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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Responding to University of Wisconsin-Madison's Response to Dr. Ruth Decker's petition

Responding to University of Wisconsin-Madison's Response to Dr. Ruth Decker's petition asking the University of Wisconsin, Madison to stop Ned Kalin's cruel dead-end experiments on baby rhesus monkeys

UW-Madison says:  Since September, many people have taken interest in a University of Wisconsin–Madison study on the impact of early life stress on young rhesus monkeys. Thousands have added their names to a petition on the website, calling for an end to the work, and we appreciate and share their concern for animals.

In fact, interest in and criticism of this project has been on going since early in 2012, when the Madison-based animal rights group, the Alliance for Animals, reviewed the minutes from one of the two animal care and use committees that evaluated and eventually approved Ned Kalin's project and began a campaign to stop it. Lori Gruen, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Ethics in Society at Wesleyan University criticized the project on September 14, 2012, in a public speaking event sponsored by UW-Madison at its much-hyped biomedical science cathedral, the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. In May of 2013, the project was the topic of another event on campus, "The Ethics of Animal Experimentation: A conversation between bioethicist Rob Streiffer and research critic Rick Marolt." The large room was crowded with interested people.

It was in September of this year that UW-Madison took more notice of the criticism because the project finally came to the attention of many more people when (after two years of prodding)  Madison's weekly newspaper, Isthmus, put the story on its cover: Motherless monkeys: UW-Madison to revive controversial primateexperiments: Researchers will deprive infants of maternal contact to studyanxiety and depression. Noah Phillips on Thursday 07/31/2014.

UW-Madison says that it shares with the nearly 350,000 people who have signed the position, "their concern for animals."  I doubt it.

UW-Madison says:  But we don’t appreciate the way petition’s author, Dr. Ruth Decker, misrepresents the research. By piling up mistakes, myths and exaggerations, and omitting important information, she asks well-meaning people to speak out with little understanding of the real science and the long, deliberative process through which it was approved.

Petulant and condescending. What they really don't like are those 350,000 well-meaning people who have little understanding of the real science. The Real Science. Mistakes, myths, exaggerations, and omissions? UW-Madison's mistakes, myths, exaggerations, and omissions of information concerning its use of animals is legendary.

The long deliberative process UW-Madison refers to is a discussion, usually perfunctory, among a group of people whose livelihoods depend on the continuing flow of the tax dollars that pay for experiments on animals. The committees are required to have a member who is not affiliated with the institution. In practice, among the dozen people sitting around the table, one or two of them will be non-affiliated members. All the others are usually financially dependent on NIH grant monies.

But this project did get held up. Even some vivisectors thought it was extreme. A very rare phenomena.

UW-Madison: The truth is of little concern to activists who wish to end animal research, no matter the benefit to humans and animals. We don’t share that sentiment. We prefer people make their judgments on animal research with a fuller understanding of the research — of both its costs and potential benefits.

I'm no psychologist, but this appears to be a projection of  UW-Madison 's self-image onto those it thinks of as the enemy. The truth is poison to UW-Madison . UW-Madison has destroyed large many records regarding their experiments on animals to keep them out of the public eye. They apparently don't want the public to be able to become informed. Even here, when UW-Madison says that they prefer people make their judgments with a fuller understanding of the research, why didn't they provide a link to the approved protocol? Why not encourage people to read it themselves? Here's a link to the protocol; it is available to the public only because UW-Madison's critics think the facts matter.

UW-Madison: This is not a repeat of experiments UW–Madison psychology professor Harry Harlow conducted as many as five decades ago, some of which subjected animals to extreme stress and isolation.

This is a half truth. Harlow did conduct experiments similar to these, sans any claim of some possible new drug emerging from it. He reported on the behavior of monkeys raised in nearly identical ways: pulled from their mothers at birth, put alone into a cage until able to self-regulate their body temperature, and then put with another infant the same age. He published photographs of them clinging to each other.

UW-Madison: The methods for the modern work were selected specifically because they can reliably create mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety in the monkeys. They were chosen to minimize discomfort for the animals, and to minimize the number of animals required to provide researchers with answers to their questions.

And those questions are? They don't say, in spite of their stated desire that people have a fuller understanding of the research. This is the question: what patentable gene sequence might be a precursor to some part of some neurochemical pathway associated with some form of mental illness? That really is it. All their other claims are just window dressing.

As far as the reliable creation of mild to moderate anxiety, that's not really what they are doing. No one seeing human children behaving as Kalin expects the young monkeys will behave would describe them as being mild to moderately anxious. In fact, the American Psychological Association says that mild to moderate anxiety in humans can be helpful. They say that that's what we feel "When you're driving in heavy traffic or struggling to meet a deadline."

The idea that the feelings I have in heavy traffic are very much like what infant monkeys raised first in solitary confinement and then with a similarly traumatized male infant in a small cage, is ludicrous. The American Psychological Association goes on to give examples of genuine anxiety disorders and notes that: "Fortunately, there is effective treatment for anxiety disorders."  More evidence that the university isn't accurately describing Kalin's project.

UW-Madison: There is no “solitary confinement.” The animals live in cages with other monkeys of their own age, a method of care called peer rearing. This method is often used when mothers reject their infant monkeys, which happens regularly in situations from nature to zoos to clinical nurseries with first-time mothers or following caesarean-section births.

Complete gibberish. The baby monkeys are confined alone for the first 4 to 6 weeks of their lives. In normal circumstances they would be clinging to their mothers, being fondled, inspected, and cleaned by them, in constant contact. Infant monkeys and infant humans have very different psychosocial needs when they are very young. Infant humans benefit from regular touch whereas infant rhesus monkeys have a profound need for contact. It is easy to understand this difference when considered from an evolutionary perspective. Humans, like cats and dogs, are atricial; we are born at an earlier developmental stage than many other animals and are nearly helpless and not very aware of our surroundings. Rhesus monkeys on the other hand must cling to their mothers very soon in order to survive. They are more developed, physically and cognitively at birth than are humans. The trauma to them from being taken from their mothers has no counterpart in humans.

After 4 to 6 weeks they are caged with another infant of the same age and similarly maternally deprived. The university says, "The animals live in cages with other monkeys." No they don't. Two babies are in a cage. No infant is caged with "other monkeys."

UW-Madison says that peer rearing "happens regularly in situations from nature to zoos...." That's ridiculous. Two motherless infants can't raise each other. Nothing like this ever occurs in nature. UW-Madison must think the people reading their nonsense will believe anything. And zoos go to great lengths when monkeys are orphaned in an effort to ameliorate the well known impacts of being orphaned. In the Kalin project, the vivisectors intentionally don't employ the techniques that are known to lesson the negative impacts of peer rearing.

