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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Media Coverage

Group alleges inhumane treatment to animals at Duke

BY BRIANNE DOPART :
The Herald-Sun
bdopart@heraldsun.com
Jul 11, 2007 : 10:21 pm ET

DURHAM -- The leader of an Ohio-based national animal rights watchdog group claims Duke University researchers have violated the school's own code of ethics in their treatment of primates.

Activist Michael Budkie, the executive director of the non-profit organization "Stop Animal Experimentation Now", has called for a meeting with Duke University President Richard Brodhead, hoping to spark a "dialogue" between his group and those who support using animals in research.

Although Budkie's organization would like to see the end of experimentation involving animals, Budkie's specific concerns at Duke include what he alleges is the inhumane treatment of rhesus monkeys used in experiments involving eye movement.

President Richard Brodhead is out of town for "another couple of weeks" and was not available to comment about Budkie's request, according to a member of his office staff.

Duke's Office of Animal Welfare Assurance refused to comment, and instead referred The Herald-Sun to the Duke Medical Center News Office. Medical Center News Director Chris DiFrancesco said he was not prepared to issue a statement when contacted Wednesday.

A description of one of the experiments Budkie claims is cruel and inhumane is available in a 2004 issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology, where it is described in the words of Duke University researchers who submitted the abstract to the journal.

The procedure outlined involved drilling six holes in a monkey's skull, inserting screws and implanting a "head-restraint prosthesis" which essentially secures the creature's head to a sort of high-tech vise, and was approved, according to the journal, by Duke University Medical Center veterinarians and the university's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. After that procedure, a second is performed which involves the insertion of a steel recording chamber into the creature's head.

The monkeys are given painkillers for a minimum of three days, according to the journal article, as per the Animal Care and Use Committee's code of ethics, which states that researchers have an obligation to use the least painful techniques feasible and to treat whatever pain they cause.

After the monkeys recover they have "controlled access to water" which Budkie alleges means that they can be denied water from between 12 and 22 hours a day. The journal article said water was controlled so that the monkeys would perform the task at hand for a reward of fruit juice.

Budkie isn't alone in questioning such research. Aysha Akhtar, M.D., of the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, believes the experiment in question is useless because the human brain is not similar enough to a monkey brain to provide reliable results.

Budkie claims that although Duke's code of ethics calls for an assessment of pain, it's too vague, and allows for practices like denying a primate water ignoring the stress and discomfort that might cause. No human, he said, would consent to an experiment involving having a device implanted in the brain. That alone, he said, means that the experiment is inhumane and should not be performed on animals.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already looked into Budkie's concerns, according to a spokeswoman, Jessica Milteer. She said that any complaints like Budkie's are acknowledged in the form of a letter, like one dated June 20 and sent to Budkie from Elizabeth Goldentyer, director of the Eastern Region office of APHIS, and acted upon.

Ordinarily, Milteer said, the agency sends an inspector to the lab in question immediately after receiving the complaint, but she would not say precisely when that inspection would have taken in place.

Milteer said it is not the policy of the USDA to confirm or deny whether or not an investigation is being launched, and said that sending an inspector to the lab -- as promised in the letter sent to Budkie -- did not mean the USDA was officially investigating Duke.

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