January 25, 2015

"PETA's campaign and the intense public pressure it brought to bear on UW-Madison have ended this horrendous laboratory's legacy of cruelty at last."

Said the PETA press release on the occasion of the closure of UW's cat research lab, which was "quietly closed" last month.
Neuroscience professor Tom Yin had run the lab for nearly 40 years, and said it closed Dec. 1 when his research funding ran out. Yin said he is on a path to retirement and did not apply to renew his research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Yin researched how auditory and visual stimuli affect the brain....

The university issued a statement Friday that said the closure had nothing to do with PETA. Yin said he simply decided to retire for personal reasons.

"That was actually a regret I had when I decided to retire, that they would think they had forced me to close down," Yin said of PETA. "Nothing could be farther from the truth."
At the link — to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — there's a photograph of a man, but it's not Professor Yin. It's the actor James Cromwell, who was arrested in 2013, protesting at a meeting of the university's Board of Regents. There's also a photo of a Madison bus with a bus-sized ad featuring a cat and the words "I am not lab equipment."

There is no photo of Professor Yin or a word of explanation as to why cats were the animal of choice for neuroscience research. Let's look elsewhere for that. Here, in Isthmus, we learn that Yin studied hearing, and cats and human beings have similar auditory systems. The question was whether deaf human beings would benefit from having 2 rather than one cochlear implants, and the cats were deafened and fitted with cochlear implants. Much more at that link about the details of the experiment and the aggressiveness of the PETA campaign.
Eric Sandgren, director of UW-Madison's Research Animal Resource Center, says what is happening to Yin is a case study in the outsized power of activist groups like PETA.

"Underpinning this whole story is this tremendous pressure that PETA put on the regulatory agencies and UW-Madison," he says. PETA "besmirched" the UW's reputation, he adds, and "did so in a way that had no basis of fact.... Animal researchers are less willing to participate in [the UW-Madison Forum on Animal Research Ethics] or any similar public event in the face of PETA's misleading public campaign."
Sandgren says he received a razor blade in the mail recently.... "The letter inside said 'Doctor Sandgren, UW School of Veterinary Torture -- Use this razor blade to slit your wrists.' "I work with activists, I talk with activists and I try and have this dialogue, acknowledging the things we have in common... It's just sad when it comes to this."
ADDED:  I received a letter dated January 26, 2015from the University of Wisconsin—Madison School of Public Health Department of Neuroscience:
On behalf of our colleagues in the Department of Neuroscience we write to express our appreciation for our colleague Professor Tom Yin. The false claim that the closing of Professor Yin's laboratory was a PETA victory reminds us of the fable of the rooster who believed that his crowing in the morning made the sun rise. Professor Yin is 70 years old and, after a distinguished career that has lasted for 45 years, he plans to retire.

Professor Yin’s work has changed care for deaf children. Because of his work, we now know that implanting two cochlear implants helps children make use of the neural circuits that allow them to hear where sounds come from.  His work is recognized worldwide as being insightful and of the highest quality.

We often encountered Professor Yin’s frisky and playful cats, peering curiously around a corner or darting by at top speed or jumping into our laps.  Those cats got more attention and care and love than most pets. Dr. Yin is a gentle and unselfish man who has inspired many with his scholarship, dedication and passion for teaching. He repeatedly took on administrative tasks he did not really want. His research continues in the laboratories of the younger scientists he has trained, who now direct their own laboratories throughout the world.  The department and the University of Wisconsin take immense pride in his enduring legacy.

Donata Oertel                                                             Meyer B. Jackson

Professor and Chair                                                    Professor and Associate Chair   

59 comments:

rwnutjob said...

PETA, like global warming alarmists has another agenda. It's not about the animals.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/peta-kills-puppies-kittens_b_2979220.html

Guildofcannonballs said...

---In the 1940s, performing lobotomies wasn’t on the fringes of science either. In fact, Moniz won a Nobel Prize in 1949 “for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses”.---

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/01/little-known-tragic-life-jfks-sister-rosemary-kennedy/

Better to have fun experimenting on cats than humans, and we know science gonna be having fun yo.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

The millions of birds killed by cats were unavailable for comment.

Scott said...

The University of Wisconsin -- um, what's the right verb, maybe "farmed?" -- the first troupe of Rhesus monkeys in North America for behavioral research. Without the insights gained from experimenting on these primates, your therapist would be Freudian.

Bob Boyd said...

The tricky part of this kind of research isn't making a deaf cat hear again. Its figuring out how to tell if the cat is still deaf or just ignoring you.

Ann Althouse said...

@rwnutjob

The "ethical treatment of animals" includes euthanasia. That is about the animals and avoiding cruelty.

The ASPCA is also dedicated to the "prevention of cruelty to animals" and that's a euphemistic way of disclosing an agenda of euthanizing excess pet animals.

