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UCSF research violations and experiments on primates and dogs
by karen dawn
Wednesday Sep 28th, 2005 5:37 PM
DawnWatch: Research violations and experiments on primates and dogs -- San Francisco Bay Guardian cover 9/28-10/4/05
The weekly paper, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, features, on the cover of the September 28 - October 4 issue, three articles, by Tali Woodward, on animal experimentation taking place at UCSF. You can view the cover, a shocking drawing of a primate during a brain procedure, and the headline, "Monkey Business" on line at: (archive at Inside the magazine, "Animal Instincts" presents a balanced take on animal experimentation. "Monkey Business" looks in detail at gruesome experiments on primates. And "Dogtown" discusses the outcry over experiments that kill 750 dogs per year in the university laboratories.

"Animal instincts" asks in its opening line, "As the struggle between animal rights activists and scientists rages on, what's really happening inside UCSF's animal labs?"

Woodward writes, "The struggle over animal research is polarized and emotional. It's not uncommon for animal rights activists to characterize researchers as barbarians who cut up innocent animals out of joy or greed – or for the scientists to regard the activists as fringe extremists who only care about mice and monkeys and not their fellow humans. The intensity of this debate leads many people to simply turn away – and has given UCSF an excuse to hide almost everything about animal research from the public....So the general public knows very little about the 600 to 800 animal experiments, supported largely by taxpayers, being conducted at UCSF at any given time.

"But there have been some real problems behind those closed laboratory doors. In fact, last year UCSF was formally charged with violating federal law in a scathing complaint about animal conditions. And it wasn't some animal welfare group lodging the allegations – it was George W. Bush's Agriculture Department....Last fall the USDA charged UCSF with 75 specific AWA violations. 'The gravity of violations is great,' the complaint stated."

The article discusses some of the violations. It then refers to the work of Scott Anderson, a veterinarian who has served as one of the public members on UCSF's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee for more than a decade. He says of the researchers, "They're not a bunch of crazy, maniacal people that want to kill and hurt animals. They're actually very sensitive, and they have pets of their own, and they try to do the best thing for each animal that they deal with."

But then Woodward writes, "Over the years, Anderson says, UCSF has had to cope with a handful of scientists who haven't always had the best attitude toward animals. (See "Monkey Business," page 20)."

"Monkey Business" discusses the work of Stephen Lisberger. Since 1992 he has received grants from the National Institutes of Health -- taxpayer money -- totaling more than $12 million. The article describes his experiments:

"First, each monkey has a restraint device attached to its head with a combination of metal plates, bolts, and screws. That will later allow the monkey's head to be locked in place for experiments. One or two holes are drilled in the skull, and then cylindrical recording chambers are secured over those holes so that microelectrodes that will allow precise neural activity to be measured can be inserted into the brain with ease. (The electrodes themselves don't cause discomfort because the brain lacks pain receptors.)

"Sometimes, small wire coils are sutured to the monkeys' eyeballs. Other times the monkeys have spectacles attached to their faces that either magnify or miniaturize everything they see.

"The monkeys in Lisberger's lab are put on a fluid-restriction program, so that each day they are scheduled to 'work' they will obey commands for 'rewards of water or Tang....

We read that Lisberger's protocol states that his work could eventually lead to "the cure for many diseases of learning and memory such as Alzheimer's Disease." But the article quotes Lawrence A. Hansen, a neuropathologist at UC San Diego: "He's picked a part of the brain that's not even involved in Alzheimer's."

Hansen wrote, regarding Lisberger's protocol: "I have never previously encountered experiments that would deliver quite so much suffering to higher primates for so comparatively little scientific gain....While I do not doubt that these experimental manipulations will generate valid scientific data, such information is purchased at too high a moral and ethical cost. Even the primary investigator seems to feel it necessary to disguise his actual motivations, which are those of a fundamental research scientist, by invoking a link to a cure for Alzheimer's disease. This is one of the more ludicrous stretches from basic science to human application that I have ever encountered in my 20 years of research into Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases affecting human beings."

The article goes on to detail the condition in which some of Lisberger's research subjects have been found. Then we learn that Lisberger sometimes lectures UCSF students on "Philosophical/ethical issues in animal experimentation."

In "Dogtown" we learn that Dr. Jeffrey Olgin's experiments on dogs, also funded by the National Institutes of Health, "have prompted the farthest-reaching public outcry over any animal experiment at UCSF in many years." That is perhaps not surprising since though dogs suffer no more than primates or even rats and mice (who are entirely exempted from the federal Animal Welfare Act that offers such meager protection to other species) many of us are most moved by horror visited on members of a species with whom many of us share our lives.

The article describes the experiments:
"According to protocols approved in April and June of 2004, Olgin is hoping to figure out the how cardiac arrhythmias – specifically, atrial fibrillation – lead to chronic heart disease. It's a goal many people would find laudable. But Olgin's research also involves the deaths of roughly 750 dogs over three years. Many of the dog have one or two pacemakers implanted. The pacemakers are then used to speed up the dogs' heart rates until their hearts basically wear out. Another group of 150 dogs undergo a surgical procedure in which their hearts' mitral valves are torn with a small hook so that some of the blood flows backward. After 2 to 24 weeks in the study, each dog is subjected to an eight-hour 'terminal study,' during which researchers deeply anesthetize the animal and then open its heart cavity to poke around and take measurements. At the end of the study, the dog is euthanized."

We read that cardiologist Dr. John J. Pippin has written to the university chancellor, "Other researchers have conducted similar canine studies and we find Dr. Olgin's research to be duplicative and wasteful...." And pediatrician Jake Sinclair told the Guardian, "His goal is something that we already know. We know that atrial fibrillation causes congestive heart failure. We know that from studying humans."

You can read the full articles on line at:
Animal Instincts
Monkey Business
And Dogtown

The paper takes letters at letters [at] and advises, "letters should be as brief and to the point as possible" and must include a name and phone number. The paper also solicits opinion pieces. You can find out more at:

You can learn more about the experiments at UCSF at

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at To unsubscribe, go to If you forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts, please do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this tag line.)
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SF Bay Guardian editorial, same issuealsoThursday Oct 6th, 2005 3:04 PM

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