Tag Archives: experiments

How mice are like humans, how they aren’t, and why it matters

By Kathy Guillermo

A recent study published in the journal Science Advances concluded that mice can transfer their heightened pain sensitivity to other mice through scent cues. This paper is the latest in a long line showing that these tiny animals deserve our respect, yet the very people who gather the data fail to draw the obvious conclusion: We must stop treating mice as though they have no emotions or feelings — because it’s been proved over and over again that they do.

To reach this latest conclusion, experimenters at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) first had to make mice acutely sensitive to pain — a terrible process in and of itself — and then determine whether other mice had become super-sensitive by inflicting additional painful procedures on them.

Certainly, nothing good came of this study for the mice involved. Some were injected with a substance that induces long-lasting inflammation. Others were addicted to morphine or alcohol and then made to endure an agonizing withdrawal process.

They were poked with plastic filaments. Their tails were dipped in hot water, and their paws were injected with an irritant to see how much they licked the site.

If these inhumane procedures had been inflicted outside the laboratory, they’d have warranted cruelty-to-animals charges. But mice in laboratories are exempt from even the most meager of protections under the law. Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, they aren’t even defined as “animals.”

Other studies have shown that mice form long-lasting bonds, are good mothers, feel empathy and even giggle (at frequencies that we can’t hear). They have a fundamental right to live without being tormented by humans.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with imprisoning and exploiting mice in laboratories. While they are like humans in many ways, such as the ability to suffer, in others, they are entirely different.

There is abundant evidence that experiments on animals rarely yield findings that end up being clinically useful for humans. One study found that fewer than 10 percent of promising discoveries coming out of basic animal research make their way into clinical use within 20 years.

One large, multi-institution study found few similarities between the genetic response in mice to things that cause inflammation—such as burns, trauma and infection—and the response in humans. In some cases, the reactions were actually the opposite.

And dozens of papers are released each month on rodent studies of diabetes, despite vast differences in the way rodents regulate glucose and the way the disease progresses in them compared with in humans.

By any definition, that’s a pretty dismal track record.

“I think we’ve got ourselves into a mess right now, with lab mice in particular.”

That’s Joseph Garner, an associate professor in the Department of Comparative Medicine at Stanford University, speaking in a recent interview in New Scientist magazine. Garner says that researchers need to ask themselves if animals are truly modeling human disease. “Increasingly, they are not,” he says. “So we end up learning a great deal about how mice respond to various compounds, but it’s irrelevant to humans and an enormous waste of money.”

What is relevant to human medicine is research that uses superior non-animal methods, such as sophisticated computer modeling, engineered human tissue and organs on microchips, which can gauge the effectiveness of drugs on human cells. In fact, Harvard University just announced the development of a 3-D-printed heart-on-a-chip, which will pave the way for rapid customization to an individual patient’s cells.

So perhaps it’s time for OHSU—and others who continue to conduct archaic experiments on animals—to embrace modern, non-animal research methods and develop some empathy of their own.

It’s long past time to free chimpanzees from labs

By Justin Goodman
 
Last month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it would retire all federally owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries, a move that came after decades of campaigning by PETA and other animal advocates. While this is welcome and long overdue news, the fight for chimpanzee freedom isn’t quite over yet.
 
Chimpanzees have been tormented in experiments since the early 1950s, when the U.S. Air Force captured dozens of young chimpanzees in Africa and brought them back to the States for use in violent crash tests that broke their necks, burned their skin off, caused traumatic brain injuries and killed many.
 
But the plight of chimpanzees in laboratories was not catapulted into the public consciousness until 1986, when a group of animal liberationists broke into the NIH-funded SEMA laboratory (now BIOQUAL) in Rockville, Maryland, and documented the miserable living conditions of nearly 700 chimpanzees and other primates who were infected with illnesses including HIV (even though we’ve known since then that chimpanzees do not get sick from HIV and never develop AIDS), locked alone inside cages too small for them to stand or lie down properly and imprisoned in the building’s basement, where they suffered in loneliness and pain. What activists found at SEMA jump-started efforts to free chimpanzees from laboratories.
 
Dr. Jane Goodall described a subsequent visit to SEMA as “the worst experience of my life.” Over the next three decades, Dr. Goodall, PETA and other animal-protection groups campaigned vigorously to get approximately 1,000 chimpanzees out of laboratories (including BIOQUAL), organizing demonstrations, filing countless federal complaints, lobbying members of Congress, filing shareholder resolutions, criticizing the ineffectiveness of experiments on great apes and more.
 
