Links for Keyword: Animal Rights

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By Joshua Rothman In 2004, when she was twenty-three, Sunaura Taylor Googled “arthrogryposis,” the name of a condition she has had since birth. Its Greek roots mean “hooked joints”; the arms and legs of many people who have it are shorter than usual because their joints are permanently flexed. Taylor was curious about whether animals had it, too. In the journal of the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Centre, she found a report called “Congenital Limb Deformity in a Red Fox.” It described a young fox with arthrogryposis. He had “marked flexure of the carpal and tarsal joints of all four limbs”—that is, hooked legs. He walked on the backs of his paws, which were heavily callused. In a surprised tone, the report noted that he was muscular, even a little fat: his stomach contained “the remains of two rodents and bones from a larger mammal mixed with partially digested apple, suggesting that the limb deformity did not preclude successful hunting and foraging.” All this had been discovered after he had been shot by someone walking in the woods, who noticed that he “had an abnormal gait and appeared sick.” Taylor was taken aback by this story. The fox, she thought, had been living a perfectly good life before someone had shot it. Perhaps that someone—the report named only “a resident of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia”—had been afraid of it; maybe he’d seen it as a weird, stumbling creature and imagined the shooting as an act of mercy. Taylor’s hands are small, and she has trouble lifting them; she uses a motorized wheelchair to get around. Once, her libertarian grandmother had told her that, were it not for the help of others, Taylor would “die in the woods.” When she read about the fox, she was coming into political consciousness as a disabled person. She had been learning about what disabilities scholars call the “better-off-dead narrative”—the idea, pervasive in movies and books, that life with a disability is inherently and irredeemably tragic. In the fox, she saw herself. © 2017 Condé Nast.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 23710 - Posted: 06.06.2017

By Meredith Wadman In 2013, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector visited Thomas D. Morris, Inc., a Maryland animal breeder that sells to U.S. government and academic scientists. The inspector found numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which sets standards for humane treatment. Fifteen unshorn sheep were penned in a sweltering building, while a group of calves and sheep had no shelter at all. A goat and a lamb were lame; another goat had an egg-sized swelling on its shoulder. In a subsequent letter, USDA warned the firm, which had 18 employees and $5 million in revenue in 2013, that future violations could result in fines or criminal prosecution. But it’s difficult for the public to know whether the company—which supplied animals used in at least 48 biomedical studies published since 2012—has kept a clean record. That’s because, on 3 February, USDA abruptly removed inspection reports, warning letters, and other documents on nearly 8000 animal facilities that the agency regulates, including Thomas D. Morris, from public databases. Some of the documents, which are maintained by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), have since been restored. But thousands remain hidden, and animal welfare advocates are now in court trying to force USDA to restore the records, and post all new documents, too. USDA officials said the removal was prompted by their commitment to “maintaining the privacy rights of individuals” identified in the documents, which animal rights groups, journalists, and others have regularly used to publicize the failings of AWA violators. And they say they are still reviewing the withdrawn documents, with an eye toward blacking out information that shouldn’t be public before reposting them. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 23658 - Posted: 05.25.2017

By Meredith Wadman The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering repealing a rule that exempts captive members of 11 threatened primate species from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). If the agency approves a repeal, the captive animals would be designated as threatened, like their wild counterparts, and researchers would need to apply for permits for experiments. To be approved, studies would have to be aimed at species survival and recovery. A rule change would affect biomedical researchers who work with several hundred captive Japanese macaques housed in Oregon. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a Norfolk, Virginia–based animal rights organization, petitioned FWS this past January, asking it to extend ESA protections to captive members of the 11 species housed in research labs, zoos, and held as pets. For obscure reasons, a “special rule” exempted these captive populations from ESA protection in 1976. Among the 11 species, the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) appears to be the only one regularly used in U.S. research. A troop of roughly 300 resides at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro. That is where the main impact of a successful PETA petition would be felt by scientists. “The importance of protecting endangered animals can’t be minimized,” says Jared Goodman, the director of animal law at the PETA Foundation in Los Angeles, California. “These animals are not listed lightly [under the Endangered Species Act],” he adds. “And the agencies until now have unlawfully provided differential treatment to animals in captivity who are similarly threatened.” © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 23335 - Posted: 03.10.2017

