Friday, May 1, 2015

The Capacity to Suffer

Steven Wise, of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has just had an important piece published in the April 28, 2015 on-line edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, "Animal Rights, Animal Wrongs: The Case for Nonhuman Personhood." I believe his specific argument will eventually prevail; I pray the day soon comes when other animals are finally granted some basic legal rights; when they are, the work of the Nonhuman Rights Project will prove to have been a highly significant contributor to the advancement.

I think Wise's claims about the animals commonly pointed to as deserving basic legal rights are on solid ground. I think though that he errs when he talks about all animals being located along a continuum of mental capacity and awareness along which "a primitive level of consciousness and sentience kicks in."

There is no continuum of mental capacity or the capacity to suffer. Moreover, the capacity to suffer and intelligence are independent. It is unlikely that consciousness or sentience can be qualitatively categorized.

There is no continuum of mental capacity.

Mental capacity varies between species and individuals. One can clumsily rank order individuals' mental capacity, but the results tell us little. Generally speaking, humans are smarter than other species, but this is a coincidence, not evidence of a continuum. Claims to the contrary are just new iterations of divine order or the Great Chain of Being.

The notion of a continuum of mental capacity is contrary to evolution and the resulting speciezation. There is no "advancement" or "progress," there is only change over time. In pre-Darwinian science, scientists thought they could see a step-wise progression and advancement in animal species; they were wrong. Instead of a linear ever-upward progression, there has been continual branching; every extant species has a evolutionary history that stretches back through time to the original progenitor microorganism. An amoeba is just as "advanced" as you and me; we just have different characteristics and capacities.

The capacity to suffer is not dependent on mental capacity.

The capacity to suffer is dependent on the existence of a mind, but not on intelligence. This is the largely unrecognized foundation of all concern for others. Most of those who care about others know this, but I've not met many people who know that they know it.

If it were otherwise, we would relate to others much differently than we do. If I believed that capacity to suffer was dependent on intelligence, I would be less concerned, I would be less bothered, less worried about someone who isn't as smart as someone else. I'm not; and I don't know others who are either. If the capacity to suffer was in some step-wise-like way dependent on intelligence, then a genius with toothache would suffer more than someone of average intelligence with a toothache.

I spent part of my teaching career working with cognitively handicapped students. Their smiles and tears seemed as deeply felt as the smiles and tears of my other students. Mickey, a designer puppy-mill produced dog seems to have a much greater capacity for joy than I have; he is much more prone to worry or be anxious. I see no evidence whatsoever of intelligence having a significant impact on a being's capacity to suffer or experience other emotions. I suspect that the emotions experienced by members of different species vary. It is unlikely that the entire gamut of emotions is experienced by humans.

Consciousness is probably like water.

The claim that some animals have some (only) "primitive" consciousness is simple speculation. One of my favorite quotes concerning consciousness comes from Sam Harris in The End of Faith (2005): "The fact that the universe is illuminated where you stand, the fact that your thoughts and moods and sensations have a qualitative character, is an absolute mystery."

It is possible that the behavior of the animals commonly claimed to have no consciousness is some mindless, yet-to-be teased apart chemical chain-reaction, but it is more parsimonious to imagine that an earthworm, for instance, recoils when touched because she/he experiences being touched.

There is no such thing as primitive water or primitive gravitational attraction. Water is an emergent phenomena that occurs when free hydrogen and oxygen are mixed in the presence of sufficient heat. When conditions are right, consciousness occurs. But we don't know what those conditions are or what consciousness is. It is wild speculation to posit its absence in organisms that behave as if they may be conscious.

Wise's argument regarding an organism's lack of capacity for suffering is an appeal to authority rather than a citation of repeatable observation. He says, "At one end of this spectrum of mental capacity and awareness are animals such as sponges, jellyfish, and sea anemones that scientists believe are unlikely to be conscious or have an ability to feel pain or suffer."

But scientists have a miserable track record when it comes to characterizing the subjective experiences and capacities of others. Only recently has it been acknowledged as a reasonable possibility by biologists that other animals have minds, emotions, and can suffer. They are just emerging from the dogma of behaviorism.

I've written previously about the tendency to readily discount the likelihood that those so unlike us can be similar to us in ways that have ethical weight. See: "Slime molds and mind," 9/8/2008; and "Invertebrates," 3/13/2011.

I pray the day soon comes that some animals are finally granted some basic legal rights; when they are, the work of the Nonhuman Rights Project will prove to have been a highly significant contributor to the advancement. I wish though that they would not build walls around the harms we do to others; those walls will eventually be used to defend our harm to other sentient beings.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Stealthy Advertising

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present -- and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself could become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Farewell Address. January 17, 1961.
Unfortunately, Eisenhower's prescient warning failed to protect us. Today, federal policy and funding of research is controlled largely by those affected by the policies and who receive the funding. This easily explains why taxpayers are forced to pay for so much crap and cruelty. The university-based basic bioscience slice of the industry has become more concerned with public relations than with public health, because it depends almost entirely on the public's dollars. With little to show for the continuing massive public investment, and worried by those who keep pointing out the cruelty and suffering in the animal labs, public relations efforts commonly make much ado about nothing and sidestep mention of anything that might serve to lessen their carefully groomed public image.

Consumers, at least some, recognize that for-profit businesses will overstate the value of their products or services. Every fast-food chain simply can't be making the best burger in the world. The public has a right to expect that publicly funded institutions are more forthcoming, more honest.

Commercial businesses' and even politicians' communication with the public is readily recognized as self-interested advertising because it is usually presented as such in signage, television and radio commercials, print ads, direct mail, and on line.

Some government agencies and public universities' on the other hand can and do promote their public images and hoped for continuing public support with advertising that is made to look like important public announcements. Doing so violates the publics' trust. When those within government agencies and public universities use their position and power in a misleading or dishonest way to benefit themselves, even indirectly, they abuse their authority. Announcements about research using animals are often stealthy promotions of the use of animals; those who use this tactic believe that their industry is dependent on public perception. These are particularly noxious examples of advertising masquerading as news because it isn't just the taxpayers who are being harmed.

There is a near constant rain of this sort of advertising from the vivisection industry. A recent example was the University of Wisconsin's announcement that vivisector Louis Populin had received a grant from a private charity for $100,000 a year for three years to develop a game for children with ADHA that might help doctors better predict the optimal dosage of methylphenidate, more commonly known by the trade name Ritalin, but also Concerta, Methylin, Medikinet, Equasym XL, Quillivant XR, and Metadate.

His hypothesis seems to be that a child's impulsivity predicts the rate at which they metabolize methylphenidate. The current method used by doctors is to start children on a very low dose and slowly increase the dose over time until a therapeutic effect is achieved. That seems like a prudent method to treat children with this powerful drug. Populin's conceived method would apparently allow doctors to prescribe a higher initial dose. You can read the university's April 7, 2015 hype here: Two receive awards for research to benefit children.

Whether or not his plan makes sense, the university says that he learned that different individuals react differently to methylphenidate through his experiments on monkeys. They imply that it will be his use of monkeys that is responsible for any success he might have with his envisioned diagnostic game. If it is unsuccessful, we'll never hear about it again.
.... The work grows from Populin's studies of monkeys, which measured the effects of methylphenidate (Ritalin, a common ADHD drug), on working memory and other aspects of executive functioning.

"We found that the effect varied depending on the dose and the individual, which could explain why these dosing decisions often come down to educated trial and error," he says.