The serious consequences of peer rearing are known widely by those who raise monkeys in the laboratory setting. "Nursery rearing is the single most important risk factor in the development of severe forms of abnormal behavior, such as self-biting, in rhesus macaques. This practice is common in research laboratories and typically involves continuous pair housing of infants without maternal contact." The effects of four nursery rearing strategies on infant behavioral development in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Rommeck I1, Gottlieb DH, Strand SC, McCowan B. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2009 Jul.

UW-Madison: The animals in the study are not “terrorized,” and do not experience “relentless torture.” 

They may as well have claimed that dancing fairies come at midnight and entertain them. I suspect that every time one of the infants is pulled away from what or whomever they are clinging that the emotion they experience is very much terror. In fact, when not trying to score PR points, UW-Madison agrees that the baby monkeys are terrorized. In 1998, UW-Madison wrote about Ned Kalin's experiments and said, "Being separated from mother terrifies infant primates." 

As far as relentless torture, torture seems to be a plastic concept in the hands of government. Can torture be psychological? It seems to me that social and environmental deprivation could be torturous. If so, then it seems that from the babies perspective, they could be experiencing relentless torture. And certainly, the repeated separations will be torturous experiences. And the procedures they will be subjected to are intended to add to their distress.

UW-Madison: Most of their time is spent as a house pet would spend its days — grooming, sleeping, eating and playing with toys, puzzles and other animals.

Who keeps their house pet in a small cage 24 hours a day, every day? I'm sure they do pick at themselves, but at their age, their mothers would be grooming them. And they do eat and sleep. But the claim that they play with toys, puzzles, and other animals is very misleading. In the wild, monkeys don't seem to have toys or play with things as if they are toys, so calling some object put into their cage a toy, is misleading. The monkeys are not sitting around solving puzzles either.

Monkeys kept in standard laboratory cages are prone to developing a number of aberrant behaviors, which for some monkeys can include self-inflicted trauma. It was discovered that these often deleterious behaviors can be moderated or reduced if the monkey's attention can be kept engaged. Puzzle feeders are now a common item in the monkey labs. Their kibble is put into a device that makes it difficult to get to. A monkey must work to retrieve a piece. That's nothing like someone playing with a puzzle.

This is the second time in their response that they say the monkeys are with, and now get to play with, other animals.

This is like you being kelp in a prison 24/7 with a cell mate, and me telling someone concerned for your well being that you get to be with people.

UW-Madison: On occasion, to assess the monkeys’ level of anxious temperament, they are observed under two anxiety-provoking conditions. The first involves the presence of an unknown person who briefly enters the room, but does not make eye contact with the monkey. The second involves the monkey being able to see a snake, which is enclosed in a covered Plexiglas container in the same room, but outside the monkey’s cage.

This makes it sound like the monkeys will have only two anxiety producing experiences. But of course, they will really have many more.

Let's count them. We can see a sort of timeline in a chart showing the planned procedures early in this video. The chart predicts that all the manipulations, imaging, and tissue collection will be complete before each monkey's 60th week of age. They will be killed at some unspecified time, but according to the chart, they will no more than 80 weeks old. During that 60 week period, beginning the moment they are pulled from their mothers, each monkey will undergo: 7 human intruder tests; 5 MRIs; 9 blood draws; 5 PET scans; 1 skin biopsy; 2 spinal taps; 1 exposure to a snake; be exposed to an unknown monkey 2 times; and be observed in a "play cage" 2 times. When they are about 25 weeks old, they will be taken from their cage mate, and placed with a new monkey (who has undergone the same procedures). 

Some of those events happen on the same day. The human intruder, blood draw, and PET scan all occur in immediate succession on the same day. Overall, the monkeys will be manipulated in some way every week. Their separation from their original cage mate must be a particularly stressful experience. Many of the procedures will entail being taken from their cage mate. These repeated separations are likely to exacerbate the separation anxiety the monkeys may experience. Together, this host of experiences seems much different from UW-Madison's glossed over description of what will happen to the babies in their response to Dr. Decker's petition.

UW-Madison:  The stress the monkeys experience is comparable to what an anxious human might feel when encountering a stranger or a snake or a nurse with a needle.

That's more meaningless gibberish. How does an anxious person behave and feel? There are people who are so anxious that they can't leave their home. They might faint if confronted by a stranger. I took an on-line anxiety test at Psychology Today. It said I have "Existential Anxiety." I like snakes. Strangers? For me it depends on the context. All anxious people have the same reactions to a stranger, a snake, and a nurse with a needle? What silliness. Hardly scientific.

UW-Madison: No one was “left out” of the review by UW–Madison oversight committees. Several university committees spent a great deal of time assessing Dr. Kalin’s anxiety research, and each committee found it to be acceptable and ethical.

Context matters here too. Those committees approve essentially every project they consider. It isn't a surprise that they approved this one. What is surprising, what is a complete and novel departure from business as usual, is the fact that someone embedded in the system said no. They gummed up the works and stalled the project; its eventual approval was probably never in doubt. Essentially every project gets approved, and Ned Kalin is a powerful senior administrator and researcher.

And, the committees didn't decide that the experiments are ethical. There is noting in the very limited committee minutes suggesting that any ethical analysis took place, but that is as expected. There are no committees at UW-Madison or at most other labs in the US that make ethical decisions about the use of animals. The IACUC Handbook (2nd Edition. CRC. 2007) notes that the committees are not able to make ethical evaluations. The committees decide only if the planned use of animals complies with  federal regulations. If it does not, the committee explains to the researcher what must be changed to gain approval, and at times even provides prewritten responses for use on the forms.

UW-Madison: These were groups of researchers, veterinarians and public representatives tasked with considering animal research on ethical grounds, and with ensuring potentially beneficial research will subject the fewest animals to the least invasive measures.

If true, the university has invented a new kind of committee. But their ersatz balm doesn't ring true to me. I have reviewed the minutes of many years of three of UW-Madison's animal use committees, two of which are the ones that approved Kalin's new project. I have seen little if any evidence that the committees ever engage in discussion about the ethics of a particular project or the enterprise at large. But again, that isn't surprising because the committees are not charged with making ethical determinations by either NIH or USDA, the two main federal agencies involved in the oversight of animal experimentation. 

"[P]otentially beneficial" is justification for just about anything. Every lottery ticket is a potential winner.

UW-Madison: As the petition notes, an animal rights group took allegations about the committee process to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What the petition does not mention is that USDA conducted an investigation in August in response to that complaint. Inspectors found the complaint lacking merit, and the process to be entirely within compliance with federal regulations.

Maybe that's what the inspectors found, but it isn't what they said. This is the body of the report:

No non-compliant items identified during this inspection.
This was a focused inspection conducted on 8/25/14 and 8/26/14.
Exit interview conducted on 8/27/14 with facility representatives.

