Search This Blog

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Adapted from a chapter in Monsters and Pygmies. Have you heard of the advocacy group NAMBLA? The North American Man/Boy Love Association advocates (or advocated, they seem to be more or less defunct) the lowering of the age of consent in sexual relationships. As their name makes clear, they want to change the law to make it legal for adult men to have sex with young boys. They claim to believe that an eight- or nine-year-old boy is old enough to give his informed consent to be buggered. And like the American Civil Liberties Union, I too believe that they have the right to advocate this change to the law. But I don’t think such a change should be enacted, and I suspect most of the ACLU attorneys who make arguments in favor of free speech, no matter how outrageous, don’t either.

NAMBLA reminds me of the relatively new group advocating for their right to torture animals. Pro-Test is the monsters’ response to the mob’s demand that they stop their dark and evil experiments. Like all mobs that have marched to monsters’ lairs, torches and pitchforks in hand, the mob yelling for them to leave the animals alone isn’t above setting fire to their cars and homes. This has been particularly true in Los Angeles where monsters at the University of California Los Angeles have been harried by their critics.

As a consequence, vivisectors at UCLA banded together and started a chapter of Pro-Test, a group that was founded in 2006, in Oxford, England, by a sixteen-year-old boy named Laurie Pycroft. Vivisectors at Oxford were ecstatic that (finally!) a teenager was supporting them and lifted him to their shoulders and marched through town shouting "Hurrah!" The boy was quickly sanctified by the monsters and anointed the industry’s moral compass.

UCLA’s new Pro-Test leader, David Jentsch (pronounced “yench” nearly rhymes with Grinch, and they have the same eyebrows), had been targeted in March 2009. His Volvo was parked next to his house when a firebomb destroyed it very early in the morning.

According to the LA Times, Jentsch claims that UCLA’s Pro-Test, was started to support research that uses animals “in what he calls a humane, carefully regulated way.”
At a UCLA lab, he administers methamphetamine to about two dozen monkeys and then withdraws them from it; about half a dozen are killed each year for postmortems. He contended that the animals suffer no pain from the work.

“The pain in addiction is when you lose your relationships, lose your children, lose your job, when your health goes down. Animals don't suffer those things,” [Jentsch] said. “They suffer none of the psychosocial pain that is what addiction is all about.” [Animals don’t suffer loss of children or decline of health?] Larry Gordon. “UCLA professor stands up to violent animal rights activists.” Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2009.
Nowhere in the many articles covering Pro-Test’s first rally, held on April 22, 2009, is there much detail about what this grinch actually does to animals. The blurb about methamphetamine is odd given that he has apparently never published a paper on that particular drug. (A colleague of mine has pointed out that he has a current NIH grant (through 2010) titled NEUROCHEMICAL DETERMINANTS OF MA-INDUCED COGNITIVE DEFICITS, And that at least one report mentions Jentsch and methamphetamine.) He has published occasional papers describing his injections of nicotine, cocaine, THC (the active compound in marijuana), and a couple esoteric chemicals into rats and monkeys, but so far, not one scientific paper mentioning methamphetamine. Of his approximately 55 published papers, about one third describe his use of phencyclidine, or PCP, to induce schizophrenia-like mental duress in these animals.

He has been injecting PCP into monkeys and rats almost continuously since about 1997. In one 1997 paper, he cited others’ research from 1962, and wrote that: “PCP and the PCP analog ketamine induce schizophreniform symptoms in normal humans and cause profound worsening of symptoms in schizophrenics.” Jentsch JD, Elsworth JD, Redmond DE Jr, Roth RH. Phencyclidine increases forebrain monoamine metabolism in rats and monkeys: modulation by the isomers of HA966. Journal of Neuroscience. 1997.

In a paper from 2008, Jentsch explains:
Young adult male or female St Kitts green (vervet) monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus) at the St Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation (St Kitts, West Indies) were used. As the subjects were feral monkeys, their exact age was not known. These studies were approved by the relevant institutional animal care and use committee. Monkeys, housed individually in squeeze-cages, were injected with PCP twice daily for 14 days, as described before (Jentsch et al, 1997).… John D Elsworth, J David Jentsch, Bret A Morrow, D Eugene Redmond Jr and Robert H Roth. Clozapine Normalizes Prefrontal Cortex Dopamine Transmission in Monkeys Subchronically Exposed to Phencyclidine Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008.
Let’s try to put Jentsch’s PCP injections into context and imagine the situation from the monkeys’ perspective.

First, PCP is almost never injected. It is almost always smoked – sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana, and only very occasionally, snorted like cocaine. But it is almost never injected.

