A Monkey Tale

News story highlighting animal testing mysteriously disappears


Frik, a monkey that underwent lab testing at U of U in 2009. This is not the monkey that was euthanized.
Frik, a monkey that underwent lab testing at U of U in 2009. This is not the monkey that was euthanized.

The story was made for television: A University of Utah research laboratory is performing tests on monkeys. A dose of anesthesia is given to a monkey so it can undergo a CT scan. The monkey’s body gets dangerously cold, and someone in the laboratory uses a special heater to warm the animal up. But instead, the animal is burned and, to halt its suffering, euthanized.

These are the nuts and bolts of a news story that aired Wednesday, June 1 on Fox 13, but was later scrubbed from its website and social media pages.

Animal rights activists began drawing attention to the monkey, which died in August 2015, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report in May 2016 that documented “failure of appropriate communication and oversight” by the university’s veterinary staff.

The Salt Lake Tribune wrote a story, and Fox 13 reporter Kiersten Nuñez put her piece together. But university officials felt the television story contained inaccuracies and also failed to give them the chance to respond to animal rights activists, who characterized the incident as “extreme negligence.”

With stories about the controversial practice of animal testing disappearing from the internet, Jeremy Beckham, the vivisection issues coordinator at the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, says the scenario strikes him as “borderline Orwellian.”

“It’s like you want the public to forget it even happened,” Beckham says. “Just deleting the whole thing is wildly irresponsible.”

Before the story could be removed, Beckham says it had been shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook and had garnered hundreds of comments.

Kathy Wilets, the University of Utah’s director of media relations, says that while she asked Fox 13 news executives to meet with her to discuss the school’s concerns with the story, she never asked for it to be removed. “I’m not trying to block any sort of reporting,” Wilets says. “We’re a university and there are groups out there who are watching what we’re doing, as they should. I just want to make sure that if others speak out on it that we at least have an opportunity to respond to what they’re saying.”

Wilets says Fox reporter Nuñez reached out to her and asked for an on-camera interview. But Wilets couldn’t make the interview that day, and a written statement was given to the news station.

Beckham, on the other hand, did make the interview, and the story, he says, understandably focused in on his points of view.

“This reporter, from my understanding, gave the University of Utah ample opportunity to provide someone for comment,” Beckham says. “If they don’t do that, then I really don’t think they can complain that their viewpoint wasn’t in the story.”

Fox 13 assistant news director Marc Sternfield directed City Weekly to the public relations wing of the station’s owner, Tribune Company.

In an email, Tribune spokesperson Jessica Bellucci wrote: “The story didn’t meet the station’s journalistic standards (and didn’t present both sides of the story) thus it was decided the piece would be pulled from the site.”

Nuñez declined to comment, also referring any questions to the Tribune Company.

While the saga of the disappearing story itself has intrigue, the University of Utah’s long history with animal testing laboratories remains controversial, and, in the eyes of activists like Beckham, is downright cruel.

But for scientists and doctors at the school, animal testing, they say, has provided a key bridge between a good chunk of modern scientific and medicinal breakthroughs.

The university’s attending veterinarian, who helps ensure that animals undergoing testing are being treated humanely, says that while all research projects are not “Disneyesque,” they are a far cry from torture.

“Many of the animals that are kept as pets have much tougher lives than the animals we care for here,” says the veterinarian, who, citing security concerns, asked that his name be withheld. “The image of research animals that are undergoing significant torture and distress is false and we make sure that that’s not the case.”

The monkey was injured while undergoing tests on a genetic disorder present in some children that impacts certain regions of the brain.

The University of Utah receives millions of dollars each year for projects that involve animal testing. This particular study, the school’s veterinarian says, involved funding from the National Institutes of Health. Beckham says more than $5 million has been spent on the study involving the monkey.

The National Science Foundation also contributes large sums of money to the university for a wide range of studies, including some on animals. One study, which commenced on Sept. 1, 2015, was for $925,000. By using something called computational cannula microscopy, the study aims to take brain scans of “awake, freely moving animals in unprecedented spatial resolution.”

While university officials say animal research is important, Beckham disagrees. And he says that, specifically with monkeys, there is no humane way to keep them stored away in confinement.

“What you see in laboratories all over the world when you put monkeys in this type of environment, they start to exhibit several signs of mental distress, mental illness,” Beckham says.

Monkeys, he says, have been known to bite themselves as they go “mad from this type of environment.”

“This is all, I think, hideously unethical,” Beckham says. “I don’t think it’s giving us scientifically valuable information.”

