PETA Calls on Richmond, VA, to Reject Philip Morris Facility

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently sent a letter to Richmond, Virginia, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder urging Wilder to stop the planned construction of a Philip Morris research facility in that city.

Philip Morris plans to finish construction on a $300 million research and technology center in 2007. Richmond has donated land worth $3.2 million for the project and agreed to a 10-year tax abatement to convince Philip Morris to build in Richmond, where Philip Morris is based.

According to PETA, architectural plans for the new center include rooms labeled “Primate Room 1” and “Primate Room 2,” which PETA claims are rooms destined to house non-human primates for research. However, PETA itself is not in possession of any plans that show these primate rooms. Instead, Mary Beth Sweetland told The Richmond Times Dispatch, PETA is relying on information it received from someone who PETA believes does have access to those plans.

Philip Morris spokesman Michael Neese told the Times-Dispatch that there were no plans to house primates at the facilities and that any animal research there would be conducted with rodents.

The animal research is likely directed at finding safer cigarettes, which Philip Morris and other cigarette companies have long investigated (Philip Morris has, in fact, test marketed different versions of a safer cigarette over the years).

Regardless of the type of research or animals used, the project is unlikely to be derailed by PETA. A spokesman for Richmond told the Times-Dispatch,

The mayor does intend to stand by the commitment he made to Philip Morris, and they are a valued corporate citizen in Richmond.

Sources:

PETA urges city to pull Philip Morris support. John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 12, 2005.

PETA Calls On Mayor Wilder To Pull Public Financing Of Philip Morris Center. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, August 10, 2005.

Activists In Monkey Suits Turn in Anti-Primate Research Petition

On August 2, several animal rights activists dressed in monkey suits showed up at Number 10 Downing Street along with Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker to turn in the 163,000 signatures they had gathered on a petition asking for a ban on primate research in the UK.

The Next of Kin campaign, organized by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, argues that medical research with primates is cruel and should be abolished.

Most British newspapers wrote bland summaries of the event, typically with a short quote from Simon Festing of the Research Defense Society saying,

BUAV are right to highlight the similarity of primates to humans – that is why they are so useful. But they are only a fraction of the number of animals used in research, around 0.1%, and they have been essential in a number of areas, including hepatitis vaccine, fertility studies, the modern contraceptive and research into Parkinson’s disease.

The Manchester Evening News, however, ran a story which was read like BUAV itself had drafted the story. That included this odd claim,

Less than 20% of medical primate use is for medical research, with 70% for the profit of pharmaceutical companies.

. . .

Research suggests toxicology procedures, to benefit pharmaceutical companies — the majority of primate use (70%) — can lead to loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, unsteady gait or loss of balance and even death.

Just accepting the figures for now, toxicology research isn’t medical research? Does Manchester Online believe that pharmaceutical companies should start selling drugs without first having performed toxicological assays?

Sources:

Total ban on primate testing plea. Manchester Evening News, August 2, 2005.

Petition calls for end to testing on primates. Matthew Tempest, The Guardian, August 2, 2005.

U.S. Sen. James Jeffords Introduces Captive Primate Safety Act

U.S. Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) recently introduced the Captive Primate Safety Act in the U.S. Senate.

The bill, which parallels a similar House of Representatives bill introduced last year, would add primates to a federal list of wildlife species that private individuals are prohibited from owning.

The bill is clearly motivated by recent, highly publicized attacks by captive primates, such as that at Animal Haven Ranch where two chimpanzees were shot and killed in March after they mauled a visitor to the ranch.

In announcing his bill, for example, Jeffords said,

The Captive Primate Safety Act is a common sense solution to a potentially very serious problem. Monkeys, chimpanzees, and other nonhuman primates can be dangerous if not cared for properly and can pose an even greater risk to our public health as carriers of dangerous diseases. Our legislations is need to help federal agencies control and monitor these species within our borders.

But this argument, if you’ll pardon the pun, appears to be specious. In a press release lauding the bill, for example, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that are 15,000 primates currently in private hands. But the best estimate of injuries caused by those animals is 100 over the last 10 years.

Compare that to estimates of the number of injuries from dog bites. A 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that dog bites accounted for more than 300,000 visits to the emergency room annually. That’s more than 900 visits every single day to the emergency room nationwide due to dog bites.

And since Jeffords is so concerned about children, it should be noted that the bulk of victims of dog bites are minors. The median age of dog bite victims in the 1998 study was just 15 years.

Perhaps if the HSUS and Jeffords really want to get rid of a dangerous animal that targets children, they’ll first push a Captive Canine Safety Act first and then turn their attention to the extremely small safety problem posed by captive primates.

The full text of the proposed Captive Primate Safety Act can be read here.

Sources:
Senate Bill Introduced to Restrict Pet Trade in Monkeys, Chimpanzees. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, July 27, 2005.

Incidence of Dog Bite Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments. Harold B. Weiss, MS, MPH; Deborah I. Friedman; Jeffrey H. Cohen, MD. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, V.279, No.1, pp.51-3.

SAEN Not So Sane

The Davis Enterprise ran an interesting article about a protest organized by Stop Animal Exploitation Now directed at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California at Davis.

According to The Davis Enterprise,

Protesters chanted and held signs reading, “Stop your animal torture,” “Animal research is scientific fraud” and “Better ways exist” in front of the primate center west of the main campus, at Hutchison Drive and County Road 98.

“Animals at this laboratory are sick and suffering needlessly,” said Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN.