By Meredith Wadman The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today put the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on notice that it intends to use legal tools to force the agency to restore tens of thousands of documents on animal welfare that it removed from its website on Friday. In this letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the animal welfare organization reminded the government that under the terms of a 2009 legal settlement with HSUS, USDA had agreed to make public some of the records it has now scrubbed from its public database. HSUS, its lawyers write, “is exercising its rights under [the 2009 settlement] and intends to take further action unless USDA agrees to reconsider this bizarre reversal of the agency’s longstanding policy” of making inspection records and others publicly available. The animal organization’s letter notes that under the terms of the 2009 settlement, the two parties, HSUS and USDA, now have 30 days to settle their differences. After that, HSUS can ask the court to reopen the lawsuit. A spokesperson for USDA did not in the course of 3 hours return an email and a call requesting comment. The HSUS letter also argues that USDA’s actions violate laws governing the electronic release of data under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). One of the laws requires agencies to “make available for public inspection … [By] electronic means” all FOIA requests that it releases to anyone and that it determines are likely to be asked for again, by others. When they were public, many of USDA’s inspection reports, especially those of troubled facilities, were accessed repeatedly by a number of different users. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 23192 - Posted: 02.07.2017

Sara Reardon The welfare of research animals, including primates, will be much harder for the public to track after a US regulatory agency removes information from its website. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) agency charged with ensuring the humane treatment of large research animals, such as primates and goats, has quietly scrubbed all inspection reports and enforcement records from its website. The move has drawn criticism from animal welfare and transparency activists who say the public has the right to know how their tax dollars are being used. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which also oversees animals in circuses, zoos and those sold commercially as pets, says that making the data publicly available posed a threat to individuals’ privacy. USDA spokesperson Tanya Espinosa would not specify what personal information the agency wanted to protect, but said that it would be impossible to redact it from all the tens of thousands of inspection reports, complaints and enforcement action documents that used to be public. The decision is a result of the USDA’s “commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals”, according to a statement on the agency’s website. The records will still be available in redacted form through freedom-of-information requests. ”If the same records are frequently requested via the Freedom of Information Act process, APHIS may post the appropriately redacted versions to its website,” the statement concludes. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 23188 - Posted: 02.04.2017

By David Grimm Animal research has a publication problem. About half of all animal experiments in academic labs, including those testing for cancer and heart drugs, are never published in scientific journals, and those that are have been notoriously hard to replicate. That’s part of the reason that most drugs that work in animals don’t work in people—only 11% of oncology compounds that show promise in mice are ever approved for humans—despite billions of dollars spent by pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Meanwhile, academic labs waste money, mice, and other resources on experiments that, unbeknownst to them, have already been done but were never reported. In response to similar concerns about human studies, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007 mandated that researchers conducting human clinical trials preregister the details in an online database like ClinicalTrials.gov. Now, some scientists are wondering whether a similar approach makes sense for animal experiments. In a study published this month in PLOS Biology, Daniel Strech, a bioethicist at Hannover Medical School in Germany, and colleagues investigated the idea of so-called animal study registries. They scoured the literature and interviewed nearly two dozen scientists to determine the pros and cons of such registries—and whether they would actually make a difference. Strech chatted with Science to discuss the group’s findings. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Q: What would these registries look like? © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 22930 - Posted: 11.30.2016

By David Grimm “Painful, bizarre, and wasteful experiments.” Buying dogs “just to cut them apart … and kill them.” These statements might sound like the rhetoric used by extreme animal rights groups, but they come from White Coat Waste—a new, unlikely coalition of fiscal conservatives and liberal activists that aims to end federal funding for research involving dogs and other animals by targeting people’s pocketbooks in addition to their heartstrings. Last week, the group made its first foray into the political arena, holding a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., for reporters and congressional staff. Speakers called on policymakers to launch an audit of the agencies that fund animal research, and depicted animal studies as another example of big government spending run amok. “I can’t think of any right-wing groups that have taken on animal research before,” says Tom Holder, the director of Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports the use of animals in scientific labs. “It’s a new way to crowbar off policymakers who might not otherwise support” efforts to end the use of animals in research. White Coat Waste, based in Washington, D.C., is the brainchild of Anthony Bellotti, a former Republican strategist who has consulted for campaigns against Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. His opposition to animal research began in 1995, when, in the summer between high school and college, he worked in a hospital laboratory that was conducting heart studies on pigs and witnessed experiments he saw as cruel. After he became a political consultant, he hit upon the idea of framing such research as a waste of taxpayer money. “That story was being told in the Planned Parenthood and Obamacare debates, but not in the anti–animal research movement,” he says. “I wanted to unite the animal lovers and the liberty lovers.” © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 22891 - Posted: 11.21.2016

