Thank you to the 15 people who attended the meeting last night, including Jeremy Beckham, who works at the Beagle Freedom Project, and whose full transcript and recording is below.
Kalin and Open Records: Part 1
Dr. Kalin is a primate researcher at UW Madison. He was at the center of public outrage a few months ago (although the Alliance has been following this for multiple years) because news came out about a maternal deprivation study he was planning to undertake with baby monkeys. The monkeys would be separated from their mothers, exposed to various stressors like humans and snakes, subjected to invasive tests (blood draws, skin biopsies), and then killed at between 1- 2 years of age. Their brains would be dissected, and the findings were supposed to help us understand anxiety in humans. You can read the original protocol here.
Multiple people inside and outside the university were opposed. Dane County Supervisor Al Matano was so upset that he created Resolution 275, encouraging the supervisors to stop this terrible experiment. You can read the resolution here, and watch the hearing here. Another person of note is UW bioethicist Robert Strieffer, who spoke on his own behalf (not the UW’s, as he makes clear in his statement) at the Resolution 275 hearing. I’m excerpting his words below:
This study, by taking baby monkeys away from their mothers at birth, subjecting them to numerous tests that will cause fear and anxiety, and, finally, killing them, is indisputably going to cause the monkeys a great deal of harm and a great deal of psychological suffering…And although I hope that this research, if it continues, will produce new information that will contribute to our helping the many people who suffer from anxiety or depression, I don’t think this extreme amount of suffering is ethically justified by that speculative hope.
I have Dr. Streiffer’s full transcript, which I can share if requested. You can also watch his testimony here.
So, just a couple of weeks ago, the medical researcher at the Wisconsin State Journal contacted me for a quote.
He told me that Kalin had decided to do the study without the maternal deprivation and wanted to know how I felt. I told him, of course, that there are still a lot of horrible things the experiment is doing to these poor monkeys, but that any amount of suffering removed from their lives is a positive. You can read the article here.`
There are a lot of bizarre things about this update, and I’ll cover some of them below, but the message to take away is that this experiment is still cruel and unjustified.
Why this is strange
I’m excerpting Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna’s letter to the editor in full, because it is perfectly put:
UW-Madison’s complete turnaround on monkey maternal deprivation experiments highlights the lack of ethical oversight on this issue.
For months, UW faculty vociferously defended this research as being vital to the advancement of human health. But now, the lead investigator has suddenly decided that maternal deprivation studies are not necessary after all.
It makes one wonder how many other useless experiments have been approved by UW’s animal research committee in the past, and how many will continue to be approved in the future. Their review process is clearly not working, and is in need of a major overhaul.
As researchers and animal activists know, there is a lengthy, extensive process of review before experiments are okayed. This is the oversight that researchers always refer to when we say there needs to be more oversight. To change the experiment partway through is grossly inappropriate, and Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna captures that exquisitely.
Second the reasoning is, well…see for yourself:
Dr. Ned Kalin said he decided to keep the monkeys with their mothers in the weeks after birth because other research found removing them doesn’t increase anxiety as expected, not because of complaints by animal rights activists.
“We’re changing the experiment based on science, not based on pressure that I’ve had,” Kalin said
While Kalin and his colleagues were developing a brain scanner coil to use in the new study, he decided to study another group of monkeys that had been neglected or abused by their mothers naturally and thus removed from them.
That study involved 25 monkeys removed from their mothers and 25 monkeys not removed from their mothers.
All of the monkeys were exposed to snakes and humans who didn’t make eye contact with them. The tests showed that the monkeys removed from their mothers were not more anxious.
“We actually found less anxiety, to our surprise,” Kalin said.
On one hand, Kalin couldn’t really say that he’s changing the experiment because the public is unhappy, because there is just a huge us vs. them thing happening between researchers and anyone who cares about animal welfare. Okay, that’s fine. But the finding that the monkeys removed from their mothers are less anxious and that’s why he’s changing the experiment? I just find that…surprising. Surprising and a little suspicious, as anyone who has been around children would.
Whatever the reason, I am glad those poor monkeys will be suffering slightly less. But we need to keep in mind that these experiments are still institutionalized animal abuse.
HSUS puts it well:
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are poised to begin lethal experiments on baby monkeys in the coming months in an attempt to study the development of anxiety and depression in humans.
The University recently decided NOT to include one of the most controversial parts of the study, which involved permanently removing 20 newborn monkeys from their mothers within hours or days of birth and forcing them to live in isolation for weeks. We certainly welcome this change; however, if the study moves forward as planned, 40 baby monkeys will still be removed from their mothers at six months of age — causing distress for both the babies and mothers — and will be subjected to invasive testing throughout their short lives before being killed so their brains can be dissected. The monkeys will be put through all of this despite serious concerns that remain about the ethics, validity and necessity of this study.