A breakthrough came in 2011, when a landmark Institute of Medicine (IOM) report commissioned by the NIH at the behest of Congress concluded that experiments on chimpanzees — including those taking place at the time in which baby chimpanzees were infected with norovirus or hepatitis — are “unnecessary,” something that PETA and others had testified to during the IOM hearings and had been saying for decades.

As a result, the NIH suspended funding for new experiments on chimpanzees while it considered its next steps.
 
In 2013, NIH announced that it was cutting funding for virtually all experiments on chimpanzees and retiring 310 of the 360 chimpanzees it owned to sanctuaries.

The remaining 50 were allegedly being kept for some hypothetical, unknown future use, an ill-advised decision criticized by PETA and others.
 
Then, in September of this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expanded “endangered” status to chimpanzees in laboratories, effectively banning invasive experiments on these highly endangered animals and ruling out NIH’s plan to potentially use chimpanzees again in the future.

This and NIH’s determination that there is a “complete absence of interest” in such experiments provided the impetus behind last week’s announcement that all the chimpanzees held by the agency would be retired to sanctuaries.
 
However, despite NIH’s pledges dating back to 2013, few chimpanzees have actually been transferred from laboratories to sanctuaries and many have died while waiting.
 
Some of these chimpanzees are just a few years old, while others have been imprisoned in laboratories for half a century. They all now have a chance to experience the peace and freedom of a sanctuary. NIH needs to act quickly to fulfill its promise before any more chimpanzees die waiting for the freedom that they’ve been promised.
 
Members of Congress who’ve been advocating for retiring the chimpanzee since the 1990s recognize the urgency of the situation, too. Right after the NIH announcement, representatives Sam Farr and Lucille Roybal-Allard wrote to NIH Director Francis S. Collins requesting that he immediately make financial arrangements for the promised retirements and provide specific details about NIH’s timeline and strategy for transferring all federally owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries.
 
As Jane Goodall has said, “If we do not do something to help these creatures, we make a mockery of the whole concept of justice.”

Time to retire cruel, archaic monkey experiments!

By Justin Goodman
 
Most people are probably familiar with the infamous experiments conducted by Harry Harlow starting in the 1950s.

Harlow — whom author Laurel Braitman calls “a dark lord of monkey torture” in her new book, Animal Madness — tore newborn monkeys away from their mothers, gave some infants “surrogate mothers” made of wire and wood, and kept other traumatized babies in isolation in tiny metal boxes to cause them irreparable psychological damage.

They rocked incessantly, bit and clutched at themselves and ripped out their own hair. Some even died.
 
You’d be forgiven for thinking that these archaic experiments had already gone the way of transistor radios, Polaroid cameras, the Edsel and other ’50s-era relics, but similar experiments have continued for 30 years—and you’re still paying for them.

That’s what PETA discovered after obtaining more than 500 hours of videos, hundreds of photographs and many internal documents from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through a Freedom of Information Act request for which the agency unsuccessfully tried to charge PETA $100,000.
 
Terrorizing baby monkeys is archaic, morally reprehensible and completely irrelevant to our understanding and treatment of human mental illness, and it needs to stop.
 
Every year, dozens of monkeys are intentionally bred to be genetically predisposed to mental illness in the NIH laboratory of psychologist Steven Suomi, a Harlow protégé. Currently, some 200 monkeys of various ages are being used in these cruel and archaic studies.
 
Half of the monkeys born each year are separated from their mothers within hours of birth and never returned.

As in Harlow’s experiments, some are given only a fabric-covered bottle to cling to in place of their mother. They undergo years of terrifying and often painful experiments that are designed to cause them to suffer from severe anxiety, fear, depression and other physical and mental illnesses. A

As they age, some monkeys are forcibly addicted to alcohol, making their symptoms even worse. 
 
NIH videos obtained by PETA reveal that in recent experiments, newborn infants were restrained inside tiny cages and placed in isolation in “startle chambers.”

The experimenters terrified the babies with loud noises, causing them to cry out and try frantically to hide or escape.

In some trials, the experimenters released a realistic-looking electronic snake into the cage with the baby monkeys, who innately fear the reptiles.
 
In other experiments, infants were caged with their mothers, but the mothers were chemically sedated. The terrified babies screamed and cried, climbing onto and frantically shaking their unresponsive mothers.

In one case, experimenters can be heard laughing while a mother struggles to remain awake to comfort her distraught infant.
 
In a pathetic attempt to defend the barbaric project, NIH made the ludicrous statement that the laboratory is “not that different from a human nursery”! 
 
In the past seven years alone, these experiments have received $30 million in taxpayer money, even though they have never led to the development or improvement of treatments for human mental illness.

