Chalk this one up to writing for the web. Last week I wrote a story about the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s outrage over the death of laboratory animals in flood-ravaged Texas. Neal Barnard complained that research facilities should spend more of their money on flood evacuation plans, and I retorted that maybe if they didn’t have to spend so much on security keeping animal rights activists from getting into the laboratories, that they would have more money to spend getting lab animals out after floods.
Of course, Barnard’s claims turned out to be just the latest piece in a long line of misinformation from PCRM. In fact researchers at The University of Texas Medical School did have an evacuation plan for the animals, and were devastated when flood waters came on so rapidly that despite repeated efforts they were unable to evacuate the animals.
The Houston Chronicle interviewed the Texas Medical Center’s directory of veterinary medicine Chris Smith who noted that as soon as the rain began pouring down, attempts were made to reach the animals. Unfortunately tropical storm Allison just brought to much rain down too quickly for such a rescue to succeed.
How bad was the flooding. Americans for Medical Progress noted in its e-mail newsletter that people on the scene said it was a true flash flood, with one facility accumulating 9 feet of water in only half an hour.
Contrary to Barnard the center, like other research facilities in the flood prone area, had a flood evacuation program and had successfully evacuated animals on previous occasions when the area was threatened by hurricanes.
In this case researchers (and many others) were caught off guard when Allison temporarily lost strength and its severity downgraded, only to reform very quickly and begin drenching the area with torrential rains.
Although People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and PCRM both tried to use the lab animal deaths as part of their anti-research campaigns, it was left to animal rights activist Rick Bogle to elevate the deaths into absurdity as only he can. Posting on the Primfocus e-mail list, Bogle mocked statements by Smith that scientists working with monkeys who had died (the animals were primarily used for behavioral research) had developed close relationships with the animals and would grieve for the lost primates. Bogle wrote,
It is a hideous notion that those who infect, experiment on, and otherwise torment animals will attempt to sell the public on the absurdity that they have “close relationships” with the animals under their control. And indeed, if such is the case it can be seen as the close relationship the Nazi doctors had with the Jewish subjects of their own experiments. Mengele had little pet Jewish children who he treated quite differently from the rest.
Drownings of 78 monkeys, 35 dogs lamented by UT veterinary official. Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle, June 15, 2001.
PETA, PCRM use tragic lab animal deaths in Houston flood as media opportunity to advance anti-research agenda. Americans for Medical Progress, Newsletter, June 15, 2001.
Re: primfocus: Drownings of 78 monkeys, 35 dogs lamented by UT. Rick Bogle, e-mail to Primfocus list, June 15, 2001.
Correction: It is the policy of this web site to correct all errors of fact. When this story was first published, it inaccurately characterized the nature of the research projects for which the primates killed by the flooding were being used. According to the Houston Chronicle, “The monkeys . . . were used largely to study behavioral sciences.” AnimalRights.Net regrets the error.