Executive functioning refers to one's conscious decisions and willful behavior. Habitually acting impulsively is sometimes thought to result from an impairment of one's executive functioning. Cognitive control is sometimes used synonymously.

Some close observers of the university's use of animals may recall that Populin collaborated regularly with cat vivisector Tom Yin whose retirement was hastened by the negative publicity generated by the photographs of the mutilated cats he was using in his sound localization experiments. Populin's publication list provides the gist of his career:

1: Dopamine transporter gene susceptibility to methylation is associated with impulsivity in nonhuman primates. J Neurophysiol. 2014.

2: The inferior colliculus encodes the Franssen auditory spatial illusion. Eur J Neurosci. 2013.

3: Dissociative effects of methylphenidate in nonhuman primates: trade-offs between cognitive and behavioral performance. J Cogn Neurosci. 2012.

4: Target modality determines eye-head coordination in nonhuman primates: implications for gaze control. J Neurophysiol. 2011.

5: Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) do recognize themselves in the mirror: implications for the evolution of self-recognition. PLoS One. 2010. [This is Populin's only positive contribution to posterity. Unfortunately, the import was lost on him and his like-minded colleagues.]

6: Time course of allocation of spatial attention by acoustic cues in non-human primates. Eur J Neurosci. 2010.

7: Human sound localization: measurements in untrained, head-unrestrained subjects using gaze as a pointer. Exp Brain Res. 2008.

8: Monkey sound localization: head-restrained versus head-unrestrained orienting. J Neurosci. 2006.

9: Anesthetics change the excitation/inhibition balance that governs sensory processing in the cat superior colliculus. J Neurosci. 2005.

10: (With Yin.) Sound-localizationperformance in the cat: the effect of restraining the head. J Neurophysiol. 2005.

11: (With Yin.) Neural correlates of the precedence effect in the inferior colliculus of behaving cats. J Neurophysiol. 2004.

12: (With Yin.) Effect of eye position on saccades and neuronal responses to acoustic stimuli in the superior colliculus of the behaving cat. J Neurophysiol. 2004.

13: Human gaze shifts to acoustic and visual targets. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002.

14: (With Yin.) Bimodal interactions in the superior colliculus of the behaving cat. J Neurosci. 2002.

15: Fundamental differences between the thalamocortical recipient layers of the cat auditory and visual cortices. J Comp Neurol. 2001.

16: (With Yin.) Kinematics of eye movements of cats to broadband acoustic targets. J Neurophysiol. 1999.

17: (With Yin.) Pinna movements of the cat during sound localization. J Neurosci. 1998.

18: (With Yin.) Behavioral studies of sound localization in the cat. J Neurosci. 1998.

19: (With Yin.) Topographical organization of the motoneuron pools that innervate the muscles of the pinna of the cat. J Comp Neurol. 1995.

Populin's publications don't show much evidence of him ever having worked with humans. There was the one paper from 2008 that reported on a small project. He explained that he used, "Three female and six male humans ranging from 21 to 43 years of age that were free of neurological disease and reported having normal hearing served as subjects." And there was the even smaller study with four men and a woman in 2002. It isn't clear that he has any research experience with children or in designing games for them.

He has published two papers, nos. 1 (2014) and 3 (2012) in the list above, that sound as if they might be related in some meaningful way to his envisioned diagnostic game, but neither are.*

The university says that: "Luis' study showed that methylphenidate made the impulsive monkeys more willing to wait. We will use the game to look for a similar effect in children with ADHD...".

But methylphenidate's effect on impulsivity in hyperactive children has been known for almost half a century. (Cognitive styles in hyperactive children and the effect of methylphenidate. Campbell SB, Douglas VI, Morgenstern G. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1971.) In children with hyperactivity disorder for over 30 years (Effects of methylphenidate on reading in children with attention deficit disorder (Ballinger CT, Varley CK, Nolen PA. Am J Psychiatry. 1984.) And in children with ADHD since 1993. (Effects of methylphenidate on impulsive responding in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Malone MA, Swanson JM. J Child Neurol. 1993.)

The university says that Populin's knowledge came from his experiments showing "that methylphenidate made the impulsive monkeys more willing to wait...". This is what tipped him to the fact that the drug reduces impulsivity? And why was he surprised or uniformed about the fact that there is variation in response to the medication. This has been a topic of study in human children for at least a decade. (Pharmacogenetics of methylphenidate response in preschoolers with ADHD. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006.)

So, Populin's work merely replicated again in monkeys what had already been recognized and studied in children for many years; he has no evident experience with studying children or designing games that might engage them, and his hypothesis that impulsivity measured through game playing predicts a child's response to methylphenidate seems wildly speculative. But, a charity was convinced to give him some money, so hey, the PR folks must have thought, let's use this to make people think that experiments on monkeys are going to help children.

This sort of baseless hype about the results of animal experimentation is par for the course. It is essentially never challenged or questioned; the public trusts that spokespersons for public universities will be accurate and honest with them. But when a large portion of an institution's income depends on the public's perception, an institution like the University of Wisconsin-Madison is less concerned about the facts than it is about what people believe. Propaganda is accepted and reported as fact. Decision makers at all levels are financially vested in the system so want to grow the industry. They promote and fund research modalities -- like the use of animals -- that validate their own grant requests. Most of the senior decision-makers are themselves vivisectors.

Ike must be turning over in his grave.


* The earlier of the two papers is freely available. Dissociative effects of methylphenidate in nonhuman primates: trade-offs between cognitive and behavioral performance. J Cogn Neurosci. 2012.

In that paper he reported that he drugged three monkeys with varying doses and recorded the effects on their performance of visual and memory tasks. He says the monkeys participated, but that's a euphemism used to soften the raw and jagged reality of the situation these three animals found themselves in. They weren't participants, they were victims. This is how he prepared them:
Three adult male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) ranging from 8 to 13 kg participated in this study. These animals were purchased from the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center. The three animals were prepared for eye movement recordings by implanting scleral search coils [Sewing them to the monkeys' eyes] (Judge, Richmond, & Chu, 1980), constructed from teflon-coated stainless steel wire (SA632; Cooner Wire, Chatsworth, CA) and a lightweight titanium head post [screwed to their skull], which was used to restrain the head for experimental sessions and for cleaning the implant area. All surgical procedures were approved by the University of Wisconsin Animal Care and Use Committee and were in accordance with the National Institutes of Health Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. [Which underscores the fact that anything goes in these labs.]

The more recent paper explains that he used four male rhesus monkeys, three had been used in the project mentioned above. The surgical preparation was the same for the fourth monkey. Populin says in the more recent paper that:
The animals were housed individually in two rooms with other monkeys of the laboratory colony in the same hallway of the same facility, permitting rich visual, olfactory, and auditory interactions.

Surgical procedures were carried out under aseptic conditions while the animals were under general anesthesia. All efforts were made to minimize suffering of the subjects.

Double-talk gibberish. Individually housed male rhesus monkeys have high rates of stereotypic behavior and self injury. And all efforts to minimize their suffering certainly weren't taken because he didn't have to hurt them in the first place.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Ebola Bandwagon

Rust never sleeps. Neither it seems does the University of Wisconsin-Madison animal experimentation propaganda machine. This essay is a response to the April 23, 2015 ersatz news article "In Sierra Leone, a chance to learn from Ebola," written by Kelly April Tyrrell.

Ms. Tyrrell's article will leave most readers misinformed. I've come to view such pieces as violations of authority. The university has a clear obligation to the public to be as accurate and complete in its reporting to the public as space reasonably allows. Sometimes the full story cannot be told in a page or two, but the university has a responsibility to avoid publishing information for the public that is likely to lead to false conclusions. Knowingly doing so is trickery. It is unethical for the university to trick the public into believing falsehoods, doubly so when the bamboozle benefits the university's financial or public relations interests.

