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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Creative Lives of Animals (New York University Press: 2023) Thumbs -up.

Carol Giglioti's The Creative Lives of Animals (New York University Press: 2023) held my interest from the first to the last page. I am of two minds about the book though. On the one hand, I think she provided ample and conclusive evidence for her proposition that other animals are creative. They invent new ways of doing things and those new ways get handed down through multiple generations. Human observers commonly perceive those invented, taught, and practiced behaviors as gene-regulated characteristics rather than the culturally embedded activities and ways of living that they actually are.

If you have an interest in why animnals do some of the things they do and how they may have come to do some of those things, I think you too will enjoy and find much to think about in The Creative Lives of Animals.

But the book also left me more depressed about our treatment of them. It seems that no matter what we learn about animals, that knowledge is only rarely sufficient to cause us to stop hurting them, let alone genuinely help them, or even just leave them alone. Throughout history, and still today, what we know about them is often used to exploit them, to take advantage of them, and is sometimes the reason that we hurt them even more.

In that sense, The Creative Lives of Animals probably won't be any more successful than any of the many other books by authors who probably hoped that the stories they told, the facts they cited, would at least nudge us in a more humane direction. Some of them have, a little, but on balance those changes have been slight. I hope The Creative Lives of Animals will have more success. It's worth a read and a recommendation to those you know who still don't give a damn.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

628 Pieces of Primate Research Garbage

“We all operate in the same way,” said acting Wisconsin Primate Research Center director Joe Kemnitz in the midst of a long and embarrassing scandal over protected monkeys at the local zoo. But little did anyone realize just what a liar he was. No other primate laboratory comes even close to operating like Wisconsin.

In an industry where violations of federal law and regulation are the norm, where deceiving the public is high art, and animals are routinely neglected, tortured, and killed, it is nearly impossible for an institution to distinguish itself. But the University of Wisconsin, Madison has proven itself truly exceptional.

This time it has to do with the destruction of hundreds of videotapes.


Monday, April 24, 2023

Some follow-up on the Basso et al article

The authors write:

"When the morning sickness drug thalidomide came to market in Europe in the 1950s regulators failed to identify that it caused serious congenital malformations in pregnant women. In the USA, FDA reviewer Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey rejected the drug’s application on the grounds of insufficient preclinical pregnant animal data and pregnant human data."

But this does not appear to be accurate. An essay about her career is available from the University of Chicago.

It is true that William S. Merrell Co. was seeking approval to market thalidomide in the U.S. and that Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey was the FDA reviewer. And, it is true that thalidomide could cause tragic birth defects. But Basso et al's claim is false:
When the morning sickness drug thalidomide came to market in Europe in the 1950s regulators failed to identify that it caused serious congenital malformations in pregnant women. In the USA, FDA reviewer Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey rejected the drug’s application on the grounds of insufficient preclinical pregnant animal data and pregnant human data.
In the articles about Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey's concerns that I have been able to locate, it wasn't the animal data that worried Oldham Kelsey; in fact, animal data was available and was (false) evidence that the drug was harmless.

See for instance 'Heroine' of FDA Keeps Bad Drug Off Market By Morton Mintz Washington Post Staff Writer. July 15, 1962. To wit:
The drug had come into widespread use in other countries. In West Germany, where it was used primarily as a sedative, huge quantities of it were sold over the counter before it was put on a prescription basis. It gave a prompt, deep, natural sleep that was not followed by a hangover. It was cheap. It failed to kill even the would-be suicides who swallowed massive doses.

And there were reports on experiments with animals. Only a few weeks ago the American licensee told of giving the drug to rats in doses of 6 to 60 times greater than the comparable human dosage. Of 1510 offspring, none was delivered with "evidence of malformation."

In a separate study, one rat did deliver a malformed offspring, but the dosage had been 120 times the usual one. Rabbits that were injected with six times the comparable human dose also were reported to have produced no malformed births.

... she said she could not help regarding thalidomide as a "peculiar drug." It troubled her that its effects on experimental animals were not the same as on humans – it did not make them sleepy.
At every turn, it seems that Basso et al get almost everything wrong. This seems to be a relatively common phenomena in many professions and walks of life. Our preconceptions and beliefs color our perception.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Vivisectors Say the Darndest Things.

FDA no longer needs to require animal tests before doing human drug trials. Science 1-23-2023.

The FDA no longer requires all drugs to be tested on animals before human trials. NPR 1-12-2023.

