Letter to the Editor: Is UH hiding animal torture?
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which is federally mandated under the Animal Welfare Act, is comprised of University of Hawai�i faculty and members of the community. All members are selected by UH to monitor, well, UH.
The committee is required to inspect facilities where research on animals covered by the act is performed, review research protocols and file an inspection report with the university. Research animals at UH include Actus monkeys, rabbits, cats, guinea pigs, armadillos and hamsters among others.
The committee also holds power over captive animals' lives - whether they live or die, and whether or not they receive pain killers. They are truly the arbiters of life and death, contentment and pain.
As UH appoints the committee, research facilities using animals are essentially self-regulating. Because unaffiliated committee members are chosen by the monitored laboratory, they are easily outvoted, since most committees require only a majority vote to approve a research project.
In 2003, 10 years after being asked, the state Office of Information Practices ruled that the names of the members of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee are a matter of public record. In addition, the office also granted access to the minutes of the committee meetings.
When we officially requested these minutes, we were hit with a huge fee, which we appealed to the Office of Information Practices. Although the office agreed with us, UH refused to comply.
As the office has no enforcement power and we are unable to pay the thousands of dollars demanded by UH, it is impossible for us or any outsider to monitor animal research at UH.
When we asked for recent committee minutes, we were told that discussions of "protocols," or how animals are used, are only discussed in "executive sessions," which are kept secret.
In addition, last year we requested reports of visits by the committee to various animal holding facilities at UH campuses around the state. These reports were mentioned in unredacted minutes of the committee, so we believed that this information is a matter of public record.
However, once again UH refused to provide us with the information that had been clearly mentioned in a public record. Their stated reason this time was protection of intellectual property.
In short, UH faculty, paid by UH (i.e., the state of Hawai�i), using UH facilities and animals paid for by UH, claim privacy (i.e., monetary profit) at a state institution.
What is being done to those animals? What protocols are in use? Are researchers merely conducting repetitive tests to garner income? What happens to the animals when they are no longer needed?
We offered to find a sanctuary on the mainland for the Actus monkeys at Snyder Hall. We even offered to pay for transport. We were rebuffed by principal investigate Sandra Chang, who refused to tell us what has happened to the animals. We want to know what is being done with taxpayers' money.
Animal researchers at UH are obviously hiding behind the locked doors of their labs, engendering a great deal of suspicion. We call upon the University of Hawai�i to open those locked doors and let everyone see inside.
Director of research and investigations
Animal Rights Hawai�i