OSU Responds to PCRM’s Claims about Spinal Cord Injury Course

As I mentioned earlier this year, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a complaint with the National Institutes of Health claiming about an NIH-funded class at Ohio State University that trains researchers to injure the spinal cords of mice and rats so the animals can be used in spinal cord research. PCRM claims the course is in violation of the Animal Welfare Act and involves cruelty to animals.

OSU recently responded to an NIH request for a response to PCRM’s charges.

According to OSU student newspaper The Lantern, PCRM’s letter claimed that the researchers first performed multiple operations to impair the animals’ spinal cords and then force them to perform a number of task,

The animals are surely in a large amount of post-operative pain in addition to the complications they might experience as a result of their injury. This OSU course violates efforts designed to avoid or minimize such pain and distress to the animals.

In its response to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, OSU responded that a) the animals undergo only a single major surgery, b) animals are medicated for pain, c) behavioral study of the animals doesn’t occur until after the animals have recovered from the surgery, and d) the behavioral research does not involve forcing the animals to perform, but rather offers the animal rewards for performing certain tasks.

According to OSU’s response,

The instructors prepare a cohort of animals with spinal cord injury to train students in the proper conduct of behavioral testing. Testing does not commence until the animals are well recovered from surgery.

In her letter to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, PCRM’s Kristie Stoick wrote that there are alternatives to using animals for such training purposes,

Alternatives range from shadowing a researcher and the use of simulation and models to videotaped technique demonstrations.

OSU spokesman Earle Holland responded that this is simply not the case, telling The Lantern,

There are no available altenratives for whole organisms. If there were equivalent methods, every researcher would jump at the idea of not using animals. It’s really ludicrous. It’s just not true. Researchers would be using them. No one enjoys doing things to animals that are undesirable.

In its letter, OSU wrote that it formed a subcommittee of its Institutional Laboratory Animal Care and Use Committee that investigated the course and considered the possibility of non-animal alternatives,

By properly training new researchers in the current best practices, the potential for poorly performed experiments will be less, thereby allowing refinement and/or reduction of animal numbers. The investigators (and) instructors pride themselves on the high level of care given to the animals and are dedicated to teaching others to deal with their subjects carefully, compassionately, and to respect both animal and human life.

OSU is currently awaiting a response from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.


OSU denies animal cruelty complaints. Susan Kehoe, The Lantern (Ohio State University), February 28, 2005.

PCRM Develops Animal-Free Insulin Assay

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reported in February that it had worked with BiosPacific and Linco Research to develop an insulin assay that measures insulin levels in individuals without relying on animal products.

PCRM president Neal Barnard said in a press release that PCRM needed to conduct insulin assays as part of a study of the effects of vegan diets on type 2 diabetes. Barnard said,

We only had two options available to us when we began our diabetes trials. One, we could use test kits with insulin antibodies grown in vivo — literally from cells injected into the abdomens of live mice — or we could use kits containing antibodies from cells cultured with fetal calf serum. Neither was acceptable to us.

So PCRM’s Megha Even worked with California lab BiosPacific to create an animal-free replacement for the fetal calf serum, and then with Linco Research created a test that uses antibodies cultured in the non-animal serum.

According to Barnard, details of PCRM’s non-animal assay will soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the non-animal test will be made available commercially,

We hope that by making the test readily available and competitively priced, researchers and medical labs will use it. We have proven that if researchers are willing to make the effort, there are effective, humane alternatives to animal-based assay, and other testing procedures — alternatives that could help save the lives of millions of people and animals.


PCRM develops world’s first cruelty-free insulin assay. Press Release, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, February 9, 2005.

PCRM vs. Ohio State University

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was making a lot of noise in February about the National Institutes of Health’s decision to investigate PCRM’s complaint about OSU’s Spinal Cord Injury Techniques Training Course.

The course teaches researchers how to injure the spinal cords of mice and rats so that they can be used in research on spinal cord injuries. The course itself is partially funded by NIH, so the agency’s decision to investigate the course is not surprising. Given that the NIH has previously approved the course, this will likely be a routine investigation unless there are problems with the course that are above and beyond PCRM’s simple objection to conducting this sort of research in animals.

In its press release announcing the NIH’s decision, PCRM takes credit for something that actually hasn’t happened,

In 2002, PCRM was instrumental in stopping NIH-funded experiments by OSU researcher Dr. Michael Podell, who infected cats with feline immunodeficiency virus and injected them with methamphetamine (“speed”) in an attempt to create an animal model for HIV-positive humans using drugs.

And, in fact, Podell made an important discovery — that HIV-like illness in felines progress much faster in cats that were exposed to methamphetamines. Podell hypothesized that this might explain why HIV-related dementia has such a quick onset in human methamphetamine users.

It is true that Podell left Ohio State University in 2002 due to the level of harassment that animal rights activists directed at him, but the research did not stop. It was handed off to another researcher who used tissue cultures to study more closely this effect, but who made it clear that after that study was finished the research would return to using cats in the 4th or 5th year of the study (which would have been 2004 or 2005 — the grant ends May 31, 2005).