One of Wilets’ problems with the Fox 13 story was the use of a picture that shows a monkey in a cage with some sort of device screwed onto its head.

Wilets says she doesn’t know if the photograph was taken at the University of Utah. The school’s veterinarian says that he, too, doesn’t know where the photo was taken. If it was taken at the school, the veterinarian says that the type of headgear installed on the monkey is no longer used at the school.

Beckham, though, says the picture, of a monkey named Frik, provided by the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), was taken in 2009 at the University of Utah by a PETA field observer.

A PETA official in Washington D.C. confirmed that the photo was taken inside a U of U laboratory.

What Wilets and the veterinarian want the public to understand is that the school does what it can to ensure the safety and welfare of the myriad animals it uses for testing.

“I think, obviously, animal research is a controversial subject, but the reality is just about every medical advance we’ve enjoyed as a society and as veterinarians to treat patients has come, one way or another, from animal research,” the veterinarian says.

But on the other side of the testing debate, Beckham says he’d like Utahns to know that a monkey was put to sleep, its temperature wasn’t properly monitored and then it was burned severely enough that university officials thought it best to kill the animal.

And as for the Fox 13 news story, which seems to have succeeded in evaporating from the internet, Beckham says that as he sees it, the story was “pretty much entirely accurate.”

The Heartbreaking True Story of a Dog Left to Die in a Hot Car

On June 4, 2016, a dog died of heat exhaustion after being left in a parked car in Salt Lake City, Utah. UARC has obtained the investigative report of the incident. Below is this dog’s story, along with excerpts from the official report. 


1. A 15-month old yellow lab was left in a parked car. The temperature outside was 88 °F. A responding officer said she was “crumpled up on the floorboard,” barely breathing, and nonresponsive.

Dog-in-Hot-Car-2

2. The officer broke into the car. The dog was unconscious but breathing. First aid was applied and she was taken to an emergency vet.

Dog-in-Hot-Car-3

3. The car had all an all-black interior. The temperature was recorded in the vehicle at over 122.5 °F, even after the door had been open for a few minutes.

Dog-in-Hot-Car-4

4. The driver told the officer he left the dog inside the car, with no water, for more than four hours while he engaged in “recreational painting.” Not once did he check on her. 

Dog-in-Hot-Car-5

5. Despite being rushed to the veterinarian, she died. Vet staff said the dog’s internal temperature was “too high to register on their thermometer.”Dog-in-Hot-Car-6

6. The owner defended his actions saying he “did not think it was that hot outside.”

Dog-in-Hot-Car-8


Thank you to Salt Lake County Animal Services officers for heroically trying to save this dog’s life, and saving the lives of countless others.

If you see an animal trapped in a parked car, it is vital that you call your local animal control agency immediately. Take photographs of the vehicle and its license plates. Go into local businesses and have the owner of the vehicle paged. And don’t leave the dog’s side until emergency responders arrive.

Some states are providing civil and criminal immunity for those who forcibly enter a vehicle to rescue an animal in peril. Unlike a dog’s life, broken car windows can be replaced. 

Official Report: Dog Found Dying in Parked Car had Internal Temperature “Too High to Register”

UARC Calls for Changes to Local Laws to Prevent Future Tragedies

JUNE 8, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Dixon

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) has obtained disturbing investigative reports from Salt Lake County Animal Services regarding the tragic incident last weekend where a  a yellow Labrador retriever was left to die in a parked car in Salt Lake City. 

Officers responding to the incident Saturday took temperature readings inside the car–which had an all-black interior–of more than 122 degrees. The outside temperature at the time of the response was in the high 80s. Veterinary staff reported to police that the dog’s internal temperature was “too high to register on their thermometer.” The dog’s owner admitted to not checking on her for more than four hours while he was engaged in “recreational painting.”

“The negligence shown in this case is heartbreaking,” said Jeff Dixon, public policy coordinator for UARC. “Sadly, it’s not an isolated incident, and it is clear that stronger action is needed to help the public understand that leaving a pet in a car can easily lead to a health emergency and even death.”

UARC recommends that local officials consider enacting the following policy changes:

  • A new legal requirement that signs be publicly posted in commercial parking lots where there has been a consistent pattern of dogs beings left in hot cars. See attached for suggested artwork for such a sign.
  • Every minute matters in these situations. Local officials should review and strengthen response protocols to ensure that reports of life-threatening negligence and abuse receive an urgent response, including the use of police emergency vehicle lights.
  • The law should provide individuals with criminal and civil immunity for damage to a motor vehicle when it can be established that the damage was necessary to secure the rescue of an endangered person or animal. Such a law recently went into effect in Florida.