By Elisabeth Pain BARCELONA, SPAIN—In a bid to win the public's hearts and minds, the Spanish scientific community has pledged to become more transparent about animal research. Ninety research centers, universities, scientific societies, and companies around Spain have adopted a set of standards, launched yesterday by the Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies (COSCE), on how research organizations should open up communication channels about their use of laboratory animals. They are joining a growing movement for transparency in Europe. Although animal research is generally accepted in Spain as beneficial, “part of the society is opposed to this type of research or isn’t sure about supporting it,” Juan Lerma, a professor at the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante, Spain, who coordinated a COSCE commission on the use of animal research, wrote in the document. The signatories want to help the public better understand the benefits, costs, and limitations of animal research through a “realistic” description of the expected results, the impact on animals' welfare, and ethical considerations. Among other things, the Spanish organizations pledge to publicly recognize the fact that they're doing animal research, talk clearly about when, how, and why they use animals, allow visitors into their facilities, highlight the contribution of animal research during the dissemination of results, and publicize efforts to replace, reduce, and refine animal research. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 22679 - Posted: 09.22.2016

By David Grimm Depending on whom you ask, yesterday’s U.S. government workshop on the state of nonhuman primate research was either a raging success or a complete fiasco. The event, held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, brought together dozens of scientists, veterinarians, and bioethicists to discuss how research on monkeys and related animals is contributing to human medicine and to review the welfare policies that surround this work. But observers differed widely on whether it accomplished what Congress had in mind when it told NIH to hold the event. “It was a great showcase of the importance nonhuman primates have played and continue to play in human health,” says Anne Deschamps, a senior science policy analyst at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, one of several scientific organizations that signed onto a white paper released in advance of the meeting that promoted the use of these animals in biomedical research. She contends that research on these animals has been critical for our understanding of HIV and the human brain. But the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), whose lobbying efforts led to the workshop, says the meeting was supposed to determine whether monkeys and their relatives belong in laboratories in the first place. “It was an infomercial for the use of monkeys in experiments,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo in Norfolk, Virginia. “It was a wasted opportunity.” © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 22644 - Posted: 09.12.2016

by Bethany Brookshire There’s an osprey nest just outside Jeffrey Brodeur’s office at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “I literally turn to my left and they’re right there,” says Brodeur, the organization’s communications and outreach specialist. WHOI started live-streaming the osprey nest in 2005. For the first few years, few people really noticed. All that changed in 2014. An osprey pair had taken up residence and produced two chicks. But the mother began to attack her own offspring. Brodeur began getting e-mails complaining about “momzilla.” And that was just the beginning. “We became this trainwreck of an osprey nest,” he says. In the summer of 2015, the osprey family tried again. This time, they suffered food shortages. The camera received an avalanche of attention, complaints and e-mails protesting the institute’s lack of intervention. One scolded, “it is absolutely disgusting that you will not take those chicks away from that demented witch of a parent!!!!! Instead you let them be constantly abused and go without [sic] food. Yes this is nature but you have a choice to help or not. This is totally unacceptable. She should be done away with so not to abuse again.” By mid-2015, Brodeur began to receive threats. “People were saying ‘we’re gonna come help them if you don’t,’” he recalls. The osprey cam was turned off, and remains off to this day. Brodeur says he’s always wondered why people had such strong feelings about a bird’s parenting skills. Why do people spend so much time and emotion attempting to apply their own moral sense to an animal’s actions? The answer lies in the human capacity for empathy — one of the qualities that helps us along as a social species. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22382 - Posted: 06.30.2016