Consider this passage:
His studies had always involved common laboratory models, like mice and special cell cultures, and took place in high security laboratories like the National Institutes of Health Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, where researchers gown up in airtight, spacelike suits and look at how these models respond to infection.

Now [his December 2014 trip to Sierra Leone], he had a chance to study a disease in the very people who were living and dying with it.
But Kawaoka was publishing details of his Ebola experiments on monkeys as early as March 2007. [Proteolytic processing of the Ebola virus glycoprotein is not critical for Ebola virus replication in nonhuman primates. Neumann G, Geisbert TW, Ebihara H, Geisbert JB, Daddario-DiCaprio KM, Feldmann H, Kawaoka Y. J Virol.]

And, it isn't true that his studies had always involved common laboratory models, like mice and special cell cultures, and took place in high security laboratories...". ["Wisconsin lab broke Ebola rules, watchdog group says." Lisa Schnirring. Sep 25, 2007.]
“The Ebola virus is identified almost every year now, but it has been contained because it has happened in countries where Ebola virus appears consistently,” says Kawaoka. “This outbreak is different. This outbreak occurred in an area where we never had Ebola outbreak, so the local people did not know how to contain it."
Nonsense. No one knows what stops an Ebola outbreak. Consider the history of all known prior outbreaks against the backdrop of the most recent event which began in 2013 and so far has resulted in 26,109 cases and 10,835 deaths.

1976 Sudan. 284 cases, 151 deaths. That is considered the first known outbreak. Did Sudan have measures in place to contain this previously unknown disease? Or Zaire in 1976, when 318 cases led to 280 deaths? Why doesn't Kawaoka know the history of the disease; why didn't the university do a little fact checking? In fact, in the seventeen known outbreaks that preceded the 2013 event, only one involved more than 400 people and nine involved less than 100. [ See too:] It is astounding that anyone seriously believes that the poor African nations where the previous outbreaks occurred, Sudan, Zaire, Gabon, Uganda, and the two Congos could have mechanisms in place to contain an outbreak, or that given the relatively small short-lived, apparently self-limiting nature of these outbreaks, that they would even try. People who imagine that they did and do must not have spent much time in Africa.
... in March 2015, he published a study in the journal Science describing a vaccine shown to be both safe and effective in mice, guinea pigs, and nonhuman primates. That vaccine could be produced for clinical trials in the next couple of years, Kawaoka said at a public hearing at the Wisconsin State Capitol on April 21.
This is the second time I've seen the university refer to Kawaoka's vaccine as something that could or might make it into clinical trials someday. (Here's the other.) But just in today's news I read that other Ebola vaccines are already in clinical trials. In spite of his many years studying the virus, he is apparently years behind those who apparently started their Ebola vaccine development just recently.

In a related story published on April 22, 2015 in the Badger Herald, "UW researcher outlines effectiveness of new Ebola vaccine Vaccine may enter human clinical trails in two years," by Shawn Bhatti, obviously stimulated by the university's recent ballyhoo about Kawaoka, the public, this time mostly students perhaps, are further hoodwinked:
To prove the vaccine’s efficacy, Kawaoka said he and his team tested it on various animals. After experiments showed the effectiveness of the vaccine in rats and guinea pigs, Kawaoka’s team advanced testing the vaccine on non-human primates.

“Primates are the golden standard for Ebola work, but for ethical reasons we have to show the efficacy of the vaccine in rodents first,” Kawaoka said.

The control group Kawaoka’s team immunized with a deactivated version of the Ebola virus was not protected and subsequently died, he said.
But rats and guinea pigs don't get Ebola. I shouldn't be so critical of student writers, but their reporting on the university's animal research sometimes appears to me to be an exercise in propaganda rather than basic reporting, and the university has degree program in propaganda. if their paid spin-doctors bend the truth, why wouldn't they feed misleading facts to a student writer?

Anyway, any claim that Kawaoka's work is ethical is suspicious. Here's a chart from one of his many papers that shows the possible suffering of monkeys used in his Ebola experiments.
It looks like a monkey balled up on the floor of his cage, his hands and feet cliched in pain, and bleeding from his skin would need to develop additional symptoms before Kawaoka thought that the humane thing to do would be to kill him. That's not a band wagon most decent people would knowingly get on board -- which probably explains the side-stepping and omissions in the university's "news."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Maternal Deprivation Cancelled

"The study design has been changed." Blink.

Without much ado the University of Wisconsin, Madison has cancelled its planned revival of Harry Harlow's infamous experimental use of maternal deprivation.

(They have apparently cancelled them. They say they have, but I'm skeptical of anything they say about their use of animals.)

It was May 11, 2012, that I first wrote about the university's plans, though I initially misunderstood who the vivisector was. I thought at first it was the evil Alyson Joy Bennett, when it was actually the evil Ned Kalin. Over the past three years, many other people have taken note of the cruelty and have added their voices (here, here, here, here, google Ned Kalin to see many more) to demand that the maternal deprivation experiments be stopped. Kalin used the euphemism early adversity in lieu of maternal deprivation, but no one was ever confused by his double talk.

In the university's defense of the defenseless, they mobilized a number of senior researchers and administrators who all made ridiculous and misleading claims about the project. They received support from pro-vivisection industry groups and a cult.

University Communications quietly announced on March 12, 2015, that: "... the study design has been changed. Researchers will now examine the wide range of individual differences in the development of anxiety in monkeys raised by their mothers. While this study will not examine the effects of early adversity, it will characterize [clinically meaningless other stuff.]"

I suspect that I am more surprised by this capitulation than anyone else in the world. The cruelty is going to be somewhat less it now appears. I'm very glad.

Kalin had based his request to NIH for millions of taxpayer dollars on his argument that he was going to come up with information that would lead to a cure or vaccination against the rare lifelong consequences that afflict a small percentage of people who experience early adverse experiences like child abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and other forms of poor parenting, and that he needed to maternally deprive 20 newborn rhesus infants to do so. He had explained in his grant request:
It is important to emphasize that currently there are no evidence based treatments available for young children exposed to early adversity who face the risk of developing debilitating psychiatric disorders. While numerous studies have been performed examining the effects of surrogate/peer rearing in nonhuman primates, no studies have been reported examining the effects of this rearing modification on brain development using state of the art imaging and molecular methods. These efforts will allow us to identify the exact brain regions affected, the changes in gene function in these regions, and the specific genes that are involved in increasing the early risk to develop a anxiety and depression. Such information has the potential to identify new targets in specific brain regions that can lead to new ideas about treatment and even prevention of the long-term suffering associated with early adversity.
That's apparently gone out the window. Dollars to vegan doughnuts, one or more of the university's high donors caught wind of the maternal deprivation project and exerted the only sort of pressure the university understands.

For much more on this saga, just search this blog using any germane term, like snake oil.

Saturday, December 20, 2014



Synonyms: candid, disinterested, dispassionate, equal, equitable, evenhanded, fair, indifferent, just, nonpartisan, objective, square, unbiased, unprejudiced

Antonyms: biased, ex parte, inequitable, nonobjective, one-sided, partial, parti pris, partisan, prejudiced, unjust (

"An executive branch employee must remain impartial when performing Government duties." (United States Office of Government Ethics)

"Animal care and use in the United States is a controversial topic with varying points of view from the public, animal rights groups, breeders, research laboratories, and others." (Audit Report APHIS Animal Care Program. Inspection and Enforcement Activities. Office of the Inspector General. USDA Report No. 33002-3-SF. September 2005.)