UARC urges anyone who sees a dog left in a car this summer to immediately call authorities, even if the windows are cracked.  After placing the call, take a picture of the vehicle’s license plate, and walk into nearby businesses so the owner can be paged to return to their vehicle at once.  Stay with the dog until responders arrive. People should not assume that the dog’s owner will return soon or that someone else has already called.

To review the animal control reports, click here. 

##

SLCoAS-hot-dog-sign
Policymakers should consider a legal requirement that retail parking lots that have had recurring problems post visible signs like the one above.

Feds Cite University of Utah Laboratory for Negligently Burning Monkey

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Planet Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) issued a damning inspection report related to the use of monkeys in experiments at the University of Utah. The report states that the U twice violated the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in connection to an incident when a monkey was severely burned during surgery. The monkey’s burns were so severe that he or she was euthanized. UARC has already submitted a GRAMA request for internal records at the school to learn more details about this incident. We will post the records on our website when we have them.

Most of the monkeys at the U are used in invasive brain experiments conducted by Alessandra Angelucci. Monkeys in this laboratory have a stainless steel “halo” device screwed directly into their skull and electrodes implanted in their brains. The monkeys are then deprived of water before being strapped into a restraint device and forced to stare at a screen. The monkeys, who are awake and conscious, are restrained and have their heads immobilized for hours at a time. Federal data indicates that more than $5.2 million in taxpayer funds have already been wasted on these hideously cruel experiments.

A monkey named Frik imprisoned at the University of Utah.
A monkey named Frik imprisoned at the University of Utah.

When they aren’t being hurt by experimenters, these highly intelligent primates are confined to tiny, barren stainless steel cages. Primates in laboratories offer suffer long-term psychological damage, and exhibit neurotic behavior like endless pacing and self-mutilating.1Novak MA. Self-injurious behavior in rhesus monkeys: New insights into its etiology, physiology, and treatment. Am J Primatol. 2003;59(1):3-19. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/ajp.10063.

Monkeys at the U live for years in tiny, stainless steel cages

The USDA inspection report blasts the U for “a failure of appropriate communication and oversight” in connection with the recent incident. The written protocol for the experiment required that the monkey’s internal body temperature be recorded continuously during the procedure, but lab staff failed to do so. Additionally, an unknown “hot air source” was inappropriately used to warm the animal, which caused a severe and ultimately fatal burn. These abject failures are troubling.

It’s not the first time the University of Utah’s animal research program has been in hot water with federal authorities. Following an undercover PETA investigation, the U was cited in 2010 for several violations of the AWA. Violations included allowing a kitten to die of dehydration, overcrowding animals in filthy cages, and neglecting primates for days at a time. The U’s only defense is that these violations weren’t “intentional,” but that doesn’t excuse acts of gross negligence.

In February 2011, after even more violations, the USDA took the rare step of issuing an “Official Warning” against the school for continuing to violate the AWA. Later that year, the U came under fire for killing a dog named Sunny, who was found as a stray. Sunny was killed despite the fact that she had a microchip with Utah Animal Adoption Center’s contact information. The organization was never contacted.

Robert, a cat at the University of Utah laboratory
Robert, a cat at the University of Utah laboratory

Unfortunately, history demonstrates that being cited with violating the AWA does little to ensure greater compliance going forward. A 2014 audit by the USDA Office of Investigator General (OIG) found that APHIS prematurely closes cases with warnings or very small fines, even when they involve “grave (e.g., animal deaths) or repeat welfare violations.”  An animal experimentation industry spokesperson was quoted in Science Magazine as saying that the audit was “pretty damning.” In reality, its findings revealed little that wasn’t already known before. Similar OIG audits in 1985, 1995, and 2005 all found that USDA enforcement of the AWA is extremely lax and ineffectual. Most research facilities consider the warnings and meager fines for violating the law as a small cost of doing business.

A long history of repeatedly violating the AWA has not resulted in the University of Utah cleaning up its act, and UARC doesn’t expect anything different from the latest citations. Additionally, Utah’s state cruelty laws essentially exempt animals who are being used in research from protection.2Utah Code Ann. § 76-9-301(7)(b). http://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title76/Chapter9/76-9-S301.html. In all likelihood, the U will be let off with another slap on the wrist, and the animals will continue to suffer.

If you’re a University of Utah alum, like most UARC board members, please voice your opposition to the school’s use of animals in experimentation to the alumni association. Additionally, refuse to donate to the school until it enters the 21st century of medical science and phases out the use of animals in research.

