Jean Barnes Just Makes It Up as She Goes Along

Jean Barnes posted an e-mail to AR-NEWS the other day urging animal rights activist to contact the Commerce Club in Atlanta, Georgia, to protest an upcoming appearance by Deborah Insel. Insel is a former high school teacher who is going to discuss her work at trying to increase the number of low-income high school kids who go on to college.

For Barnes and others, Insel is fair game because she is married to Emory University professor Tom Insel, who is the former director of the Yerkes Primate Center. According to Barnes’ e-mail,

It is doubtful she will reveal her husband Tom has tortured and killed animals for years at Emory.

Deborah, has known for years about her husbands experiments and has failed to take a public position about the cruelty involved. Rather, Deborah Insel has (publically) remained silent and allowed the cruelty to continue. Deborah Insel has financially benefitted from Tom’s salary at Emory/Yerkes as he tortures and mistreats non-human primates and other animals at Emory/Yerkes. She has participated in cruelty by omission.

Cruelty by omission? Isn’t that what Barnes specializes in when she conveniently leaves out relevant facts and resorts to outright lies to make her case?

Barnes claims, for example that,

Tom Insel, one of the many vivisectors who has performed experiments on animals, especially primates at Yerkes, has made a career of useless and cruel experiments on animals. As Insel has admitted, Yerkes spent years on AIDS research knowing the experiments were useless and our tax money squandered. Not surprisingly, Insel failed to comment on the pain and suffering of animals he needlessly tortured in his experiments.

When Elizabeth Griffin, a Yerkes researcher died, Insel was seen on 20/20 making callous remarks. Yerkes’ employees stated Insel blamed Griffin for her own death. Emory quickly reassigned Tom to other duties.

Lets look at these claims one at a time.

Has Insel “made a career of useless and cruel experiments”? Actually, Insel’s research in both humans and non-human animals has produced an important body of work in the area he specializes in, neuroscience (Barnes implies that Insel has done AIDS research with monkeys which is simply not true). Insel was the first to show that serotonin uptake drugs were useful in treating some mental disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In animal research, he has specialized in studies of pair bonding in rodents. In 1991, Insel won the Curt Richter Prize from the International Society for Psychoneuro-endocrinology for rodent research demonstrating the importance that the oxytocin and vasopressin pathways in the brain serve in forming social attachments.

More recently, Insel and Larry Young of Emory University became the first researchers to alter the behavior of an animal through the alteration of a single gene. They created a genetically modified mouse that contained a gene from the prairie vole that suppresses vasopressin production. The mice were far more interested in female mice than are normal mice and made them more monogamous.

Did Insel say, as Barnes claims, that “Yerkes spent years on AIDS research knowing the experiments were useless and our tax money squandered.” Of course not — that claim exists only in Barnes’ imagination. In fact what Insel told The Scientist and others is that it had become apparent that chimpanzees were not a useful AIDS model, largely because it takes them so long to develop the disease. This is hardly news as most research echo Insel’s view that monkeys are a much better animal model, and much innovative AIDS research involving monkeys has been and is currently being conducted at Yerkes.

Did Emory University “quickly reassign Tom to other duties” after his appearance on ABC’s 20/20? That is a claim repeated over and over on web sites, but the reality is much different.

Insel did indeed step down as director of Yerkes on October 16, 1999. But not to be reassigned to some backwater out of the public eye because Emory was embarrassed. Instead, Insel resigned from Yerkes to take over as head of Emory’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. The CBN was started with a whopping $40 million grant from the National Institute of Health — one of the largest such grants ever awarded. As Insel noted in an interview, the Emory neuroscience center is probably the biggest program of its kind in the United States. If anything, Insel’s move to CBN was a promotion and returned him to concentrate on his primary interest, neuroscience.

Maybe where Barnes is from being appointed to head up the largest center in the United States dedicated to your specialty qualifies as being “quickly reassigned . . . to other duties,” but the rest of us should be so lucky.


AIDS vaccine researchers turn from chimps to monkeys. Paul Smaglik, The Scientist, 13[16]:7, Aug. 16, 1999.

(GA) animal abuser’s wife at Commerce Club. Jean Barnes, E-mail, March 25, 2002.

