Massachusetts Governor Vetoes Anti-Dissection Bill

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society reports that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney vetoed a dissection choice bill over the weekend.

The bill would have required all Massachusetts public schools that include dissection as part of a class activity to offer non-animal alternatives for those who object to dissection.

NEAVS quotes Romney as saying in his veto message,

. . . biomedical research is an important component of the CommonwealthÂ’s economy and job creation. This bill would send the unintended message that animal research is frowned upon

NEAVS’ Theodora Capaldo replied in a press release that,

Governor Romney didn’t even attempt to hide his fiscal
priorities using the typical rhetoric that his decision was for the health and well being
of the people. Rather, he told it like it is: itÂ’s all about money, period.

. . .

In allaying the irrational fears of the biotech
industry, the governor may have shot himself in the foot with a large contingent of voters
who care more about studentsÂ’ rights to be compassionate than a wealthy companyÂ’s
profit margin.

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


Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney — Busy Signing Books While Refusing to Sign Laws. Press Release, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, August 3, 2004.

Tufts vs. NEAVS and Boston Herald on Dog Experiments

Earlier this year, I noted the controversy created by animal rights activists and groups over canine bone research at Tufts University that involved killing five dogs in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the surgical procedure being tested.

Tuft’s Dr. Robert Bridges was unhappy at a story on the controversy that appeared on January 3rd in the Boston Herald and fired off the following letter that the Herald published on January 22,

The Herald’s portrait of Tufts Veterinary School’s canine research project was unbalanced and unjustified, causing undeserved harm to an institution with a history of caring animals (“Dogs now gone: Tufts destroys five research canines,” Jan. 3).

The four non-veterinary students who first went to the press did so with the urging of a local anti-vivisection chapter and did not represent the veterinary students. Inspections following the lodged complaint of cruelty were determined to be without merit by multiple regulatory agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Moreover, the experimental protocol had received critical and careful review by Tuft’s internal animal care committee prior to being approved.

The Herald did not engage in responsible journalism. The result: damage to a compassionate institution.

Frankly, it’s difficult to know what Bridges was so upset about, as the article appeared fairly balanced to this reader. It didn’t mention all of the above, but it quoted Tufts officials on the need for such research as well as outlined some of the layers of oversight that oversee animal research in at institutions such as Tufts.

New England Anti Vivisection Society president Theodora Capaldo wrote a letter in response saying, in part,

We must be precise: it is what Tufts allowed to be done to those dogs that did “damage to a compassionate institution” not the students, not NEAVS and not the Herald. Once Tufts accepts responsibility with policy that prevents this kind of experiment from ever happening again, its esteem will be restored.

Well, to keep with Capaldo’s desire to be precise, she and NEAVS claimed that the research at Tufts was unreasonable and unjustifiable and that Tufts’ Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee was derelict in approving the experimental protocol. But as Bridges noted in his letter, that was nonsense and several external organizations that examined the protocol agreed with the IACUC that the experimental protocol was appropriate.


Letter to the editor. Theodora Capaldo, New England Anti Vivisection Society, February 2004.

Rap on Tufts Unfair. Robert Bridges, Boston Herald, January 22, 2004.

Dogs gone now; Tufts destroy five research canines. Elisabeth J. Beardsley, The Boston Herald, January 3, 2004.

Tufts Kills Five Dogs in Bone Research Experiment Despite Animal Rights Objections

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society and other animal rights groups failed to stop Tufts University’s School of Veterinary Medicine from killing five dogs involved in research. Tufts also temporarily suspended an Adopt-A-Dog program which had been the source of information about the dog research and which Tufts apparently believed might pose a security risk by bringing opponents of its bone research into its facilities.

Tufts is currently doing research on different methods of fixing broken bones in dogs. One experiment involved breaking the bones of the back two legs of five dogs using a surgical procedure. One leg on each dog was set using a conventional fixator attached with external screws, while the other leg was set using a more flexible fixator. The animals were anesthetized during the surgical procedures, and given drugs for pain as their bone healed.

The final step in the procedure, however, required the dogs to be killed so the leg bones of the dogs could be removed and evaluated.

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society and about 30 Tufts students had been protesting the planned killing of the dogs for months. In a December 29 press release NEAVS president Theo Capaldo said,

In response to the students’ concerns, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) asked them to find alternatives to the study when actually the IACUC should have demanded that the researchers do a better job of finding alternatives to this egregious study in the first place. The IACUC should never have approved a study that involved: such severe injury to healthy dogs; the need for days of heavy pain killers; and the killing of the dogs in the end. The research should never have met the approval of this committee. The students are absolutely right to call into question this unjustifiable research and its egregious end point.

. . .