As far back as 1977, Suomi acknowledged, “Most monkey data that readily generalize to humans have not uncovered new facts about human behavior …” After four more decades of these useless experiments, nothing has changed. In a recent paper, Suomi and his colleagues wrote, “[T]his animal model of maternal separation has never been validated as a measure of drug efficacy in humans. … The only way to know definitively whether [anti-depressant drugs work] in humans would be to study our species.” 
 
Meanwhile, researchers who actually do study our species—conducting sophisticated brain imaging and other human-based research that actually benefits human health—struggle to find funding.
 
Respected researchers, mental health professionals and primate experts including Dr. Jane Goodall have joined PETA to urge NIH to end its maternal deprivation experiments on baby monkeys and modernize its research program.
 
Technology has changed since the 1950s, and so has science. Just as doctors would no longer dream of endorsing cigarettes and parents would no longer buy radioactive science kits for their kids, it’s time for NIH to stop conducting and funding equally indefensible and archaic experiments on monkeys.
 

No double standard for captive endangered animals

By Julia Gallucci

Those concerned about the present and future conditions of chimpanzees—humankind’s closest genetic relative—have been given reason to feel optimistic: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently proposed a rule that would, if adopted, finally close a loophole in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations that has allowed these intelligent and social primates to be bought, sold and traded, then harmed, harassed and wounded in captivity.

An immediate benefit of the rule change, if the ESA is properly enforced, would be that chimpanzees could no longer be torn away from their mothers as babies, physically abused and forced to “perform” in television shows, ads and movies.

On the same day that the FWS announced its proposal (and following a vigorous PETA campaign), authorities in Nye County, Nev., voted unanimously to deny notorious exhibitor Mike Casey a permit to keep four chimpanzees in their county when he is not renting them out for use in TV, films, ads and events. Casey has reportedly kicked and punched chimpanzees, struck them with wooden rods and doused them with hot water.

Undercover investigations have documented that the physical abuse of chimpanzee “actors” is a common practice behind the scenes. Systematic abuse causes animals to become perpetually anxious; indeed, the chimpanzee “grin” so often seen in movies and on television is actually a grimace of fear.

With equitable and meaningful ESA enforcement, chimpanzees would also be spared the pain and misery of being imprisoned in laboratories to endure invasive experiments that offer no benefit to their species—or to our own. As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) declared in 2011, “[M]ost current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary.”

Following the landmark IOM report, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) formed a committee to reassess its support for the use of chimpanzees in experiments. In addition to echoing the findings of the IOM regarding current experiments, it concluded overall that “research involving chimpanzees has rarely accelerated new discoveries or the advancement of human health for infectious diseases.” Last month, the NIH announced that it will cut funding for most invasive biomedical experiments on chimpanzees and grant sanctuary to at least 310 of the 360 federally owned chimpanzees currently imprisoned in laboratories.

In recent experiments funded and conducted by the NIH, chimpanzees were intentionally infected with malaria and fed upon by thousands of mosquitoes placed on their shaved skin. Baby chimpanzees were exposed to norovirus by injection or by forcing liquid filtered from human stool down their throats and then subjected to months of painful biopsies and other invasive procedures. Norovirus and malaria are two of the many disease areas in which the IOM and NIH have determined that the use of chimpanzees is unnecessary, but the experiments continued simply because they had easy access to them. That’s now going to change.

If the FWS rule is implemented and properly enforced, it would also offer vital leverage to efforts already underway to defend other endangered animals against harm and exploitation. It could herald an end to similarly unjustified exemptions from legal protections for other endangered animals held in captivity, including the improper exclusion of Lolita, the sole captive orca at the Miami Seaquarium, from the ESA listing of Southern Resident orcas. The FWS proposal reinforces the petition submitted by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Orca Network to the National Marine Fisheries Service calling for Lolita to receive the same protections as the Southern Resident orca family that she was torn from more than 40 years ago. The unjust exclusion from the safeguards against harm and harassment afforded by the ESA has allowed the Miami Seaquarium to hold Lolita in the smallest orca tank in North America.

The ESA must protect all endangered animals equally—whether they are in captivity or their natural environments—and thankfully, the FWS is finally recognizing this.

A mouse is not a man — or a tool

By Kathy Guillermo

There are two lessons to be learned from the startling new study reporting that decades of burn, sepsis and trauma experiments on mice have led nowhere: First, mice aren’t good stand-ins for humans. The second one I’ll get to in a minute.