Yerkes chief steps down for new post. M.A.J. McKenna, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 16, 1999.

Why do Voles Fall in Love? Emory Magazine, Spring 1999.

Atlanta’s Medical Mile: AIDS, Neuroscience Center Ready To Open. M.A.J. McKenna, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 3, 1999.

Insel leaves Yerkes post to head neuroscience center. Emory Report, October 25, 1999.

New techniques show the power of a single gene. The Dana Brain Daybook, September/October 1999.

The Only Thing Inaccurate about HIV Animal Studies is Ray Greek

The January 26, 2002 edition of The British Medical Journal features a letter from Ray Greek and Pandora Pound arguing that HIV research using non-human primates is unreliable. Greek writes,

Thomas Insel, former director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Center in Georgia, said: “[An animal model] that takes 12-14 years to develop doesn’t sound to me to be ideal . . . I can’t tell you what it is that those studies [with chimpanzees] have given us that has really made a difference in the way we approach people with this disease. Animal models of HIV have been notoriously inaccurate for two reasons.

Firstly, the immune response is intensely complicated and there are many disparities between the human response and those of other animals. Secondly, viruses are usually species specific.

. . .

The fact that 20 years on there is still no cure or vaccine for HIV is surely partly because too much money, time, and effort have been invested in animal research which has produced little, if nothing, in return. To make any impact on this global pandemic during the next 20 years, funding needs to be concentrated on research methods that have come up with the goods.

This is a typical modus operandi with Greek — lie through omission.

For example, take the problems with chimpanzee research into AIDS especially given the long time it takes chimpanzees to develop AIDS. Greek conveniently forgets to mention that this is the major reason why animal research into AIDS Has large switched from chimpanzees to monkeys. Greek forgot to add that although Insel said there are too many limitations with chimpanzees, he added that, “I wouldn’t say that about the monkey work.” (One of the biggest problems with chimpanzees, by the way, is their sheer cost — the cost of simply caring for a chimpanzee in a long-term AIDS study can exceed $100,000).

As Nancy Haigwood, the director of the viral vaccines program at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, notes in her reply, for a number of reasons much AIDS research now focuses on macaques which have served important roles in helping determine optimal treatment regimens for those afflicted with HIV.

At one time, for example, there was a lot of controversy over whether people who tested positive for AIDS should receive short-term treatment with anti-viral drugs immediately, even though they were symptom-free. Many researchers feared that the anti-virals would cause lots of side effects for patients while the long term benefits were considered to be small.

Research in macaques, however, demonstrated that short-term treatment of the animals with anti-virals immediately after they were infected with AIDS could help keep the disease under control. Haigwood writes that, “Subsequently, many of the critical parameters and limitations of interrupting treatment have been discovered using these models.”

In addition, Haigwood notes that testing of cutting edge genetically engineered vaccines in macaques has helped researchers better understand the obstacles they must overcome to create such a vaccine for humans. Haigwood writes,

Live attenuated SIV, genetically engineered to eliminate pathogenicity, protects adult macaques from lethal challenge. While an attenuated HIV vaccine was under consideration for humans, this same highly attenuated SIV vaccine was found to cause AIDS in newborn macaques. Without these studies, the need for additional safeguards might have been missed — with dire consequence.

As Haigwood sums her reply up, the issue is not whether researchers conduct animal studies or clinical studies, but rather that all tools available must be utilized in finding better treatments for AIDS. “Animal models must be used to complement epidemiological and clinical studies in humans,” Haigwood writes. “Answers will come faster and the research will cost less if the clinical work is focused on strategies that have been pretested in models.”


Animal studies and HIV research. Ray Greek and Pandora Pound, British Medical Journal, 2002;324:236, January 26, 2002.

Animal models for HIV advance and complement clinical studies. Nancy Haigwood, British Medical Journal, 2002;324:236, January 26, 2002.

American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Threatens to Sue In Defense of Animals

The American-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta, Georgia, recently threatened to sue animal rights group In Defense of Animals in a dispute over a web site that In Defense of Animals maintains, EmoryLies.Com.

