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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
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Articles and Reports

Response to President Robert H. Bruininks of the University of Minnesota


1081-B St. Rt. 28 PMB 280
Milford, Ohio 45150
513-575-5517
www.saenonline.org 

7/10/08

President Robert H. Bruininks
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455

President Bruininks,

I have recently received a response to my original inquiry from your Vice President for Research, R. Timothy Mulcahy. I must say that his response is one of the clearest cases of administrative doubletalk that I have ever seen. Mulcahy does not address my request for a tour of University of Minnesota laboratories, nor does he address any of the specific concerns that are raised by my original communication. This is not an issue that will go away simply because you choose to ignore it. Neither will I allow you to avoid your responsibility by passing this issue off to an administrator who is apparently either unwilling to, or incapable of, directly answering questions.

So, my first question is, will you or will you not allow me to tour the laboratories of the University of Minnesota so that I can assess the health/welfare of the animals used within your facilities (with news media present)? The documents which I have previously obtained from the University of Minnesota have revealed serious situations involving the health and well being of primates. These issues cannot be effectively resolved without observation of the animals. Apparently the “strict protocols” and the multiple levels of government oversight mentioned by Mulcahy have not served to protect these animals. And though the IACUC has raised questions about several of the primate experimentation projects (see below), these questions have still not led the University of Minnesota to list any primates as experiencing unrelieved pain or distress for the last two years, despite depriving primates of water, bolting restraining bars into the bones of their skulls, and confining them to restraint chairs, or allowing them to potentially experience drug overdose and/or withdrawal.

Another reason that I believe that a tour is necessary is that several projects utilize procedures which involve substantial potential pain/distress for the primates, rhesus monkeys, that are used in these experiments. Two federally funded projects (though it appears that these projects may use the same animals) whose principal investigator is Timothy Ebner are prime examples of potential problems. These experiments involve confining primates to restraint chairs, depriving them of water, and isolating them socially. According to the protocol this project is considered a category B experiment. However, the University of Minnesota IACUC asked Ebner if this project should not be a pain class C experiment: “The committee noted that due to water deprivation and single housing, these animals are potentially pain class C.” Apparently your pain class C corresponds to column E on the USDA/APHIS form 7023. However, these animals are not being reported in this way. However, as I have stated previously, the Animal Welfare Act requires that:

Sec. 2.36 Annual report.

(7) State the common names and the numbers of animals upon which teaching, experiments, research, surgery, or tests were conducted involving accompanying pain or distress to the animals and for which the use of appropriate anesthetic, analgesic, or tranquilizing drugs would have adversely affected the procedures, results, or interpretation of the teaching, research, experiments, surgery, or tests. An explanation of the procedures producing pain or distress in these animals and the reasons such drugs were not used shall be attached to the annual report;

In the documentation that I have previously sent to you, medical and veterinary experts declared these procedures to definitely be causative of pain and distress. Apparently your IACUC agrees. Will you be changing the annual reports filed by the University to reflect these opinions for the future? And will you be amending your previously filed inaccurate USDA reports to reflect more accurate information in this regard?

It is also clear that Ebner’s project may not be following research standards for neurological research. The protocol titled “Role of the Cerebellum in visually guided arm movements . . . “ states that the primates will receive 25 ml/kg of body weight daily. This is a very severe reduction in fluid intake since “ . . . daily fluid consumption in primates has been reported at 75 ml/kg of BW.” (Kerr 1972, Wayner, 1964 in Guidelines for the Care and use of Mammals in Neuroscience and Behavioral Research). This reduction of water intake by as much as two thirds is unconscionable.

Similarly, with regard to experimentation performed by Marilyn Carroll, the University of Minnesota IACUC states in correspondence to Carroll: “You have listed animals on this study as pain class A animals. The committee is concerned that animals may be considered pain class B if imaging is conducted or if animals experience withdrawal symptoms that they may be considered pain class C.” Again, will the University of Minnesota be reclassifying the animals used in this experimentation as column E for USDA reporting purposes? Records in my possession clearly indicate that the subjects of this research suffer from symptoms of very severe psychological stress which have lead abnormal behavior (ripping out of their hair, etc.). Will this stress cause these animals to be listed in column E of the USDA reports for the University of Minnesota?

