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Primate Experimentation: A Canisius College Controversy | Commentary

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Primate Experimentation: A Canisius College Controversy
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This Friday, September 9th, Canisius College’s Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations (ISHAR) will host a presentation entitled “The Use of Primates in Biomedical Research: A Personal Perspective,” led by Dr. James Ha, head of the Colony Demographics and Genetics Program at the Washington National Primate Research Center (WNPRC) at the University of Washington (UW).

According to the ISHAR website, Dr. Ha is expected to provide an “overview of the challenges, costs, and benefits of using primates in biomedical research.”  The event is expected to draw a sizeable crowd, as this event is both open to the public and a curriculum requirement for anthrozoology graduate students and undergraduate Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (ABEC) students.   

Animal Allies of WNY requested that Dr. Michael Noonan, ISHAR program director, include expert representatives of the anti-vivisection movement to participate in the September 9th event or, in the alternative, that such experts be featured in a future ISHAR event.  Dr. Noonan has not responded to these requests. 

It is unconscionable that ISHAR feature Dr. Ha, a man who makes his living breeding primates to be tortured and murdered in laboratories. It would be one thing if Dr. Ha were one of several experts invited to present divergent viewpoints on primate experimentation.  It is clear that this is not the case.  The absence of any opposing viewpoints demonstrates that ISHAR’s objective is not to provide fruitful debate or meaningful exchange of ideas, but rather to indoctrinate and convince students to accept the dubious proposition that there is scientific value in the torture and exploitation of primates and other non-human animals.

Not only is primate research vile in and of itself, but the University of Washington (UW), the very institution that employs Dr. Ha, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for egregious Animal Welfare Act violations.  UW was recently cited by the USDA for allowing a primate to starve to death (http://www.all-creatures.org/saen/wa/res-fr-wa-uws-insp-20090917.pdf ).  National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant reports and procedure protocols clearly reveal that UW regularly confines primates to restraint chairs, deprives them of food and water and bolts devices to their skulls.  The UW was also forced to refund a substantial amount of NIH grant money after they were found to have performed over 40 illegal and unapproved surgeries on primates

ISHAR appeared to be on the right track when it opened its distinguished speaker series with renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall in the Spring of 2010. Although Dr. Goodall did not discuss the ethical implications of animal laboratory research during her Canisius presentation, in an interview with In Defense of Animals, she makes clear her position against primate experimentation, stating, “We shouldn't be expanding the primate research centers. We should be closing them down, all of them.”

One can only imagine the heartbreak and outrage Dr. Goodall would experience if she were to learn that the very same institute that honored her a year ago is now welcoming Dr. Ha, a man who profits from and promotes the breeding, exploitation and torture of primates in laboratories.

The September 9th ISHAR event is advertised on the ISHAR website as a “topical symposium” set up to “actively engage participants in discussions/debates about moral issues pertaining to human-animal interactions.”  However, Dr. Ha’s presentation, entitled “The Use of Primates in Biomedical Research:  A Personal Perspective,” falls far short of the goals of a symposium.  As one who profits from the exploitation of primates in laboratories, Dr. Ha cannot be expected to credibly present both views.

An educational void is created when individuals are force-fed only one side of an extremely controversial debate.  In an effort to fill the void created by this one-sided ISHAR presentation, Animal Allies of WNY and other local animal advocacy groups will stage an event outside the Montante Cultural Center on September 9th before Dr. Ha’s presentation.  The hidden horrors of primate research must be revealed to the public-- it is our job to ensure the truth is heard and the primates suffering in labs are represented.  We welcome the community to join with us on September 9th to help us educate the public about the fraudulent science and greed responsible for the torture of primates in laboratories. 

The Animal Allies Club of Canisius College has also invited Michael Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director of the national laboratory animal advocacy group, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (www.saenonline.org) to present an in-depth workshop on Sunday, October 2nd at Canisius.  Through the efforts of Michael Budkie, the shocking abuses of animal research at such esteemed institutions as Harvard, Yale, UCLA, Princeton and the University of Rochester have been brought to light.  Budkie, who experienced first hand the cruel realities of animal research as a certified laboratory animal technician, now devotes his life to exposing the shameful reality of animal research.  Those who claim to care about animals and those who believe that animal research has scientific validity should not miss this vital workshop.  Check out the Animal Allies of WNY webpage for further details (www.facebook.com/animalallieswny).  We look forward to seeing you all this Friday!






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