This change in policy is the result of years of effort by groups like PETA and CAARE.

It has shaken the vivisection industry. The notion that zillions of animals might not be bred, hurt, and killed could translate into a significant financial loss for them. Even those not directly involved in safety testing are worried that this could be the camel’s nose; it could lead to less public funding for the harmful use of animals in college and university labs across the country.

A June 23, 2023 editorial in Drug Discovery Today (Volume 28, Number 6) caught my eye because of the title: “The ethics of animal research and testing: A US perspective,” and because one of the authors’ unethical behavior is the subject of Chapter 16 “Michelle Basso” in my book “We All Operate in the Same Way.” The Use of Animals at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Virginia Smith Books: 2017)

Basso had numerous problems involving her use of monkeys while she was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The numerous written concerns by senior veterinary staff led to her suspension, which led to her departure and move to the University of California, Los Angeles, notable for being the homebase of the radical anything-goes vivisectors’ club, Speaking of Research. She is currently the Director of the University of Washington, Seattle’s tax-payer-funded Washington National Primate Research Center. It may not be a coincidence that the management of the Washington National Primate Research Center’s monkey farm in Arizona deteriorated after she took the job. See: Report: NIH probing UW primate center in Arizona. Dec. 20, 2021. Seattle Times.

The Drug Discovery Today article includes this humorous claim:
Declaration of Competing Interest. The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
The authors’ livelihood is dependent on hurting and killing animals.

The article starts off with an oddly ignorant assertion:
The burgeoning field of adjunct and complementary methods for animal research and testing, including computer simulations and micro-physiological systems, has given rise to a debate about the ethics of animal research and testing.
In fact, the debate has been going on since at least the late 1800s. In 1875, the National Anti-Vivisection Society was started by Frances Power Cobbe. The American Anti-Vivisection Society was founded in 1883. What the authors could have said, more accurately, is that technological advances have made it harder to defend the cruel things done to animals in the labs in the name of human health.

(A nice overview of some of those advances is available from Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research and Experimentation.

The authors’ argument that the use of animals is still needed starts with an appeal to two cases of new drugs harming users. The first was “The Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster of 1937,” which led directly to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FFDCA, in 1938.

They paradoxically seem to believe that the science of toxicology has not progressed in the ensuing 86 years. They are clearly wrong, as the CAARE link above and a Google search for “nonanimal toxicology” both demonstrate.

The authors continue: “The 1960s brought about greater FDA oversight over preclinical animal research… Ethical considerations and new scientifically validated animal behavior insights led to the passage of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act (AWA).”

But, again, they are wrong. Do they know they are wrong? The plain facts are an embarrassment to the animal research community. The impetus behind 1966 Act was an article in the November 29, 1965 Sports Illustrated by Coles Phinizy about a dog who was stolen and sold to a laboratory and killed. (“The Lost Pets That Stray to the Labs.” Sports Illustrated, 29 Nov. 1965.) Scientists in labs across the country knew they were buying stolen and lost dogs.

In fact, the USDA reports:
August 24, 1966
Passing of the (Laboratory) Animal Welfare Act (Public Law 89-544)
Rep. Resnick's efforts lead to the passage of the (Laboratory) Animal Welfare Act, [AWA] of which the stated intention is "…to protect the owners of dogs and cats from theft of such pets, to prevent the sale or use of dogs and cats which have been stolen, and to insure that certain animals intended for use in research facilities are provided humane care and treatment…". The new law establishes licensing for dog and cat dealers and authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate the transport, sale, and handling of animals pre-research or “for other purposes”. The Act covers six species: dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits.
How is it that Basso et al don’t know this? Or, maybe they do, are embarrassed by it, and are knowingly misleading their readers? Either way, ignorant or willful, this error of fact demonstrates one of the reasons it is best to question the claims of those who make their living hurting and killing animals. They continue with a citation that an uncritical or uniformed reader is likely to interpret as evidence of progress or researchers’ concerns for the animals they use:
“The 1985 AWA Amendment instituted federal requirements for enriching the lives of research monkeys and established the federal Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC). Along with the 1985 Public Health Service Act for federally funded research, it also required the establishment of an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at every institution that conducts animal research and testing in the USA to ensure the humane and responsible use of animals.”
But, in fact, the 1985 Amendment was a direct response to documentation of hideous conditions at the City of Hope in Duarte California and videos of extreme cruelty to monkeys at the University of Pennsylvania.

