I write to remind readers of the
history of lying in public, to the public, by Joseph Kemnitz and
the staff of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center. The
letter from Dr. Kemnitz that appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal
is misleading. It is my opinion that the lies told by Dr. Kemnitz
are - and always have been - calculated to deceive the public and
lawmakers and probably have been discussed ahead of time with the
public relations staff. Dr. Kemnitz seems rather ordinary in this
regard. The industry is thoroughly putrid.
Primate Center Research Vital To
Wisconsin State Journal :: OPINION :: B2
Sunday, January 12, 2003
Rick Marolt wrote a guest column Jan. 5 criticizing
the Wisconsin Primate Research Center at UW-Madison. He claimed
that there is insufficient information available to the public about
the research that is conducted at the center, that he is unaware
of any worthwhile results of our research and that research using
primates is cruel. It appears that Marolt has not visited a library,
read a newspaper or magazine, or done much Web surfing. Extensive
information about our research and primate research more generally
is readily available to anyone willing to take a few minutes to
look for it.
Kemnitz begins by misleading readers. Few libraries, no newspapers,
few magazines, and few websites offer detailed information on the
experiments occurring at in the Wisconsin labs, or in any other
primate labs. What is easily found are the repeated and manufactured
claims of a "possible breakthrough" for this or that disease
or malady. In fact, the details of the experiments and the lives
of the animals within Dr. Kemnitz's labs are closely guarded. Requests
for documents are routinely denied. See
Our scientists publish about 300 articles a year in professional
journals, including widely read general science periodicals such
as Science, Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
as well as more specialized biomedical journals. These are available
in print form and many are also available on the Web.
Dr. Kemnitz chose to name three of the most well-known and prestigious
scientific journals as evidence that the Primate Center's work is
widely disseminated, readily available, and easily accessible if
only one would "take a few minutes to look for it." But,
access to these journals is expensive. Science runs $120 a year,
Nature $160, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
$125. Access to the online versions can double these costs. Copies
of individual articles can be purchased, commonly, for $15 to $30
apiece. But this is far from the main problem. Even if one has access
to these journals through a public library, the papers and articles
published in them rarely go into detail about what is actually done
to the monkeys, the monkeys' reactions other than those under study,
or the required veterinary care subsequent to the procedures. Further,
these three well-known journals are not the primary journals in
which the monkey vivisectors publish. Many, if not most of the publications
are in small-run journals unlikely to appear in most public libraries
or even in some university libraries. Subscription costs are often
higher than those of the better known and more widely read journals;
individual articles generally cost about the same.
If one wanted to read Dr. Kemnitz's publications from the past
few years, one would need to consult: the Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism; the Medical Science Monitor;
the Journal of Nutrition; Hearing Research; The
Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical
Sciences; the American Journal of Primatology; Annals
of the New York Academy of Sciences; Experimental Gerontology;
the American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism;
and the Journal of Medical Primatology. Dr. Kemnitz has published
only rarely, if ever, in Science, Nature or the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Kemnitz's case is the
norm for the papers that are published by primate researchers every
Our work is also often covered by the media. For example, our research
on aging and caloric restriction has been the subject of news programs
on commercial television and science series on PBS, articles in
National Geographic and Scientific American, and numerous newspaper
articles. Exciting progress in stem-cell biology and vaccine development,
two other major dimensions of our research program, receives media
coverage on almost a daily basis. Our Web sites on primate research
were visited more than 10 million times last year.
The WRPRC research on aging has rarely, if ever, been the subject
of any television program nor has it been the subject of many, if
any, articles in National Geographic or Scientific American. It
is true that the research at Wisconsin has been mentioned in such
media coverage, but claims that the WRPRC research has been the
subject of such coverage is a generous spin on the truth.
We are accountable to our funding sources, and the major source
of our research support is provided through the National Institutes
of Health. Research grants are highly competitive and are awarded
only after extensive review. Formal progress reports are submitted
to the NIH, including an overall progress report for the Wisconsin
Primate Research Center, and satisfactory performance is necessary
for continued support.
