Activists protest KU research methods
By AMY NEWPORT
Kansan Staff Writer
Four protesters from the Lawrence-based group Animal
Outreach of Kansas University stood Friday at the corner of 39th and
Rainbow Boulevard as part of "National Primate Liberation Week," a
protest in several cities against the use of monkeys, chimpanzees,
gorillas and other primates in medical research.
They displayed posters of a Rhesus monkey with a
portion of its skull cut away to reveal its brain. Two electrodes were
attached to the monkey's brain while blood trickled down its face.
The caption read; "This is animal experimentation -
Don't let anyone tell you different." The animal looks distressed and
unhappy. A passerby in a black truck asked when the photo was taken, but
the protesters didn't know.
Kansas University Medical Center spokesperson Dennis
McCullough said allowing an animal to suffer in pain is against research
ethics and standards.
"The animals are not treated like disposable
commodities," he said. "It is in our interest to maintain the life of
the animals. We are on the same side when it comes to caring about the
well being of the animals."
McCullough said the university regularly undergoes
inspections by accrediting organizations such as the Association for the
Assessment of Laboratory Animal Care. KU, he said, has a record of
providing the highest quality care and performing quality research.
Citing security and proprietary reasons, McCullough
would not say how many primates the university currently used or what
type. He said the location of the primate lab is kept confidential and
access is tightly controlled to protect the animals and the research.
McCullough said he had visited the primate lab in the past and the
animals seemed well cared for and not in distress.
He cited former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop when
justifying the need for animal research.
"Almost every major medical breakthrough has been in
some part due to animal research," McCullough said. "The protesters have
no proof the animals are mistreated or not well cared for because there
is none. All the research done is needed and well justified.".
Even if the animals are well cared for, said protestor
Cristina Maki, they still suffer.
"The animals have been taken out of their natural
habitat and are forced to live isolated lives in metal cages," said
Maki, and 18-year-old student at Johnson County Community College.
"There is no need to use animals in medical or cosmetic research. There
are plenty of substitutes available such as computer models and tissue
samples from cadavers."
"KU medical center," she said, "Has infected Rhesus
monkeys with HIV and performed transgenic mutation experiments along
with other types of genetic experiments."
Another protestor, 18-year-old Patrick Tyrell, admires
the school's academic programs, but thinks it should not use animals in
research. He said medical breakthroughs such as MRI's, CT scans, and the
polio vaccine had been developed without the use of animal testing.
Maki and Tyrell, a KU student, are committed
vegetarians, meaning they do not believe animals should be used for any
type of food production including wool, dairy and eggs.
Most passers-by were mildly interested in the
protesters' literature and accepted handouts. A young man in small black
truck shouted to them as it pulled away from a stoplight.
"If a cure for cancer was developed you won't get
any," he said.
Tyrell shrugged and said it was typical of the mindset
of many that a cure for cancer or other disease would come from animal