But just how accurate are SAEN’s claims about what goes on at the research center? According to the Enterprise (emphasis added),

Aside from ongoing arguments over whether animal research is necessary, SAEN alleges staff negligence leading to stress, suffering and death of test animals at UCD’s center. The group examined necropsy reports for 583 animals that died from May 2002 through April 2003, obtained through freedom of information requests.

Budkie said many of these reports simply list the deceased animal as “found dead in cage” with no clinical history, “which tells me they didn’t even know the animal was sick.”

Capitanio said allegations of staff negligence are “categorically false,” noting that the center has six full-time on-site veterinarians, two veterinary residents, one clinical fellow, 13 animal health technicians, four enrichment coordinators and 85 animal care workers focused on the health and well-being of the animals.

Capitanio said necropsy reports only include a pathologist’s observations during an exam of the deceased animal and SAEN has “drawn a series of inferences based … on a lack of information.”

In one example of alleged neglect, SAEN cited a January 2003 necropsy report of a primate that lost 40 percent of her body weight in 22 days. However, Capitanio said this animal’s quick weight loss can be attributed to giving birth. He said the animal then developed intestinal problems that were unresponsive to treatment, so she was euthanized to end her suffering.

Or consider another complaint that Budkie brought up — apparent discrepancies in the number of primate deaths and total animals reported by the primate center to different agencies. This is a common canard that Budkie recycles regularly,

Capitanio said discrepancies in the number of deaths, as cited by SAEN, is simply a difference between calendar year and fiscal year totals.

“It’s basically a timing window issue,” Capitanio said. “They (animal rights groups) use whatever means they can to try to discredit researchers and in some cases, harass researchers.”

A difference in the number of animals reported to various agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health, he explained, is due to those agencies’ requirements. Only the number of animals involved in studies funded by a particular agency are supposed to be reported to that agency, he said.

Its not his fault — that fiscal/calendar year difference is probably too difficult for Budkie to grasp.

Source:

Protesters picket primate provisions. Sharon Stello, Davis Enterprise, July 18, 2005.

Judge Dismissed Cruelty Charges Against Charles River Laboratories

In March, a New Mexico judge dismissed three misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against employees of Charles River Laboratories.

The charges stemmed from the 2002 deaths of two chimpanzees and the near death of a third chimpanzee at a Charles River Laboratories primate facility in Alamogordo , New Mexico.

In all three cases, veterinarians looked after the animals and then left the facility, instructing security guards to monitor the animals’ condition overnight. The security guards had no veterinary training.

The misdemeanor charges alleged that this constituted animal cruelty, but State District Judge Jerry Ritter ruled that since the deaths of the animals occurred in the practice of veterinary medicine, the animal cruelty statutes did not apply.

In Defense of Animals complained that this was a “technicality” although it seems exactly the sort of situation the veterinary medicine exemption was intended to avoid — clogging up the courts with claims of animal cruelty based on differing opinions about appropriate veterinary care procedures would be a serious misallocation of law enforcement resources.

IDA’s Elliott Katz said in a press release,

We now know that for Charles River and the NIH, the ‘practice of veterinary medicine’ constitutes intentional and repeated abandonment of critically ill chimpanzees to once-per-hour observation by security guards.

Source:

New Mexico Judge Dismisses Animal Cruelty Charges Against NIH Chimp Lab Operator on Legal Technicality. Press Release, In Defense of Animals, March 30, 2005.

Animal Cruelty Charges Dropped. Rene Romo, Albuquerque Journal, March 29, 2005.

Cruelty charges dropped against Charles River Labs. Christopher Rowland, The Boston Globe, March 29, 2005.

Memo to Steven Wise: Your Gaze-Inspired Intuitions Don’t Mean Squat

Steven Wise apparently has a new book out, Though the Heavens May Fall. The book is ostensibly about an 18th century British court case that helped turn the tide against slavery in that country, and of course you can probably imagine the sort of lesson that Wise wants us to take from that (if you can’t, its that such a similar case could turn the tide toward animal rights).

As animal rights activists go, Wise is relatively harmless. He has a complex model — widely criticized by other activists — that would grant certain species legal rights based upon how likely they are to have the sort of sense of self that human beings have. Its overly complex and unworkable in this writer’s opinion, but at least Wise doesn’t run around naked or make statements that killing those he disagrees with is not such a bad idea.

But he also used an argument that is simply stupid, unconvincing, and a bit out-of-character given Wise’s legalists arguments. He gave a speech at the University of Michigan in February in which he said,

Those of us who have had the opportunity to look a chimpanzee in the eye know that we are looking at a creature who is almost like us.

Both this — and its negation — are simply non-sequiturs that might reveal something about the personal preferences of the person making the statement, but add absolutely nothing to the debate about whether a chimpanzee or other animal is similar enough to human beings to warrant granting it rights.

And just to make clear, the following sentence is also irrelevant,

Those of us who have had the opportunity to look a chimpanzee in the eye know that we are not looking at a creature who is almost like us.

Wise should be smarter than this given the criticism he’s taken from other activists. If Joan Dunayer says something like,

Those of us how have had the opportunity to study a beehive closely know that we are looking at creatures who are almost like us.

Dunayer thinks bees should have rights. Wise does not. Presumably Wise does not believe intuitions based upon gazing at a beehive are enough to make a difference, so why does he pull out this canard in trying to convince us that his intuitions upon gazing into a chimpanzee’s eyes should do the trick?

Source:

Speaker: society should move toward granting animals rights. Pauline Lewis, The Michigan Daily, February 17, 2005.