However, these issues by themselves do not address the concerns raised in my last communication. These issues were:

“It is clear that the experiments of Hendrix, Ebner and Carroll would fall into the category of unrelieved pain and distress for the animals involved. Failure to accurately report this experiment to the USDA is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. I am also very concerned about these primates having adequate access to water.

In light of these issues, I officially request that your office suspend these projects while instituting an investigation to ascertain whether they are following all legal requirements. I also officially request the opportunity to tour the laboratories in question, and examine the veterinary records for the macaque monkeys used in these experiments.

I would also like to request a meeting with University of Minnesota officials to discuss the permanent elimination of such research practices at University of Minnesota. To prevent any confusion about these issues, the procedures that should be eliminated from all University of Minnesota laboratories are:

1. The use of food and/or water deprivation in non-human primates for any reason but pre-surgical fasting. Depriving non-human primates of sustenance for extended periods as is currently practiced by University of Minnesota laboratories is inhumane, unethical, and has been declared causative of pain and distress by scientific experts.

2. The surgical attachment of devices such as restraining bars and recording cylinders to the skulls of non-human primates. These devices have also been declared by experts to cause pain and or distress in primates.

3. The use of primate restraint chairs in projects involving non-human primates. These devices severely restrict the movement of primates and have been declared by experts to cause substantial distress.

The University of Minnesota uses a significant number of primates in experiments every year. I believe it is very likely that some of these animals are killed unnecessarily, when they could be retired to a primate sanctuary to live out their lives in a place that is designed to meet their needs. Therefore, I respectfully request that the University of Minnesota institute a fully funded retirement program for all primates that are not currently utilized in ongoing research projects.”

I would like to add the research of Geoffrey Ghose to this list, because his experimentation utilizes these same procedures.

These issues were essentially left unanswered by Mulcahy. This is why I have again turned to your office in hopes of getting these issues fully addressed.
Also, so that I may continue to monitor the primates within the University of Minnesota, I have one further request.

This letter is made pursuant to the access to governmental data act of the state of Minnesota, Minn. Stat. Ann. 13.03 et seq.

This letter is to direct you, your officer(s) and/or your officer(s) and/or agents to provide me with copies of any and all documents and/or records as described below:

For all primates used at the University of Minnesota, I request all animal morbidity reports, all physical exam forms, all NHP alopecia pattern reports, and all primate necropsy reports for the last year. Also requested are all incoming shipping invoices for all primates receive within this period, as well as copies of all initial exams for newly obtained primates, as well as all documents received with incoming primates for the same period. Also requested are copies of all correspondence between the University of Minnesota and the USDA for the last two years. Also requested are all documents generated during the last year relevant to the monitoring of water consumption of primates within the laboratories of Timothy Ebner and Geoffrey Ghose.

If any of these documents are available in electronic format please provide them in this format.

The requester is prepared to pay for all actual search and copying fees, pursuant to Minn. Stat. Ann. 13.03 subd. 3, up to an initial amount of one hundred dollars ($100.00). If the fees will exceed this amount provide me with a detailed estimation of the fee, in advance before performing said work.

The requester asserts that all records requested above are public records as defined by Minn. Stat. Ann. 13.03 subd. 1. Should you come to an opposite decision, please segregate all claimed exempt portions, provide me with a detailed written statement of your position with specific reference to the exemptions of the law(s) or any other provision that prohibits said disclosure that you believe to apply, pursuant to Minn. Stat. Ann. 13.03 subd. 3.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next five business days.

With Respect For All Life,

Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T.,
Executive Director, SAEN

CC: R. Timothy Mulcahy, Ph.D.

See also : University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

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