For the most part the controversy is played out and best understood as an argument between those whose livelihoods are dependent on the use of animals and those who are opposed to that use of animals. I'm going to use the shorthand vivisectors and activists.

Executive branch employees from two agencies, USDA and NIH, are directly involved in the oversight of animal experimentation and the enforcement of federal regulations concerning that use of animals.

Both agencies are asked regularly for copies of public records in their possession that relate to the agencies' oversight and enforcement activities. Both agencies have public records specialists who respond to those requests and decide if and what information should be censored in the copies they provide in response to those requests.

These public records can and regularly do lead animal rights groups and members of the public to publicizing problems, violations, and descriptions of experimental procedures that they argue are cruel and should be stopped.

Various states have enacted laws designed to shield such records from public scrutiny by exempting such records from those states' public records laws. Other states have resisted industry pressure and have more uniform and impartial laws.

Access to these records plays a pivotal role in the controversy. There is considerable tension between vivisectors and activists regarding these records.

The USDA and NIH are central to this tension. The agencies' handling of public records requests is dictated by the Freedom of Information Act. Executive branch employees must remain impartial when performing government duties.

Does this sound impartial:

USDA and NIH spokespersons and public information specialists and an animal research investigator with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals put on a webinar to explain ways to get better information about what's going on in the labs.

I'll wager that if such an event was announced ahead of time that it would never air. The pressure from the industry would prevail and the agencies would be roundly chastised on all the vivisector blogs and lists. No one would argue that such a presentation was impartial. It would send a strong message of favoritism if the agencies provided a platform for PETA and publicly broadcast their suggestions on getting more access to public records.

The agencies have just done something very similar. Instead of PETA, they joined up with NABR, the National Association for Biomedical Research. Fictitiously, or completely tongue-in-cheek, they said it was all about openness and transparency; it was, but they seem to be against it. Here's the announcement they sent:
Hampton, Lori (NIH/OD) [E]
[Animal Welfare Program Specialist. Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare]
[December 19, 2014]

"Openness and Transparency and Biomedical Research Oversight” Webinar Available for Viewing

A recording of the OLAW Online Seminar, Openness and Transparency and Biomedical Research Oversight, broadcast on December 4, 2014 has been posted on the OLAW website. In this webinar a panel of experts discussed the relationship of the Federal FOIA and states open records laws to the USDA OLAW MOU that promotes continual improvement in animal welfare and reduces redundancy in oversight and regulatory burden. The recording and supporting materials can be found on the Education Resources webpage.
Here are the participants: B. Taylor Bennett, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, DACAW, National Association for Biomedical Research
Betty Goldentyer, DVM, Animal Care, APHIS, USDA
Margaret Snyder, PhD, Office of Extramural Research, NIH
Axel Wolff, MS, DVM, OLAW
George Babcock, PhD, University of Cincinnati and OLAW
Nicole Zimmerman, BS, OLAW

That's alphabet soup.

OLAW: that's the NIH's animal research oversight unit, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare

The MOU is a memorandum of understanding; its long title and identifying info is:


APHIS Agreement No. 11-6100-0027-MU
MOU Number: 225-06-4000

B. Taylor Bennett, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, DACAW, National Association for Biomedical Research, is a vivsection industry lobbyist. He is matter of fact about trying to end or dramatically limit access to public records and urges his audience to use state laws to achieve that goal.

His participation in this webinar makes me think that the organizers did not remain impartial when they were performing their Government duties.

This isn't news though. Sadly. This chummy, seemingly conspiratorial relationship between the industry and its federal regulators has been long understood by activists; citizens usually raise their eyebrows in disbelief when told of this, or else say they aren't surprised.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ethical Responsibility

In our lifetimes, we have seen the once deadly scourge of another terrifying virus, polio, eliminated. We have made remarkable progress in the prevention, early detection and treatment of many forms of cancer and heart disease. All of this progress was possible because of wise investment of federal support for research." Robert N. Golden, dean UW School of Medicine and Public Health. John R. Raymond Sr., president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

When I discover I've made a mistake by claiming something is that isn't, I say so. As a layperson who writes about the history of medicine, I like to cite my sources so that readers don't get the idea that I'm making things up. But I'm not sure whether or not I have an ethical responsibility to strive to be accurate. I try hard to be accurate, but I do so for personal and calculated reasons, not because I believe I have an ethical responsibility to do so.

On the other hand, I think public employees have a clear matter-of-fact ethical responsibility to the public at large. When a public employee makes a public statement on a matter that the public should reasonably believe them to have an authoritative expertise, that employee has an ethical responsibility to be accurate.

The Golden-Raymond statement above isn't accurate. It's wrong. It hasn't been corrected; I doubt it will. The authors and other senior administrative/executive staff at many taxpayer supported institutions act as if they believe that they have a greater ethical responsibility to their coworkers and their institution than they do to the public at large.

I've written a little bit about the repeated false assertions regarding polio. See for instance, "VandeBerg is all wet" (12-20-2009); and "[The Dalai Lama] is the human embodiment of compassion." (6-16-2013).

It isn't unethical for Golden and Raymond to have written something wrong, we all make mistakes; it is unethical not to correct their error and to notify the public of their correction.

I suspect the problem is systemic. Goldman and Raymond appear to embrace much of what Milton Freedman has said regarding the purported ethical responsibility of businesses to increase their profits. But they contort Freedman's already twisted philosophy.

They act as if they believe that their primary responsibility is to increase the already torrential flood of tax dollars that keep the university growing -- it is ironic that Golden and Raymond appeal to people's fear of cancer, while striving to emulate cancer's runaway growth. Sick. In more than one way.

Golden and Raymond have failed to meet their obligations to the public. They have an obligation to be sure that their claims are accurate and to correct them when they aren't. They have an obligation to act in the public's best interests, not their own financial interests and not the financial interests of their co-workers and institutions.

Particularly sad is the possibility that these purported leaders aren't actually calculating self-interested public teat-suckers, but that they are just gullible uninformed yahoos who believe their industry's propaganda. Claiming that the federal government's support of polio research is the reason for the polio vaccine is doubly wrong. It wasn't the federal government's "wise investments," it was private donors responding to appeals from the privately run National Foundation For Infantile Paralysis.

For an accurate accounting of the history of the polio in the US see: David M. Oshinsky's Polio: An American Story (2005). It won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History and the 2005 Herbert Hoover Book Award. Here's a excerpt that exposes the silliness of Golden and Raymond's uninformed assertions:
National attention was riveted on the vaccine trials, with news coverage rivaling the other big stories from that remarkable spring... Salk's likeness adorned the cover of Time magazine.[...] By one estimate, two-thirds of the nation had already donated money to the March of Dimes by 1954 [the funding arm of the National Foundation For Infantile Paralysis], and seven million people had volunteered their time.[...]

