Posts tagged University of Washington

AMONG THE ANIMALS: UW to broaden animal testing

The human-body simulator (like the one at University of Washington) being used for training. (Photo courtesy of Laerdal Medical)

The human-body simulator (like the one at University of Washington) being used for training. (Photo courtesy of Laerdal Medical)

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in the Queen Anne & Magnolia News and City Living Seattle

November 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

The University of Washington (UW) is an integral part of our Seattle community as the professional home of researchers and medical doctors. Since we support them with donations and federal funds, their actions reflect upon our community, particularly with regard to the use of animals.

Unfortunately, recent issues have highlighted incongruities between UW’s stated goals to use animals responsibly and decisions made by certain medical instructors and the UW Regents.

In October, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine organized a physician-led protest to bring awareness to UW’s paramedic training program, which uses 31 pigs each year to teach paramedics, paramedic students and Airlift flight nurses how to manage obstructed airways in trauma patients. The pigs are anesthetized, used for training and then euthanized.

This is an unnecessary use of animals, and the UW has a human-body simulator, known as the SimMan 3G, which is already used to teach medical students, graduate physicians and trauma physicians this procedure (and many other procedures) without the use of animals.

Dr. John Pippin, the Physicians Committee director of academic affairs, explains that of the 11 surveyed paramedic training programs in the Pacific Northwest, 10 use human simulators instead of live animals, with UW being the holdout.

Additionally, using pigs constitutes a sub-standard educational method. Students trained with human simulators benefit from learning this skill on a replicated human rather than pig anatomy, and a human simulator can be used repetitively to optimize training, so students are not limited to practicing a few times on pigs.

“It’s the decision of the instructor,” UW Medicine spokesperson Tina Mankowski stated, but Pippin explained that the decision is simply wrong and paramedic students are missing out on human-relevant training.

(To encourage UW’s transition to human-centered, animal-friendly training, visit the Physicians Committee website at www.pcrm.org.)

Broadening animal research

An entrenched approach to animal use appears to be affecting other UW decisions, as well. In 2013, the UW Board of Regents approved a new Animal Research and Care Facility (ARCF) to centralize animal labs on campus. According to David Anderson, executive director of Health Science Administration, UW intends to grow its primate-research capacity with the new ARCF.

Our community was left out of decisions about the ARCF and its impact on animals, according to Amanda Schemkes, director of the group Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing.

Schemkes has sued the UW, claiming failure to comply with Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act. The act states that public commissions and boards (such as the UW Regents) “exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business” and that actions and deliberations be conducted openly.

Yet, documents obtained by Schemkes show that the UW Regents allegedly discussed and agreed to support the ARCF at a dinner meeting before the public meeting. Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing’s lawsuit seeks the Regents’ decision to build the ARCF to be voided and to allow time for the community and the Regents to educate themselves about the realities of primate testing.

Animals in research labs suffer considerably as a result of being used as a tool rather than treated as a soul. Many endure lethal exposure to toxic chemicals or have mechanical devices implanted in eyes and brains. Some primates live in small, solitary cages most of their lives.

In the last decade, UW has received multiple USDA citations and fines for failure to care for animals and for performing unauthorized surgeries.

‘Slowing medical progress’

There is a growing voice in the medical community that animal testing is inherently flawed and slows medical progress by placing a hyper-focus on animal use, instead of developing human-relevant alternatives such as cell cultures for toxicity testing and organ-on-a-chip technology for systems-level biology tests.

Also, animal experiments are shown to be unreliable, according to John J. Pippins’ 2013 “Animals Research in Medical Sciences,” since up to 96 percent of drugs successfully tested in animals fail in human clinical trials, while dangerous drugs sometimes gain FDA approval. Furthermore, some chronic diseases have no cures or effective treatments despite decades of animal experiments.

Yet, in 2014, UW received $423 million in taxpayer funds through the National Institutes of Health, much of which supports animal testing. A diversion away from research on animals could mean a loss of these funds, and “the animal research portfolio accounts for over 35 percent of research activity,” according to UW documents.

Although Anderson assures that all animal testing is reviewed for necessity, the UW’s plans to increase primate testing — rather than to set institutional goals to intentionally reduce animal testing overall — is not an ethical use of taxpayer funds. So, while there may be little monetary motivation to reduce animal testing, there is certainly a moral and scientific prerogative, since increasing primate testing inherently diverts funds from human-relevant research methods and subverts the rights of animals to be free from cruelty and mutilation.

The goal of using and seeking alternatives to animal use is not to block progress but to advance scientific discovery and training that will directly apply to human physiology. Furthermore, human progress is not just evaluated by our advancements in medical science but is also measured by our intentional evolution of the ethical treatment of animals.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane (livinghumane.com), a news site about humane-conscious lifestyles.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Peace for Geese

Canada goose in Seattle Park (Photo by D. Weinstein)

Canada goose in Seattle Park (Photo by D. Weinstein)

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

August 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Our relationship with Canada geese in the Puget Sound region has a convoluted history. The resident population of geese was originally transplanted here as goslings by the government in the late 1960s as hunting stock. With the mild climate, the fledglings formed a non-migratory population that now lives in the Puget Sound region year-round.

