Articles and Reports
Events and Campaigns
How You Can Help
Make a Donation, Please!
Resources and Links
Grass Roots Org. List
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe
out animal experimentation"
UW falls under fire from animal-rights group
by Dylan Lee Lehrke The Daily
A Cincinnati-based animal rights group has filed a complaint with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) against 50 research institutions,
including the UW. The group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), claims
that researchers are misleading the U.S. Department of Agriculture by not
accurately reporting how much pain and distress animals endure in
experiments, and has requested that the laboratories be investigated.
According to federal regulations, whenever a regulated species is used in
experiments that are potentially painful or stressful without anesthesia,
these procedures must be reported to the USDA. The USDA does not regulate
fish, birds and lab species of mice and rats, although wild mice and rats
are regulated. SAEN claims that 94 percent of laboratories, including the
UW, are not following this requirement.
"I don’t think that is correct," said Dr. William Morton, director of the
Regional Primate Research Center at the University. "We do report very
However, the founder of SAEN, Michael Budkie, pointed to the research of
Dr. Albert Fuchs, Dr. Chris Kaneko and Dr. Michael Shadlen as examples of
experiments at the UW he believed were not reported accurately.
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at the UW is the
group that approves all experiment protocols, including those of the
researchers cited by Budkie. To get an experiment approved, the researcher
must file a project-review form that explains what research they are doing
and why. The committee spends a significant amount of time ensuring USDA
paperwork is properly filled out, according to IACUC executive secretary
Dr. Nona Phillips.
The USDA defines "painful" as more than momentary pain or discomfort. The
USDA’s pain and distress categories are C, for no pain or distress; D, for
pain or distress relieved by drugs; and E, for pain or distress without
relief. The UW does not conduct any category E experiments according to
Morton, but the UW also uses pain and distress categories that predate the
The UW’s category 1 experiments are not painful. By this definition,
vaccinations are not considered painful. However, the UW sedates all
animals for vaccinations and blood samples.
Category 2 experiments have the potential for pain. This includes most
surgeries and the capture of any wild animals. Most animal experiments at
the UW fall into this category, including the research of Shadlen, Fuchs
Category 3 experiments presume that there is going to be some degree of
pain without relief-form anesthesia. The UW approves only one or two new
category 3 experiments each year and category 4 experiments, which involve
significant pain, are never done at the UW, according to Phillips.
"We work with the faculty to modify a plan so it is not a category 3
anymore," said Phillips. Mel Dennis, chair of comparative medicine and UW
attending veterinarian added this was one of the primary reasons for
maintaining the IACUC at the UW.
"When reviewing a protocol, the basic thing is that if it is painful in a
person, it is presumed to be painful in an animal," said Dennis. But,
while pain is measurable, Dennis admits determining when stress becomes
distress is more difficult.
Dennis pointed out many students experience stress when they are about to
take a test, but very few of them are distressed. The USDA is also having
difficulty defining distress, since tolerance is variable, not only
between species but also among members of the same species.
Brain-mapping was one area in which the UW was accused of causing pain and
stress in animals without relief. Most brain-mapping is done in a
non-invasive way using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and poistron
emission tomography (PET) imaging, according to Morton. In order for the
IACUC to approve invasive mapping with unanethesized primates, researchers
provide scientific justification for the procedure.
Shadlen’s project-review form cited the fact that the resolution of MRI
and PET imaging is coarse, and it is impossible to observe activity in
detail. In addition, the experiments require awake, behaving monkeys to
observe the links between physiological activity and behavior.
Brain-mapping requires that primates have recording cylinders and
restraining bars attached to their skulls during multiple surgeries. The
primates are kept under anesthetics during the procedure and receive
analgesics during recovery. The implanted hardware does not cause any
discomfort, according to Shadlen’s protocol. After the implants have
healed, primates are put in restraint chairs and electrodes are inserted
into their brains. Since the chairs are individually adjusted for each
monkey and there are no pain receptors in the brain, this experiment is
considered painless by project-review forms. The protocols of Fuchs and
Kaneko are similar in nature.
"I don’t know how this type of experimentation can be classified as
anything but category E," said Budke. "It at least puts the animal in
According to SAEN, 41 of the 50 institutions that had a complaint filed
against them use some form of intensive restraint. During one instance at
the University of Wisconsin Madison, primates were confined to restraint
chairs for 104 consecutive hours.
The UW does not have a policy pertaining to the use of restraints, but
according to Morton, the maximum time an animal will spend in restraints
is two-three hours. Shadlen’s protocol sets the maximum limit at five
hours. The UW uses a standard-type restraining chair with a fixed collar,
which maintains the animal in the chair while still allowing movement in
the rest of the body.
"The animals are being forced to do things they don’t naturally do," said
Budkie. "Otherwise they wouldn’t need restraints." Budkie points out
primates are wide-ranging, social animals and the lab environment cannot
be anything but very stressful.
SAEN also claims that 20 out of the 50 institutions examined are routinely
depriving primates of food or water in ways that violate the Animal
Welfare Act. The complaint cited a number of cases of extreme water
deprivation that lasted 22 hours at the UC San Francisco and 19 hours a
day for five consecutive days at the University of Arizona.
To conduct brain-mapping experiments, primates must be trained to perform
certain tasks. Training is termed "operant conditional," involving fluid
rewards such as water and juice.
Although Morton first stated animals were not deprived of food or water,
he later amended his statement. The protocols of Shadlen, Fuchs and Kaneko
all deprive animals of food or water at some point. Shadlen’s research,
for example, controls water intake so the monkeys begin an experiment
"Access to food and water may be restricted before testing procedures to
help with motivation of the animal while in the testing booth," said
Morton, "however, animals receive additional supplements of food and water
following the testing procedure if they have not already met their daily
The IACUC has extensive guidelines to ensure that animals are maintained
in a healthy state and most protocols, including those Shadlen, state
explicitly that an animal will never go a full day without water. Fuchs
and Kaneko use food rewards to train the primates, and restrict their
diets while they learn the task.
SAEN said experiments besides brain-mapping were also reported
inaccurately, including the purposeful affliction of infectious diseases
on otherwise healthy animals.
The mission of the Washington Regional Primate Research Center is "to
pursue and support basic and clinical biomedical research utilizing
nonhuman primates with emphasis within the areas of AIDS-related
Some animals are simply given a vaccine, but others are challenged with a
virus such as Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, the primate equivalent of
AIDS. One of the major goals is to create disease models and create
vaccinations. If a vaccine fails and an animal gets ill, it is treated or
euthanized if necessary, according to Morton.
"We do not allow the animals to suffer," said Morton. "We do not need to."
The final complaint made by the SAEN was the issue of inadequate
veterinary care during experiments, which it believes should be addressed
by the USDA investigation. There are over 25 veterinarians on the UW
Medical Center staff whose job is to ensure the animals receive proper
care, according to Dennis.
According to Morton, the conflict with SAEN and other animal -ights groups
arises in the interpretation of what is painful and when an animal is in
"Nobody would do an experiment that would intentionally cause pain," said
Return to Media