Regular observers of reports from USDA inspectors know that a different inspector might have found differently. In any case, the report says only that whatever the committee did was in compliance with animal welfare regulations. We don't really know what was said during the committee meetings because UW-Madison has taken steps to keep the public from learning the plain facts. And they are being sued because of it.

What led to some observers imaging that there may have been a violation of some sort may have been the result of something called designated review. When a committee explains to a researcher what they need to do to make their project acceptable, it frequently defers further review by the entire committee and leaves the final approval a designated committee member. For members who were opposed to the project, consignment to designated review could have made them feel locked out of any opportunity to further their argument.

UW-Madison: Most importantly, the petition repeatedly maligns the research as “needless” and “unnecessary.” We and many others think otherwise. Dr. Kalin, who treats human patients with anxiety and depression disorders, has worked for more than 30 years to understand both inherited and environmental causes of mental illness. His research was also reviewed and supported by panels of scientists at the National Institutes of Mental Health.

By "We" UW-Madison means those whose income rely on the continuous turn of the federal tax dollar treadmill of animal experimentation. As far as many others thinking his work should be funded, most of them are also financially dependent on the treadmill's perpetual motion. The appeal to our sympathy for patients would be less manipulative if it mentioned the number of patients he sees in a day. I suspect it is less than one. His role as a university administrator and as a lead scientist on four tax-payer-funded projects must use up at least some of his time:

5 R01 MH046729 20
5 R01 MH081884 06
5 R21 MH092581 02
5 P50 MH100031 02 6276    

You'll notice too that UW-Madison refers to a statement from Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as evidence of others thinking the experiments have merit:

“One only has to look at the Ebola crisis to appreciate the vital role that animals play in biomedical research, in this case, in the testing of potentially life-saving vaccines. But, it doesn’t stop there. Neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Advances in understanding and treating these devastating conditions rests on fundamental basic behavioral and brain science that, as with infectious diseases, begins with carefully conducted studies in animals. NIMH has supported the research in the Kalin lab for many years. This support is part of our commitment to the belief that careful, well-founded, peer-reviewed research such as this will lead to improvements in our understanding and treatment of mental disorders.”

Well, when I look at the Ebola crisis, I see something else. In any case, the support for Kalin boils down to this: "NIMH has supported the research in the Kalin lab for many years." That's true, and they should be ashamed of it. But shame isn't in the palette of emotions of most vivisectors and Tom Insel is no exception.

60 Minutes ran a piece on the Yerkes Primate Research Center, maybe 15 years ago. They showed sedated monkeys being thrown into the back of an open-bed truck as if they were sacks of potatoes. They also interviewed Tom Insel, who was at the time the director of the primate center. They asked him about monkey escapes from the primate center, and he said there hadn't been any. Then they interviewed a young girl, she was maybe five years old. She told about the monkey that had come onto the deck in their back yard. Insel had been caught in a blatant lie. Insel's opinion on animal research hardly matters since without it, he'd be out of a job. A small bit of trivia: Insel's own research was focused on the function of oxytocin in stressed mice and voles.

UW-Madison: The decision to study animal models to understand human psychiatric disorders is not made lightly.

Given the obscene amounts of money involved, they indeed take the matter very seriously.

UW-Madison concludes with this: In this case, the human suffering is so great that Kalin, the National Institutes of Health and UW–Madison’s review committees believe the potential benefit of the knowledge gained from this research justifies the use of an animal model.

But the people at NIH who approved the project are vivisectors too. They are financially vested in the continuation of the practice as is just about everyone at UW-Madison who has supported it.

The potential benefit should be considered by weighing the proven benefits of Kalin's past research. But that metric isn't used by NIH or UW-Madison because there haven't been any benefits from Kalin's past research, and such a weighing would make it plain that the likelihood of benefit from his new project is nil.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Two)

The Vilas Monkeys (Part Two): The Ten-Year Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Most Blatant Instance of Animal Cruelty and Lying to the Public. A Story of Cover-up, Conspiracy, Adultery, Battery, Disdain for Public Sentiment, and Crimes Too Unbelievable and Hideous to Discuss in Polite Company

Part Two
Let me add the example of the adult rhesus monkey females who will be treated in the next chapter. Their pen has a row of six large, reflecting observation windows near the ceiling, more than 5 meters above the floor. Every birth season, we see females place their newborn baby on the floor, walk a few steps, and intently stare up at one of the windows, shifting their head as if searching for a particular reflection. Then they pick up the baby again. They start doing this within a day or two of giving birth. All the windows are used for this activity, regardless of which one we are standing behind.

I cannot explain this behavior. Perhaps mothers like to have a look at their infant from a distance of more than 10 meters, without the risk of leaving him too far behind. They never stare at the windows in this particular way when carrying their baby, or when another female’s youngster is walking free. They seem to connect their own behavior (placing their offspring on the floor) to the mirror image. That they do not, like chimpanzees, use the mirror to look at their reflection may be a matter of how much interest they have in themselves compared to such attractive creatures as their new infants. Fox speculates that apes and humans may simply have reached a higher level of narcissism. (de Waal, 86-87.)
As I review the many news articles and documents generated by the Vilas monkey affair in 1997-98, I can’t help feeling a renewed sense of shock and surprise. The primate center (and by extension the UW itself) was so underhanded, so unethical, so disgustingly dismissive of public sentiment, that even now, ten years later, I’m dumbfounded by its arrogance and deep callousness. It is beyond belief that anyone could today believe anything they might claim.
Monkeys killed despite no-harm pledge
AIDS research:UW primates used for organs and tissues
Telegraph Herald. Sunday. August 10, 1997

MADISON (AP) - At least a dozen zoo monkeys were killed during University of Wisconsin AIDS experiments despite a pledge by administrators not to use them in harmful research, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The rhesus monkeys at the Henry Vilas Zoo were killed for their organs and tissue, by researchers at the UW Primate Research Center unidentified sources told The Capital Times.

UW-Madison owns the zoo's monkey house, which has about 150 rhesus monkeys and stump-tailed macaques used for observational research and public education.

The experiments occurred over a five-year period despite a June 15, 1989, letter that said the animals "will not be used in studies at our facility involving invasive experimental procedures." The newspaper said it was signed by seven primate center administrators. "Such animals will be assigned to the center's nonexperimental breeding colony, where they are exempt from experimental use." the letter said.

Primate center officials denied using the zoo monkeys for research that could harm them until The Capital Times obtained information that showed that monkeys were born at the zoo and died during research, the newspaper said.

Interim center director Joe Kemnitz said there were exceptions to the agreement that would allow some monkeys to be used in lethal research experiments.

Certain monkeys were used because they had unique qualities important to researchers Kemnitz said.