If Tufts is unwilling to allow its own students to insist on the ethical imperative to find alternatives to such awful research, then they need to be challenged. After all, the students involved represent those interested in helping and healing animals and those interested in changing public policy about how animals are treated in our society. In prohibiting these students from doing this work at their own University, Tufts is not only being inhumane to the dogs but to the students as well. How can the University not allow them to do what they are there to learn to do: make the world a better place for animals? It’s a very disheartening contradiction.

In a prepared statement, Tufts spokeswoman Barbara Donato said,

Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine recognizes that the responsible conduct of biomedical research using animals is a highly complex public policy issue over which people of diverse backgrounds will disagree. We respect diversity of opinions on this matter and encourage our students, faculty and staff to develop and express informed views while also respecting the viewpoints of others.

Tufts also decided to temporarily suspended an Adopt-A-Teaching Dog program. Students apparently learned of the bone study through their involvement in that program. That program involves using students walking and playing with dogs used to teach non-invasive veterinary techniques.

Tufts apparently feared that giving students opposed to the bone research access to their research facilities was a potential security threat. According to Donato,

To the extent that we can permit students to access the facility without jeopardizing security, we hope to do so. . . . Any research institution, including Tufts, has an obligation to provide a secure facility for the housing of research animals and will do whatever is necessary to protect the security and welfare of the animals, as well as the integrity of the research.


Tufts kills five dogs in bone research project despite protests. Donna Boynton; Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts), January 3, 2004.

New England Anti-Vivisection Society and Tufts Students Ask Tufts to Save Dogs’ Lives: ‘Turn over a New Leaf’ for the New Year. Press Release, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, December 29, 2003.

PSYETA goes a little crazy

Its Spring 1998 newsletter says
that Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is “an independent
… non-profit organization comprised of psychologists working in
cooperation with other professional and animal rights organizations to change the way individuals and society as a whole treat non-human animals.”
After reading the newsletter, though, I’d say they’re a classic
case of the inmates loose in the asylum.

Consider the leadoff article in
the newsletter by Theodora Capaldo and Lorin Lindner, “PSYETA: Radicals
or Realists?” The article starts by describing child abuse and domestic
violence and tries to link those phenomenon with abuse of animals. Certainly
children who take out their anger by abusing animals need help, but PSYETA
goes much further maintaining that “membership in a nonhuman species
is no further justification for the deprivation of natural rights than
race, age, sexual preference, gender or any other categorization.”
Unfortunately, they don’t even attempt to develop or highlight any
specific “natural rights” theory.

Of course PSYETA believes this
puts “psychology in the forefront of moving society up the evolutionary
ladder of consciousness and moral development, PSYETA invites it to consider
another frontier, ‘speciesism.’”

Evolutionary ladder of consciousness
and moral development? Are people with PhDs really allowed to get their
degrees without even rudimentary training in evolutionary
biology? The idea of an “evolutionary ladder of consciousness”
is a religious belief, not a claim grounded in the reality of evolutionary
biology. This is the sort of nonsense I’d expect to read in a magazine
such as New Age or Whole Earth Review.

Capaldo and Lindner don’t
do much better in an extraordinarily lame effort to link violence against
animals with violence toward human beings when they claim “violence
toward animals is correlated with violence toward humans.” Certainly.
But you can pick any two variables you like and correlate them. This is
akin to me saying that protests by animal rights groups are correlated
with violence against human beings or that the amount of ice cream consumed
by Californians is correlated with volcanic activity in Asia. It is a
claim that is trivially true; any variable can be correlated with any
other variable.

Not so trivial is their view of
violence against animals. Lindner and Capaldo claim, “one necessary
step in doing this [understanding and preventing violence] is taking abuse
toward animals as seriously as other forms of violence.” Remember,
now, that Lindner and Capaldo earlier argued that there is no basis for
discriminating between humans and nonhumans when it comes to rights. So
should the slaughter of a cow to make hamburger be treated as seriously
as the rape and murder of a woman? Should a farmer raising chickens be considered on par with a serial killer? These would
seem to logically follow from Lindner and Capaldo’s claims.

Ultimately Lindner and Capaldo
return to their semi-religious musings about the role of psychologists:

We are convinced that the way humans treat nonhuman species causes
unnecessary suffering and violence to millions of sentient beings and
has a profound impact on our moral, ethical, psychological and spiritual
development. Psychologists, who should have a great capacity for empathy
and compassion, need to be in the forefront of efforts to eliminate
pain and suffering wherever it occurs. In this post-Cartesian-era, psychologists
/ scientists can no longer hide behind the erroneous belief that animals
do not feel or that if they do, their feelings do not matter. We cannot
continue to believe that what can be learned or gotten from animals
can be done so at their expense.

Throughout their piece the duo celebrate
their compassion, empathy and emotion, apparently unaware that they are
poor substitutes for sound reasoning and logic, both of which are noticeably
absent from their rambling.