Basso et al write:
In the 1980s and thereafter the scientific and veterinary communities gave renewed attention to the ‘3Rs’ principles: reduction, refinement and replacement, established in 1959. Professional research societies like Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science and the AAALAC International published position statements on the importance of improving animal welfare, minimizing pain and distress and developing adjunct methods.
But the history and current activities of these organizations strongly suggests that they were intended to be (and in practice are) public relation tools for entities like colleges, universities and contract laboratories that become members. Animal welfare violations don’t result in a loss of membership.

Basso et al write: “In a June 2022 meeting of its Science Board, the FDA’s Alternative Methods working group said the agency is reviewing micro-physiological systems, cellular assays and computer models to complement and in some cases reduce animal use (my emphasis) in drug safety and efficacy research and testing.”

But, the FDA’s Alternative Methods working group actually said: “I am proud to highlight in this report some of the activities in which FDA is engaged that are moving us closer to the goal of replacing, reducing, and refining the use of animals in medical product development while continuing to advance disease modeling, toxicology, and pharmacology in support of FDA’s mission.” Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. Commissioner of Food and Drugs

And, the FDA says in its Predictive Toxicology Roadmap: “Breakthroughs in many areas of science are generating new tools and methods that are being incorporated into the science of toxicology. … Also critical is the potential of these advances for replacing, reducing, and/or refining animal testing.” It seems that replacing the use of animals remains one of their goals. This seems to be what is worrying vivisectors.

Basso et al also appeal to the National Academies’ 2022 workshop series "Nonhuman Primate Model Systems: State of the Science and Future Needs"’

The fact that a group of primate vivisectors and others with a vested interest in the continuation of animal use concluded that we will just have to keep using monkeys doesn’t seem too surprising. I don’t see how it bolsters the authors’ claim that the use of animals is genuinely needed. Whether or not it is, of course, says nothing about whether it is moral.

Evidence to support their claims is hard to find, this might be why they cite a webpage produced by students, who, it seems, aren’t too up to date either. For instance, the author says, “Chimpanzees, which share 99% of their DNA with humans respectively, also serve as reliable models for researching diseases due to their similar genetic makeup. Studying them enables scientists to explore how the disease affects the body and the kind of immune response that is triggered, which then makes it possible for scientists to develop potential therapies.” [Cites 2 articles from 2014.]

Maybe the students haven't heard that chimpanzees are no longer used in medical research anywhere in the world. Basso et al must know this, and yet they try to bolster their asserions with an appeal to these out-of-date or poorly researched claims.

Basso et al are ethically blind, money can do that to a person. They write:
When it comes to research leading to understanding and treating neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases, nonhuman primates are essential because they are the only animal species with a prefrontal cortex similar to humans. Their central nervous system is more complex than other mammals and they experience similar cognitive and sensory symptoms of disease.
To paraphrase: They suffer like we do.

Friday, April 7, 2023

An early essay

REVIEW ESSAY Animal Experimentation and Human Rights Rick Bogle Ellen Frankel Paul and Jeffrey Paul, editors, Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research (The Social Philosophy and Policy Foundation and Transaction Publishers), 2002. Paperback. 224 pp.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Let’s disenfranchise men.

This is a work in progress.

“For thirteen days in October 1962 the world waited—seemingly on the brink of nuclear war—and hoped for a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis. In October 1962, an American U-2 spy plane secretly photographed nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union on the island of Cuba.” JFK Library. Web-retrieved 3/23/2023.

I was 9 years old. We were living in Houston. My parents stockpiled food and water; we had a plan for huddling in the hallway and putting our mattresses against the walls to protect us in case they came tumbling down. A futile hopeless plan, but it made the tension very real. At school, we had recurring drills; we got under our desks and covered our eyes and the back of our necks and prayed for the all-clear bell; prayed that it really was just a drill.

My father had told me in a very serious talk, that if I thought it was the real thing, that I should ignore the teacher and run home as fast as I could. All largely because of Allen Dulles, John F. Kennedy, and a few other men.

It feels to me that we are closer to nuclear war than we ever have been. The situation in Ukrane seems like it could easily go nuclear. Almost every day, it seems, North Korea announces some an additional nuclear capability. Iran is enriching uranium.

