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Shine light on UW animal research dave_zweifel/article_65e0c80f-04ef-50a3-a031-91f218f830ab.html
     Special Prosecutor to investigate animal cruelty charges against UW-Madison researchers

A victory for animal rights groups this week could pose a frightening prospect for UW-Madison scientists.

A judge Wednesday appointed a special prosecutor to decide whether nine scientists and officials should be criminally charged — which could mean a fine or jail time — under a state law that prohibits killing animals by decompression.

full story: education/university/article_b5e123ec-6f67-11df-b25f-001cc4c002e0.html

Plain Talk: Shine light on UW animal research

Dave Zweifel
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thirteen Dane County supervisors are co-sponsoring a resolution that would have the county take a stand on scientific research that uses monkeys in experiments on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Sound like a frivolous undertaking on the part of elected officials charged with managing the affairs of the county?

Not exactly. Standing up for animals, unfortunately, has seldom been taken seriously by research institutions and since one of the world’s biggest experimenters happens to be right here in Dane County, it makes sense that the locals show some concern and take a peek at what’s going on.

What’s been frustrating for animal rights groups here is that whenever questions are raised about how monkeys and other animals are used in experiments on campus, a UW-connected committee finds everything is just fine. The All Campus Animal Care and Use Committee, for example, agreed earlier this year to explore whether monkey research is ethical. It concluded it was. When some County Board members questioned the objectivity of that verdict, UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin fired back a letter defending the decision.

But it doesn’t help ease suspicions about possible conflicts of interest when the UW-Madison gets millions of dollars in federal research grants to pay faculty and hire staff to do the research.

So animal rights advocates have been searching for someone — anyone — to conduct an independent review of the long-simmering debate over the welfare of the monkeys and the need to use them for so many experiments.

County Supervisor Al Matano wonders about the extent of using monkeys in research, but believes that some experiments may make sense. So he passed around feelers to his colleagues, asking them if the County Board should take a look. So far John Hendrick, Barbara Vedder, Kyle Richmond, Tom Stoebig, Dave de Felice, Patrick Downing, Melissa Sargent, Patrick Miles, Shelia Stubbs, Matt Veldran, Cynda Solberg and Kurt Schlicht have signed on.

The resolution, which is off to the Health and Human Needs Committee for a recommendation to the full County Board, would set up an advisory panel with five to nine members. The panel would have six months to gather information on the UW’s experiments, talk to experts at both the university and elsewhere to get the arguments pro and con, and determine whether the research on the monkeys is humane and ethical. The cost of the panel’s deliberations would be underwritten by the Alliance for Animals, a Madison-based animal rights group.

The panel’s conclusion would in effect become the county’s policy — either endorsing or opposing the UW’s treatment of the animals.

Obviously, whatever conclusion is reached, the UW-Madison wouldn’t be bound to do anything. But an independent study could shine light on this tightly held university activity. Animals, after all, can’t speak for themselves.

Read: Monsters and Pygmies
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