But Lenon and other officials could not produce written proof of any exceptions and zoo director Dave Hall said he could not recall any such exceptions to the 1989 letter.
After the public learned that the university had lied in 1989 when it had promised to stop using the Vilas zoo monkeys in invasive and terminal experiments and that it had continued to lie about the monkeys for eight years, the primate center colluded to some degree with the NIH, or perhaps manipulated the agency, into killing any funding for the care of the monkeys at the zoo.

In her August 13, 1997, official statement, then Graduate School Dean Virginia Hinshaw said:
The center's lease at the zoo is expected to expire in 2003, and we are currently working to find a long-term home that is best for the welfare of the animals and are committed to supporting the animals financially. But there is no quick resolution to this issue and finding an appropriate arrangement for the colony may take several years. [my emphasis, obviously]
On November 19, 1997, the UW issued a press release stating:
The National Institutes of Health will end a long tradition of funding the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center's monkey colony at Henry Vilas Park Zoo, effective Feb. 1. The decision will restrict the Primate Center from using funding from its $4.5 million base grant to maintain the Vilas Zoo colony. The facility costs approximately $100,000 a year to maintain, which includes personnel, food and supplies, and utility expenses. … "This decision puts us in a very difficult position," said Virginia Hinshaw, dean of the UW-Madison Graduate School. "The change in funding means that we have to work rapidly to find options for the colony."
When Hinshaw told the public: “we are currently working to find a long-term home that is best for the welfare of the animals and are committed to supporting the animals financially,” she was still lying, still telling the public what the university thought was expedient to tell us. The primate center and the university certainly did not then, or ever, have any commitment to the animals.

But the pure unadulterated filth of the university’s vivisectors isn’t clear until we put these conflicting lies into context. It wasn’t just the fact that the primate center had lied so baldly to the public for eight years, it wasn’t even the fact that once discovered in their lies that the vivisectors didn’t want to spend any money caring for animals that they couldn’t torture, no, it wasn’t just all that. The icing on this shit-cake was that over the period of time they were lying, they were selling the monkeys and banked somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars.

This amounts to not only a lie, but in a manner of speaking, grand larceny. And, after secretly selling these animals, not one thin dime could be found to feed them, to find them a safe home, to make amends with the public, to do at least one right thing.
Uw Reports Cash From Zoo Monkey Sales
Capital Times :: Front :: 1A
Saturday, August 23, 1997
By Scott Russell The Capital Times

The UW Primate Research Center made between $200,000 and $275,000 by selling off monkeys from Henry Vilas Zoo for research, according to data released Friday by the university.

Of the 110 monkeys sold over an eight-year period, 42 monkeys went to government agencies or outside universities, such as Harvard or East Carolina University. Another 35 monkeys were sold to private pharmaceutical companies, such as Hazleton [renamed Covance] Laboratories in Madison. The other 33 monkeys were used by UW-Madison researchers.

In June 1989, the primate center entered into an agreement with the zoo that none of the zoo monkeys would be used for invasive research. University officials have not disclosed the fate of the monkeys that were sold to other institutions.

Pharmaceutical labs in all likelihood tested the monkeys with drugs.

The zoo monkeys sold for between $1,800 and $2,500 each, depending on their age, their reproduction potential and their history, according to information released Friday by the UW-Madison.

On Aug. 11, after reports in The Capital Times, Graduate School Dean Virginia Hinshaw stopped any further assignment of monkeys from the zoo colony to invasive research.

One UW-Madison project that used zoo monkeys evaluated the effectiveness of a new medication for osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease linked to calcium deficiency. The monkeys provided one way to test for the safety of the drug for human use.

Drug company Ciba-Giegy paid nearly $1 million for the 32-month study, which used 56 monkeys in all. Of those, 12 were monkeys from the zoo, including four monkeys that were covered by the no-invasive-research agreement. Of the 12 zoo monkeys used in the project, 10 were euthanized during the research. The other two died after the project ended.

Here's where the monkeys went:

Hazleton Laboratories, 20; East Carolina University, 15; Baxter-Travenol,15; UW-Madison Harlow Primate Lab, 14; UW-Madison Clinical Sciences Center, 12.

National Institutes of Health-Poolesville, 9; Boston University, 4; University of Pittsburgh, 4; UW-Madison Department of Psychology, 3; UW-Madison Medical School, 2; Harvard University, 2.

University of Iowa, 2; University of Minnesota, 2; Vanderbilt University,2; Waisman Center, 2; University of South Dakota, 1; University of Nebraska, 1.

The money generated by the sale of the monkeys went into the center's cost recovery account, which augments a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The majority of the money for that grant pays for animal services such as food, housing and care for the animals.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Sheep. Spin, spin, spin.

No fines for sheep deaths at UW-Madison
By DEBORAH ZIFF. Wisconsin State Journal. October 8, 2009.

UW-Madison researchers violated state law when 26 sheep died in experiments on decompression sickness, but Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard won't prosecute the university because the infraction is relatively minor, he wrote in an opinion.
A few excerpts:
"We're trying to decide now that we have this information how to proceed," [Eric] Sandgren said.
I wonder what he means by this? Now that the university and the researchers know they won't be prosecuted or fined? Now that they know this is illegal? Now that they know what? (Previous posts that mention Eric Sandgren.)

If it's the latter, that they didn't know that killing animals by means of decompression was illegal, and that's how I read his comment, it must mean that the animal research oversight committees have never taken the time to learn what the state laws are regarding the treatment of animals. If that's what he meant, that they are just now learning that what they've been doing since 1986 is a violation of Wisconsin's "Crimes Against Animals" statutes (Chapter 951), it speaks poorly for their interest in the public's desires and wishes as spelled out in the state's legal code and paints the UW vivisectors as being just as arrogant and self-important as I have ever imagined them to be.
The studies are funded by the U.S. Navy and other federal and state agencies. UW-Madison is one of three main sites where such research is conducted, Sandgren said.
This claims seems to be rooted in something other than reality. One of three main sites?

Here's another chance to use PubMed to put a vivisector's claims to the test.

The key paper here, the most recently published paper by UW vivisectors on the topic of decompressing sheep is Oxygen pre-breathing decreases dysbaric diseases in UW sheep undergoing hyperbaric exposure. Sobakin AS, Wilson MA, Lehner CE, Dueland RT, Gendron-Fitzpatrick AP. Undersea Hyperb Med. 2008.

There are two easy ways to use PubMed to check out the veacity of this claim. 1. Look at the related articles on the right. 2. Click on each of the authors' names to access their list of indexed articles.