References   [ + ]

UARC Presents SLC VegFest 2016

UARC is excited to present SLC VegFest, a FREE event open to the public, on September 10th, 2016.

At SLC VegFest, Utahns will learn how we can save up to 100 animals each year, significantly lessen our impact on the environment, and improve our overall health by simply leaving animal products off our plates.

passion flourThe event will feature delicious vegan food from local restaurants, expert speakers, a kids area, fitness zone, and lively entertainment to create a fun and welcoming environment. There will also be stations staffed with volunteer vegan experts on a variety of topics to answer questions and provide support. We are currently accepting applications for speakers, entertainers, volunteers, exhibitors and vendors. Learn more and apply today at www.slcveg.com.  
 
 facepainting
SLC VegFest brings together local businesses, nonprofits, and individuals committed to creating a more compassionate, sustainable, and healthy community. With free admission, we are able to reach a wider audience, but are faced with many expenses. If you value the opportunities SLC VegFest brings to our community, please consider our sponsorship opportunities and become a UARC member

Saving water? Stop eating animals

Proclaiming that water conservation should be “one of Utah’s core ethics,” the Utah Division of Water Resources recently kicked off a nine-step pledge called “H2Oath.”

However, even if all nine suggestions were widely adopted, it will barely make a dent in the state’s water use because they fail to address the state’s biggest waster: agriculture. In fact, because agriculture consumes 82 percent of Utah’s water, the goal of a 25 percent reduction in water use is actually a statistical impossibility.

The vast majority of the water used for agriculture in Utah is used to produce hay and corn to feed farm animals. The “water footprint” of a beef hamburger is 15 times that of a veggie burger, and peer-reviewed studies have shown that a shift towards a plant-based diet would reduce society’s water use by an astonishing 36 percent.

This is a much bigger bang for your buck than reducing our “average shower time by one minute.” If you care about preserving our precious water resources, you can make the largest impact by going vegan, and the Division of Water Resources should start explicitly stating so.

Amy Meyer

Utah Animal Rights Coalition

Salt Lake Tribune: Letter: Saving water? Stop eating animals (May 14, 2016)

 

Meat Is Sucking Utah Dry, “H2Oath” Should Urge Veganism

Earlier this week, the Utah Division of Water Resources announced a new initiative called “H2Oath”, a “pledge” that Utahns can take to help conserve water. The pledge includes promises to change individual behavior in nine different ways, like only running the dishwasher when it is full, letting our lawns grow longer, and reducing “average shower time by at least 1 minute per shower.” 

We may wish that solving our state’s water crisis was as easy as changing our use of household appliances or taking shorter showers, but the statistics tell a different story.

According to a legislative audit, 82% of Utah’s water supply is used for agriculture. Because all nine of the H2Oath’s suggested action steps only deal with the remaining 18%, the state’s goal of reducing water use by 25% is actually a mathematic impossibility. Even if we stopped taking showers altogether, threw out our dishwashers, and completely xeriscaped all of our lawns and gardens, we would still be unable to reduce our state’s water use by 25%.

So what is the best way to reduce our agricultural use of water? Let’s take a look at where most of this water is being consumed. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that more than 86% of Utah’s irrigated land is currently used to grow hay and corn for farm animals.

This means that Utah is wasting enormous amounts of water to grow crops that we don’t even eat to support a diet that is unnecessary, unsustainable, cruel to animals, and bad for our health. No single action on an individual level would have as great of an impact on conserving water than going vegan. Even if Americans gave up meat just one day a week, it would save an amount of water equivalent to the entire flow of the Colorado River over an entire year.

You don’t have to take UARC’s word for it. Leading experts in the field of water conservation are now beginning to sound the alarm on the meat industry. University of Twente Professor Arjen Hoekstra invented the concept of the “water footprint.” He is considered one of the world’s leading experts on water conservation. He has co-authored several studies that have demonstrated how eating meat wastes water.  One study found that the “water footprint” of a beef hamburger is 15-times that of a veggie burger. Another study concluded that a shift towards a vegetarian diet would reduce society’s “water footprint” by an astonishing 36%. No matter how you measure it, animal products have the largest water footprint of all agricultural products.

WF_per_calorie_protein_and_fat2
Source:  Mekonnen MM, Hoekstra AY. The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci Discuss. 2011;8(1):763-809.

You can save an equivalent amount of water by either reducing your shower by one minute for the next 191 showers, or forgoing a single quarter-pound cheeseburger.

If you care about preserving our precious water resources, you can make the biggest impact by shunning animal products. The Utah Division of Water Resources should start explicitly stating so and encourage Utah residents to go vegan. If we continue to put our head in the sand and ignore the agricultural sector, which uses the vast majority of our water resources, Utah’s efforts to conserve water are doomed to fail.