And, honestly, with the discovery that the maternal deprivation doesn’t cause stress, how are we to trust any part of the experiment now? How can we trust the snakes will cause stress, or the humans? Maybe they’ll cause less stress and they are now unnecessary…
Side note: If you practice meditation or mindfulness, but are unhappy with Dr. Davidson’s and Dr. Kalin, etc. experimenting on animals at UW and want to practice with a group that cares about animals, check out the Madison chapter of Dharma Voices for Animals. That’s the link to their facebook, or you can reach the organizer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wisconsin has an open records law that is part of a national series of laws called “sunshine laws.” The laws increase transparency. Wisconsin’s current law says that citizens can request records from government entities, including UW Madison research records.
As I’ve written about in other posts, this access is now threatened by a policy item in the 2015 budget bill. The item states:
“The bill creates an exception to the open records law for information produced or collected by or for UWSA faculty or staff with respect to commercial, scientific, or technical research until that information is publicly disseminated or patented.”
If you care about freedom of information, you need to speak out against this bill. If you care about animals, you need to speak out against this bill.
There are a lot of reasons to be unhappy with the current budget bill, and if we don’t speak out against this item, it may slip by.
In the words of an advocate:
My sense is that this is NOT an issue on lawmakers’ radar; that means it could very well pass with other proposals that are included in a sweeping package of changes affecting the UW.
And once something becomes law, it’s really hard to reverse, as we were reminded later in the meeting by Jeremy’s mention of the UW animal cruelty exemption.
What you can do
We need people to organize leafleting, to table at the farmer’s market, to speak out against the bill, to plan and do fundraising for a potential primate research ethics conference, and more. Add your name here, or email me at email@example.com.
THIS MONDAY, there is a hearing at Madison East High School with Sen Erpenbach and Rep. Tayler, 5 – 8 pm. Please come if you can. If you live elsewhere, look here for other hearing dates (credit to AFSCME).
Also, please look here (Joint Finance Members and Contact) to see if you have any of these representatives. If you do, contact them immediately. They are on the Joint Finance Committee and they have the most say in the budget bill’s final outcome. If you know people who live in their districts (see: Joint Finance Districts), contact them and ask them to do the same.
Ridglan and Beagle Freedom Project: Part 2
Our friend Jeremy was nice enough to join us for the second half. Subsequent to his approval, I uploaded the mp3 file and transcript. I’ll include a summary, but I recommend reading the whole thing.
– Jeremy has been working on 2 projects equally. The first is legislation to require labs to make efforts to re-home lab cats and dogs after experiments. The second is Identity Campaign, which lets people virtually adopt lab animals, give them names, and advocate for their eventual release.
– There are three big beagle breeding companies, and one of them, as the Isthmus just pointed out, is in Mount Horeb. Between the three of them, they produce 12,000 – 15,000 beagles a year, and Ridglan in Mount Horeb produced about 4,000 last year. 95% of dogs used in labs are beagles because they are docile and don’t fight back when they’re being hurt.
– We can’t do a lot at a legal level, since the legislation hasn’t been introduced in Wisconsin and we have an animal cruelty exemption for UW researchers as of 2011. We can raise awareness, though, and we are looking for your ideas.
– To tie our two sections together, Jeremy talks about open records. Without open records law, adopters won’t be able to see what experiments their adopted lab animals went through.
Enjoy the full transcript below, and please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved. (NB: All links and images were subsequently added and have been approved by Jeremy.)
Audio available here.My name is Jeremy Beckham, and I used to live in Madison, several years ago, and I’ve just been working on the animal testing issue for many years, and now I work for an organization called Beagle Freedom Project. And Hannah had invited me to participate in your call, and I’m glad to be here!I’ll give an overview of some of the stuff I’ve been working on lately for Beagle Freedom Project. I would say my time and attention has been divided pretty equally between two things that we’re working on right now. The first is our legislation that we’ve kind of coined as the “Beagle Freedom Bill.” And, this is legislation we’ve already got passed in Minnesota, and it’s also pending in, I believe, five states right now. And what the legislation says is that after a dog or a cat has been used in an experiment, the laboratory must make efforts to find that animal a home. They would be legally required to.And the reason we’ve been pushing for this legislation is when the BFP was first founded about five years ago, at the beginning, we were able to get dogs and cats out of labs with ease. We would contact the laboratory, they were willing to give the animal to a home – please let them go when you’re done with the experiment. And we produced some videos based on these rescues, and a lot of the videos went viral. And by viral, I mean many millions of views. It’s possible some of you have seen them before. They’ve been shared a lot. They often say things like “Beagle touches grass for the first time outside of lab,” something like that.So after these videos went viral, and they showed clearly broken animals who had lived a life of deprivation in the lab, the research community started sending around these memos, saying “don’t let dogs and cats out of your labs any more: it’s hurting our image.” And then all of a sudden, no one was working with us any more. We weren’t getting our phone calls returned, we had to start playing sort of shell game where we would work with the local humane society or the local shelter and the laboratory would never know we got them. In fact, we’ve facilitated rescues of hundreds of animals that