Second, nearly everyone who uses PCP knows they’re using PCP.

Third, the commonly reported recreational dose of PCP is 0.01-0.02 mg/kg.

Jentsch is injecting 15 to 30 times (0.3 mg/kg) the normal recreational dose of PCP into animals, ripped from their families, trapped in cages and being manhandled, who then start having unending nightmarish hallucinations for reasons they can’t imagine. And this goes on for two weeks, prior to them being killed.

And this grinch does this, he claims, because the biochemical actions of a drug (clozapine) that has been used since the mid 1970s to treat schizophrenia aren’t well understood.

And then, he has the audacity to claim that people who see him for what he is — a monster of the worst sort — should stop trying to make him and his ilk stop their monstrous behavior.

Pro-Test is interesting because it is so very unusual for monsters to stand up in public and declare that the general public should countenance their monstrous behavior. This is what makes Vice President Dick Chaney’s public defense of torture such an oddity.

At UCLA, the Pro-Test “Founding Members” are:

* J. David Jentsch, UCLA Professor, Psychology
* Dario Ringach, UCLA Professor, Neurobiology and Psychology
* Tom Holder, Speaking of Research, Founder and Pro-Test (UK) Spokesman “There is round-the-clock treatment, there are people, veterinarians in research labs whose only job is to make sure that animals are treated well and are essentially happy in their lives.”
* Lynn Fairbanks, UCLA Professor, Psychiatry
* Kathy Wadsworth, UCLA Associate Director-Animal Subjects Research
* Megan Wyeth, UCLA Graduate Student, Neurobiology
* Donald Kalar, UCLA Graduate Student, Psychology

Dario Ringach may be one of only two vivisectors in the world to have even temporarily capitulated to anti-cruelty activists due to harassment. (The other was Michael Podell*) From the LA Times:
[Then acting Chancellor] Abrams said the Bel-Air incident, [in which an “incendiary device” that did not ignite was left at Lynn Fairbanks’ front door] along with the decision this month by neurobiology professor Dario Ringach to stop his primate research after several years of harassment and threats to his family, led to the announcement [of a $60,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those who left the device.] Abrams said he was deeply saddened by Ringach's decision, describing him as a promising young professor, doing significant - and the chancellor emphasized, legal - research.

Ringach, whose work involved studies of the brain and the ways it receives information from the retina, sent an e-mail Aug. 4 [2006] to the Animal Liberation Press Office.

Posted on the website, the e-mail reads, in part: “You win. Effective immediately, I am no longer doing animal research.”
“Studies of the brain and the ways it receives information from the retina.” That’s not much detail. How can one form a thoughtful opinion without the details of what he’s doing? I guess you could simply say that no matter what he’s doing, since he’s doing it only to animals, that you support it, because you support anything scientific. I don’t think humans could hold such a position. That’s the position of a monster; a human would want to have at least some knowledge of the specifics before taking sides.

Ringatch uses monkeys and cats. Once they are prepared by him, they are used for at least a few days before they are killed or die. It isn’t clear from his papers whether they are always killed or just die. His experiments would look quite gruesome if we could watch them, but the monkeys and cats are reportedly anesthetized throughout the experiments. He puts electrodes in their brains, puts the animals in a metal frame, and then puts simple images (usually groups of dots or gratings) in front of their eyes, and then records the output from the electrodes in their brain. If the monkeys and cats are genuinely unconscious, then at least he isn’t causing them much discomfort aside from being raised in an environmentally and socially deprived laboratory setting. So, as far as Ringach’s current experiments are concerned, the moral question is whether he should be killing monkeys and cats in order to generate a mathematical approximation of the neuronal response to visual stimuli. He isn’t working on finding a cure for some widespread and hideous disease, his research is among the most arcane, much like the Little Angel of St. Louis.

Lynn Fairbanks, another of the Pro-test founders, says that:
[S]trong similarities to humans make [monkeys] particularly valuable for understanding complex behavioral traits and brain structure and function… Like humans, NHPs [nonhuman primates] experience a prolonged period of postnatal development, together with strong family ties and complex social relationships. Furthermore, most features of human behavior have recognizable counterparts in NHPs, enabling the examination of traits such as anxiety and impulsivity, which are central components of human behavioral disorders. Freimer NB, Service SK, Ophoff RA, Jasinska AJ, McKee K, Villeneuve A, Belisle A, Bailey JN, Breidenthal SE, Jorgensen MJ, Mann JJ, Cantor RM, Dewar K, Fairbanks LA. A quantitative trait locus for variation in dopamine metabolism mapped in a primate model using reference sequences from related species. Proceeding of the National Academy of Science USA. 2007.
And this makes hers and her cohorts’ experiments all the more monstrous. We can see ourselves in the monkeys. When people who are upset with this cruelty point this out, the vivisectors laugh and say their critics are being inappropriately anthropomorphic; but then they say to each other, ‘look, these animals are just like us, let’s hurt them in sundry ways’.