Where is the hypocrisy?

Bob Boyd said...

Unsolved Mysteries of Rock and Roll.
Did you ever wonder what ever became of the band Def Leopard?
They showed up to play UW and were never seen again.

Ann Althouse said...

If some animal research seems wrong to you, where do you draw the line?

Is it about animals you regard as possible pets (even though you know very well that millions of cats are euthanized and the cats that live are either serving the purposes of human beings (who benefit from pets) or running wild and damaging the environment)?

I should think the research needs to be justified and the methods need to be humane and monitored.

Ann Althouse said...

"The tricky part of this kind of research isn't making a deaf cat hear again. Its figuring out how to tell if the cat is still deaf or just ignoring you."

That's funny, but if you read the Isthmus article, you'll see that the cats Yin used had previously performed in behavioral experiments, so they were trained cats that were especially useful.

paminwi said...

Why would any animal researcher want their picture in the paper? Sounds like you would be setting yourself up for even more whack jobs to find you and possibly do you harm.

As far as animal research, I am for it - it's either animals or humans. I like humans more, even liberals!

Anonymous said...

I work in the Pharma industry on the east coast. All sites I have been to use animals for research. They are the most important assets on campus. When Hurricane Sandy struck, the generators, staff, and resources went to taking care of the animals first. Millions of dollars worth of instruments and samples were damaged, but the animals were safe. (One site lost power for a week) They are the most cared for items the company has. They are treated with respect and compassion.

Scott said...

So the mass killing of animals is ethical if your actions are wrapped in a neat bundle of moral postulating.

When the Nazis killed six million Jews, their problem was merely faulty moral reasoning.

rehajm said...

If some animal research seems wrong to you, where do you draw the line?

The line for animal cruelty lies just beyond delicious.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

I have no problem with painful, cruel and or abusive treatment of animals for research needed to enhance human life.

Eleanor said...

Wild animals, which includes feral cats, aren't damaging the environment. They are part of it. "Damage" is completely in the eye of the beholder. It assumes one species is more precious and has more right to be biologically successful than another. I would love it if a cat would take out the bird that squawks every morning outside my window at dawn. I dislike birds immensely, and if they didn't play a role in keeping the insect population down, I wouldn't mind in the least if they disappeared. I'm sure my neighbor who has rows of bird feeders hanging from said tree feels differently.

Humperdink said...

Slightly off topic.

We had an end times discussion the other night. Talking about how grocery stores empty out at the first sight of an approaching hurricane. I casually mentioned, if worse came to horrific, we had two horses in the pasture. Everybody laughed. Then I read a bit of history on the subject. Quite revealing.

http://priceonomics.com/when-americans-ate-horse-meat/

"As far as consumption of horse meat within the United States goes, history had verified it as a food reserved for times of economic hardship; today, we steer clear of eating our equine friends. But why?
In the words of one New York Times columnist, “Horses are America’s sacred cows”

iowan2 said...

They are animals. Never delude yourself for even a moment that animals exist for anything other than the support of, and use by, Humans. Thats it. They are tools humans use. Like all tools they need to be cared for, respected, and most important, used...by humans, at their discretion.
Any attempt by a person to impart human attributes on animals, signals that persons slip from reality.

(yes I love animals and have loved and cared for more animals than 99.8% of people in the US.)

iowan2 said...

@Elenor
I agree animals are a part of the environment. That includes Humans,re.ACGW.

Danno said...

AReasonableMan said... The millions of birds killed by cats were unavailable for comment.

It sounds like ARM has been reading James Taranto's Best of the Web Today. (We can only hope.)

Michael K said...

I never knew that People Eating Tasty Animals were so annoying.

John H Gibbon, developer of the first heart lung machine met his wife, who was at the time a research assistant, when she accompanied him on his searches for stray cats to use in the development of the device.

They finally had a device that would keep a cat alive but their work was interrupted by World War II. Aftre the war, IBM provided technical assistance and funds to develop a machine that had enough capacity to keep a human alive for open heart surgery by 1953.

Cats were indispensable.

robinintn said...

"I work with activists, I talk with activists and I try and have this dialogue, acknowledging the things we have in common... It's just sad when it comes to this."
Live by the sword; die by the sword.

Fritz said...

40 years is a pretty long run. Maybe he didn't have any hobbies.

rhhardin said...

Vicki Hearne reports somewhere, probably in Adam's Task, the going psych research advice is "Don't use cats. They'll screw up the data."

Ann Althouse said...

"Wild animals, which includes feral cats, aren't damaging the environment. They are part of it."

You are wrong. They are an invasive species, present in large numbers, hurting the native species. It's a big problem!

Ann Althouse said...