From a managerial standpoint, the field trials were divided into three parts: operational planning, vaccine production, and statistical evaluation. "Our basic problem," wrote Melvin Glasser, the man chosen to coordinate this herculean effort, "was to get three doses of vaccine or control solution into the arms of approximately 650,000 school children.... and keep accurate records on all involved in the trial." Nothing like this had ever been tried before. There were no precedents to follow, no corporate donations to be tapped, no federal assistance.[my emphasis] This was virgin territory, the biggest medical gamble in history. The National Foundation For Infantile Paralysis was completely--some thought distressingly--on its own. (pp 188-189.)
Robert Golden has made other silly or misleading claims somewhat recently. See my essays:

"Robert Golden: '... the opinion of the top leaders...'" (9-8-2014)

"University experts stumble over facts" (8-17-2014)

"In response to Dr. Robert N. Golden" (6-4-2014)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Vivisectors Stick Together, Like Poo

I was asked by a friend to comment on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block's email in which he defended and promoted David Jentsch's own promotion of anything-goes animal experimentation.
November 3, 2014

To the Campus Community:

Last week, the Daily Bruin published an important and compelling column by a member of our faculty, psychology and psychiatry professor David Jentsch. In it, Professor Jentsch rightfully encourages our students to use their knowledge and skills for the betterment of our world, which includes engaging in important scientific research.

For many years, Professor Jentsch has conducted essential research aimed at understanding brain chemistry in order to treat the root causes of addiction, a disease that destroys lives and families. This work has required responsible animal research.

I think it’s important that everyone take the time to read this column. As someone who has continued his lifesaving work despite being a target of violence and harassment by animal rights activists for many years, Professor Jentsch offers a critical and unique voice on this subject. Unfortunately, he has not been the only faculty member targeted by activists. Several of our other faculty members who engage in animal research have been similarly targeted and yet have bravely persevered despite these shameless tactics. Our campus has worked through the legal system and with law enforcement to protect our researchers, and I want to use this occasion to make it clear that all members of the UCLA community who contribute to scientific and medical progress continue to have our support, respect and admiration.

Please always remember that animal research is closely monitored and subject to multiple stringent federal laws and university regulations. As Professor Jentsch writes, “Be a proud scientist… I stand with you.” As UCLA’s chancellor, I stand with him and all those who are dedicated to improving health and saving lives.

Gene D. Block

Block and Jentsch are members, brothers in arms, of the de facto anything-goes animal experimentation cabal. Block's gushing support of Jentsch is self-serving. Block is a vivisector. [Consequences of exposure to light at night on the pancreatic islet circadian clock and function in rats. Qian J, Block GD, Colwell CS, Matveyenko AV. Diabetes. 2013.]

I suspect that many top executives (I'm not sure of what word to use there. Chancellors, vice chancellors, deans, assistant deans, directors of centers, etc.) at larger universities are vetted with regard to their feelings about the use of animals because of the very large financial risk should someone with a genuine concern for animals be put in a position that might give them some power to intervene. Vivisectors are well represented in the ranks of the top executives.

At every step of the system, vivisectors are in control. Put another way, the people with the largest financial interest in the support and propagation of animal experimentation are in direct control of divvying out large monetary awards to people using animals, who in turn play the role of overseeing the use of the animals. The NIH leadership is dominated by vivisectors. Nowhere along the decision-making chain, from the agency director all the way down to the lab technician manhandling a monkey, does anyone with a genuine concern for animals have a chance to influence the decisions being made concerning them.

Block misleads his readers (a terribly unethical thing to do for someone who claims to be an educator.) Neither Jentsch's nor Block's own experiments are lifesaving, or even a little beneficial to anyone but those cashing their white coat welfare checks. Their research is about as essential as Joseph Mengele's was. Block misleads his readers again when he intones on cue, that vivisection is "closely monitored and subject to multiple stringent federal laws and university regulations." There were laws that regulated slavery and protected slaves as well; I guess no one should have been concerned about the slaves.

I've previously written about Jentsch and his cruelties. See:

Pro-Test September 12, 2009.

Dario L. Ringach and J. David Jentsch October 1, 2009.

Professors London and Jentsch trying to fool the public (again) September 23, 2011.

And of course, don't miss this candid demonstration of the UCLA vivisectors' love for their fellow humans.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Vivisectors at the Helm

My long involvement in the animal rights movement, particularly the effort to end the US government's active promotion and rich financial support of animal experimentation, has led me to recognize the names of a number of vivisectors and to learn something about their practices and history. For instance, Tom Insel was the director of the NIH Yerkes primate center at Emory University when I first got involved, and now he is the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, the part of the NIH that is paying for Ned Kalin's maternal deprivation experiments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The fact that a vivisector with a history of lying to the public can keep moving upward in the NIIH and gain increasing power and influence along the way helps to explain the intransigence of the agency. NIH's extreme position on animal care and use is largely uncompromising. One glimmer of hope is the recent change of course on the use of chimpanzees, but in context -- the fact that the rest of the world had stopped and in some cases formally banned the use of chimpanzees -- it is clear that it takes massive long-term pressure and embarrassment on the international stage to move the NIH to alter its anything-goes de facto policy on the use of animals.

Anyway, Insel's support for hurting and killing chimpanzees and his position of power in the NIH made me start wondering sometime ago about the directors of the other institutes, centers, and offices that comprise the NIH. So, I decided to take the time to find out just how common it is to find a vivisector at the head of one of those taxpayer-funded agencies.

I looked at each Institute's home page, read the director's bio when one was provided, which they commonly are, and used either the accompanying publication list or PubMed to gain some inkling of their past and current work. The dollar figures are from the NIH Almanac's 2013 data. the most recent funding information currently shown at the time of this writing.  

Of the 27 Institutes and Centers that are the National Institutes of Health, and including NIH Director Francis S. Collins in the count, eighteen of them are vivisectors. That statistic is somewhat skewed and makes it seemed a little more "balanced" than it actually is. The National Library of Medicine and the  Center for Information Technology naturally do not fund experiments on animals, and it appears that the National Institute of Nursing doesn't either, So, looking only at the agencies that do fund experiments on animals, seventeen of the twenty-four, or about 70% of the Institutes and Center that comprise the NIH are run by vivisectors.

Given their likely propensity to support work and methods like their own, it is unsurprising that the NIH is stuck in the rut of animal experimentation. More surprising perhaps, is that even with all these vivisectors at the helm, a little more than half the money it allocates to researchers goes to non-animal projects. Even vivisectors recognize that human-based research is the best avenue for medical advancement.

National Institutes of Health
Director: Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

The fact the person at the very top of the pyramid is a vivisector is telling. As in many hierarchies peopled by ideologues, the behavior and opinions of those at the top have significant influence on the opinions and behavior of those below them. It shouldn't come as a surprise that vivisectors promote and support other vivisectors. 

The Institutes

National Cancer Institute (NCI) $4,807,450,000. And an additional (B&F) $118,802,000 which,  "Includes amounts specified for facilities repairs and improvements at the National Cancer Institute—Frederick Federally Funded Research and Development Center in Frederick, MD. B&F, often referred to as NCI-Construction."
Director: Harold E. Varmus, M.D.
Vivisector. "The Varmus laboratory uses a variety of experimental approaches to understand the molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis, with an emphasis on the use of mouse models of human cancer and human lung adenocarcinomas."

Harold Varmus is a past director of the NIH. In 1997, I participated in a demonstration in front of his Georgetown home. We were urging him to take steps to end primate experimentation. The demo didn't have any effect. It was shortly afterwards that he was participating in the formal installment of J. Michael Bishop as the new chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco. Varmus and Bishop shared 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes," a discovery that still doesn't seem to have led to any therapeutic application.

Anyway, a number of activists had gotten wind of the event, and wouldn't you know it, they continually disrupted the affair by periodically standing up and asking Varmus or Bishop about the monkeys suffering in their cages across the street in the USCF labs; everyone who asked a question was hustled out of the small auditorium by a guard; most were arrested.