By Aviva Rutkin MONKEYS controlling a robotic arm with their thoughts. Chicks born with a bit of quail brain spliced in. Rats with their brains synced to create a mind-meld computer. For two days in June, some of neuroscience’s most extraordinary feats were debated over coffee and vegetarian food at the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science in Philadelphia. The idea wasn’t to celebrate these accomplishments but to examine them. Martha Farah, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, assembled a group of scientists, philosophers and policy-makers to discuss the moral implications for the animals involved. “An animal would go from being a thing to a person, with all the moral and legal status that implies“ “Neuroscience is remodelling – in sometimes shocking ways – the conventional boundaries between creatures versus organs versus tissue, between machines versus animals, between one species versus blended species,” Farah told New Scientist. “We thought, let’s look at the ways in which advances in animal neuroscience might raise new ethical issues that haven’t been encountered before, or that might have changed enough that they need revisiting.” It’s a timely question. Animal welfare has been hotly debated in some corners for years, but a handful of recent cases have brought the issue to the fore. Last year, under pressure from activists and Congress, the US National Institutes of Health shut down its chimp research programme, and sent the animals to sanctuaries. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 22381 - Posted: 06.30.2016

By Ben Panko Everyone needs a stretch every now and then, but most lab rats don’t get the chance. According to new research, they are simply too confined in standard-sized cages to move naturally, potentially affecting their health and the outcomes of some experiments. Knowing that lab rat cages are a far cry from the rodents’ natural habitats, a team of scientists set out to observe the movements of some slightly more free-range rats. Most lab rats in the United States, Canada, and the European Union are housed in cages at least 18–20 centimeters tall, by regulation. But mature rats can reach almost twice that height when standing—between 26 and 30 centimeters. In the new experiment, scientists observed rats in much larger, multilevel habitats with a height of 125 centimeters. Compared with their tightly caged counterparts, who were unable to stand upright, 3-month-old rats stood an average of 178 times per day and 13-month-old rats stood an average of 73 times per day. They were also much more active: Three-month-old rats were seen climbing 76 times per day on average, whereas rats of all ages burrowed for about 20–30 minutes per day. The tightly caged rats, who don't have the space for these behaviors, seemed to stretch to make up for it, extending their bodies lengthwise nine times more often than rats housed in the larger cages, the scientists report today in Royal Society Open Science. The scientists say their findings are just the beginning of research into how standard laboratory cages may interfere with rats' normal movements. To find out how this may affect experimental results in fields like medicine and psychology, they say many more studies need to be done. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 22372 - Posted: 06.29.2016

Bianca Nogrady Nicholas Price works to understand the brain's fundamental functions, with a view towards developing a bionic eye. The neuroscientist uses marmosets and macaques in his experiments at Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute in Melbourne. In late January, he was shocked to discover a bill before the Australian Parliament that calls for a ban on the import of non-human primates for medical research. Australia’s three main breeding colonies of research primates consist of several hundred macaques, marmosets and baboons. Regular imports of the animals are vital to maintain the genetic diversity of these colonies, says Price. Senator Lee Rhiannon, a member of the Greens party, introduced the bill on 17 September last year as an amendment to Australia’s federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. But because the Senate committee that deals with this piece of legislation is not usually of interest to those in the medical research community, the amendment almost slipped under the community's radar, says Price. By the time he heard about the proposed ban, from another researcher, the window for public comment was days away from closing, though it was later extended. As soon as they found out, Price and his Monash colleagues James Bourne and Marcello Rosa began e-mailing researchers around the world. Several institutions rushed to submit statements opposing the bill, including the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), the Society for Neuroscience, headquartered in Washington DC, and the Basel Declaration Society, which promotes the open, transparent and ethical use of animals in research. Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australasian Neuroscience Society also sent statements of opposition to the Senate committee. © 2016 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21924 - Posted: 02.23.2016