Standard-Examiner Editorial Board Calls on Lagoon to Close Cruel Zoo

It’s time for Lagoon to stop caging wild animals

BY THE STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus found sanctuary for its elephants.

SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program.

Now it’s time for Lagoon to stop caging its exotic animals.

Lagoon, a theme park in Farmington, opened a ride in 1967 called Animaland Train. Its successor is the Wild Kingdom Train, which chugs through a lagoon meant to evoke Africa.

Here’s how Lagoon’s website describes it:

“The steam train travels with guests around the lagoon, treating them to spectacular views and glimpses of exotic animals. With animals like Siberian tigers, a golden eagle, zebras, camels and African lions, the Wild Kingdom Train gives an experience unlike most amusement park train rides.”

That’s the problem — the glimpses of exotic animals. Writing for the Standard-Examiner in August 2015, TX. correspondent Ceneca Solis reported seeing Siberian tigers, bears, Canadian lynx and lions “in lonely enclosures.”

Most animals, including the big cats, live in small wire and concrete cages. Lagoon points out that the enclosures “meet or exceed” U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements, but that’s missing the point, as Solis recognized.

“The enclosures at Lagoon are USDA approved, but what kind of animal wants to live in a space without grass?” she wrote.

“The lions are kept in metal cages at Lagoon. There is no fake grass or even real grass to keep them content. A horrifying thought to think about is has this king of the jungle ever had the chance to explore through the grass? Have the lions and lionesses ever felt anything on the pads of their feet other than cool cement?”

In a letter to Solis, Lagoon Corp. President David Freed said the animals came from “many, many” places. Some were born there, he wrote. Some had been pets; others had been owned illegally.

No matter how they got there, Lagoon isn’t an animal sanctuary; it’s an amusement park. It built the Wild Kingdom Train to entertain paying guests, not to preserve endangered species.

Wildlife deserves to be treated with respect, as Ringling Bros. and SeaWorld learned. Lagoon, however, persists in treating animals as cheap entertainment.

This is not 1967. We know better now — or at least we should.

Find them sanctuary. Commit to building them modern habitats reflecting their natural environments.

But stop keeping wild animals in cages at Lagoon.

UARC: Promoting Vegan Living and Fighting Animal Cruelty in Utah

Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) is excited to launch our website, a continually expanding resource for animal issues in Utah. We are a volunteer-run 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting vegan living and fighting animal cruelty.

Our primary focus is education and advocacy. In our first year, UARC’s goals are to:

  • Increase transparency and provide substantive data surrounding animal issues that affect Utah
  • Show 5,000 Utahns why and how to go vegan at our inaugural SLC VegFest
  • Advocate for animals suffering in Utah laboratories, farms, zoos, shelters, and entertainment venues

UARC is committed to a policy of collaboration with other animal advocacy organizations, but we are not limited to advocating only for the animals people share their homes with. We believe that the thousands of homeless dogs and cats euthanized every year, the 55,000 mice suffering inside the University of Utah laboratory every day, and the 500 turkeys from Utah factory farms killed every hour all need our voice.

Salt Lake City has a long history of passionate and successful animal rights activism. We have motivated more than a dozen restaurants to take foie gras off their menu, exposed fur farm cruelty and put fur stores out of business, promoted eating vegan to tens of thousands of Utahns, strengthened local ordinances regarding  the humane treatment of companion animals, showed the world the cruel practice of pig wrestling, helped pass an ordinance banning horse-drawn carriages in downtown Salt Lake City, and so much more. UARC is building on this foundation at the grassroots level, and we want you to be part of this local movement.

good IMG_4877By becoming a UARC member, you can be part of the growing movement to fight specisism on the local level. We partner with several vegan-friendly businesses in the community to offer our members special discounts and benefits.  With a donation of $20 or more to UARC, you can become a member and start receive benefits at a growing list of your favorite establishments. As a volunteer-run organization, you can be assured that 100% of funds received go toward our campaigns to help animals. SLC VegFest alone will cost UARC more than $15,000, and we rely on our community of concerned Utahns that recognize the importance of vegan living in the fight to end animal cruelty.

Our goals are ambitious, our campaigns are local, and our tactics are diverse.  But we owe it to the animals to never compromise and never forget our vision: animal liberation. Please join us by becoming a member today to support our campaigns and stay informed on actions you can take to help animals in Utah. Also, stay connected with us by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Fighting Speciesism and Cruelty to Animals in Utah