Here, she explains a few of the ways she does this:
For this study, METH [methamphetamine] was administered to adult male vervet monkeys living in social groups containing a full range of different age/sex animals. The social housing was considered a critical component of the study design because it allowed for behavioral assessments of drug-related changes in affiliative and agonistic behaviors. Such measurements are highly relevant for behavioral models of the human condition, but are not possible to obtain in individually housed animals….

Study 1: METH Pharmacokinetics Study
Subjects METH-naive male animals (age range: 5–7 years; n=4) that were not included in the long-term METH study were transferred to UCLA and housed in individual cages for the duration of the study. The animals were habituated to sitting in a customized primate chair for 2 weeks before the pharmacokinetics study.

METH administration and experimental design
On the study day, the animal was placed in the chair and a catheter was inserted in the tail vein 30 min before injection of methamphetamine …Blood samples were obtained at 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, and 4 h. The animal was returned to its cage and blood samples were obtained at 6, 8, 10, 12, and 24 h from either the tail or femoral vein while temporarily restrained…

Pharmacokinetic parameters for the human METH exposure were obtained from prior human METH studies (Cook et al, 1993.)

Study 2: Escalating Dose-METH Exposure
Subjects and housing The focal subjects in this study were 12 adult male vervet monkeys (age range 6.9–9.9 years, weight range 6.8–8.7 kg) that were housed in three outdoor social groups at the joint UCLA/VA Vervet Research Colony. …

The social groups were formed and allowed to habituate for approximately 3 months before study initiation. After focal subjects were randomly assigned to a group, they were randomly designated as either METH or Control subjects…[There were] two METH and two Control focal subjects in each of three social groups concurrently. Each group also consisted of 3–4 adult females, 2–7 juveniles, and 0–3 infants, with no other adult males present throughout the study. One METH subject died of an unknown illness during the study. There was no evidence that experimental manipulation caused this death. Subjects were always housed within their social groups except during experimental manipulations….

Experimental design
The study took place over a 1-year period. An initial 3-month habituation was followed by a 4-week pretest period, 8 Dose periods of 4–5 weeks each, and a 3-week abstinence period.


Abnormal Behavior Composite Score
Dose-dependent increases in species-typical stereotypic actions were observed in the METH subjects …Post hoc tests of simple main effects indicated significantly higher levels of abnormal behavior during ‘injection’ days compared to ‘no injection’ days for METH subjects at Dose 5, 6 and Dose 7, 8. METH subjects also showed significantly higher levels of abnormal behavior during Dose 7, 8 compared to the other three Dose periods... This increase was significant for both ‘injection’ days as well as for ‘no injection’ days. In addition, METH subjects showed significantly higher levels of abnormal behavior compared to Controls only during Dose 7, 8. This difference was also significant for both ‘injection’ days as well as for ‘no injection’ days.

Aggression Composite Score
Levels of aggression changed across Dose periods for both Control and METH subjects…

Anxiety Composite Score
Increases in the anxiety scores were observed in the METH subjects for most Dose-Analysis periods during ‘no injection’ days when AMPH but not METH was present in pharmacologically active concentrations… Tests of simple main effects indicated METH subjects showed significantly lower levels of anxiety-related behavior during ‘no injection’ days compared to ‘injection’ days for Dose 1, 2, but showed significantly higher levels of anxiety during ‘no injection’ days compared to ‘injection’ days for Dose 3, 4; Dose 5, 6; and Dose 7, 8. In addition, METH subjects during 'no injection' days showed significantly higher levels of anxiety-related behavior during Dose 5, 6 and Dose 7, 8 compared to Dose 1, 2. Control subjects also showed higher levels of anxiety-related behavior during Dose 7, 8 compared to Dose 1, 2 during ‘no injection’ days.

Social Behavior Composite Score
The METH subjects generally showed lower social behavior on ‘injection’ days, ie following METH administration…
And then she killed them and cut up their brains.
The aim of this study was to establish in socially housed vervet monkeys a profile of behavioral and brain alterations resulting from modeling an ED-METH exposure extending over 8 months. The principal observations were dose-dependent increases in abnormal and anxiety-related behaviors, activity levels, and decreases in aggression….