Sara Reardon In July 2015, the major antibody provider Santa Cruz Biotechnology owned 2,471 rabbits and 3,202 goats. Now the animals have vanished, according to a recent federal inspection report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The company, which is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is one of the world’s largest providers of antibodies — extracting them from animals such as goats and rabbits by injecting the animals with proteins to stimulate antibody production. Biomedical researchers can then use these antibodies to detect and label the same protein in cell or tissue samples. But Santa Cruz Biotech is also the subject of three animal-welfare complaints filed by the USDA after its inspectors found evidence that the firm mistreated goats at its facility in California. Santa Cruz Biotech has contested the complaints, prompting a hearing in August before a USDA administrative law judge in Washington DC. Four days into the hearing, both parties asked to suspend the proceedings in order to negotiate a settlement. But those negotiations fell through in September. The USDA hearing is set to resume on 5 April. If Santa Cruz Biotech is found to have violated the US Animal Welfare Act, it could be fined or lose its licence to keep animals for commercial use. The USDA says that the company could face a maximum fine of US$10,000 per violation for each day that a given violation persists. The agency has reported 31 alleged violations by the company. © 2016 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21916 - Posted: 02.20.2016

Sara Reardon Mice are sensitive to minor changes in food, bedding and light exposure. It’s no secret that therapies that look promising in mice rarely work in people. But too often, experimental treatments that succeed in one mouse population do not even work in other mice, suggesting that many rodent studies may be flawed from the start. “We say mice are simpler, but I think the problem is deeper than that,” says Caroline Zeiss, a veterinary neuropathologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Researchers rarely report on subtle environmental factors such as their mice’s food, bedding or exposure to light; as a result, conditions vary widely across labs despite an enormous body of research showing that these factors can significantly affect the animals’ biology. “It’s sort of surprising how many people are surprised by the extent of the variation” between mice that receive different care, says Cory Brayton, a pathologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. At a meeting on mouse models at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, UK, on 9–11 February, she and others explored the many biological factors that prevent mouse studies from being reproduced. Christopher Colwell, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, has first-hand experience with these issues. He and a colleague studied autism in the same genetically modified mouse line, but obtained different results on the same behaviour tests. Eventually they worked out why: Colwell, who studies circadian rhythms, keeps his mice dark in the daytime to trick their body clocks into thinking day is night, so that the nocturnal animals are more alert when tested during the day. His colleague does not. © 2016 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 21892 - Posted: 02.13.2016

Sara Reardon Panzee the chimpanzee was a skilled communicator that could tell untrained humans where to find hidden food by using gestures and vocalizations. Austin the chimp was particularly adept with a computer, and scientists have been scanning its genome for clues to its unusual cognitive abilities. Both apes lived at a language-research centre at Georgia State University in Atlanta, and both died several years ago — but they will live on in an online database of brain scans and behavioural data from nearly 250 chimpanzees. Researchers hope to combine this trove, now in development, with a biobank of chimpanzee brains to enable scientists anywhere in the world to study the animals’ neurobiology. This push to repurpose old data is especially timely now that the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided to retire its remaining research chimpanzees. The agency decommissioned more than 300 animals in 2013, but kept 50 available for research in case of a public-health emergency. Following an 18 November decision, this remaining population will also be sent to sanctuaries in the coming years. The NIH also hopes to retire another 82 chimps that it supports but does not own, says director Francis Collins. “We were on a trajectory toward zero, and today’s the day we’re at zero,” says Jeffrey Kahn, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who led a 2011 study on the NIH chimp colony for the Institute of Medicine. © 2015 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 21660 - Posted: 11.25.2015

By AUSTIN RAMZY HONG KONG — Australian officials have responded to criticism from animal rights activists and celebrities, including the former actress Brigitte Bardot and the singer Morrissey, that a government plan to protect threatened species by killing millions of feral cats is unnecessarily cruel. Gregory Andrews, Australia’s threatened species commissioner, has written open letters to Ms. Bardot and Morrissey saying that feral cats prey on more than 100 of the country’s threatened species and that they were a “major contributor” to the extinction of at least 27 mammal species in the country over the past 200 years. He called some of the extinct species, such as the lesser bilby, desert bandicoot, crescent nailtail wallaby and big-eared hopping mouse, “delightful creatures, rich in importance in Australian indigenous culture, and formerly playing important roles in the ecology of our country. We don’t want to lose any more species like these.” The Australian Department of the Environment says that feral cats are the biggest threat to the country’s mammals, ahead of foxes and habitat loss. The government plan would use poison and traps to kill the cats. In announcing the plan in July, Greg Hunt, the environment minister, said that he wanted two million feral cats culled by 2020. Australia has an estimated 20 million feral cats, which are an invasive species brought by European settlers. Calls to exterminate the cats have been floated before, including one in the 1990s that called for killing all feral cats by 2020. © 2015 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21512 - Posted: 10.15.2015

