Saturday, May 13, 2006

Interview about UW Violations with Test Animals

Click on photo to watch interview

Interview with Dr. Debra Durham, Primatologist with PETA
Given Friday April 28, 2006 at a protest at the WaNPRC,
UW Western Avenue Primate Facility in Belltown

Mike McCormick: Tell me your name and what brings you out here today?

Debra Durham: My name is Dr. Debra Durham and I’m a Primatologist
with PETA and I’m here to let people know about the abuse of animals
at the University of Washington.

MM: And why have you singled out this particular facility?

DD: We’ve singled out this facility here on Western Avenue because it’s
a facility that tests very dangerous pathogens in monkeys and the abuses
here are particularly egregious. One of the most disturbing incidents we
learned of at this facility involved exsanguination practices that were
completely unauthorized. They were a violation of guidelines established
by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and in these procedures
multiple monkeys were subjected to them. They were essentially blood
letted until they were on the verge of death. The animals were gasping for
air, in cardiac distress and going into shock. And the researchers would
simply take as much blood as they could before the animal died. They
would keep them alive and do it again the next week. And these were
entirely unauthorized procedures. And we’re horrified that the University
of Washington
would let activities like this go unpunished. The individual
who was actually in charge of these experiments is a member of the
University's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the committee
that’s supposed to have oversight of animal experiments at the University
of Washington
. And we’re horrified that a man would do this is given
authority and oversight over animal activities.

MM: Now did you find that this was an anomaly or is this the norm for
this facility and/or the University itself?

DD: Unauthorized procedures are amazingly frequent at the University
of Washington
. We have dozens of instances that involve unauthorized
surgeries, use of unauthorized drugs, use of unauthorized studies and it’s
actually shocking how frequent this is. And these violations range from
using animals without permission to killing them without permission.
And sometimes they can’t even get that right. There were several
instances where animals were supposedly euthanized and put in a
dead animal freezer and people later found them to be alive. And
this is really, really appalling.

MM: And how does the University and this facility compare to other
universities and facilities?

DD: I find the violations here at the University of Washington particularly
egregious. There are facilities that have more USDA violations than the
University of Washington but those aren’t facilities with as much money
as the UW. The UW receives the second most money in public health
service funds of any U.S. institution, second only to Harvard. So to have
these violations at an institution that receives so much government support
I think makes it especially troubling.

MM: So what, based on your knowledge, what would have been the
proper response to, for instance, the experiment you first talked about,
where they bloodlet the animals to such a degree?

DD: Well clearly that individual should not have permission to work with
animals. They were given permission to take 10 ml per kilogram of weight
each week and that’s an extraordinary amount of blood. So for example,
a person can donate a pint of blood every two months and if a person was
put on this regimen they would have six liters of blood taken out in that
same period. It would prove very, very lethal for people to be involved
in this procedure. And to think that someone could violate even that level
and then continue to have permission to use animals and actually have
authority to give other people permission to use animals is shocking. I
think the individuals involved should have been suspended and have their
authority to use animals permanently revoked because they are killing
animals. {editors note - the violation was for the bloodletting, not the
}.They represent an extreme threat to their very lives. At the very
least they should have disclosed the fact that these violations are taking
place and the University definitely doesn’t. All of these things happen
under wraps and they’re just hoping people don’t notice and that they
continue to do more and more deadly experiments here in our backyard.

MM: What oversight mechanisms are currently in place and what oversight
mechanisms would you like to see in place?

DD: The current oversight mechanism is the Institutional Animal Care and
Use Committee, which is a committee that’s mandated by the Animal
Welfare Act, which is enforced by the United States Department of
Agriculture, in terms of giving permission for animal experiments at the
University of Washington. This committee obviously doesn’t do much
given the dozens of violations that take place at the UW, and their very
severe nature. I honestly don’t think there’s any oversight that could be
good enough to manage animal experiments because I don’t believe
animals are ours to exploit in experimentation. But while that is legal and
while we continue to work to change that, the minimum protections should
involve oversight by groups that include animal protectionists. People like
me, people from organizations like PETA and NARN for example here
locally, who would actually be advocates for the animals and have authority
to say no, this experiment is too painful, no this experiment is useless, no
this experiment is duplicating prior work, because right now the AWA
does not have authority to do that. They do not deny permission to do
any experiment no matter how painful, no matter how deadly it might be
and that’s something that has to change.

MM: So when a particular scientist is found to have, you know,
committed a violation, does that then go on a record, their record
of some sort?

DD: Violations are almost always responded to with what’s called
a letter-of-counsel, which is simply a letter from the IACUC to the
investigator that describes the offense and tells them not to do it again.
And that letter does become part of their University of Washington
record, in terms of their permissions to do animal experiments. So
once someone has committed a violation, the next time they ask for
permission to do experiments, the Committee could see the fact that
they had a violation before, however this is not part of their personnel
record, and there’s no federal database such that as if someone commits
a violation here at the University of Washington and leaves and goes to
join the faculty at Harvard, their history of animal abuse and violations
does not follow them. And they can continue to commit abuse at other
institutions. And that’s sometimes the case that a problem employee will
go from place to place until they’re sort of shot out by disciplinary action.
And it just sort of creates a perpetual problem in terms of animal abuse.
And this is with investigators, with veterinary staff and with technician
level staff that are used in animal care operations.

MM: So it sounds like we really need a national database to keep track
of all this?

DD: A registry of offenses by individual investigators and by institution
so that its easy to find out when violations have taken place and activist
groups don’t have to spend months making Freedom of Information Act
requests to find out what kind of abuses are taking place. University
should be forthright about what’s happening and forthright the disciplinary
actions that are taken.

MM: How can people find out more about these issues?

DD: People can find out more about these issues by visiting Stop Animal
Tests Dot Com. And there’s lots of information about the abuse of animals
in laboratories and alternative methods that do not involve animals. So
there are scientists that are using progressive methods that are non animal

MM: All right, thank you.

DD: Thank you.


Post a Comment

<< Home