In the first case, and imposing the limits: "Publication Date from 2007 to 2009, Animals" results in a list of 49 items. Ten of these are comments on other papers and one is a conference announcement. The thirty-eight remaining papers are reports of scientific research. Each one includes the name of the lead author’s primary institution. The institutions named, and the number of times each one is named in one of the papers, if more than once, is listed here:

Israel Naval Medical Institute (5)
Dartmouth College
Università di Padova, Italia
University of St Andrews
Virginia Commonwealth University (3)
Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, MD (4)
State University of New York at Stony Brook
University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
University of Texas Medical School, Houston
University of Virginia
Copenhagen University (3)
Naval Medical Institute, France
Ministry of Defense, Government of India, Delhi (2)
Norwegian Underwater Intervention, Bergen, Norway
George Mason University
New York College of Osteopathic Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison (the paper cited above)
Wright State University
Swedish Defence Research Agency, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
[An article in Russian]
North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium
National University of Singapore
NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
University of Dundee
[An article in Slovak]
Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, India.

From this list spanning the past three years of publications, it doesn’t appear that UW-Madison is a leader or even very involved in this area of animal experimentation, let alone “one of three main sites where such research is conducted.” Additionally, the animals used in the studies represented in the above list are primarily rats, then pigs. The UW paper is the only one using sheep.

The second way to test Sandgren’s claims with PubMed is to look at the publishing history of each of the authors in the paper cited above. You can do this by clicking on each of their names.

The authors are: Sobakin AS, Wilson MA, Lehner CE, Dueland RT, and Gendron-Fitzpatrick AP.

AS Sobakin seems to have authored only this paper.

Not surprisingly, there are many MA Wilsons. PubMed lists 492 papers authored or co-authored by an MA Wilson. Searching for papers on decompression authored by MA Wilsons again returns only this original paper.

CE Lehner has coauthored eight papers related to decompression:

Oxygen pre-breathing decreases dysbaric diseases in UW sheep undergoing hyperbaric exposure.
Sobakin AS, Wilson MA, Lehner CE, Dueland RT, Gendron-Fitzpatrick AP.
Undersea Hyperb Med. 2008

Estimation and confidence regions for multi-dimensional effective dose.
Li J, Nordheim EV, Zhang C, Lehner CE.
Biom J. 2008

Predicting risk of decompression sickness in humans from outcomes in sheep.
Ball R, Lehner CE, Parker EC.
J Appl Physiol. 1999

Dysbaric osteonecrosis in divers and caisson workers. An animal model.
Lehner CE, Adams WM, Dubielzig RR, Palta M, Lanphier EH.
Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1997

Experimental respiratory decompression sickness in sheep.
Atkins CE, Lehner CE, Beck KA, Dubielzig RR, Nordheim EV, Lanphier EH.
J Appl Physiol. 1988

An in vivo technique for the measurement of bone blood flow in animals.
Rosenthal MS, DeLuca PM Jr, Pearson DW, Nickles RJ, Lehner CE, Lanphier EH.
Phys Med Biol. 1987

Hydrogen washout in bone cortex and periosteum.
Lightfoot EN, Rudolph RF, Lenhoff AM, Lanphier EH, Lehner CE, Whiteside LA.
Undersea Biomed Res. 1986

Lack of harmful effects from simulated dives in pregnant sheep.
Bolton-Klug ME, Lehner CE, Lanphier EH, Rankin JH.
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1983

By the way, this last paper, from 1983, wasn't illegal because the statute barring killing animals by means of decompression took effect, apparently, in 1985.

This amounts to two papers in the 2000s, two papers in the 1990s, and four papers in the 1980s, or, approximately, 2.7 papers per decade.

RT Dueland has authored only one paper associated with decompression, the paper cited above.

AP Gendron-Fitzpatrick has also authored only one paper associated with decompression, the paper cited above.

Looking at the list of eight papers authored by Lehner, the names Dubielzig and Lanphier appear more than once.

Lanphier has an extensive list of diving-related publications, the majority of which are human-based studies. All but one of his animal-related experiments are those listed above coauthored with CE Lehner.

The single paper using animals, not coauthored with Lehner is:

Responses of fetal sheep to simulated no-decompression dives.
Stock MK, Lanphier EH, Anderson DF, Anderson LC, Phernetton TM, Rankin JH.
J Appl Physiol. 1980.

Lanphier’s last paper was published in 1997 and is listed above.

RR Dubielzig has an even more extensive publication list, but has authored only two papers associated with decompression, both listed above.

So far, there does not appear to be much evidence supporting Eric Sandgren’s claim that the UW is “one of three main sites where such research is conducted.”

Another way to test his claim is to search the UW-Madison website looking for references to diving physiology. There is one tantalizing bit of evidence in support of Sandgren's claim. There is an obsure reference to Marlowe Eldridge, M.D. being the Director of the Diving Physiology Laboratory. But this is the only reference to such a facility. Marlow Eldridge's lab's webpage makes no mention of such a lab but does mention two funded studies on diving. His publication list mentions nothing about decompression in sheep. One of his grants is

Improving Risk Estimation, Safety and Cost-effectiveness in Scuba Diving.
Principal Investigator: Marlowe Eldridge M.D.
Agency: COMM NOAA # A06OAR417001 (144PD98)
Status: Funded 03/01/2006 – 01/31/2008 ($268,177)

The major goal of this project is to improve risk estimation and improve strategies to minimize decompression illness in recreational and occupational scuba drivers.,

The other, and the likely source for Sandgren's claim, is

Neurological Decompression Injury: Is Deep Stop Decompression Protective?
Principal Investigator: Marlowe Eldridge M.D.

Agency: DOD Navy

Status: Pending 10/01/2008-09/31/2011 (~$1,300,000)

This major goal ofthese studies is to improve our understanding of neurological decompression sickness and help evaluate deep stop use as a protective decompression strategy. We will use our established sheep model of the diver to determine the effects of various decompression scenarios with and without a deep stop on neurological decompression sickness. A variety of MR imaging techniques, will be used evaluate for subtle neurological injury and more importantly to gain insight into the mechanisms that may contribute to decompression neuronal injury.

But $1.3 million over four years is hardly enough to make Eldridge's lab “one of three main sites where such research is conducted.”

Another piece of evidence that might be said to support Sandgren’s claim is an old UW webpage named "Milestone Accomplishments, 1972-1997."

Under the section: Milestones in UW Sea Grant Diving Physiology and Safety Research, 1972-97, there are three bulleted claims:
Prototype development of wristwatch "dive computers" that calculate and alert a diver to remaining air supplies and the proper length of ascent decompression stops — now a standard part of scuba diving equipment.

Leading research on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of decompression sickness — including the risks diving poses to the fetuses of pregnant women, and the discovery of "limb bends," bone death, "the chokes" and paralyzing spinal cord hits among commercial and recreational divers who repeatedly make short, deep "bounce" dives.