The study, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, examined human cells and found that what happens to mice when they’re burned and infected isn’t the same as what happens to people. The time and resources spent using mice to try to figure out how to treat humans are “a heartbreaking loss of decades of research and billions of dollars,” according to National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins. Scientists now understand why all 150 drugs developed using these animals failed in human patients. The study’s lead author stated, “[Researchers] are so ingrained in trying to cure mice that they forget we are trying to cure humans.”

The cost to everyone—patients, taxpayers and mice—is enormous.

Here’s the second lesson: If scientists and their funders had taken the ethical course from the start—that is, if they had not harmed and killed some beings in an effort to help others—we might be much further along scientifically. As a nation, we’d be more progressive ethically, too.

Look at some of the burn studies now being conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Mice, dogs, sheep and pigs are burned over as much as 40 percent of their bodies with a scorching-hot metal rod or the open flame of a Bunsen burner. The animals suffer for weeks before they are killed. In some of the experiments, animals are also forced to inhale smoke to injure the lining of their respiratory tract.

It’s tempting to say that now we know that the mice—and likely the dogs, pigs and sheep—suffered for nothing. They surely did. (And now, as PETA supporter Paul Harvey would have said, for the rest of the story: The university fired three supervisors and was fined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after PETA provided evidence that the animals were denied adequate pain relief for their burns.)

Animals have suffered for decades in dead-end laboratory searches for cures for human ailments. The Food and Drug Administration has reported that 90 percent of drugs that test safe and effective in animals either fail to work in humans or harm them. A 90 percent failure rate should be unacceptable. It’s certainly ample evidence that animals, while they no doubt feel pain and want to lead their own lives, are nevertheless not biological replicas of humans. Recent landmark reports have even found that chimpanzees, humans’ closest genetic relatives, are terrible models of human ailments.

If animals had been left out of this scientific equation, would science be further along in its quest for drugs to treat burn and trauma patients? What avenue not pursued might have been the right path to helping people?

But even if experimenters had learned something useful, it would still be wrong to take a Bunsen burner to a tiny mouse. It is wrong to lay a red-hot metal bar against the body of a dog. It is wrong to take a blowtorch to the sensitive skin of a pig. It is wrong to poison, infect, manipulate and cut up animals in a laboratory.

We all owe the authors of this study a huge thank-you. They have proved once again that it is modern studies using human cells, not deadly experiments on animals, that will actually help people who have been badly burned. But now is a good time to learn the larger lesson: We can and must solve human problems without harming animals.

There’s been a delay … / ICT PETA op ed

The Housing Report (for the City of Worcester) is not ready. Should be coming out around Oct. 18. – R. T.
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Starving monkeys won’t help humans live longer

By Alka Chandna, Ph.D.

Since the late 1980s, experimenters at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the University of Wisconsin–Madison have isolated monkeys in tiny barren cages and kept them chronically underfed—giving them a whopping 30 percent fewer calories than they needed—to see if this would make the animals live longer. Now, more than two decades later, the NIA experimenters report that 20-plus years of unrelieved deprivation had no effect on the monkeys’ life spans.

This hideous experiment may not have extended the animals’ lives, but it certainly made their pitifully caged lives more miserable.

While it is always unethical to confine and kill animals for experimentation, condemning smart, social animals to a lifetime of hunger and isolation, just to prove a point, is especially egregious. It’s time for these so-called “caloric-restriction”—read, “starvation”—experiments to end and for the government to stop paying for this cruelty.

Primates are extremely intelligent animals who form intricate relationships, experience the same wide range of emotions as we do and exhibit a capacity for suffering similar to that of humans. And like us, rhesus macaque monkeys—the species used in the starvation experiments—are highly social animals who need companionship in order to thrive.

In their natural homes, these gregarious animals live in multigenerational troops with up to 200 other monkeys. They spend their days traveling miles through lush forest terrain and grooming one another. In the caloric-restriction experiments, they are confined alone in metal cages so small that they can take only a step or two in any given direction. Most likely, they will die in these cages. The cheap plastic toys and scratched mirrors commonly given to monkeys in laboratories as “environmental enrichment” are poor substitutes for the companionship of another living being.

Rhesus monkeys also have impressive intellectual abilities. They can count, use tools, communicate complex information and express empathy, and they possess a sense of fairness—something that many experimenters seem to lack.

In one particularly horrible experiment, described in Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, macaques were fed only if they pulled a chain that electrically shocked another monkey, whose agony was in plain view through a one-way mirror. The majority of the monkeys preferred to go hungry rather than pulling the chain. One refused to eat for 14 days.

Sadly, these astonishing traits have not saved monkeys from being abused in laboratories.

When the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s experiments were first made public in 2009, PETA filed complaints with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Our concerns were dismissed, and the monkeys remain in their barren cages, waiting to die.

