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.

Animal Rights Activists Want Ohio University to Open Animal Care Review Committee Meetings

Ohio-based animal rights activists want Ohio University to open up its Institutional Laboratory Animal Care and Use Committee meetings, but the university has so far refused on the grounds that it is not required by law to do so and it does not want to set a precedent of opening meetings that it is not legally required to open.

Two groups, Ohio-based Protecting Our Earth’s Treasures and OU student group Athens Animal Rights Coalition, want the university to open the meetings.

Protecting the Earth’s Treasures’ Rob Russell told The Athens News that the meetings should be open because,

This is a federally mandated committee, at an Ohio public university.

Athens Animal Rights Coalition president Noelle Elbert told The Athens News,

They should be public. Other universities in Ohio have to go by the rules, and we don’t understand why OU doesn’t.

. . .

We’re concerned about the animals. Because what are they hiding, if they don’t want you to sit in on the meetings? . . . I pay to go to this school, so don’t I have a right to know what’s going on?

But Ohio University director of legal affairs, John Burns, noted that Elbert has been given copies of the minutes from all of the animal care committee meetings, as well as a tour of Ohio University’s animal facilities. “There has been a lot of information provided to her,” Burns told The Athens News.


Animal rights activists wonder what OU committee is hiding. Jim Phillips, The Athens News, November 24, 2004.

Ohio State University Set to Expand Animal Research Facilities

Ohio State University, which came under fire recently over HIV research involving felines, recently announced that it plans a major expansion of its animal testing facilities.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that OSU will undertake a $30 million expansion of its animal testing facilities at Weiseman Hall that will add 35,000 square feet of lab space. The money will be raised through a combination of money from the Ohio legislature and bonds issued by OSU.

OSU’s William Yonushonis told the Dispatch,

It will be a rodent facility, primarily for mice. We’re looking at housing up to 35,000 cages. You can put up to five mice a cage.

This would add to the approximately 75,000 animals that the Dispatch reports are already used annually for research at OSU. Ninety-two percent of such animals are mice and rats.

Ohio-based animal rights group Protect Our Earth’s Treasures criticized the expansion. POET director Rob Russell told the Columbus Dispatch,

There’s a whole bunch of projects that we feel could be stopped today, and we feel it wouldn’t have any negative impact on humans.

OSU is also planning to build a new biosafety level 3 laboratory to study infectious diseases which will house laboratory animals.


New labs for mice planned at OSU. Alice Thomas, The Columbus Dispatch, July 5, 2003.

Background On Proposed BSL3 Laboratory Planned for Ohio State University’s West Campus. Press Release, Ohio State University, July 26, 2003.

Ohio Senate Approves Bill Strengthening Penalties Against Farm & Laboratory Vandals

The Ohio State Senate unanimously approved a bill that would strengthen penalties against those who destroy crops, timber, livestock, farm or laboratory equipment. Such crimes would be increased to felonies depending on the amount of destruction and those convicted of such crimes would have to pay fines up to double the loss to the victim.

The bill is targeted a response to reports of animal rights and environmental extremists who have attacked labs and farms.

The Associated Press quoted animal rights activist Ritchie Laymon of Protecting Our Earth’s Treasures as comparing the proposed law to “veggie libel” laws in several states — though surely even an animal rights activist can see the difference between saying “eating meat is bad” and simply destroying farm equipment. According to Laymon those who are victims of such attacks do not usually press charges because,

It would open a can of toxic worms the livestock industry is afraid of.

Not quite. The reason farms usually do not press charges is that police usually do not catch the person doing the vandalizing.

The full text of the proposed law can be read here.


Bill would target vandalism, violence. Associated Press, June 19, 2003.

Ag Industry Says Farmers Need Protection Bill. Ohio News Network, June 19, 2003.

OSU's HIV Feline Research Will Continue

In June, Ohio State University researcher Michael Podell left his position after a sustained campaign directed against him by animal rights activists. Activists claimed that his research, which involved looking at FIV infection in cats who were administered methamphetamines, was cruel and unnecessary. The research, in fact, produced important findings about the progression of HIV-like illnesses as well as HIV-related dementia.

OSU didn’t effectively defend Podell from animal rights activists while he was at the university, but have decided that they will continue the research that Podell started. Podell conducted his research as part of a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

OSU President Karen Holbrook said that, “Projects such as this one facilitate the design of treatments for humans and animals alike against many deadly viral diseases.”

Protect Our Earth’s Treasures, an animal rights group that regularly protested against Podell, announced that it will renew its protests beginning Nov. 1 until the university abandons such research.

POET director Rob Russell told The Columbus Dispatch, “It’s still the same wasteful project it was before.”


HIV Study That Uses Cats Will Continue At OSU. David Lore, The Columbus Dispatch, October 30, 2002.