Investigation of the under-estimated risks of panic among divers, especially in cold waters like the Great Lakes, and the development of a test that predicts with 88 percent accuracy which novice divers are prone to panic.
The only part of the above claims that is related to the decompression of the sheep is the part about potential risks diving poses to the fetuses of pregnant women, but even this is suspect. In Scuba Diving Explained: Questions and Answers on Physiology and Medical Aspects of Scuba Diving (1997), author Lawrence Martin, M.D. writes:

A short exposure to increased ambient pressure, per se, appears of no consequence to the fetus. However some studies on pregnant animals have shown an increased rate of fetal abnormality from decompression sickness, particularly among sheep; different studies in other animals have not shown an ill effect on the fetus. Like many other medical conditions, the available studies on this issue are inconclusive.

Based on what is known about pregnancy, and about diving, my recommendation (and that of most physicians) is that pregnant women should not dive.
And even the claim about wristwatch "dive computers" seems sketchy. See Scuba Diving History and something about the real inventors of the “dive computer,” Craig Barshinger, and Karl Huggins.

Sandgren claims that UW Madison is one of three main sites where such research is conducted. As I showed above by listing the locations of the institutions where decompression experiments on animals are being conducted, UW Madison isn’t one of the three main sites. But maybe Sandgren was being circumspect and was claiming that UW was one of only three Sea Grant Schools. But even on this point, if that is what he was claiming, he’d also be wrong.

If you visit the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant site, and click on Research, nothing is mentioned about diving physiology or decompression. On the page called "Water Safety & Recreation," under the section titled "Related Research," we finally come to something that might be germane titled, “Improving Safety and Efficiency in Scuba Diving.” But, alas, the link from there is broken; this, apparently is a gateway to research that might lend credence to Sandgren’s claim that UW-Madison is "one of three main sites where such research is conducted."

And finally, Sandgren claims that: “They've made important discoveries that are used now, that are applied, in the case of individual diving sicknesses.”

Like what?

According to the BBC, decompression experiments on goats were suspended in the United Kingdom in March 2007. A UK Ministry of Defense review committee examined non-animal methods for studying decompression sickness. Defense Secretary Des Browne stated that: “The review has concluded 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.”

Just what is it, does Sandgren feel, that came out of those eight papers published by vivisectors at UW-Madison that constitute the important discoveries that are being used now to treat diving sickness? None that I can see. And if the university is "one of three main sites where such research is conducted," they are doing a damn fine job of keeping it hidden.
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 to protect it from what he deems the ignorant sentimentality of the laity. George Bernard Shaw. The Doctor's Dilemma. 1909.

Friday, January 1, 2010

UW-Madison Animal Research - More Problems Ahead

Here's the December 2009 USDA/APHIS Inspection Report that got the news media's attention this time around.

Feds Find Problems With UW-Madison's Animal Research
Program Gets More Than $200M In Federal Funding Each Year (WISC-TV)
December 31, 2009

Federal animal welfare inspectors find 20 violations at UW-Madison
Wisconsin State Journal
December 31, 2009

USDA Found More Animal Research Violations At UW
Federal Agencies Conduct Joint Investigation Of UW Program (WISC-TV)
January 1, 2010

I couldn't help but notice the change in the statements being made UW-Madison head vivisector and spokesperson Eric Sandgren. He must have received an order from the public relations office.

Here's what he told WISC-TV reporter Linda Eggert on Wednesday after giving her a copy of the inspection report he had had in his possession for a few days:
"We passed the final exam, but we didn't get a hundred, and that's what we're working for," said Sandgren, who directs the group in charge of overseeing animal research.

Sandgren said the agencies simply felt it was time to do a comprehensive check and that OLAW needed to follow up on questions it had about UW-Madison's five-year renewal of its "public assurance" application for federal funding.

"Obviously, we took it very seriously. Their comments to us were that basically they thought we we're doing very well," Sandgren said.
Here he is being quoted two days later by Wisconsin State Journal reporter Deborah Ziff:
Sandgren said that when he got the 10-page report, "my stomach just went clunk."

"I'm not at all happy with the things listed there," he said. "That's just not acceptable."
Tomorrow, the university will have a different story; I imagine the PR office is working overtime.

All of this jive has to be placed in context. Sandgren and other vivisectors say routinely that the animals they use are respected and well cared for. They say routinely that strict regulations are in place that assure high quality care and careful monitoring of the animals.

The Animal Welfare Act, the main set of regulations routinely pointed to by the vivisectors as proof that the animals they experiment on are well cared for, has at its core, the idea that much effort must be made to insure that animals are used only when no alternative exists, that the least stressful and least painful methods are used, and that careful monitoring and safeguards are in place.

But the current inspection report makes it very clear that the Animal Welfare Act is routinely ignored by Sandgren and his fellow vivisectors at UW-Madison. They use the Act as a shield to deflect public criticism of their personal decision to spend their lives hurting animals. The simple fact that people who chose to spend their lives hurting animals will lie about it without qualm isn't a revelation. Liars thrive in society because we expect people to be generally truthful.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison vivisectors have more troubles ahead. The details of what led to this joint inspection visit haven't yet been exposed. No one has yet spoken about the revolt by the Vet school animal care staff, the details of the three suspended protocols, the details of the Michele Basso scandal; there is much dirt hiding under the UW's red rug that will come out in time and be blazened in more embarrassing headlines.

UW-Madison's animal research program is filled with rot and festering secrets. Stay tuned.

A funny postscript: The USDA Inspection Report linked to above is a copy provided to local media by Eric Sandgren. Notice the redactions. Sandgren et al argue that if animal rights activists (me, for instance) were to learn where animals were being kept on campus, that we would go berzerk, break in and destroy decades of "life-saving" research, undoubtely, just on the brink of a cure for some hideous disease of children. That's why the buildings and room numbers are blacked out. But why in the world would Sandgren et al hide USDA Veterinary Medical Officer Dawn Barksdale's name? Her name has been on these reports many times over the past few years. Here's the same much less redacted report posted on line by the USDA. BTW, the only research data destroyed at the university as a direct result of animal rights activism were the 628 videotapes of fifteen years of primate research destroyed by the university to keep them out of the public's hands after activists asked for a copy of a single one. Go figure.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

UW-Madison Lied to Feds, Misled Public, Put Humanity at Dire Risk

Note: Over the past almost two decades I have learned that when it comes to universities' and university officials' statements about their care and use of animals, about the benefits that have resulted and that will result in the future as a result of the things they do to animals, that they lie easily and repetitively. This lesson has led me to look carefully and with much doubt about every assertion they make, but particularly so when money and animals are involved. This doubt and skepticism and my anger and sorrow over the things they do to the animals they use contributed to my close watch of UW-Madison's promotion and hype about the influenza research conducted by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, particularly his efforts to invent viruses more deadly than any yet encountered and to test their effects on ferrets and monkeys. I have written about it with some regularity.

Estimates of the number of deaths cause by the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic vary from 20 to 100 million. John M. Barry, in his book The Great Influenza says:
Although the influenza pandemic stretched over two years, perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.
Over half of those who died in the 1918 pandemic were in their 20s and 30s, in the prime of their lives, not the elderly.