Even if the results of the starvation experiments had turned out differently, if the researchers had discovered that chronic deprivation prolongs life, so what? What difference would it make? When most of us eat too much rather than too little, is it realistic to expect that people will voluntarily go hungry—not for weeks or months but for years and decades—even if it means adding a few years to their lives?

Previous studies have shown us that being obese can shorten a person’s life span by as much as a decade and that the cholesterol, saturated fat and toxins in meat and fish increase the risk of early death. According to the American Cancer Society, one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States can be attributed to nutritional factors. And still we gorge ourselves on meat, dairy products, sugar, soda and heavily processed foods and wonder why we get sick.

We already know how to improve our health and prevent many of the ills often associated with aging. Locking up animals for decades in cruel and pointless experiments is not the answer.

Were animals the Colorado theater killer’s first victims?

By Alka Chandna

As our nation grieves the massacre at Aurora, Colorado’s Century 16 multiplex, the recurring question in many of our minds is, “How?” How could anyone be so cruel, so violent, so numb to the suffering of others that he could blast away unsuspecting victims in cold blood and not display a hint of remorse?

There is no easy explanation for such senseless violence, and there is never an excuse or justification for it. But a look into alleged shooter James E. Holmes’ history reveals that he was immersed in a field of study—neuroscience—in which violence against helpless sentient beings is deeply ingrained.

Neuroscience departments at universities across the country subject animals to painful, terrifying experiments. In a decades-long series of highly invasive experiments to study visual tracking, monkeys have coils implanted in both eyes; the tops of their skulls cut off so that electrodes can be inserted into their brains; and screws, bolts and plates attached directly to their skulls so that their heads can be bolted into place. The monkeys are then kept constantly thirsty so that they will cooperate for a sip of water. Experimenters call this “developing a work ethic.”

In other experiments, the tops of cats’ skulls are lopped off; solitary squirrel monkeys are locked inside steel cages, addicted to methamphetamines and cocaine, and strapped into restraint chairs and shocked; and baby monkeys are snatched from their mothers so that experimenters can measure the impact that this early-life trauma has on addiction in the monkeys.

In addition to likely being exposed to torturous experiments such as these, according to his résumé, Holmes participated in brain-mapping experiments on songbirds, in which it is likely that holes were drilled into the birds’ heads and electrodes implanted in their brains. Holmes also participated in the dissection of hummingbirds and mice—which desensitizes students to the sanctity of life and which, as research suggests, can foster callousness toward animals and nature.

How can being exposed to such routine cruelty and violence and being told that it’s “normal” do anything but erode a person’s ethics? Most people who cut into the brains of monkeys don’t go on shooting sprees at their local movie theater, but the violence of experiments on animals is so egregious and the suffering that they cause is so extreme, couldn’t exposing an emotionally disturbed person—as Holmes apparently is—to such violence be enough to destroy his or her last ounce of empathy for others? Every person who is forced to dissect, imprison, harm and kill animals in a laboratory must set aside normal feelings of empathy and compassion, which is its own kind of tragedy.

There is no reason to continue subjecting animals—and science students—to this obscene violence. Human clinical and epidemiological studies, human tissue- and cell-based research methods, cadavers, sophisticated high-fidelity human-patient simulators and computational models are more reliable, more precise, less expensive and far more humane than animal experiments.

We may not be able to stop all violent tragedies, but the tools to end senseless violence in laboratories are already at our disposal. We can—and should—use them instead of causing more innocent victims to suffer.

Animals in Labs Week, Part 1

Sunday, April 22, marked the beginning of Animals in Labs Week. For more than 10 years InCity Times has tried to enlighten folks about the needless torture of animals, courtesy of the many labs, research institutes and universities throughout the US and the world. So many of these horrific experiments (see below) are unnecessary! So many of the animals (ie chimps) lead deprived, horrific lives for decades – all in the name of industry/science. The cosmetic industry has subjected millions of rabbbits to toxic levels of makeup – pointless “overkill.” Monkeys have been given the AIDS virus and then … at the end of their lives … not even mercifully retired to gentler habitats. Cramped cages, hardened handlers, blood curdling deaths, animals in labs live a kind of hell that we can never imagine. From Harvard University where recently five chimps have died in their research labs, to high school “experiments,” animals in labs suffer … and need your help. Read on to learn more! – Rosalie Tirella

Some animals can use tools? Who cares?

