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HOW SCIENTIFIC ARE THE ANU MONKEY EXPERIMENTS?

by Robert Ryan

During the past two years the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra has been under fire over experiments involving monkeys. Carried out at the John Curtin School of Medical Research on ANU campus, the experiments have raised much concern by antivivisectionists and animal liberationists.

The latter, whose opposition is based on the ethical and moral considerations, staged demonstrations on campus. This in turn received coverage from the media who were disappointingly predictable - falsely presenting the whole issue as one of "animal rights Vs scientific progress" - whilst completely ignoring whatever information we've given them about the scientific fraud of vivisection. No doubt the coverage reaffirmed the public's misconceived thinking: "It's such a shame they do this to animals, but if its going to help people then I guess it must be done - it is science after all."

And of course it's not suprising that the public has never heard of the scores of doctors and scientists who throughout this century have opposed animal experimentation, not only on self-evident moral grounds but on medical and scientific grounds.

The first stage of one experiment involves six months of "training" a monkey, while restrained in a chair, to perform certain tasks. The second stage involves bolting a skull chamber to the head of the monkey, drilling a hole through the skull, then, over another period of up to six months getting it to perform the activities it had been trained to do, while inserting electrodes into its brain to record neural activity in the visual cortices associated with these task performances.

In a recorded interview a spokesperson on behalf of the researcher stated: "The purpose of the experiment is to find out how the normal brain functions... This technique is one of the few techniques that actually allows very detailed observation, very detailed analysis of what is going on in a normal brain, during normal function, normal behaviour."

"NORMAL"?? As explained by medical investigator/historian Hans Ruesch in his book, SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENT (CIVIS, 1978), the brain is an electronic laboratory of incalculable complexity. Its balance rests on the harmonious interdependence of far more than 10 billion nerve cells and a hundred billion "glia" cells. Any interference from outside - let alone the brutal insertion of wires and electrodes - is bound to upset this delicate balance. Moreover, the grey matter being humid and the electrodes being electrodes countless and unforseeable contacts between them get established, falsifying any result.

In the words of scientist W.H. Wheeler in Science Digest (Nov. 1972): "Most of the work on brain research has been done on cats and monkeys. It is risky to extrapolate such data to the human brain... The electrodes may be simply picking up signals in transit to some other part of the brain - like tapping a telephone line. Listening to a conversation doesn't necessarily indicate where the speakers are."

Furthermore, the "experimental material" consists of animals that are severely traumatised and frightened by the violence they have inevitably been subjected to by the time they are immobilised in their restraining devices, so that their mental state could mildly be described as unbalanced - if not deranged. Let there be no mistake - the results obtained from this experiment will not be from the normal brain functions of a normal monkey but from abnormal brain functions of a monkey with electrodes in its head, a chamber bolted to its skull, restrained for years living under the not quite natural environment of a laboratory.

This can be summed up in the words of vivisector Ivan Pavlov (from SELECTED WORK, 1955, p. 383): "It must be pointed out that a phenomenon observed in a given organism under normal condition...is one thing, and a phenomenon observed under pathological conditions, especially when they are produced in the laboratory, as, for example, the stimulation of the brain, is another thing. They are, of course, absolutely different phenomena."

The original protocol for this experiment stated that it may have some clinical value in the area of amnesia and Alzheimer's disease. However, Dr Russell Beckett, an independent veterinarian on the ethics committee at the time disagreed, arguing that the protocol was misguided and misleading. The senior veterinary pathologist also pointed out that the insertion of the probe would result in chronic brain inflammation that would lead to altered conscious states that would negate the whole purpose. The researchers probably knowing that their claim was untenable withdrew the protocol and resubmitted it on the basis that the research was "pure science". In other words, to see what happens.

It's interesting that medical historian Dr Robert Sharpe, author of THE CRUEL DECEPTION (Thorsons Publ., 1988), says that it was clinical observation (and post-mortem examination) of human patients with damaged brains that told us the relevance of specific parts of the brain to changes in behaviour. For example, clinicians have discovered that bilateral removal of the mesial temporal lobes in patients resulted in extreme amnesia, which indicates that the hippocampus plays an important role in memory. He says that there had been a lot of work done with brain-damaged people in the past and since there are still plenty of such people that can be studied then there isn't any point in wasting time and effort on other species which are likely to yield misleading results because in many respects they are not like us. Their bodies are different, they suffer different diseases and their reactions to drugs and other substances are also different from us.