There’s a common factor lurking there; it is stamped into just about every war, violent crime, and cruelty throughout history. The crimes, wars, and cruelty are overwhelmingly carried out by men. Men are the problem. Let’s disenfranchise them.

I’ll wager that a world governed by women would be a better place for just about everyone. No matter the activity, if it involves harming others, men dominate.

80% of the US armed forces are men. 90% of inmates in federal prisons are men. The U.S. Dept. of Justice reports that only 14% of violent offenders are women.

According the Alaska Dispatch News, only 21% of hunting licenses are purchased by women. Hunting is very popular in Alaska.

Data is spotty, but one source reports that 40% of animal scientists are women.

Even in the kitchen, only 25% of chefs are women, but 79% of vegans are women. More female chefs could lead to kinder kitchens.

The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has 3,000 members throughout the United States & Canada; the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has “nearly 7,000 members.”

More women in every field would mean less harm and a better life for everyone.

Let’s disenfranchise men.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Invent Ways to Hurt Animals and Become a Millionaire.

One of the news feeds I subscribe to sends me scientific papers written by researchers experimenting on monkeys. A recent one was titled "A Rhesus Monkey Model of Non-suicidal Self-Injury." It was written by Melinda Novak and Jerrold S. Meyer. Meyer: "Much of our recent work has involved the use of a rat model to determine the mechanisms of cocaine action on the developing brain and the neurochemical and behavioral consequences of chronic prenatal cocaine exposure...". What a dick.

It caught my eye, not only for the title, but also because Melinda Novak was one of Harry Harlow's last PhD students, and I am somewhat familiar with one of their co-authored publications. Many of her papers are indexed here, here, and here.

Her career has largely been a study of the damaging impacts to monkeys from being kept alone in a cage and being hurt and frightened throughout their lives. None of her work seems to have benefited the monkeys in the labs, let alone any abused human children. It is estimated that self-injurious behavior "in the form of self-biting is observed in approximately 5–15% of individually housed rhesus monkeys."

She has brought in the big bucks. Her NIH-funded project SELF INJURIOUS BEHAVIOR AND PRIMATE WELL BEING (Project Number1R24RR011122-01) received $7,863,045 in taxpayer dollars from 1996 to 2006.

Data is hard to find, but the 2016 paper, Survey of 2014 Behavioral Management Programs for Laboratory Primates in the United States, reported that of 59,636 primates in the 27 facilities they surveyed, 83% were socially housed. So, 17% weren't. That means that more than 10,000 monkeys in U.S. labs are probably being kept in conditions widely acknowledged to cause multiple psychiatric maladies.

Novak is now claiming that further study of these mentally ill monkeys might lead to some benefit to adolescents and young adults manifestiong non-suicidal self-injury. But the study of monkeys raised in environmentally deprived conditions has never led to a benefit to human children or adults. Her claim that even more study is called for is particularly odious.

I'm particularly disgusted by her claim because of her history with Harry Harlow. They, probably her -- some research suggests that university professors commonly attach their names to their graduate student's research papers -- invented a device intended to terrify young monkeys. It is likely that they were already disabled as a result of their isolation.

[Unless otherwise noted, the passages quoted below are from "Isolation", Chapter 5 of "We All Operate in the Same Way." The Use of Animals at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Rick Bogle. Virginia Smith Books: 2017. See too: Harlow, Harry F.; Novak, Melinda A. (1973). Psychopathological Perspectives.
Harlow and Novak reported on the use of a novel device they designed and characterized as "diabolical" and intended to "produce turmoil and terror." The apparatus had two main parts, a small cage positioned above a larger unit. The larger lower unit was divided into two parts. The small cage could be lowered between them so that the monkey inside the cage was more or less surrounded by them. Harlow said it was like an elevator. The idea was to put frightening objects in the two bottom parts and then lower the monkey so that he or she was confronted on both sides by the objects. They write:
... and after a 1-minute delay [the monkey] was lowered into the fear apparatus to face the assault of arm-flapping, light-flashing, buzzing, or shrieking monsters -- one on each side of him. They say that the device was "extremely successful in producing terror in monkeys," and report that several of the monkeys clung to the top of the cage for as long as 15 minutes. They reported that monkeys balled up in the bottom of the cage. Others, they say "many," screamed the entire time they were in the apparatus, "... or until they became hoarse from the violence of their vocalization." They reported that all the monkeys developed intense phobias.