"The impacts of feral or free-ranging human companion or domestic animals poses a challenge for contemporary wildlife management. The domestic cat is the best known of these animals for its impacts to wildlife. Feral cats are an exotic species in the United States. With numbers in the millions, these animals are recognized as one of the most widespread and serious threats to the health and integrity of native wildlife populations and natural ecosystems. Feral cats present special challenges for wildlife managers because their negative impacts are poorly understood by the public. Feral cats and other exotic species have become accepted as part of the environment and considered 'natural' by many people.... The cumulative impact of domestic cats on wildlife is impossible to quantify, however the growing body of literature strongly indicates that domestic cats are a significant factor in the mortality of native small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.... Even if conservative estimates of prey taken are considered, the numbers of animals killed is immense. Feeding cats does not stop them from killing or injuring wildlife and they frequently do not eat what they kill. The possibility for disease transmission among feral cats, wildlife, humans, and other pets should be a serious concern where feral cats are abundant. Cats were introduced into California and North America by humans who are now responsible for the control and removal of cats that prey on wildlife. The Department considers the impact of feral cats on wildlife to be significant and an issue that must be better managed to protect California's' unique wildlife biodiversity."

From the California government website.

Rusty said...


You are wrong. They are an invasive species, present in large numbers, hurting the native species. It's a big problem!

Coyotes are very good at eliminating feral cats.

Ann Althouse said...

"People who like lamb and beef, at least in North America, tend to draw the line at horse, which in my opinion is delicious. The best I’ve had was served at a restaurant in Antwerp, a former stable called, cleverly enough, the Stable. Hugh was right there with me, and though he ate the same thing I did, he practically wept when someone in China mentioned eating sea horses. “Oh, those poor things,” he said. “How could you?” I went, “Huh?” It’s like eating poultry but taking a moral stand against Peeps, those sugarcoated chicks they sell at Easter. “A sea horse is not related to an actual horse,” I said. “They’re fish, and you eat fish all the time. Are you objecting to this one because of its shape?” He said he couldn’t eat sea horses because they were friendly and never did anyone any harm. This as opposed to those devious, bloodthirsty lambs whose legs we so regularly roast with rosemary and new potatoes."

David Sedaris, "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls."

Rusty said...

Also small dogs.

Original Mike said...

Any animal activist who is not also anti-abortion (and I'd be willing to bet that's virtually all of them) is morally bankrupt.

Original Mike said...

Horses are just athletic cows.

chuck said...

Veterinary training has been affected by the animal rights movement too. Now they get to develop their skills on your pets.

rehajm said...

You are wrong. They are an invasive species, present in large numbers, hurting the native species. It's a big problem!

Be careful. Invasion biology is not settled science.

Gahrie said...

I've owned cats all my life, I own two now, and I have no problem with using cats as test animals.

Gahrie said...

They are an invasive species, present in large numbers, hurting the native species. It's a big problem!

Those exposes the huge fallacy of the Left when it comes to science. They want to turn nature into a museum exhibit.

Animal populations change. Some animals go extinct (if we let them), some animals evolve, some animals leave for new environments, some animals move into new environments. There is no static perfect status to protect.

They make the same mistake with climate.

Ann Althouse said...

"They are animals. Never delude yourself for even a moment that animals exist for anything other than the support of, and use by, Humans. Thats it. They are tools humans use. Like all tools they need to be cared for, respected, and most important, used...by humans, at their discretion. Any attempt by a person to impart human attributes on animals, signals that persons slip from reality."

Ah, but you're missing something: imparting human attributes to animals and slipping from reality are also purposes we have for animals. When we make the dog our baby or whatever, we are using it. That IS the use of pets. So I think you are mostly just disapproving of one of the uses. Is fantasy wrong? Children play with dolls and imagine them to be alive. We read books and identify with the characters described in the words. We take LSD and turn the world into a surreal fantasy land. It's one of the main things people do. You can say it's bad, but it is something we do, and we do it with animals a lot of the time.

Unknown said...

So what are you saying Scott? That Jews are the same thing as animals? At least you're honest about it ... I guess.

Unknown said...

I worked at the UW Primate Center back in the 1980s. The rats and monkeys were unnecessarily mistreated, the experiments were poorly designed and the workers were poorly trained, adding to the mistreatment. The only ones who benefited were the grad students working on their dissertations.

Fritz said...

"The only ones who benefited were the grad students working on their dissertations."

At a school? Whoda thunk?

Big Mike said...

Here in Virginia PETA dog-napped a family's pet Chihuahua and euthanized it. Later they sent the family a fruit basket by way of contrition.

In my book the best use of PETA supporters is to replace rats and cats as lab animals. They aren't any good for anything else.

Big Mike said...

@Steve Uhr, humans are primates. Now maybe if we used the grad students as test subjects ...

Original Mike said...