As anti-research group Protect Our Earths Treasures noted in 2003,

September 2003, five (5) cats arrive at OSU from Liberty Labs and enter protocol 020047/96A0038.

Why are we concerned? A portion of protocol, 96A0038, was used by Michael Podell to conduct his pilot study which lead to his own protocol – Cats On Meth.

PCRM might have moved on to other things, but the research on felines at OSU apparently continued.


NIH to Investigate OSU’s Spinal Injury Course. Press Release, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, February 8, 2005.

Remembrance for the Animals Used In the Labs at The Ohio State University. Protect Our Earths Treasures, Undated, Accessed: February 28, 2005.

PCRM Analysis Claims Merely Handling Dogs and Mice In Laboratories Is Cruel

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is hyping a report — its unclear if its simply a literature review or a bonafide metanalysis, though the former seems more likely — claiming that day-to-day activities in laboratories expose laboratory animals to undue stress and cruelty, rendering even non-invasive experiments cruel.

In a press release, PCRM summarized the findings of ethologist and PCRM member Jonathan Balcombe,

For example, a mouse who is picked up and briefly held experiences several physiological reactions. As stress-response hormones flood the bloodstream, the mouse exhibits a racing pulse and a spike in blood pressure. These symptoms can persist for up to an hour after each event. Immune response is also affected. In rats and mice, the growth of tumors is strongly influenced by how much the animals are handled.

The paper was published in the Autumn issue of Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science.According to Balcombe, this means all animal experiments are inherently cruel,

In essence, there is no such thing as a humane animal experiment. Fear or panic ensues when the animal is touched or stuck with a needle.


Animal Experiments More Stressful than Previously Recognized. Press Release, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, November 18, 2004.

PCRM and Center for Consumer Freedom Get in Food Fight

The Miami Sun-Sentinel reported on an amusing war of words between the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Neal Barnard and Center for Consumer Freedom’s David Martosko.

The dispute started when PCRM issued a report rating the healthiest airport food, and singled out Miami international Airport has having the healthiest food of any of the top airports in the Untied States.

CCF responded with a press release noting that PCRM is made up of “anti-meat, pro-vegetarian nutrition zealots.” CCF also pointed out that PCRM is simply an extension of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal, signified in this case by the fact that one of the nutritionists listed as compiling the report on airport food — Trulie Ankerberg-Nobis — spends much of her free time stripping as a publicity stunt for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Barnard replied that it is simply not true that PCRM is simply a front for PETA. You remember that group, Foundation to Support Animal Protection? Just to refresh your memory, Barnard heads up the group. PETA donates money to FSAP and then FSAP turns around and donates money to PCRM. Front group? Nope, just a coincidence according to Barnard.

Barnard complained that CCF are “stalkers,” telling the Sun-Sentinel,

Whenever any health organization does any kind of initiative, we hear from them with these absurd press releases.

. . .

The poor man [Martosko] needs to lose weight.

Martosko is quoted by the Sun-Sentinel a suggesting that Barnard “seek anger management therapy.”

In fact, CCF does seem to be getting under the skin of PETA and PCRM lately. Kind of funny to watch.

Presumably the reason PETA and PCRM can’t stand the CCF press releases is that they are used to surrounding themselves with people like Gary Yourofsky and Jerry Vlasak who outright advocate the murder of those they disagree with. So you just have to see it from their point of view — advocating murder or arson is one thing, but actually issuing a press release is something of a much bigger magnitude. Someone’s feelings might get hurt, after all, from a press release, but if you kill a researcher, well, they’re just dead.

That’s the problem with us anti-animal rights folks — we just don’t have this higher level of compassion and understanding that the animal rights people possess.


Praise for healthy meals at Miami airport turns into food fight. Noaki Schwartz, Miami Sun-Sentinel, November 18, 2004.

Albuquerque Public Schools Criticizes PCRM Lunch Survey

After a Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine survey criticized the nutritional value of lunches served at Albuquerque Public Schools, a nutrition coordinator for the school system says she never would have cooperated with the survey if she had realized that PCRM was an animal rights group.

Stephanie Fila, nutrition coordinator for APS, told the Albuquerque Tribune that she didn’t realize PCRM was an animal rights group advocating a vegan diet when she responded to their survey. According to Fila, the APS lunches meet all USDA requirements and added that,

Real physicians would not recommend a vegan diet for growing children.

Jeanne Stuart McVey, while acknowledging that Physicians Committee for Responsible MEdicine actually has very few physician members, defended the nutrition survey saying,

We are advocates. But we really look at the science. We promote healthy diets, and there are so many studies showing that meat is just not the healthiest thing.

McVey also tried to distance PCRM from People for the Ethical Treatment, claiming that PCRM no longer receives funding from PETA,

. . . in the past, PETA might have supported one of our animal-testing programs, but we do not get funding from them now.

Of course McVey forgets to mention The Foundation to Support Animal Protection which appears to have been set up specifically to allow PETA to fund PCRM while hiding the relationship between the two groups.


APS: Lunch study unfair. Frank Zoretich, Albuquerque Tribune, September 4, 2004.