By Kathy Guillermo

Years ago, I had a wonderful companion animal named Angus. He was a remarkable little fellow who loved to greet visitors to my house and snuggle next to me on the sofa. His favorite food was Chinese carry-out, and he went bonkers when he saw the white cardboard containers come out of the plastic bag on the kitchen table. He was loyal and sweet-tempered—probably not so different from your own dog or cat.

Except that Angus wasn’t a dog or cat. He was a rat.

A brown rat with shiny black eyes and a long pink tail. He lived on a table-top in my home, where he never had to be shut in his cage. He liked to cruise around the house perched on my shoulder.

So it was with particular interest that I read a study on rats, which found that rats can be trained to use tools, to understand the tools’ functions and to choose the most appropriate tool when presented with more than one. Before this, the study says, it was thought that only primates and some birds, in addition to humans, were capable of figuring this out.

So here’s my response, and I hope it’s yours too: Who cares?

Should we change the way we view rats because some of them can be taught how to use a little rake to draw food toward themselves? Of course not. We should change our attitude toward rats because they are thinking, feeling, living beings with a sense of humor, an affectionate nature and a capacity for suffering that the human race should stop ignoring.

This study is just the latest in a long line of experiments that should have convinced us of this long ago. Researchers at the University of Berne, Switzerland, announced that rats are influenced by the kindness of strangers. If rats have been assisted by rats they’ve never met before, they are more likely to help other rats in the future. A sort of rodent version of “Pay It Forward.”

Other studies have shown that rats become distressed when they see other rats being electrically shocked. We shouldn’t be surprised—though apparently the experimenters were—that the rats become even more agitated if they know or are related to the rat being shocked.

Scientists with special recording equipment have shown that rats laugh out loud in frequencies that can’t be heard by the human ear. Young rats who are being tickled are the most likely to giggle. Rats have been shown to be altruistic and have risked their own lives to save other rats, especially when the rats in peril are babies.

All of these studies, including the one on tool use, are published in journals, and news releases are sent out, and science bloggers chat online about them, but in the end, what difference does it make to rats? Rats and mice, that other unfairly maligned species, are still used and killed by the tens of millions in U.S. laboratories every year. They are denied even the minimal coverage of the Animal Welfare Act, the only federal law offering any sort of protection to animals in laboratories.

So while it may pique the curiosity of some that rats can be taught to use tools, the more interesting result of this and all the studies that came before it is that experimenters apparently can’t be taught to put the results of studies to good use. If experimenters had this ability—the sort of reasoning that should get one from A to B in a logical way—they’d read the evidence that rats can think, learn, feel, laugh, act altruistically and risk their lives for others, and they’d stop caging and hurting them in laboratories. When a person knows that another being can suffer, and yet deliberately sets about causing that suffering, shouldn’t we worry less about which species can use tools, and more about the callousness of some people?

Kathy Guillermo is vice president of Laboratory Investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the author of Monkey Business, The Disturbing Case That Launched the Animal Rights Movement. Readers may write to her at: PETA, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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States should give bunnies a break

By Kathy Guillermo

Not so long ago, every pregnancy test performed in a laboratory involved killing a rabbit. Happily, better methods were developed and the old rabbit tests, along with the euphemism, “Did the rabbit die?”—meaning, “Are you pregnant?”—faded into history. The new tests were quicker and easier and represented a big leap forward for lab technicians, as well as for rabbits.

New Jersey and California have embraced a similar kind of progress by passing laws that prohibit product tests on animals when a federally approved alternative exists. Every state should follow suit and mandate the use of available non-animal tests instead of live animals. Every manufacturer—not just those in New Jersey and California—should use the non-animal methods available, whether or not such a law is in place.

Here’s one reason why: Companies have tested chemicals for corrosivity by locking rabbits into full-body restraints and smearing a chemical onto the shaved skin on their backs. A chemical is considered to be “corrosive” if it eats through the skin, burning away several layers of tissue. No painkillers or anesthetics are used. At the end of the test, the rabbit is killed or “recycled” into other tests.

Chemical corrosivity can now be evaluated using a “human skin equivalent” test called Corrositex, approved by federal officials, which uses a protein membrane designed to function like skin. The results are accurate, it’s quick and no one gets hurts.

There are a surprising number of sophisticated non-animal tests now in use and in development. Unlike Corrositex, not all of them have been given the thumbs up by government officials, but that hasn’t stopped scientists here and around the world from recognizing that these new methods are faster, cheaper and a whole lot kinder. PETA has contributed more than $760,000 so far to the development of these superior test methods.

Many researchers also understand that humans differ from animals in their metabolism, biochemistry, physiology, genetic makeup and gene expression and that this means that studies on animals can mislead us. This is most obvious in the pharmaceutical arena. Nine out of 10 drugs that test safe and effective on animals fail in human trials. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs that do make it to market—drugs successfully tested on animals—kill 100,000 people in the U.S. every year, making it one of our country’s leading causes of death.

