are not ethics committees anymore than giraffes are zebras, and calling them ethics committees doesn't make them so. There is no ethical review of proposed experiments on animals.

Universities and the NIH as a rule don't do much ethical review of research unless it involves the use of humans. This lack of ethical review of research is what led to the current dust-up over the NIH-funded development of an airborne strain of the H5N1 influenza or bird flu. In the article below, "dual use" refers to the potential of the research results being used to develop bio-warfare agents.

From NPR’s health blog:
Bird Flu Studies Getting Another Round Of Scrutiny By Panel
by Nell Greenfieldboyce. March 26, 2012.

... The whole debate has had some people asking why these questions are being asked after-the-fact, instead of before scientists did this work, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health as part of an effort to better understand how influenza viruses in animals can mutate and cause human pandemics.

But it looks like the safety committee at the University of Wisconsin-Madison actually did recognize the work's dual use potential.

"In the meeting minutes it does say that there was a dual use discussion," says Rebecca Moritz, a research compliance specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's biological safety office. "I don't know the specifics of that discussion but there was one."


The U. S. government currently does not require institutional biosafety committees to consider the dual use question. These local panels review lab procedures to ensure safety. They are not tasked with asking whether an experiment might produce information that might be dangerous in the wrong hands.

"They had no requirement or obligation to report or to share their concerns if they concluded in the end that the concerns were worthy of further pursuit," says Ruth Faden, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University.

Faden served on an influential National Academy of Sciences committee that issued a report on dual-use issues in 2004. It recommended that the government set up a mandatory oversight system. Under its plan, local biosafety committees would be required to screen research to identify projects with dual use potential. For projects of potential concern, an additional review at the national level would determine whether and how to let the research go forward.

But so far, the government hasn't set up any system like that. "In the absence of such a structure, people are going to continue to flounder, and not know what they ought to do," says Faden.

She says the concept of dual use got a lot of attention even before this bird flu controversy. But mere awareness of the concept of dual use doesn't mean scientists, institutions, and funding agencies understand what it is that they should do in any given situation.

"This is not a problem any one person can solve," says Faden. "It's hard to ask people to do the responsible thing if they don't have an environmental system that supports them knowing what is the right thing is to do and then being able to do it."
The thing to notice is that bioethicist Faden believes, and I agree with her, that without an overt system in place to facilitate or require the evaluation of such matters, that no committee or individual will be able to make decisions on questions and matters outside their official purview.

This explains why today's ACUCs do not evaluate the ethics of the projects that come before them: they are not charged to do so and do not have the tools or training to do so.

Additionally, ACUCs couldn't do this even if they were told to do so, and had the tools and training, so long as they are comprised as they are. The overwhelming and clear biases and conflicts of interest of the committee members make any ethical weighing impossible.

The result of all this is that the use of animals in the United States being paid for with tax dollars is essentially a ship without a captain when it comes to evaluating the ethical issues surrounding the harm to the animals being used.

In the United States, there is no such thing as an Animal Research Ethics Committee.