ETHICS COMMITTEES

Seems like a noble concept doesn't it. Sounds as though something is really being done to consider animal welfare and scientific validity of experiments. However, when this monkey experiment was first proposed in late 1990 the two persons - the independent vet and an animal welfarist - who opposed it were asked to sign a confidentiality form concerning all vivisection protocols discussed by the committee. They were not willing to do this and were subsequently excluded from further meetings. That committee soon disbanded, reformed without them and gave approval for the first stage of the experiment. Very democratic.

Who sits on Ethics Committees? Ethics Committees are self-regulating. They are comprised predominantly of vivisectors themselves - eight in this case - an independent vet and two token community representatives. Many of the protocols put forward are from vivisectors sitting on the committee, each with a vested interest in having their own experiments approved and in approving their colleagues so that they in turn will approve theirs.

Because the vivisectors that sit on these committees always outnumber the others there is simply no chance that any proposed experimental protocol could be rejected, unless for an occasional token gesture, in which case vivisectors would agree to reject an experiment so that animal welfarists would continue to feel that something positive is being achieved by their presence. When vivisectors are encountered with a real threat to the status quo, such as the ANU situation, then they would simply have the "troublesome" committee members removed.

In essence, the so-called "Ethics Committee" is a euphemism - a form of Orwellian "new speak" - for "Animal Experiment Approval Committee".

IF VIVISECTION IS UNSCIENTIFIC WHY DOES IT EXIST?

The principle reason is amply put by Dr H. Gundersheimer: "Results from animal tests are not transferable between species, and therefore cannot guarantee product safety for humans...In reality these tests do not provide protection for consumers from unsafe products, but rather are used to protect corporations from legal liability." When people are damaged by unsafe products (such as pharmaceutical drugs, industrial and household chemicals, cosmetics...etc) and attempt to take legal action, manufacturers can claim to adhered to "safety" tests.

Many other financial interests revolve around vivisection: the animal breeders; the manufacturers of cages, restraining devices, foodstuffs and laboratory equipment. Also consider that many scientists base their entire careers on animal experiments, therefore any criticism of vivisection is seen as a threat to their jobs. Even a former chairperson of the pro-vivisection Research Defence Society has admitted that, "the real motives [for animal research] are a mixture in varying proportions of scientific curiosity, desire to explore new fields, desire for recognition and fame, career ambition..."

In the words of the former vice-president of Doctors in Britain Against Animal Experiments, "the pressure on young doctors to publish and the availability of laboratory animals have made professional advancement the main reason for doing animal experiments." (Dr E.J. Moore, 1986) Animal research is a known method. Many scientists are trained in vivisectionists techniques without questioning their scientific validity. One vivisector has described the rat as, "an organism which when injected produces a paper". The same could be said of a monkey, which, when implanted with electrodes in its brain produces a paper.

In the United States where approximately 100 million lab animals are "sacrificed" each year, $8 billion was allocated by researcher-regulated committees to researchers in the year 1991 alone. Approximately 78,000 animals were "sacrificed" at the ANU last year. How much healthier are you? In the same year in the U.S. $750 billion was spent on "health care" - which should be called sickness care. In 1986 this figure was $360 billion and is expected to reach $1.6 trillion by the year 2000. The U.S. ranks only 16th in the world in infant mortality, 17th for female life-expectancy and 35th for male life-expectancy. In Australia the situation is not much different - cost of health care is increasing very fast as our health continues to deteriorate.

Where would you rather have your taxes spent? In the basements of institutions carrying out unscientific and cruel experiments on animals so as to support corrupt vested interests and morbid curiosity of pseudo-scientists? Or redirected to the prevention, clinical study and treatment of human illnesses?

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Published in the Spring-Summer 1993 issue of the CAFMR Newsletter.

Copyright 1993 by the Campaign Against Fraudulent Medical Research, www.pnc.com.au/~cafmr

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