We don’t have to choose between animals and people. It is really a choice between effective and ineffective science.

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A terrible waste of money and lives

By Kathy Guillermo

Are worms gay? If they are, what does that mean for humans? Such questions may sound entirely irrelevant to anything in our lives, but some scientists, including Erik Jorgensen at the University of Utah, have apparently received money to study these questions. The worms—nematodes, really—are tiny, 1-millimeter-long creatures who live in soil. Most are hermaphrodites, which means that each worm produces both sperm and eggs. The Times of London reported that Jorgensen activated a gene in the hermaphrodite worms’ brains, which apparently convinced them to try to mate with other hermaphrodites rather than just with the male worms.

The conclusion, according to Jorgensen’s quote in the Times: “We cannot say what this means for human sexual orientation, but it raises the possibility that sexual preference is wired in the brain.”

Hey, there’s something no one ever thought of before.

This study serves as a reminder that there are only so many research dollars available, and most of it comes from your taxes. Do you want to foot the bill for experiments that don’t have anything to do with preventing or curing illness? Or for studies that are obviously redundant or pointless? Or for experiments that are so cruel that whatever is learned from them simply isn’t worth the cost?

I’m opposed to using animals for experimentation on ethical grounds, and I also believe—as science frequently shows—that most studies on animals aren’t particularly relevant to humans. But even those who support research on animals should be careful about accepting the experimentation industry’s claim that the use of animals in laboratories will help find cures for Alzheimer’s, AIDS, Parkinson’s, cancer and other diseases that are frightening just to contemplate. Consider first what some experimenters get paid big money to do.

Johns Hopkins University announced that it was attempting to create a “schizophrenic” mouse by inserting a gene from the DNA of a human family with schizophrenic members into a mouse. Yet a diagnosis of schizophrenia hinges on the patient hearing voices that aren’t there and seeing things others don’t see. How exactly does an experimenter know if this is true of mice, even if a gene has been inserted?

At Oregon Health & Science University, experimenter Eliot Spindel injects the fetuses of pregnant monkeys with nicotine and then gives the mothers vitamin supplements to see if that makes it “safer” to smoke while pregnant. Yet we’ve known since 1972 that smoking is harmful to human fetuses. Spindel’s money would have been better spent convincing pregnant women not to smoke.

Under the guise of studying fetal alcohol syndrome, David J. Earnest at Texas A&M Health Science Center examined sleep problems in baby rats who were force-fed alcohol. Perhaps Earnest is unaware that human infants don’t binge-drink after birth.

At universities and primate centers across the country, experimenters are still tearing infant monkeys from their mothers to observe the detachment and psychosis that result from this trauma. These are variations on the dreadful experiments conducted by Harry Harlow more than 40 years ago. How often do we need to prove that taking love and comfort from a baby monkey will destroy the animal’s happiness and ability to cope with life?

I could go on and on—monkeys who have the tops of their skulls removed, electrodes stuck in their brains and wire coils implanted in their eyes to look at the connection between eye movement and the brain; birds whose testicles are sucked out so that experimenters can examine what happens to their songs; cats who have their backs cut open and weights attached to their spinal tissue and are then killed, supposedly to study lower back problems in people. The list seems endless.

These animals are caged for their entire lives, traumatized, physically and emotionally damaged, killed and cut up for experiments that don’t even pretend to be about saving humans. Whether or not you agree with me that it’s unethical to do this to animals for any reason, surely it’s obvious that much experimentation on animals is a terrible waste of money and lives.

Kathy Guillermo is vice president of Laboratory Investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the author of Monkey Business, The Disturbing Case That Launched the Animal Rights Movement.

Worcester City Clerk David Rushford (hog at the municipal trough) and my Christmas gifts …

