Can animal rights advocates, researchers ever find middle ground?

When it comes to debating the merits of animal research taking place on the UW-Madison campus, there may well be middle ground on which the masses can agree.

But like so many political issues these days, it’s the folks who are most heavily invested in a topic that tend to dominate the discussion.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals garnered headlines last month by accusing UW-Madison researchers of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act in a study that uses cats to examine the link between hearing and eye movements. Among the allegations leveled: Proper procedures weren’t taken to prevent distress and pain for the animals; the university didn’t consider alternatives to procedures that may cause pain; and no appropriate rationale was given for using animals.

According to the university protocol describing the research, auditory studies at UW-Madison date back three decades, with an average of 30 cats per year being used. PETA highlighted the plight of an orange tabby named Double Trouble, who underwent surgeries in 2008. The animal rights group said a steel post was implanted in the cat’s head, steel coils put in its eyes and cochlear implants in its ears. The cat was later euthanized after getting an infection following one of the surgeries. And if this information alone doesn’t play on your emotions, PETA also released photos of the cat that are sure to elicit a reflexive response.

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Can animal rights advocates, researchers ever find middle ground?.