Jeremy Beckham: UW’s cruelty to cats should be stopped – March 2, 2013, Capital Times
Academy award-nominated actor James Cromwell and I were recently arrested for protesting at a meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents for its failure to take action to end horribly cruel and wasteful experiments on cats at UW-Madison. UW’s response has been to distort, deny and dismiss well-documented cruelty in its laboratories and attempt to silence dissent about the issue.
Despite UW’s shenanigans, the truth is out and these barbaric studies should end now.
According to documents that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals obtained from UW through a public records request and subsequent lawsuit, experimenters cut cats’ heads open, screwed steel rods to their skulls, implanted electrodes in their brains, and placed metal coils in their eyes. Some cats were deafened and had electrical devices implanted into their ears. The cats were then starved for up to six days straight because when they’re so hungry they will cooperate in experiments in exchange for a morsel of food. As a result of all this trauma, nearly every cat PETA obtained records on — including Broc, Cali, Daisy, Mama Grey, Marble, Patches, Slinky, Tiger and Timmy — suffered from constant infections, illnesses, physical pain and depression.
This was graphically documented by UW staff in photos they never imagined the public would see and fought tooth-and-nail to keep secret. The images depict a cat called Double Trouble with a metal post and wires protruding from her head. One of her eyes is half-closed because her face was partially paralyzed by an apparently sloppy surgery.
Records show that she became lethargic and depressed. She started to twitch. Her head wound never healed. More than three months after surgery, records describe the wound as “open, moist w/bloody purulent discharge, (with) moderate swelling.”
Each horrifying detail above is taken directly from records that were written in UW staff and faculty’s own hands, and captured with their own camera. A former UW veterinarian who worked in this laboratory has also confirmed PETA’s allegations of abuse.
Experimenters eventually killed and decapitated Double Trouble because she became too sick to continue and the devices implanted in her head didn’t work. While PETA objects to these experiments because they’re cruel, they’re also bad science. UW experimenters told colleagues that the project was a failure. Indeed, the experiment has never been published in any scientific journal, nor has any other cochlear implant experiment on cats from this laboratory. Yet UW has defended itself by deceptively claiming the suffering caused to Double Trouble has made important contributions to human hearing research.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens, Wisconsin residents, and taxpayers have urged the federal government and UW to end this publicly funded cruelty to animals. UW’s strategy for dealing with this exercise of democracy has been to block emails from the public, to diligently delete thousands of critical messages from its Facebook page, and to remove the contact information for Board of Regents members from its website.
I used to live in Madison and I’ve learned that the school will go to great lengths to shield itself from criticism. In 2006, following open records requests by myself and the Isthmus newspaper, UW destroyed 60 boxes of videotapes showing footage of experiments on monkeys. In 2011, PETA and Madison’s Alliance for Animals sought to have UW prosecuted for experiments in which they killed animals by decompression and forced mice to fight in apparent violation of state law. UW responded by successfully lobbying to completely exempt its experimenters from all state cruelty to animals statutes.
UW is more than happy to take our money to torment animals. But, unless you have some good lawyers, don’t start asking questions about it.
Jeremy Beckham is a research project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, based in Norfolk, Va. JeremyB@peta.org