By Rosalie Tirella
I could write about how I believe Worcester City Councilors Konnie Lukes and Phil Palmeiri are absolutely RIGHT when they say  City Clerk David Rushford needs to get off the city trough and give up all the dough he is making marrying people, as justice of peace in our City Hall – but I won’t. It’s Christmas. 
But I will say this for now since it will come up for a city council vote soon: If Rushford, who makes over $150,000 between his City Clerk job, his Elections Commission job and his private Justice of the Peace business which he is allowed to run out of City Hall  using City Hall space, time etc ,  wants to do the marrying  job on city time using city resources then he should not be allowed to collect the $60 – $100 fee he charges every time he marries a (1) couple. THAT MONEY SHOULD GO TO THE CITY. IT IS A JOB HE IS PERFORMING IN CITY HALL ON CITY TIME.
Doesn’t the guy make enough money? Hasn’t he hogged three jobs all to himself? Does he need to be the justice of peace from hell? I pity his poor clerks this holiday season. They are working for a prima donna – and can’t utter a peeep.
SO: Let’s take Rushford’s windfall – which Rushford won’t disclose to the public (thousands of dollars) – and use his justice of the peace fees to open up a city branch library or run a program for city kids. We hope Worcester follows Boston, whose city coucilors are also pushing for the same reform, when it comes to keeping the “marrying” fees. Let’s hold our city leaders feet to the fire so they do the right thing.
*******************
Here’s my Christmas gift … I read this in the NYTimes recently.  
 InCity Times has been railing against using chimps for medical experiments (most researchers don’t need them to do their research). We wrote story after story about the issue. And now finally – progress.
 Also,  Congress is moving to ban exotic animals in cirucuses.  California is always ahead of the curve – great op/ed in LA Times:
This is exactly what ICTimes has been pushing for …  for YEARS!
Hooray!
So things like this never happen again: Ringling Bros was fined big time for animal abuse/neglect. One violation: Carting away tiger shit in a wheel barrow and then using the same  wheelbarrow to bring the big cats their food.
Pathetic.

Public joins Humane Society in urging Harvard University to prohibit severe animal suffering

More Than 26,000 People Call for New Lab Policy

(Dec. 7, 2011) — The Humane Society of the United States sent letters from 26,688 members of the public to Harvard University and 387 other federally-funded colleges and universities, urging the schools to adopt a formal policy that would protect animals in their laboratories from severe pain and distress. The signers of the letters oppose the use of tax dollars to support activities at the schools’ laboratories that cause severe animal suffering.

“Americans don’t want to pay for animal research that causes suffering,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director for animal research issues for The HSUS. “Harvard, which receives public funding for its animal research, is well known as an elite educational institution—it’s time for the university to lead the way in its commitment to animal welfare.”

The schools receiving the request for the new policy receive an estimated $6 billion in federal funding per year to conduct animal research. In 2010 Harvard received over $370 million in federal funds for research that includes experiments involving more than 180,000 monkeys, farm animals, cats, dogs, rats, rabbits and other animals used each year at the university.

Federal laws do not prohibit laboratory research or conditions that cause severe pain and distress in animals, but more than 60 colleges and universities have adopted their own policies that do.

Methods to prevent severe pain and distress for animals in laboratories could include:

Using non-animal alternatives when possible.
Properly using anesthetics and painkillers.
Decreasing duration and intensity of stressors.
Determining the most humane time to end the experiment.
Preparing for emergency situations.

Background
Since 2008, The HSUS has asked Harvard four times to adopt a policy that would prevent severe pain or distress, however the university has yet to adopt such a policy.
#

Media Contact: Anna West, 301-258-1518, awest@humanesociety.org.
Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “HumaneTV” app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.
Severe Animal Suffering

More Than 26,000 People Call for New Lab Policy

(Dec. 7, 2011) — The Humane Society of the United States sent letters from 26,688 members of the public to Harvard University and 387 other federally-funded colleges and universities, urging the schools to adopt a formal policy that would protect animals in their laboratories from severe pain and distress. The signers of the letters oppose the use of tax dollars to support activities at the schools’ laboratories that cause severe animal suffering.

“Americans don’t want to pay for animal research that causes suffering,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director for animal research issues for The HSUS. “Harvard, which receives public funding for its animal research, is well known as an elite educational institution—it’s time for the university to lead the way in its commitment to animal welfare.”

The schools receiving the request for the new policy receive an estimated $6 billion in federal funding per year to conduct animal research. In 2010 Harvard received over $370 million in federal funds for research that includes experiments involving more than 180,000 monkeys, farm animals, cats, dogs, rats, rabbits and other animals used each year at the university.

Federal laws do not prohibit laboratory research or conditions that cause severe pain and distress in animals, but more than 60 colleges and universities have adopted their own policies that do.

Methods to prevent severe pain and distress for animals in laboratories could include:
Using non-animal alternatives when possible.
Properly using anesthetics and painkillers.
Decreasing duration and intensity of stressors.
Determining the most humane time to end the experiment.
Preparing for emergency situations.

Background
Since 2008, The HSUS has asked Harvard four times to adopt a policy that would prevent severe pain or distress, however the university has yet to adopt such a policy.
#

Media Contact: Anna West, 301-258-1518, awest@humanesociety.org.
Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “HumaneTV” app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.