Sunday, March 28, 2010

Basso: Cover-Up? Conspiracy? Scandal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bigger questions here seem to be:

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Biddy Martin on Basso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biddy Martin

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I told you so...

UW-Madison suspends researcher over animal welfare problems

By DEBORAH ZIFF | | March 18, 2010

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

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

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

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


Basso's Relevance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Mr. Lane,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Re: "Virtually every medical achievement..."

Apparently I'm not the first person to notice the silliness contained in the claim:
Virtually every medical achievement of the last century has depended directly or indirectly on research with animals.
Check it out:

Matthews RA. Medical progress depends on animal models - doesn't it? J R Soc Med. 2008.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dogma: Basso's lab's best argument?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Animal testing a necessary research tool, for now

Special for

the republic
Sept. 3, 2006 12:00 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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