National Eye Institute (NEI) $666,036,000.
Director: Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) $2,918,317,000.
Director: Gary H. Gibbons, M.D.
Primarily human-based studies

National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) $486,104,000.
Director: Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D.
Gene mapping. In vitro.

National Institute on Aging (NIA) $1,045,849,000.
Director: Richard J. Hodes, M.D.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) $435,535,000.
Director: George Koob, Ph.D.
Vivisector. Just plain evil. Addicts animals to various drugs, studies chronic pain in animals.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) $4,256,327,000.
Director: Anthony Fauci, M.D.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) $507,822,000.
Director: Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
Vivisector. "We utilized plastic collars which were placed around the necks of mice to prevent them from scratching their ears during the development of CH [contact hypersensitivity]. This allowed us to assess ear swelling as an index of CH, obviating the effects of scratching that occurs during the development of CH. Collared mice: a model to assess the effects of scratching. Takeuchi S, Yasukawa F, Furue M, Katz SI. J Dermatol Sci. 2010

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) $320,697,000.
Director: Roderic I. Pettigrew, M.D., Ph.D.
Mostly clinical research, but dabbles in vivisection: Effects of mechanical properties and atherosclerotic artery size on biomechanical plaque disruption - mouse vs. human. Riou LM, Broisat A, Ghezzi C, Finet G, Rioufol G, Gharib AM, Pettigrew RI, Ohayon J. J Biomech. 2014.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) $1,252,430,000.
Director: Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D.
His research seems to have been focused on the identification of the genes involved in a condition called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. It does not seem to have involved animals. Nevertheless, Stephen J. Suomi, Ph.D., Harry Harlow's star pupil, is Chief of the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, a primate vivisection laboratory that is part of the NICHD, and Guttmacher seems not to have taken any steps to close it down during the tenure.

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) $394,546,000.
Director: James Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) $389,274,000.
Director: Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Vivisector. "A variety of approaches are taken, including in vitro cell and organ culture, transgenic animal models for studying gene function, in vivo models for studying periodontal repair and regeneration..." 
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) $1,845,601,000.
Director: Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P
Vivisector. "Mice ... age were injected i.p. with varying amounts of bacteria (CFU). An optimal concentration to induce sepsis and mortality within 72 h was determined for E. coli  and S. aureus. In survival experiments using this concentration, survival was monitored every 6 h. To determine the bacterial dissemination to large organs during sepsis, liver and lung tissues were harvested 24 h after S. aureus or E. coli infection." Olfactomedin 4 inhibits cathepsin C-mediated protease activities, thereby modulating neutrophil killing of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli in mice.  Liu W, Yan M, Liu Y, McLeish KR, Coleman WG Jr, Rodgers GP. J Immunol. 2012 Sep.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) $998,389,000.
Director: Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Vivisector and cheerleader for vivisection. Long-term safety of stimulant use for ADHD: findings from nonhuman primates. Volkow ND. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) $724,597,000.
Director: Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S.
Vivisector. In this paper she reports on the effects of putting flame retardant in rats' stomachs:  Disposition and kinetics of Tetrabromobisphenol A in female Wistar Han rats. Knudsen GA, Sanders JM, Sadik AM, Birnbaum LS. Toxicol Rep. 2014.
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) $2,303,204,000.
Director: Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D.
He seems to be studying ribosomes in yeast.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) $1,403,005,000.
Director: Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Vivisector. Previous director of the Yerkes Primate Center. He was the director when Jerom was killed.
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) $262,011,000.
Director: Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D. (Acting)
Vivisector. She has not published much recently. Earlier in her career she reported on her experiments on rats.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) $1,541,480,000.
Director: Story Landis, Ph.D.
Vivisector. She just announced her retirement.
Walter J. Koroshetz has been named acting director. His work appears to be primarily clinical in nature.
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) $137,213,000.
Director Patricia A. Grady, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.
National Library of Medicine (NLM) $320,016,000.
Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D.

See too, the memorial site of the
National Center for Research Resources $1,257,754,000 in 2011, its final year.

NIH Centers

Center for Information Technology (CIT)
Director: Andrea T. Norris
Center for Scientific Review (CSR)
Director: Richard Nakamura, Ph.D.
Vivisector. At one time he was the Coordinator of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration's (ADAMHA) Office of Animal Research Issues. Past primate vivisector.
John E. Fogarty International Center (FIC) $65,988,000.
Director: Roger I. Glass, M.D., Ph.D.
Primarily clinical research and public health.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)  $121,373,000.
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) $545,336,000.
Director: Christopher P. Austin, M.D.
Vivisector. The invented term translational science(s?) is a response by vivisectors who have been hammered over the past decade by observations by hardball medical researchers who have called attention to the plain fact that vanishingly few research projects using so called animal models of human biology ever lead to improvements in clinical care. They have suggested that the differences in species simply make it very unlikely that experimental data from one species can be translated into therapeutics for a different species. The response from vivisectors and the institutions that get rich by hosting their labs was to christen new "centers" for "translational" science. As if calling a spade a heart will make it so.
NIH Clinical Center (CC)
John I. Gallin, M.D.
Gallin's own research is mostly clinical, but even he, the director of the NIH Clinical Center,  was using mice as recently as 2007.

Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives
Located within the Office of the Director (OD) $1,448,420,000., activities directed by DPCPSI include:
• NIH Common Fund
• OAR: Office of AIDS Research
• OBSSR: Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
• ODS: Office of Dietary Supplements
• ORWH: Office of Research on Women’s Health
• OSC: Office of Strategic Coordination

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Responding to University of Wisconsin-Madison's Response to Dr. Ruth Decker's petition

Responding to University of Wisconsin-Madison's Response to Dr. Ruth Decker's petition asking the University of Wisconsin, Madison to stop Ned Kalin's cruel dead-end experiments on baby rhesus monkeys

UW-Madison says:  Since September, many people have taken interest in a University of Wisconsin–Madison study on the impact of early life stress on young rhesus monkeys. Thousands have added their names to a petition on the website, calling for an end to the work, and we appreciate and share their concern for animals.

In fact, interest in and criticism of this project has been on going since early in 2012, when the Madison-based animal rights group, the Alliance for Animals, reviewed the minutes from one of the two animal care and use committees that evaluated and eventually approved Ned Kalin's project and began a campaign to stop it. Lori Gruen, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Ethics in Society at Wesleyan University criticized the project on September 14, 2012, in a public speaking event sponsored by UW-Madison at its much-hyped biomedical science cathedral, the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. In May of 2013, the project was the topic of another event on campus, "The Ethics of Animal Experimentation: A conversation between bioethicist Rob Streiffer and research critic Rick Marolt." The large room was crowded with interested people.

It was in September of this year that UW-Madison took more notice of the criticism because the project finally came to the attention of many more people when (after two years of prodding)  Madison's weekly newspaper, Isthmus, put the story on its cover: Motherless monkeys: UW-Madison to revive controversial primateexperiments: Researchers will deprive infants of maternal contact to studyanxiety and depression. Noah Phillips on Thursday 07/31/2014.

UW-Madison says that it shares with the nearly 350,000 people who have signed the position, "their concern for animals."  I doubt it.

UW-Madison says:  But we don’t appreciate the way petition’s author, Dr. Ruth Decker, misrepresents the research. By piling up mistakes, myths and exaggerations, and omitting important information, she asks well-meaning people to speak out with little understanding of the real science and the long, deliberative process through which it was approved.

Petulant and condescending. What they really don't like are those 350,000 well-meaning people who have little understanding of the real science. The Real Science. Mistakes, myths, exaggerations, and omissions? UW-Madison's mistakes, myths, exaggerations, and omissions of information concerning its use of animals is legendary.