Unfortunately, geese living and defecating in waterfront parks is an annoyance for some. So around 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) began conducting region-wide geese roundups by suffocating the birds with carbon dioxide or shooting them on Lake Washington.

Videos and eyewitness sightings of the roundups motivated local residents to demand an end to geese killing, and in 2004, the Seattle Parks and Recreation announced it would no longer use lethal control. However, Wildlife Services did not stop killing geese on behalf of King and Pierce county municipalities, according to reports obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Each year, local cities sign onto an Interlocal Agency Agreement to collectively pay for USDA-WS services. This year’s agreement included Bellevue, Kent, Kirkland, Mountlake Terrace, Renton, Tukwila, Woodinville, the Port of Seattle, Seattle Parks, Tacoma MetroParks and the University of Washington (UW). Most participants pay $2,230 per year to have USDA-WS conduct surveys, addle eggs (to prevent development) and kill geese. USDA-WS Washington state director Roger Woodruff explains that the fees collected for these services, around $25,000 per year, covers all costs for these services.

The UW, Seattle and Bellevue, among others, report that they do not request lethal control, but all the agreement signatories pay for lethal control regardless of whether it is done within their jurisdiction. In 2013, 1,159 geese were killed in King County.

Non-lethal control

Geese in Seattle parks (Photo by D. Weinstein)

Geese in Seattle parks (Photo by D. Weinstein)

According to Woodruff, the geese population in our region soared in the late 1990s, when the agency ramped up lethal control. He says that egg addling is only minimally successful because much of Seattle’s shoreline is privately owned where USDA-WS cannot reach the eggs, and that culling prevents bird strikes at local airports.

However, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Bird Strikes database, in 1998 and 1999 (at the height of the geese population), there were two strikes involving Canada geese each year at the local airports. By 2004 and 2005, after years of killing geese, the average number of Canada goose strikes was still two per year. Even today, while many cities shun lethal control, only one Canada goose bird strike occurred in 2013. These strikes caused only minor or no damage to the aircraft and no human injury.

Animal advocates maintain that lethal control is cruel and unnecessary and should not be funded by taxpayers. When gassed, geese are corralled into metal boxes, where they struggle and gasp for oxygen. Eyewitnesses report the geese break their necks and wings in a desperate struggle for their lives.

Advocates encourage the use of a wide range of non-lethal alternatives, including expanded egg addling, modifications to park landscaping and harassment of geese with trained dogs and other deterrents. Certain cities do use some of these methods.

Feces-cleanup equipment, such as Naturesweep, can be purchased for park cleanup. For population control, OvoControl (a birth control-laced bird feed) and male goose vasectomies could be used.

Unfortunately, Interlocal Agreement signatories have shown little innovative spirit to implement new solutions. Bellevue, Seattle and UW report never having tried OvoControl, citing concerns about delivering the right dose or feeding non-target species, such as rats.

However, scientists at the USDA National Wildlife Research Center collaborated to develop and test OvoControl. Studies on Oregon geese populations have shown the product is successful at population control and is cost-effective.

The drug is administered during breeding season and would mitigate the problem of not being able to addle eggs on private property. With some ingenuity, a geese-specific feeder could be used to ensure the OvoControl does not reach non-target species.

Similarly, a Bronx Zoo study showed that vasectomies in resident goose populations reduce egg viability from 90 to 12 percent. Perhaps this kind of permanent solution for resident geese could be sustainable for decades.

Petitions circulating

Goose in Seattle park (photo by D. Weinstein)

Goose in Seattle park (photo by D. Weinstein)

For 15 years, geese management in King County has been a revolving door of human-goose conflicts. When agencies pay only $2,230 per year, it is not surprising that USDA-WS services are not sustainable and geese conflicts continue to occur. UW reports having to continually clean up geese feces at significant cost, but it continues to rely on USDA-WS.

A local group, Peace for Geese, is asking cities to stop killing geese and focus only on humane alternatives. As a matter of humane justice, taxpayer funds should be used for non-lethal, region-wide, sustainable, innovative solutions to geese population management. A petition is available asking cities to make this shift, and Peace for Geese is asking you to sign.

Hopefully, Puget Sound citizens will demand that our cities stop killing urban wildlife and implement long-term, humane measures for our resident geese.

To learn more, visit the Peace for Geese Project on Facebook and sign the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/puget-sound-area-officials-stop-killing-canada-geese#sthash.MhG0yhSe.dpuf

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is the editor of “Living Humane,” a news site on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.

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