... in the case of Novak frightening monkeys in an effort to induce any sort of interesting behavioral aberration, she wanted to use monkeys similar to each other and who had had similar life experiences. So she first used four six-month-old monkeys who were all semi-isolates -- monkeys raised alone in a bare wire cage in a room with other individual monkeys in other bare wire cages -- and put them into the device, called by Harlow and Novak the "terror trap," for 15 minutes every day, for six weeks.
Now, 50 years later, she is still claiming that the study of profoundly emotionally damaged young monkeys will shed light on mental illness in humans. But why not? These claims, the willingness of scientific journals to publish these claims, the willingness of federal funding agencies and university's to support such cruelty, do, at the end of the day, pour more money into her bank account.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Again with Nussbaum

Her book, Justice For Animals, (Simon & Schuster, 2022) continues to irk me. It would not get a high mark if it were being graded. Consider this passage (p 180-181 passim):
More recently, Aysha Akhtar brings a growing body of scientific literature to bear on this question, arguing that we know for sure by now that a lot of animal-based research is unreliable and in that way imposes large costs on humans, through misguided treatments and the abandonment of others that might have proven superior.... In the same special issue [from 14 September 2015] ... Andrew Rowan concludes that the predictive value of animal testng is on average only 50 to 60 percent, but that in rodent studies it falls to below 50 percent, less accurate than a coin toss.

If this new line of argument is correct, research using animals does not pose a tragic dilemma, because nothing is gained from it. [my emphasis] But it seems unlikely that such a sweeping conclusion is correct.
Jeepers. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, maybe this is just a case of extremely poor editing. But the absence of scholarship displayed in the characterization of Akhtar's [important] documentation of the failures of animal models as a "new line of argument" exposes Nussbaum as simply an unread neophyte.

For instance, Henry Salt, in his 1894 Animals' Rights [Macmillan & C.] quotes Lawson Tait, "one of the most eminent surgeons of our time": "The conclusions of vivisection are absolutely worthless."

Antivivisection groups and independent scholars have challenged the purported science underpinning the use of animal models of human illness and drug response for well over a century; how could she, a lauded scholar, not know this? See too:

Friday, February 10, 2023

Justice For Animals, a review

Martha Nussbaum's new book, Justice For Animals, Our Collective Responsibility (Simon & Schuster 2022) has gotten some notice. It seems to be a gift of sorts to her recently deceased daughter who was active in the animal rights movement.

It's an interesting book with much to say about our treatment of animals. A considerable bit of it rubbed me the wrong way.

Suggestions about how we ought to treat animals from people who eat them have to be taken with a grain of salt. Nussbaum claims that she "tried" a vegan diet, but it made her tired. Poor her. It's like someone saying that they tried to give up pedophilia.

Another thing that really irks me is college/university faculty members like Nussbaum who voice some concern for animals yet don't serve on their institution's Animal Care and Use Committee(s), the legally required animal experimentation oversight committees. If they did, I don't think we'd see claims like Nusbaum's that the 3R's (reduction, refinement, and replacement) have "become the watchwords of all regulatory bodies." Even a cursory review of what's being done in the labs exposes the naivety of such claims. For instance, Nussbaum is a Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. At her institution, vivisectors are putting electrodes in monkeys' brains. These "watchwords" mean little to the animals in the labs. See:

The interplay between kinematic and force representations in motor and somatosensory cortices during reaching, grasping, and object transport Project Number 5R01NS125270-02 Contact PI/Project Leader HATSOPOULOS, NICHOLAS G Other PIs
Awardee Organization UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

She also challenges the use of arguments that point to the ethically salient similarities between us and other animals. She thinks that doing so appeals in some way to the scala naturae or Great Chain of Being. But no one pointing to the similarities between us (the only species with legal rights) and other species does so because they believe that there is some devine ordering of creation. Oddly, she, at times, makes this argument herself. Indeed, it can't be avoided when arguing on behalf of animals, just as I have done.

In spite of these and numerous other criticisms I have, her prominence might help draw some attention to the terrible things we do to other animals. The book is worth reading if for no other reason than to be able to talk about her claims with those who might read the book and want to talk about something she says.

PS: Another thing that really irked me was her use of Jonathan Balcombe and Peter Singer to defend her mixed-up position. In the case of Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows, she claims that he eats fish. He doesn't. She points to Singer's comment that experimenting on 100 monkeys to help 40,000 humans with Parkinson's could be justified. She makes these claims to defend her fish-eating and support for some animal research.