Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Deafening Silence

For reasons that are probably tied more or less directly to money, Madisonians rarely read in the paper or hear a discussion on WPR anything about the animals hidden away and being hurt and killed in the UW-Madison and Covance labs.

This de facto censorship allows the vivisectors at both facilities to hurt and kill large numbers of animals without much worry about public discussion about the things they are doing.

It's an odd and schizophrenic phenomena. If someone shoots a dog, it gets reported (as it should); but if someone gets caught torturing cats or monkeys, not so much.

I'm all for a free press. Unfortunately, editors and owners are as biased as anyone else, and as a result, the news carried by the free press doesn't appear to be much less censored than the news that shows up in the less-than-free press in other nations. The censorship is just of a different kind.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tom Yin: Cue the Award

I've mentioned Tom Yin a few times here. Here's a new item that adds a bit more to this collection:

"The William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience was established in 2011 through a generous donation by Bill and Chris Hartmann to the Acoustical Society of America to recognize and honor research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals. The first Prize was awarded at the Spring meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Montreal (2-7 June 2013) to Tom C. T. Yin." From: http://acousticalsociety.org/funding_resources/prizes

See too: http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/dr-tom-yin-awarded-inaugural-hartmann-prize-in-auditory-neuroscience/41492

Yin winning this newly created award sounds like something other than a coincidence.

William Hartmann is a physicist at Michigan State University who leads a "group" studying psychoacuoustics, which "deals with pitch perception, signal detection, modulation detection, and localization of sound."

This newly minted award isn't just another case of vivisectors giving vivisectors another award for being a good vivisector (a good vivisector is one who publishes lots of scientific papers); no, this seems pretty clearly to be a case of a vivisector needing additional shielding from public scorn and getting it from his buddies.
Psychophysical and physiological evidence for a precedence effect in the median sagittal plane. Litovsky RY, Rakerd B, Yin TC, Hartmann WM. J Neurophysiol. 1997.

Department of Neurophysiology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 53706, USA.


A listener in a room is exposed to multiple versions of any acoustical event, coming from many different directions in space. The precedence effect is thought to discount the reflected sounds in the computation of location, so that a listener perceives the source near its true location. According to most auditory theories, the precedence effect is mediated by binaural differences. This report presents evidence that the precedence effect operates in the median sagittal plane, where binaural differences are virtually absent and where spectral cues provide information regarding the location of sounds. Parallel studies were conducted in psychophysics by measuring human listeners' performance, and in neurophysiology by measuring responses of single neurons in the inferior colliculus of cats....
Brad Rakerd, one of the authors, is the other principal member of the "group."

You'd have to imagine the press and the public being really, really stupid to think they wouldn't notice the hollow ring to an award like this.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Should vivisectors shelter Nazis?

The Associated Press and other news agencies are reporting that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has launched a poster campaign in several German cities appealing for help in tracking down the last surviving Nazi war criminals.

"About 2,000 posters depicting the entrance gate of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz were put up in the cities of Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne asking the public to come forward with information that may lead to the arrest of Nazis some seven decades after the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich."

See for instance:
New poster campaign aims to find last living Nazi war criminals in Germany
Published July 23, 2013
Associated Press

This effort to find, try, and jail, perhaps even execute, elderly Nazi's must be disturbing to vivisectors. It's hard to miss the fact that slowly but surely and probably inexorably, animals are being seen as sensitive beings with the right not to be harmed -- even if harming them makes us happy or is claimed to help us in some way. See for instance the news that India is moving to ban the use of cetaceans in entertainment and has stipulated that dolphins are non-human persons. Or the change in course by two of the most conservative nominally anti-animal organizations in the U.S., the Institute of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health both stating publicly that chimpanzees are so much like humans that they ought not be treated like, well, like animals are treated in biomedical research. The times, they are a changin'.

The writing is on the wall. People who torture animals in the name of science will sooner rather then later be seen in the same light as the Nazis who experimented on human prisoners in the name of science. Although what both groups of people were and are doing was and currently is legal, even sanctioned by their governments, that little detail hasn't mattered and won't matter in the future. Vivisectors will need to go underground, slip away to Uruguay or Bolivia and change their names. This must give them some pause and some sympathy for the Nazis for whom the vivisectors must feel some affinity.

Click here to participate in an on-line poll to voice your opinion on the question of whether vivisectors should shelter Nazis.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How like us need they be?

The recent decision to reduce the use of chimpanzees in federally-funded biomedical research is a small but highly significant step toward the liberation of all sentient beings. This step was possible because even scientists can learn and consider the implications of new ideas. As a result, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report at the end of 2011 titled "Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity." It is clear that the committee members finally got around to catching up on what is known about these animals. They write:
Chimpanzee research should be permitted only on animals maintained in an ethologically appropriate physical and social environment or in natural habitats. Chimpanzees live in complex social groups characterized by considerable interindividual cooperation, altruism, deception, and cultural transmission of learned behavior (including tool use). Furthermore, laboratory research has demonstrated that chimpanzees can master the rudiments of symbolic language and numericity, that they have the capacity for empathy and self-recognition, and that they have the humanlike ability to attribute mental states to themselves and others (known as the “theory of mind”). Finally, in appropriate circumstances, chimpanzees display grief and signs of depression that are reminiscent of human responses to similar situations. It is generally accepted that all species, including our own, experience a chronic stress response (comprising behavioral as well as physiological signs) when deprived of usual habitats, which for chimpanzees includes the presence of conspecifics and sufficient space and environmental complexity to exhibit species-typical behavior. Therefore, to perform rigorous (replicable and reliable) biomedical and behavioral research, it is critical to minimize potential sources of stress on the chimpanzee. This can be achieved primarily by maintaining animals on protocols either in their natural habitats, or by consistently maintaining with conspecifics in planned, ethologically appropriate physical and social environments...
You can read the report here.

