Monday, January 11, 2010

"Animal rights folks were right about UW"

Plain Talk: Animal rights folks were right about UW
Dave Zweifel | Capital Times editor emeritus | January 11, 2010

For years now, the UW-Madison has tried to portray a cadre of local folks who complain about its animal experiments as wackos.

Well it turns out that the local Alliance for Animals and other people who have been doing the complaining have been right about a lot of things.

Toward the end of 2009, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture pulled a surprise visit to UW’s research labs and discovered at least 20 oversight violations. The list included depressed and vomiting dogs, expired medications, a dirty operating room, and slippery and unclean floors where pigs would routinely fall down.

The feds told the UW to fix the problems immediately or risk losing more than $200 million in animal research funding that the Department of Agriculture sends the school.

An embarrassed Eric Sandgren, the UW’s head of animal research oversight who has frequently debated the animal rights advocates, said the university is working to fix the violations and make sure they don’t happen again.

One of Alliance for Animals’ main gripes is that the UW uses animals for experiments when it isn’t necessary.

And indeed, one of the USDA’s surprise inspection findings was that in at least five studies, the UW researchers did not show that they attempted to find an alternative to painful experiments on animals.

“Even if you believe animal research is worthwhile, I think most people believe it should be done in the most humane way possible,” the alliance’s co-director, Rick Bogle, commented.

Bogle is absolutely right. There have been too many incidents, dating back to research conducted on monkeys at the UW’s celebrated primate center, that raise questions about the animal experiments on campus.

The federal inspection has opened some eyes. The UW needs to open its eyes too.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.

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