Two years ago, I again called Madisonians attention to the grave risks associated with Yoshihiro Kawaoka's influenza research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ("Flu lab accident could leave millions dead within weeks." Jul 8, 2014.) University officials Tim Yoshino and Susan West fired back with the claim that my "alarmist" letter was "irresponsible," but they provided nothing in rebuttal other than simple ad hominems. ("Tim Yoshino and Susan West: Rick Bogle's flu lab column irresponsible." Tim Yoshino and Susan West. Jul 11, 2014.)

Yoshino and West must have known when they wrote their response that serious accidents had recently occurred in the Kawaoka lab and that federal regulators had ordered a halt. At the time of their letter, Yoshino was the "responsible official" for UW-Madison Select Agent Program, and West was the chair of UW-Madison's Institutional Biosafety Committee.

International concern over influenza research like that occurring in the Kawaoka lab led to the current international moratorium and much continuing international debate.

Following the initiation of the moratorium, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services instituted their own review citing the grave risks of the research and the serious biosafey errors and accidents with highly infectious agents at top labs across the country. News of these accidents led USA Today to investigate. The resulting report, "Biolabs in Your Backyard," was recently awarded a Scripps Howard Award for public service reporting. That report includes many thousands of pages of documents and correspondence that were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents compiled by USA Today include over 400 pages of biosaftey committee minutes, laboratory accident reports, and correspondence between UW-Madison officials and the National Institutes of Health concerning accidents and violations. Local media has not reported on the serious problems in Kawaoka's lab discovered by USA Today.

Kawaoka's influenza research is conducted in a BSL3+ laboratory built for him by the university in 2006 for $11.4 million after the University ran into trouble with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over its approval of Kawaoka's Ebola experiments without the required level of biosafety. The BSL3+ lab (sometimes referred to as a Biosafety Level-3Ag lab) has been repeatedly characterized in local media as being only "half a notch below the top level" of biosafety. ["Following controversy, UW researcher's findings on bird flu virus published." Wisconsin State Journal. May 2, 2012; "UW-Madison study: New bird flu in China could cause global outbreak." Wisconsin State Journal. Jul 11, 2013; "UW-Madison flu studies raise risk more than prevent it, biosafety panelist says." Wisconsin State Journal. Jun 29, 2014.]

The very top level of biosafety is provided in BSL4 laboratories. In a BSL4 lab, workers wear space suits. In the documents obtained by USA Today, it is apparent that the "half a notch" difference between a BSL4 lab and Kawaoka's BSL3+ is pretty big.

On November 9, 2013, barely six months before I warned readers about the risks associated with an accident in the Kawaoka lab and Tim Yoshino and Susan West said my alarmist op-ed was irresponsible, a worker in Kawaoka's BSL3+ lab dropped a stack of culture plates infected with two varieties of influenza viruses: HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) and H5Nl. The plates broke and spilled the contents onto the floor and may have splashed the researcher's bare ankles. University officials have said that the mutations of H5N1 studied in Kawaoka's lab are very dangerous. [Susan West and Timothy Yoshino: UW flu research is important and safe. Wisconsin State Journal. Jul 2, 2014.] The university reported the event to the NIH, as they are required to do. In their report, they said that the researcher did not think that the material had come into contact with his or her exposed bare skin, but wiped their legs with disinfectant nevertheless. The doctor on call at the University hospital did not think there was a need for the researcher to take Tamiflu, but the person involved in the incident and others more familiar with the seriousness of the risk insisted.

The NIH chastised UW-Madison for allowing anyone to work in a BSL3+ laboratory with exposed skin. Essentially all biosafety accidents are the result of human error and institutional malaise. The potentially exposed researcher was not quarantined.

Kawaoka's influenza experiments have been of particular concern to public health officials outside Wisconsin due to his manipulations of the viruses' genes to produce new-to-the-world influenza viruses, or what some scientific reports have termed "novel potential pandemic pathogens" or PPPs. These are recombinant viruses; they are laboratory creations and worry many observers. These genetic recombinations can result in what is termed a gain-of-function, and are used in what is termed GOF research.

Genetic manipulations can make viruses more pathogenic and more easily transmitted. In GOF research, viruses with only limited virulence can be altered to be more dangerous. Kawaoka was making already very dangerous viruses even more dangerous. His work is a big part of what led to the current, perhaps temporary, international moratorium on this line of research. Kawaoka was one of only two researchers pursuing this supercharging of influenza viruses; the other was a scientist in The Netherlands. Kawaoka et al have reported that infected monkeys were euthanized after developing a high fever, were huddled in a corner of their cage, their hands and toes clenched, and were bleeding from the skin. [Itoh, Yasushi, et al. "Protective efficacy of passive immunization with monoclonal antibodies in animal models of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus infection." PLoS Pathog 10.6 (2014): e1004192.]

On November 16, 2013, a worker in Kawaoka's BSL3+ laboratory stuck him- or herself with a hypodermic needle containing recombinant H5N1 containing genes from a strain of H1N1. It was an H1N1 strain that was responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu, the most deadly disease yet encountered. The seriousness of the exposure was recognized by university doctors, but the university's response put the public at risk. The use of the needle in and of itself was apparently a violation of University policy concerning activities in the BSL3+ laboratory.

But more troubling and much more worrisome from a public heath perspective is that the University appears to have misled federal regulators in order to get approval for these experiments.

In a December 16, 2013, letter to the University, included in the US Today documents, the NIH writes to Daniel Uhlrich, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Policy, UW-Madison:
In follow-up conversations with you and Rebecca Moritz regarding your occupational health plans, you state that all exposures, including high risk exposures, would follow the same protocol, i.e. home isolation after removing the family from the house. Your decision was based upon consultation with your infectious disease experts and the state health department. You had rejected using a hospital room for quarantine because of the stress on the laboratory worker. This policy is not what was communicated to us in Dr. Kawaoka's application to perform research with mammalian transmissible strains of H5N1 that was provided to the Department of Health and Human Services. In a May 6, 2013, plan provided to NIH, Dr. Kawaoka indicated that he had access to a "designated quarantine apartment" in which researchers could be placed for 10-14 days in the event of an accidental exposure.

The University must find a dedicated facility outside of the individual's permanent residence in which (1) an individual can be safely isolated for up to 10 days, and (2) that can be decontaminated easily after the individual's departure. [This requirement and emphasis was contained in two separate letters from the NIH in response to the University's explanation of the accident.] An isolation room in a hospital would be appropriate. An individual's permanent residence is not appropriate due to the fact that many residences are in buildings with high occupancy that share air exchange and other infrastructure. Please provide revised SOPs that reflect an appropriate quarantine arrangement. No research with mammalian transmissible H1Nl stains may be carried out until this plan is operationalized. [Emphasis in original]

Contrary to what they had said they would do, the University simply called the researcher's family and told them to vacate their residence. Then, in an apparently unsecured vehicle, they took the accident victim home -- a potential patient zero for a global pandemic -- with a glove on their hand and wearing a mask without an exhalation vent -- and told him or her to stay there. There is no mention of any additional security.