This resulted in the National Institutes of Health deciding to move toward the elimination of funding for most research using chimpanzees and to move toward the elimination of NIH-funded colonies by not funding any breeding. The news was instantly cheered by most informed people and also instantly criticized by some who "earn" a living by experimenting on animals. The primate vivisectors were particularly outraged.

As they feared, the NIH decision regarding chimpanzees has caused at least a few people to begin wondering about monkeys as well. See Medical Experimentation on Chimps Is Nearing an End. But What About Monkeys? and If We’re Retiring Research Chimps, Why Are We Excluding Monkeys?

Here's a piece I wrote in 2002, asking the same question: How Like Us Need They Be?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beth Griffin Follow-Up: 16 Years Later

In 1997, I was sitting in front of the Stone Gate at Emory University, the last stop of my marathon protest of the then seven NIH Regional Primate Research Centers. Emory is home to the infamous Yerkes Primate Research Center. Coincidentally, the University of Wisconsin, Madison (an earlier stop on my protest tour) was embroiled in a public controversy stemming from their repeatedly broken promises to Dane County and Vilas Zoo officials that monkeys then housed at the zoo would not be used in harmful experiments.

A reporter from the Atlanta Journal Constitution showed up and asked me my opinion of the breaking news (which I hadn't yet heard) about the primate center technician who had just died as a result of being infected with the herpes B virus, a virus endemic in macaques. It turned out that Emory, intimately involved in writing the OSHA regulations governing the required safeguards for people working around macaques, had been derelict in own requirements for its own employees and negligent and incompetent in responding to accidental exposures of staff.

Beth Griffin wasn't wearing any face protection when something got in her eye while she was handling young rhesus monkeys destined to be hurt and killed. When she began developing symptoms, her concerns were downplayed and Emory doctors failed to recognize the likely life-threatening disease she had contracted in spite of the history of her case.

UW-Madison then used her death, callously and misleadingly, to argue that the monkeys at the zoo they had been lying about for years were a public health risk. Creepy cruel liars should never be trusted.

Anyway, here's a recent article that adds some new information to this altogether tragic story.
Daughter’s death leads to mom’s advocacy for biosafety

July 14th, 2013
by Marci Gore
Daughter’s death leads to mom’s advocacy for biosafety

Caryl Griffin now travels the world sharing the story of her daughter’s death and promoting procedures in research and health-care facilities to try to prevent what happened to her daughter happening to others. [This odd image accompanies the article. Maybe she's telling anyone who will listen?]

Caryl Griffin says sometimes it’s hard to understand why bad things happen to good people. “It’s hard to get your arms around life and what it means when there are bad times, especially when you’ve worked very hard to be faithful and allow God to work in your life. The Bible says, ‘You’ll be blessed.’ So, when things happen that don’t feel like a blessing, like the death of a child, it is then you wonder, ‘Where is God?’”

In 1997, Caryl experienced a parent’s worst nightmare when her daughter Elizabeth “Beth” Griffin died at the age of 22 after contracting a virus while working as a primate research assistant.

Caryl worked as a nurse for more than 30 years and, today, is an ordained elder with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Caryl has spent much of the past 15 years working through her grief. But with the help of her late husband, Dr. William Griffin, and Beth’s sister, Kimberly Griffin Hicks, Caryl has found solace — and hope — in traveling the globe to educate others about how to encourage safe practices in research facilities.

Following her graduation from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1993, Beth moved to Atlanta, Ga. to attend Agnes Scott College. She completed a double major in biology and psychology, was a member of the Modern Dance Team, and was a paid researcher in the biology department. Beth graduated with honors from Agnes Scott with a bachelor of science degree in May 1997.

Beth was working as a research assistant at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta in the fall of 1997 where she was engaged in behavioral research on hormonal influences in Rhesus Macaques — or the Rhesus Monkeys — and was in the process of applying to continue her pursuit of graduate studies and research in the field of biological/psychological sciences.

Caryl, answering what she says was a very strong calling to go into the ministry, decided to attend the Candler School of Theology at Emory University at the same time Beth was a student there.

“Beth said, ‘Mom, do this!’ She was there to help me move into my apartment. She had her own apartment and her own friends. But she spent a lot of time with me, too. It was a lot of fun,” Caryl said.

But then, just three months after Caryl got to Emory, she got a call from Beth, saying she had been splashed in the eye while performing annual physicals on 100 monkeys in a research compound. This was in October of 1997.

Eight days after Beth was splashed, the first symptoms of a problem appeared — Beth had “matter” exuding from her eye. Caryl says Beth had worked with monkeys long enough to know she could be in serious trouble and she needed help quickly.

She went to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with pink eye. Beth’s fears that she had been infected with the Monkey B Virus were ignored by the ER staff, Caryl said.

Beth tried calling the Office of Infectious Diseases and was told she needed a referral before she could be seen. A phone call to her internist to obtain a referral resulted in being told she needed to obtain her emergency room records first. Eleven days had passed since Beth was exposed.

The internist referred her to an ophthalmologist instead of the Office of Infectious Diseases. The ophthalmologist said Beth had Cat Scratch Fever. She was placed on an antibiotic. Despite Beth’s pleas, she still was not tested for the Monkey Virus.

Caryl says Beth’s condition continued to deteriorate. She developed a severe and pounding headache, but still could get no help from the medical community. After more phone calls, another visit to the ophthalmologist and Caryl’s insistence her daughter see an infectious disease physician, Beth’s diagnosis was finally confirmed.

Two weeks after she had been splashed in the eye, Beth was tested for the Monkey B Virus, or Macacine Herpesvirus 1. Just as she suspected, Beth’s results came back positive.