In conclusion, this METH administration protocol in the monkey modeled some aspects of a human daily multiple dose exposure and caused significant behavioral alterations in categories relevant to the human METH condition, eg anxiety, abnormal behavior, that were likely the result of alterations in both dopaminergic and nondopaminergic systems. Melega WP, Jorgensen MJ, Laćan G, Way BM, Pham J, Morton G, Cho AK, Fairbanks LA. Long-term methamphetamine administration in the vervet monkey models aspects of a human exposure: brain neurotoxicity and behavioral profiles. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008.
William Melega, one of Fairbanks’ coauthors has been injecting monkeys with methamphetamine since at least 1995. (Kuczenski R, Segal DS, Cho AK, Melega W. Hippocampus norepinephrine, caudate dopamine and serotonin, and behavioral responses to the stereoisomers of amphetamine and methamphetamine. Journal of Neuroscience. 1995.) Vivisectors have been injecting monkeys with methamphetamine since at least 1971 (Ellinwood EH Jr. Effect of chronic methamphetamine intoxication in Rhesus monkeys. Biological Psychiatry. 1971), but have been injecting other animals, namely, mice, rats, dogs, cats, and pigeons since the early 1950s. (Harrisson JW, Ambrus CM, Ambrus JL. Tolerance of rats toward amphetamine and methamphetamine. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (Baltimore). 1952.)

Kathy Wadsworth, another Pro-Test founder and UCLA Associate Director-Animal Subjects Research, seems a bit like the ubiquitous Igor character in mad scientist movies — mewling, unhappy with their lot, but dedicated to keeping their master(s) supplied with victims.

Tom Holder (a friend of St. Pycroft) seems to be involved simply to call attention to himself. Although he occasionally speaks in public and presents slides, his information is nonsense taken from industry front groups’ websites and regurgitated without hesitation or critical evaluation.

The two graduate students named as founding members of Pro-Test seem to be children, naïve and enamored with tenured scientists taking notice of them. I wrote to Megan Wyeth and asked her about an article in the school newspaper, The Daily Bruin, that showcased her:
Hoisting a sign and marching with several hundred others, Megan Wyeth was not just protesting in favor of animal research. She was also trying to protect the safety of her friends.

Wyeth is one of seven founding members of Pro-Test at UCLA, a group formed to speak out against animal rights extremism…

Wyeth works with mice in her research on epilepsy…

Wyeth said the public generally doesn’t realize how much training researchers undergo before they are even allowed to touch an animal.

“It seems like they think we’re sadistic or get pleasure out of using animals for research,” she said. “We minimize the numbers we have to use. It’s not my favorite part, but we have to do it.”

In the three years of her main epilepsy research, Wyeth has been working with the same six mice….

“All of my animals are anesthetized when I work on them. I make sure they’re out – extra double sure.” ... Audrey Kuo. “Scientists seek to research in peace.” The Daily Bruin. April 23, 2009.
“Hum,” I wondered to myself, “if she’s been anesthetizing and ‘work[ing] on’ the same six mice for the past three years, are their small brains still functioning normally?” So I wrote to her and asked. I also asked whether she knew what Jentsch actually does.

It turns out that she killed these twelve, not six, mice three years ago and has been studying slides made from sections of their brains all this time. She also claimed to be using other mice in other experiments.

She also said that she didn’t know what Jentsch does to monkeys. She marched behind him, chanting for his right to, well, it turns out she didn’t have any idea what she was demanding that he ought to be allowed to do. Not knowing what one is marching and chanting for is not a good sign in a young aspiring scientist; critical well-informed decision-making would seem to be a key component in making any difficult discovery. She's a perfect fit for Pro-Test.

*Andrew Goldstein. A Win for the Kitties. Time Magazine, June 24, 2002.
Ohio State University Veterinarian Michael Podell has spent the past two years infecting cats with the feline version of HIV, shooting them with methamphetamines (commonly known as speed), cutting into their brain tissue to examine their responses and then killing and dissecting them. His goal: to explore what happens when HIV-positive humans abuse drugs. But animal-rights activists did everything they could to stop the research, and last week, when Podell announced he was quitting the project and leaving the university, they declared victory. The university says Podell had received more than a thousand protest letters and e-mails, including nearly a dozen death threats. Demonstrators sprayed graffiti on campus calling on him to STOP TORTURING CATS.


Ana said...

Wow! Thanks for all the research!

mike waits said...

I find it sad that you casually support terrorism to acheive poltical results. What happened to educated debate and freedom?