In their response letter to NIH, dated December 20, 2013, the University promised that in the future, "Sharp needles will only be used for administering drugs to animals and drawing blood from animals. When either of these procedures are being done with reconstructed 1918 influenza or mammalian transmissible influenza viruses, two people will be required for the procedure."

On March 10-11, 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held its second symposium on gain of function research. (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Gain of Function Research: Summary of the Second Symposium, March 10-11, 2016. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.) Nothing was decided, but it is clear from the report that many scientists and public health officials remain very worried that GOF research with influenza viruses will be allowed to resume.

Tim Yoshino and Susan West called my letter to Madisonian's irresponsible and alarmist, probably because I observed that an accidental (or intentional) release of a modified influenza virus from the Kawaoka lab could result in millions of deaths within a matter of weeks. They claimed that I had not taken the time to learn about that which I was writing.

I believe that they each and together violated the public's trust; I believe that senior University of Wisconsin-Madison officials and local public health officials have violated the public's trust.

Very well informed and senior infectious disease experts have voiced their alarm. Yet, locally, little is reported, much is hidden. I believe that these violations of the public's trust were and are predictable because of the very large sums of money added to the University's coffers as a result of Kawaoka's research and the propensity of people to obey those they deem to be authorities. Added to this is the phenomena of conforming to the norm, which probably led public health officials to remain silent; after all, local media was not doing any significant or investigative reporting on these problems. Media's silence may have encouraged public health officials to get in line and to avoid a close observation of the situation and to go along with whatever the University experts told them to believe. Madisonians have largely been kept in the dark.

"Given historic estimates of influenza’s spread across the globe (∼24–38% of the world’s population), it is estimated that a pandemic of a highly virulent influenza strain, such as those created in GOF/PPP experiments, could cause between 20 million and 1.6 billion deaths." Evans, Nicholas Greig, Marc Lipsitch, and Meira Levinson. "The ethics of biosafety considerations in gain-of-function research resulting in the creation of potential pandemic pathogens." Journal of Medical Ethics 41.11 (2015): 901-908.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Let's set the record straight

A guest post from Rick Marolt:

Eric Sandgren, who frequently serves as UW-Madison's spokesman for animal research, said in a public forum recently that local critics of experiments on animals are wrong when they claim that UW-Madison did not take up the ethical issue of experimenting on monkeys. In that public forum, Sandgren said more than once that people cannot believe what they hear because critics of experiments on animals make inaccurate statements.

So let's set the record straight.

In August 2009, I proposed to UW's top research oversight committee that the UW conduct a study to determine if experimenting on monkeys is ethical, and I requested a response to my proposal by a certain date.

That date came and went without any news, so I asked the chairman of the committee for an update. He told me that the committee had decided against my proposal. I asked him when the committee had made that decision. He said that the committee had discussed my proposal during the meeting that I attended, when I was out of the room. That was a lie. (And the committee probably violated the state's open meetings law by deliberating outside the meeting -- if they bothered to deliberate at all.) In any case, the committee declined to deal with the fundamental ethical question.

I shared this news with UW-Madison chancellor Biddy Martin because Martin had insisted that this committee was the appropriate body for answering the ethical question. Martin then instructed the committee to discuss my proposal formally and to give me a formal written response.

So that committee met again on January 8, 2010. The bio-ethicist on the committee presented a statement that concluded with a motion: "I move that the committee endorse the position that existing standards of veterinary care and applicable animal welfare laws, regulations, and policies provide a suitable and appropriate basis for determining when the use of nonhuman primates in research, teaching, or outreach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is ethical."

Note that this motion does not respond meaningfully to my proposal and does not try in any way to answer my question. It says only that a basis for answering the question (or at least a similar question) exists. But the motion seems to assume that experimenting on monkeys, as it is done at UW-Madison, is at least sometimes ethical. I had asked the UW to question that assumption, not just to re-state it.

Sandgren presented his own written statement that the oversight processes ensure that experiments on monkeys meet a utilitarian ethical standard. But this statement only begs the main question and prompts a few more. Why should a utilitarian standard be applied to experiments on monkeys but not to experiments on people? (Sandgren has said elsewhere that "Utilitarianism trumps rights", which actually makes some sense to a principled utilitarian, which he is not, but still fails to explain why utilitarianism trumps the rights of monkeys but not the rights of people. And a deontologist would say that "rights trump utility".) What are the costs? What are the actual benefits to people? Where are the numbers, the evidence that a utilitarian standard is met? Why is it ethical for a powerful majority to exploit a powerless minority in pursuit of its self-interest? How do we know not only that the benefits of experimenting on monkeys exceed the costs but that experimenting on monkeys is the research approach with the greatest ratio of benefits to costs? How could it be if, as Sandgren himself has said in public, that there is a low "hit ratio" in translating experimental results into human benefits?

There was no study, no deliberation, no public input, and no testimony from experts, just statements that said, in effect: the status quo is fine. I wrote in a guest column in the Wisconsin State Journal after that:
The top animal research oversight committee at UW-Madison concluded recently that experimenting on monkeys is ethical. Here's what happened: a group of insiders who are constituted by law not to make ethical decisions but to ensure that the care of animals in labs meets a minimum standard, decided that the work that pays their salaries, funds their labs, and gives them a basis for tenure and promotion is ethical.

It was as if the Mississippi Slave Owners Association was asked in 1850 to determine whether or not slavery was ethical.

The committee ignored all the scientific and morally significant findings about monkeys that raise the ethical question: their advanced mental abilities, their strong emotions, their complex social relationships, and their profound similarity to you and me.

The committee confused the question about the ethics of experimenting on monkeys with the question of the treatment of the animals. They made the absurd claim that meeting a legal minimum standard of care ensures that the experiments are ethical. But if experimenting on monkeys is not ethical, then no standard of care can make it so.

The committee claimed, without providing evidence, that they make ethical decisions all the time. But years ago, when I heard someone ask one member [Sandgren] how ethical decisions were made, his only answer was "I will have to get back to you on that." And someone who has attended about fifty committee meetings tells me that she has heard committees discuss ethics only three or four times — and only because they seemed to be making a show of it.

Instead of wrestling with the ethical issue, the committee simply endorsed an answer that they like. I know from my interaction with some committee members that some of them do not even understand the issue. And the few who do understand it are afraid to speak openly.
So, did the UW take up the ethical question in any meaningful way? No. Sandgren should stop accusing concerned citizens of misleading the public.

By the way, I am still waiting for the formal written response to my proposal.