we’ve never even publicized, because we know if we publicize them, it’s going to jeopardize future releases now.So, we first approached Senator Scott Dibbl in Minnesota about this problem, and said we think that they [labs] should be legally required to release them. I mean, right now, they’re just killing them for no reason, other than to protect their image. And so it became law in Minnesota, and now this legislation is pending in CA, NY, NV, CT, and NJ. Right now the bills have been introduced, and some of them have already gone to their respective committees. And animal research communities are kind of freaking out about this. They’ve hired lobbyists in a lot of places, especially in California, because there are so many labs there, to try to fight this legislation. And remember, this legislation does nothing at all to interfere with the experiment itself. In fact, if the experimenter says killing the animal is necessary for the research, unfortunately we still can’t do anything about that. The legislation just says if a dog or cat survives an experiment, it has to be offered for adoption. It can’t just be killed summarily or as a matter of course. But the laboratories are very worried about what this is going to do if basically there are thousands of dogs and cats that are walking ambassadors against animal testing, because people will have them in their homes, they’ll be sharing their story with their friends and neighbors about why their dog is always afraid of metal – you know, that’s a common thing we’ve seen with a lot of our rescues; the animals have lived in cages their whole life, they have kind of PTSD symptoms with metal doors, you know, or anything that kind of reminds them of a laboratory life.So, I’ve been doing a lot of research for that legislation in a lot of these different states, researching the various ways we’re using dogs and cats in experiments, researching what adoption policies exist in labs, if any, and working on our media relations, and some of that stuff as well, kind of putting together policy briefs and talking points, things like that, to try to make the case to legislators that this legislation’s important. The second thing I’ve been working on is a campaign we just launched – which you may already be familiar with a little bit – called Identity Campaign. And, I know some of you are familiar with, back in the day, when Primate Freedom Project was a little more active, when there were these things called Primate Freedom Tags. Where there were these stainless steel tags that actually had the information of the monkey who was in a lab. I know Bill Lueders bought one. So, we’re kind of taking that idea, that basic idea, applying it to dogs and cats, and then going a lot further with it. We have information for roughly a thousand dogs and cats that are currently in labs, and you can go on to our website and browse all these animals in these laboratories all over the country, including UW Madison…Identitycampaign.org is the website where you can go through. And you can choose one of the animals that’s available there and choose to do a virtual adoption for it, because, one of the reasons we wanted to do this too is that we have this huge waiting list for people who want to provide homes for a dog or cat who was used in an experiment and we don’t have enough animals to give them, because laboratories won’t work with us anymore, so we wanted to tell the people, why wait – you can do a virtual adoption now, and then advocate for their freedom and we’ll assist you in filing public records requests to find out what’s happening to your animal…and the idea is we wanted to give these dogs and cats an identity, so one of the first things you do, when you’re completing the checkout process after you’ve chosen your animal is we want you to give your animal a name. Right now, they only have a number, but you’re going to give the animal a name, and we’re going to use that name, because we don’t want to call a dog 0401.Now I know one of the reasons I was invited on the call, too, is about that Ridglan article, and part of my research was looking into the three biggest places that breed beagles for experiments. And, you guys might already be aware that beagles are the most frequent breed used- about 95% of dogs in laboratories are beagles – and perversely, the reason they’re chosen as a breed by animal experimenters is the very same qualities that make them wonderful companions – that is, they’re friendly, they’re docile, they’re very forgiving – those same qualities make them vulnerable to abuse, vulnerable to abuse in a laboratory. So, they make them easier to handle by technicians, they don’t fight back when they’re being hurt. So, as a result, there’s sort of a cottage industry that’s built up around specifically breeding beagles for experimentation. And the three biggest companies that do that are Covance – although not the Madison location – the Covance…in Pennsylvania. Covance does have facilities in Madison, but that’s not their beagle breeding farm. Marshall Farms, which is in upstate New York, and Ridglan, which is in Mount Horeb. And, between these three facilities, they breed between 12,000 – 15,000 dogs every single year, to sell for experiments.[Ridglan]…just last year, they bred under 4,000 dogs. I have the address – not in front of me – but if anyone wants it, I can’t share it with Hannah, and she can share it or whatever. Basically, the facility is a factory farm for dogs…Inside this facility is just rows and rows of cages of beagles, being bred for experiments, shipped all around the country. All around the country. And almost none of them come out alive. You know, most of these dogs are used in toxicity testing, so they’re being pumped full of chemicals and experimental drugs, and they keep increasing the dose in these experiments until they find that point where most of the dogs are dying or experiencing extreme symptoms. So, it’s a very tragic thing.Unfortunately, Wisconsin state law…now it actually has a complete exemption…as of 2011, the state legislature completely exempted researchers from crimes against animals. And that – most states now have that – where if you are an animal in a laboratory, there is no law – so there’s not much we can do on the beagle front, at least, you know, going after them under cruelty statutes, so we have a lot of work cut out for us.