The long deliberative process UW-Madison refers to is a discussion, usually perfunctory, among a group of people whose livelihoods depend on the continuing flow of the tax dollars that pay for experiments on animals. The committees are required to have a member who is not affiliated with the institution. In practice, among the dozen people sitting around the table, one or two of them will be non-affiliated members. All the others are usually financially dependent on NIH grant monies.

But this project did get held up. Even some vivisectors thought it was extreme. A very rare phenomena.

UW-Madison: The truth is of little concern to activists who wish to end animal research, no matter the benefit to humans and animals. We don’t share that sentiment. We prefer people make their judgments on animal research with a fuller understanding of the research — of both its costs and potential benefits.

I'm no psychologist, but this appears to be a projection of  UW-Madison 's self-image onto those it thinks of as the enemy. The truth is poison to UW-Madison . UW-Madison has destroyed large many records regarding their experiments on animals to keep them out of the public eye. They apparently don't want the public to be able to become informed. Even here, when UW-Madison says that they prefer people make their judgments with a fuller understanding of the research, why didn't they provide a link to the approved protocol? Why not encourage people to read it themselves? Here's a link to the protocol; it is available to the public only because UW-Madison's critics think the facts matter.

UW-Madison: This is not a repeat of experiments UW–Madison psychology professor Harry Harlow conducted as many as five decades ago, some of which subjected animals to extreme stress and isolation.

This is a half truth. Harlow did conduct experiments similar to these, sans any claim of some possible new drug emerging from it. He reported on the behavior of monkeys raised in nearly identical ways: pulled from their mothers at birth, put alone into a cage until able to self-regulate their body temperature, and then put with another infant the same age. He published photographs of them clinging to each other.

UW-Madison: The methods for the modern work were selected specifically because they can reliably create mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety in the monkeys. They were chosen to minimize discomfort for the animals, and to minimize the number of animals required to provide researchers with answers to their questions.

And those questions are? They don't say, in spite of their stated desire that people have a fuller understanding of the research. This is the question: what patentable gene sequence might be a precursor to some part of some neurochemical pathway associated with some form of mental illness? That really is it. All their other claims are just window dressing.

As far as the reliable creation of mild to moderate anxiety, that's not really what they are doing. No one seeing human children behaving as Kalin expects the young monkeys will behave would describe them as being mild to moderately anxious. In fact, the American Psychological Association says that mild to moderate anxiety in humans can be helpful. They say that that's what we feel "When you're driving in heavy traffic or struggling to meet a deadline."

The idea that the feelings I have in heavy traffic are very much like what infant monkeys raised first in solitary confinement and then with a similarly traumatized male infant in a small cage, is ludicrous. The American Psychological Association goes on to give examples of genuine anxiety disorders and notes that: "Fortunately, there is effective treatment for anxiety disorders."  More evidence that the university isn't accurately describing Kalin's project.

UW-Madison: There is no “solitary confinement.” The animals live in cages with other monkeys of their own age, a method of care called peer rearing. This method is often used when mothers reject their infant monkeys, which happens regularly in situations from nature to zoos to clinical nurseries with first-time mothers or following caesarean-section births.

Complete gibberish. The baby monkeys are confined alone for the first 4 to 6 weeks of their lives. In normal circumstances they would be clinging to their mothers, being fondled, inspected, and cleaned by them, in constant contact. Infant monkeys and infant humans have very different psychosocial needs when they are very young. Infant humans benefit from regular touch whereas infant rhesus monkeys have a profound need for contact. It is easy to understand this difference when considered from an evolutionary perspective. Humans, like cats and dogs, are atricial; we are born at an earlier developmental stage than many other animals and are nearly helpless and not very aware of our surroundings. Rhesus monkeys on the other hand must cling to their mothers very soon in order to survive. They are more developed, physically and cognitively at birth than are humans. The trauma to them from being taken from their mothers has no counterpart in humans.

After 4 to 6 weeks they are caged with another infant of the same age and similarly maternally deprived. The university says, "The animals live in cages with other monkeys." No they don't. Two babies are in a cage. No infant is caged with "other monkeys."

UW-Madison says that peer rearing "happens regularly in situations from nature to zoos...." That's ridiculous. Two motherless infants can't raise each other. Nothing like this ever occurs in nature. UW-Madison must think the people reading their nonsense will believe anything. And zoos go to great lengths when monkeys are orphaned in an effort to ameliorate the well known impacts of being orphaned. In the Kalin project, the vivisectors intentionally don't employ the techniques that are known to lesson the negative impacts of peer rearing.

The serious consequences of peer rearing are known widely by those who raise monkeys in the laboratory setting. "Nursery rearing is the single most important risk factor in the development of severe forms of abnormal behavior, such as self-biting, in rhesus macaques. This practice is common in research laboratories and typically involves continuous pair housing of infants without maternal contact." The effects of four nursery rearing strategies on infant behavioral development in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Rommeck I1, Gottlieb DH, Strand SC, McCowan B. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2009 Jul.

UW-Madison: The animals in the study are not “terrorized,” and do not experience “relentless torture.” 

They may as well have claimed that dancing fairies come at midnight and entertain them. I suspect that every time one of the infants is pulled away from what or whomever they are clinging that the emotion they experience is very much terror. In fact, when not trying to score PR points, UW-Madison agrees that the baby monkeys are terrorized. In 1998, UW-Madison wrote about Ned Kalin's experiments and said, "Being separated from mother terrifies infant primates." 

As far as relentless torture, torture seems to be a plastic concept in the hands of government. Can torture be psychological? It seems to me that social and environmental deprivation could be torturous. If so, then it seems that from the babies perspective, they could be experiencing relentless torture. And certainly, the repeated separations will be torturous experiences. And the procedures they will be subjected to are intended to add to their distress.

UW-Madison: Most of their time is spent as a house pet would spend its days — grooming, sleeping, eating and playing with toys, puzzles and other animals.

Who keeps their house pet in a small cage 24 hours a day, every day? I'm sure they do pick at themselves, but at their age, their mothers would be grooming them. And they do eat and sleep. But the claim that they play with toys, puzzles, and other animals is very misleading. In the wild, monkeys don't seem to have toys or play with things as if they are toys, so calling some object put into their cage a toy, is misleading. The monkeys are not sitting around solving puzzles either.

Monkeys kept in standard laboratory cages are prone to developing a number of aberrant behaviors, which for some monkeys can include self-inflicted trauma. It was discovered that these often deleterious behaviors can be moderated or reduced if the monkey's attention can be kept engaged. Puzzle feeders are now a common item in the monkey labs. Their kibble is put into a device that makes it difficult to get to. A monkey must work to retrieve a piece. That's nothing like someone playing with a puzzle.

This is the second time in their response that they say the monkeys are with, and now get to play with, other animals.

This is like you being kelp in a prison 24/7 with a cell mate, and me telling someone concerned for your well being that you get to be with people.

UW-Madison: On occasion, to assess the monkeys’ level of anxious temperament, they are observed under two anxiety-provoking conditions. The first involves the presence of an unknown person who briefly enters the room, but does not make eye contact with the monkey. The second involves the monkey being able to see a snake, which is enclosed in a covered Plexiglas container in the same room, but outside the monkey’s cage.

This makes it sound like the monkeys will have only two anxiety producing experiences. But of course, they will really have many more.