The web site targets Emory University and the Yerkes Primate Center, which In Defense of Animals wants to shut down. Probably because it is a high profile target, the group has lately been targeting Coca-Cola in its dispute over the primate facility. Although the company has nothing at all to do with the primate facility, it has donated more than $100 million to Emory University.

On October 11, 2001, the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is to highlight and encourage economic ties between the United States and Israel, plans to hold an awards ceremony at Coca-Cola’s world headquarters honoring “people and companies who have made a significant impact on business between the Southeast and Israel.”

In Defense of Animals plans to protest at the meeting and has posted information about their protest on the EmoryLies.Com, both of which are perfectly legal. But they have crossed a line in expropriating artwork from the AICC site and placed it on the EmoryLies.Com site in a way that would probably fool a reasonable person.

Judge for yourself. Here’s the real page from the AICC announcing its awards ceremony:

Now, here’s the page from EmoryLies.Com announcing their protest:

The overall effect here is clearly to make it appear as if the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce is somehow involved with or in support of IDA’s actions against Coca-Cola.

IDA released a press release claiming that the lawsuit would go the same route as a lawsuit filed by Stephens Inc. against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. SHAC had used the logo and web site design from Stephens web site to parody Stephens. They used the logo, for example, but added the words “Invest in animal cruelty.” A judge threw out the lawsuit, saying that this was protected under the First Amendment.

But the situation is very different with IDA since it has made no effort to distinguish the AICC materials as a parody. I suspect that Jean Barnes, who apparently created the site, will find herself on the losing end of this lawsuit.


American-Israel Chamber of Commerce threatens legal action against web site exposing bad science and animal cruelty. In Defense of Animals, Press Release, August 21, 2001.

Animal activists ready for fight–attorney retained. In Defense of Animals, Press Release, August 21, 2001.

Animal Activists to Protest the Tony Awards

This Sunday, activists plan on protesting at the Tony Awards, which are scheduled to take place at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Here’s the odd chain of command that will be bringing the activists to Georgia: Coca Cola is a major sponsor of the television broadcast of the awards. Coca Cola is also a major contributor to endowments at Emory University. Emory University researcher Harriet Robinson recently announced yet another breakthrough in AIDS research. A vaccine she developed helped prevent a simian form of the disease from developing in laboratory animals for 18 months.

Of course it goes without saying that activists consider such medical advances to be intolerable, so they will be out in force to let the world know that Coca Cola supports animal suffering.

The press release announcing the protest can’t even manage to be truthful (surprise, surprise, surprise). The release claims that, “Earlier this year, Emory announced Harriet Robinson, PhD. had once again made progress in an AIDS vaccine. Emory, Yerkes, and Robinson failed to mention the vaccine worked only in monkeys against a laboratory developed disease and that humans are unlikely to ever be exposed to this laboratory disease.”

In fact the releases sent out by Emory clearly noted that the research subjects were monkeys and described in detail the differing survival rates for the primates in the control group versus the primates who were given the disease. Apparently the animal rights activists were the only ones who, typically, were unable to tell the difference between human beings and animals, as numerous news stories about the breakthrough mentioned that the research subjects were non-human primates and included the standard caveat that such results are not directly transferable to human beings.

On the other hand, it is irrelevant that SIV is not quite HIV. The two diseases are extremely similar in the way they attack the immune system and the knowledge that was gained from this breakthrough provides very important information about how to tackle HIV in human beings, regardless of whether or not Robinson’s approach translates directly to human beings (preliminary clinical trials designed to test a human equivalent of the vaccine for safety purposes will probably get underway in late 2001 or early 2002).


Atlanta animal activists to attend a live broadcast of Broadway’s Tony Awards. Jean Barnes, EmoryLies.Com, Press Release, June 1, 2001.

Georgia House Approves Hunting and Fishing Protection Legislation

In February the Georgia State House voted 144-10 to approve a bill that declares hunting, fishing and trapping an important part of the state’s heritage and economy and grants the state Department of Natural Resources the sole authority to regulate such activities.

The bill was aimed at eliminating a DeKalb country prohibition on snipe hunting and to forestall any other local initiatives to ban hunting, fishing and trapping. The bill now moves on to the state Senate.


House bill affirms right to hunt, fish. Morris News Service, February 22, 2001.