This is generally false and misleading. When most people say
that they are accountable, they mean that if they fail, they will
be replaced or otherwise sanctioned. In fact, the dismal results
of experiments on monkeys at labs such as Wisconsin has resulted
in additional funding. This is like being a carpenter who receives
a bonus for building a house that collapses. With such accountability
it is no wonder that millions of dollars are wasted year after year
on cruel pseudoscience.
In addition, research protocols undergo multiple reviews before
they can be implemented, and our facilities and animal care program
are accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation
of Laboratory Animal Care, an independent international organization.
Again, Dr. Kemnitz is misleading. The evidence from blinded
studies demonstrates that the keystone of the oversight system,
the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, is a distinct failure.
Further, accreditation of vivisection programs by other vivisectors
is transparently self-serving.
Marolt was provided with a great deal of information about our
research program when he requested it two years ago. He stated in
his column that he was unable to understand the information, because
it was written in jargon. Our records are written in technical,
but not arcane, language, and someone without the appropriate background
or a good dictionary might have difficulty understanding them. The
lexicon that is used is meant to be precise, not secretive, as Marolt
would like the public to believe.
Marolt incorrectly stated that his state representative had asked
to visit the center and that I had denied this request. In fact,
Rep. Mark Pocan only relayed Marolt's request to tour our facilities
with the head of the Alliance for Animals and the regional representative
of the Human Society of the United States, two animal rights organizations,
and to take photographs during the tour. These organizations have
publicly stated their strong opposition to the use of animals in
research and I did not feel that such a tour would serve a useful
I don't know Mr. Marolt, and I don't know what he was sent by
the Primate Center. But I do agree with Dr. Kemnizt: "I did
not feel that such a tour would serve a useful purpose." If
we have to educate the public one person at a time by taking them
on a tour of a primate laboratory, the animals in those labs are
Furthermore, in a climate where investigators here and elsewhere
are sent razor blades in the mail and where animal facilities are
vandalized or destroyed, it would be irresponsible of me to allow
opponents of our program to photograph the layout of our facilities.
This is classic. As Dr. Kemnitz was trying to find a way to
get rid of the festering embarrassment of the Vilas monkeys, a young
female animal care technician died of a herpes-B virus infection
she had contracted from an infant monkey at Yerkes. Soon after her
death the Primate Center staff was declaring at county board meetings
that zoo monkeys had become a major public health threat - after
thirty years of public viewing.
Now, Dr. Kemnitz says that investigators are being sent razor
blades in the mail, so no one critical of the Primate Center should
be allowed inside with a camera, or even without one apparently.
Primate vivisectors received razor blades in the mail along
with a note signed by "The Justice Department." They were
given an ultimatum. The date came and went; it had been a bluff.
The letters arrived on the heels of the 1999 Primate Freedom Tour.
I suspect that two or three teenagers sent the letters. No one was
harmed; no one has ever been caught.
The only risk to the Primate Center from allowing critics through
the door is the results of their public statements. The animal rights
movement is so closely aligned with ahimsa, nonviolence,
and intellectualism that violence is seldom seen. This is the reality.
Dr. Kemnitz's claims - whether about the potential risk to the public
from an obscure monkey disease, to the risk of terrorism resulting
from a visit by a Humane Society representative - based on single
and clearly anomalous instances - are unscientific and irrational
or calculated and dishonest.
We study monkeys to expand our knowledge of primate biology and
to develop ways to improve human health and quality of life. We
are proud of what we do and continually strive to do an even better
job of it.
Kemnitz, Gerone, Smith, King, Hearn, Zola, Insel, Morton, it
seems that the directors of the NIH Primate Research Centers have
always been of a certain cut of cloth.
The injustice of the primate centers is possible only because
of the general ignorance of the citizenry.
For more on WRPRC visit:
Lama Criticizes Monkey Experiments at Wisconsin
of Wisconsin and the Concept of Honesty
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