Let's count them. We can see a sort of timeline in a chart showing the planned procedures early in this video. The chart predicts that all the manipulations, imaging, and tissue collection will be complete before each monkey's 60th week of age. They will be killed at some unspecified time, but according to the chart, they will no more than 80 weeks old. During that 60 week period, beginning the moment they are pulled from their mothers, each monkey will undergo: 7 human intruder tests; 5 MRIs; 9 blood draws; 5 PET scans; 1 skin biopsy; 2 spinal taps; 1 exposure to a snake; be exposed to an unknown monkey 2 times; and be observed in a "play cage" 2 times. When they are about 25 weeks old, they will be taken from their cage mate, and placed with a new monkey (who has undergone the same procedures). 

Some of those events happen on the same day. The human intruder, blood draw, and PET scan all occur in immediate succession on the same day. Overall, the monkeys will be manipulated in some way every week. Their separation from their original cage mate must be a particularly stressful experience. Many of the procedures will entail being taken from their cage mate. These repeated separations are likely to exacerbate the separation anxiety the monkeys may experience. Together, this host of experiences seems much different from UW-Madison's glossed over description of what will happen to the babies in their response to Dr. Decker's petition.

UW-Madison:  The stress the monkeys experience is comparable to what an anxious human might feel when encountering a stranger or a snake or a nurse with a needle.

That's more meaningless gibberish. How does an anxious person behave and feel? There are people who are so anxious that they can't leave their home. They might faint if confronted by a stranger. I took an on-line anxiety test at Psychology Today. It said I have "Existential Anxiety." I like snakes. Strangers? For me it depends on the context. All anxious people have the same reactions to a stranger, a snake, and a nurse with a needle? What silliness. Hardly scientific.

UW-Madison: No one was “left out” of the review by UW–Madison oversight committees. Several university committees spent a great deal of time assessing Dr. Kalin’s anxiety research, and each committee found it to be acceptable and ethical.

Context matters here too. Those committees approve essentially every project they consider. It isn't a surprise that they approved this one. What is surprising, what is a complete and novel departure from business as usual, is the fact that someone embedded in the system said no. They gummed up the works and stalled the project; its eventual approval was probably never in doubt. Essentially every project gets approved, and Ned Kalin is a powerful senior administrator and researcher.

And, the committees didn't decide that the experiments are ethical. There is noting in the very limited committee minutes suggesting that any ethical analysis took place, but that is as expected. There are no committees at UW-Madison or at most other labs in the US that make ethical decisions about the use of animals. The IACUC Handbook (2nd Edition. CRC. 2007) notes that the committees are not able to make ethical evaluations. The committees decide only if the planned use of animals complies with  federal regulations. If it does not, the committee explains to the researcher what must be changed to gain approval, and at times even provides prewritten responses for use on the forms.

UW-Madison: These were groups of researchers, veterinarians and public representatives tasked with considering animal research on ethical grounds, and with ensuring potentially beneficial research will subject the fewest animals to the least invasive measures.

If true, the university has invented a new kind of committee. But their ersatz balm doesn't ring true to me. I have reviewed the minutes of many years of three of UW-Madison's animal use committees, two of which are the ones that approved Kalin's new project. I have seen little if any evidence that the committees ever engage in discussion about the ethics of a particular project or the enterprise at large. But again, that isn't surprising because the committees are not charged with making ethical determinations by either NIH or USDA, the two main federal agencies involved in the oversight of animal experimentation. 

"[P]otentially beneficial" is justification for just about anything. Every lottery ticket is a potential winner.

UW-Madison: As the petition notes, an animal rights group took allegations about the committee process to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What the petition does not mention is that USDA conducted an investigation in August in response to that complaint. Inspectors found the complaint lacking merit, and the process to be entirely within compliance with federal regulations.

Maybe that's what the inspectors found, but it isn't what they said. This is the body of the report:

No non-compliant items identified during this inspection.
This was a focused inspection conducted on 8/25/14 and 8/26/14.
Exit interview conducted on 8/27/14 with facility representatives.

Regular observers of reports from USDA inspectors know that a different inspector might have found differently. In any case, the report says only that whatever the committee did was in compliance with animal welfare regulations. We don't really know what was said during the committee meetings because UW-Madison has taken steps to keep the public from learning the plain facts. And they are being sued because of it.

What led to some observers imaging that there may have been a violation of some sort may have been the result of something called designated review. When a committee explains to a researcher what they need to do to make their project acceptable, it frequently defers further review by the entire committee and leaves the final approval a designated committee member. For members who were opposed to the project, consignment to designated review could have made them feel locked out of any opportunity to further their argument.

UW-Madison: Most importantly, the petition repeatedly maligns the research as “needless” and “unnecessary.” We and many others think otherwise. Dr. Kalin, who treats human patients with anxiety and depression disorders, has worked for more than 30 years to understand both inherited and environmental causes of mental illness. His research was also reviewed and supported by panels of scientists at the National Institutes of Mental Health.

By "We" UW-Madison means those whose income rely on the continuous turn of the federal tax dollar treadmill of animal experimentation. As far as many others thinking his work should be funded, most of them are also financially dependent on the treadmill's perpetual motion. The appeal to our sympathy for patients would be less manipulative if it mentioned the number of patients he sees in a day. I suspect it is less than one. His role as a university administrator and as a lead scientist on four tax-payer-funded projects must use up at least some of his time:

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You'll notice too that UW-Madison refers to a statement from Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as evidence of others thinking the experiments have merit:

“One only has to look at the Ebola crisis to appreciate the vital role that animals play in biomedical research, in this case, in the testing of potentially life-saving vaccines. But, it doesn’t stop there. Neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Advances in understanding and treating these devastating conditions rests on fundamental basic behavioral and brain science that, as with infectious diseases, begins with carefully conducted studies in animals. NIMH has supported the research in the Kalin lab for many years. This support is part of our commitment to the belief that careful, well-founded, peer-reviewed research such as this will lead to improvements in our understanding and treatment of mental disorders.”

Well, when I look at the Ebola crisis, I see something else. In any case, the support for Kalin boils down to this: "NIMH has supported the research in the Kalin lab for many years." That's true, and they should be ashamed of it. But shame isn't in the palette of emotions of most vivisectors and Tom Insel is no exception.

60 Minutes ran a piece on the Yerkes Primate Research Center, maybe 15 years ago. They showed sedated monkeys being thrown into the back of an open-bed truck as if they were sacks of potatoes. They also interviewed Tom Insel, who was at the time the director of the primate center. They asked him about monkey escapes from the primate center, and he said there hadn't been any. Then they interviewed a young girl, she was maybe five years old. She told about the monkey that had come onto the deck in their back yard. Insel had been caught in a blatant lie. Insel's opinion on animal research hardly matters since without it, he'd be out of a job. A small bit of trivia: Insel's own research was focused on the function of oxytocin in stressed mice and voles.

UW-Madison: The decision to study animal models to understand human psychiatric disorders is not made lightly.

Given the obscene amounts of money involved, they indeed take the matter very seriously.

UW-Madison concludes with this: In this case, the human suffering is so great that Kalin, the National Institutes of Health and UW–Madison’s review committees believe the potential benefit of the knowledge gained from this research justifies the use of an animal model.

But the people at NIH who approved the project are vivisectors too. They are financially vested in the continuation of the practice as is just about everyone at UW-Madison who has supported it.

The potential benefit should be considered by weighing the proven benefits of Kalin's past research. But that metric isn't used by NIH or UW-Madison because there haven't been any benefits from Kalin's past research, and such a weighing would make it plain that the likelihood of benefit from his new project is nil.