By Martin Enserink Researchers who conduct animal studies often don't use simple safeguards against biases that have become standard in human clinical trials—or at least they don't report doing so in their scientific papers, making it impossible for readers to ascertain the quality of the work, an analysis of more than 2500 journal articles shows. Such biases, conscious or unconscious, can make candidate medical treatments look better than they actually are, the authors of the analysis warn, and lead to eye-catching results that can't be replicated in larger or more rigorous animal studies—or in human trials. Neurologist Malcolm MacLeod of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues combed through papers reporting the efficacy of drugs in eight animal disease models and checked whether the authors reported four measures that are widely acknowledged to reduce the risk of bias. First, if there was an experimental group and a control group, were animals randomly assigned to either one? (This makes it impossible for scientists to, say, assign the healthiest mice or rats to a treatment group, which could make a drug look better than it is.) Second, were the researchers who assessed the outcomes of a trial—for instance, the effect of a treatment on an animal's health—blinded to which animal underwent what procedure? Third, did the researchers calculate in advance the sample size needed to show that they didn't just accumulate data until they found something significant? And finally, did they make a statement about their conflicts of interest? © 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 21507 - Posted: 10.14.2015

By David Grimm The journal Nature is revising its policy on publishing animal experiments after a study it ran in 2011 received criticism because the authors allowed tumors to grow excessively large in mice. The paper reported that a compound isolated from a pepper plant killed cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Yesterday, the journal published a correction to the study (the paper’s second), which noted that “some tumors on some of the animals exceeded the maximum size … permitted by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.” The tumors were only supposed to grow to a maximum of 1.5 cubic centimeters, but some reached 7 cubic centimeters, according to David Vaux, a cell biologist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, who first raised concerns about the paper in 2012. (Vaux spoke to Retraction Watch, which first reported the correction.) In an editorial published yesterday, Nature calls the large tumors “a breach of experimental protocol,” one that could have caused the mice to “have experienced more pain and suffering than originally allowed for.” The journal also noted the lapse could have implications beyond the one study, saying that “cases such as this could provoke a justifiable backlash against animal research.” Nature says it will now require authors to include the maximum tumor size allowed by its institutional animal-use committee, and to state that this size was not exceeded during the experiments. The journal does say, however, that it is not retracting the paper, and that the study remains “valid and useful.”

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21418 - Posted: 09.20.2015

By JESSE McKINLEY ALBANY — In a case watched by animal rights activists and courtroom curiosity seekers, a State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan on Thursday denied a request to free a pair of chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, being held at a state university on Long Island. The unorthodox petition — which sought a writ of habeas corpus, an age-old method of challenging unlawful imprisonment — was the latest attempt by the nonprofit Nonhuman Rights Project to establish that apes are “legal persons.” The group argues that chimps are self-aware and autonomous, a contention it has supported by submitting affidavits attesting to the animals’ intelligence, language skills and personalities, among other traits, in several cases filed in New York on behalf of various imprisoned primates. In what the group hoped was a positive sign, Justice Barbara Jaffe of State Supreme Court in April ordered a hearing on whether Hercules and Leo, 8-year-old apes living as research subjects at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, could be released and transferred to an animal sanctuary in Florida. Arguments were heard in late May. But while Justice Jaffe took the case seriously — her 33-page decision cited the long history of habeas corpus and included references to discrimination against women and African-American slaves — she could not quite see Hercules and Leo as people in the eyes of the law. “For the purpose of establishing rights, the law presently categorizes entities in a simple, binary, ‘all or nothing,’ fashion,” the justice wrote, noting: “Persons have rights, duties, and obligations. Things do not.” “Animals, including chimpanzees and other highly intelligent mammals, are considered property under the law,” she continued. “They are accorded no legal rights,” beyond being free from mistreatment or abuse. © 2015 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21241 - Posted: 07.31.2015