@Steve Uhr: I can't speak to the UW Primate Center back in the 1980s, but I can speak to the process of using animals in research protocols at the UW for the last 20 years, having used (primarily) swine in my research protocols. The application process is arduous, justification of every step of your protocol is scrutinized, and once you receive permission for your protocol oversight is extensive. My research involved both animal and human subjects and the requirements for animal use is just as stringent as that with humans.

FleetUSA said...

Another PETA target is the humane use of cats to teach medical staff intubation techniques. I understand cats present the best training model.

But of course PETA assumes the cats are being tortured. They are not. So at labs doing this a few wacko's show up and get front page news.

Unknown said...

Original Mike -- I am very glad that things have changed. PETA is odd and extreme but they and other animal rights organizations should prob get some of the credit.

Wince said...

I'm in favor of pussy experimentation.

Rocco said...

Eleanor said:
"Wild animals, which includes feral cats, aren't damaging the environment. They are part of it."

Ann Althouse replied:
"You are wrong. They are an invasive species, present in large numbers, hurting the native species. It's a big problem!"


Snarky response:
That's anti-immigrant. They're just doing the jobs the native species don't want to do.

More serious response:
Changing the ecology: clearly yes. Damaging the environment: that's a value judgement that's far more debatable.

Original Mike said...

"PETA is odd and extreme but they and other animal rights organizations should prob get some of the credit."

Fine, give them credit, but also condemn them for their efforts to shut down the development of life saving treatments

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

Scott said...

When the Nazis killed six million Jews, their problem was merely faulty moral reasoning.

Why Nazis not "National Socialists" We should call them as they were.

Why "killed" and not "murdered"?

Why mention six million Jews and not the twelve million people who were murdered in the camps?

Are you a holocaust denier?

You deny the humanity of those 6 million non-Jews with your statement.

John Henry

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

In this case I would go along with not having Yin's picture in the paper. There are plenty of crazy people in Madison. He doesn't need to be harassed or worse when he goes to the supermarket.

John Henry

Big Mike said...

What is it about Madison, WI, that folks think it's okay to harass researchers? It must go way back, given the light, slap-on-the-wrist sentences meted out for the murder of Robert Fassnacht and the maiming of a physics graduate student back in the 1970s.

Rusty said...

It's just good to know that when push comes to shove we can eat the dog.
Nice puppy.

Rusty said...

John Pinnette has a great routine where you take the cow to Disneyland and ride all the rides before you have it whacked.

steve uhr said...

Big Mike -- Murderer Dwight Armstrong, after serving a seven year sentence (and later -- four more years for operating a meth lab) subsequently worked for and was on the board of Union Cab for many years.

Union Cab is now up in arms about Uber coming to Madison, arguing that they don't do adequate background checks on their drivers.

Scott said...

@PuertoRicoSpaceport.com

Apparently I so insufficiently sarcastic that you missed the point. Oh well, you got your feel-good high dudgeon moment. And you're welcome.

steve uhr said...

Correction -- Armstrong was sentenced to seven years, served only three.

John henry said...

Scott,

No, I did not miss your sarcasm in comparing the National Socialist murders to PETA.

It really pisses me off when people deny the 6 million non-Jews murdered in the National Socialist death camps.

So yeah, high dudgeon if you like.

I note that you still didn't acknowledge the 6 million.

What are they, chopped liver?

Apparently.

Oh, well. At least you didn't accuse me of being anti-semitic for pointing them out. That happes to me from time to time. Count my blessings and all that.

John Henry

jr565 said...

If you have a problem with animal testing then don't use any product or drug that was derived from animal testing.

jr565 said...

Animal testing and cancer:
http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2011/06/21/animal-research-is-helping-us-beat-cancer/


So, if you don't want animal testing and are suddenly faced with a cancer diagnosis, do you realize that you are a complete hypocrite and go for the drug that might prolong your life? Or do you accept that you will die, but at least you aren't complicit in the system that uses animals for your benefit.

jr565 said...

"For example, the breast cancer drug tamoxifen – arguably one of the most important cancer drugs of all time – was developed with the aid of animal research. Over the years, it has saved hundreds of thousands of women’s lives."

SO, next time we have breast awareness month, lets also have PETA protest those women who take Tamoxifen.
I bet you there are an awful lot of women who are both supportive of science to treat breast cancer and also opposed to animal research (most likely liberals). Any woman alive today because Tamoxifen saved their lives should be thanking animal research and spitting in PETA's general direction.

Michael K said...

"the breast cancer drug tamoxifen – arguably one of the most important cancer drugs of all time – was developed with the aid of animal research. Over the years, it has saved hundreds of thousands of women’s lives."

When I first started in practice, Tamoxifen was a veterinary drug, used in horses I believe. It was cheap until the role it would play in breast cancer became clear. Then the price went up ten times. To be fair, I think the supply was inadequate for the demand and it took money to expand the supply.