Protestors will be on campus starting today to protest animal experimentation at UCSB, including the use of primates in research.
Members of the Southern California animal rights organization Animal Emancipation, Inc. (AE) will be leafleting in front of the UCen on April 23 and April 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of World Week for Animals in Laboratories, which is recognized in Europe and Canada. Other protests this week include a demonstration and street marches at UCLA on April 25 and against collaborators of Huntington Life Science in downtown Los Angeles.
World Week for Animals began as World Day for Animals in the early 1980s. AE President and Co-Founder Simon Oswitch, a former UCSB grad student in philosophy, began AE as a campus group here in the 1980s and commemorated World Week for animals in1989.
“We estimate that there are 10 to 100 million animals used for experimentation in the U.S., though specific numbers are hard to obtain because private industries don’t have to release documentation and military use is classified,” he said. “The U.S. does fund experimentation in other countries and is by far the largest abuser, greater than all other countries combined.”
AE is focusing its protest on a program to breed marmosets, a primate, at UCSB to be used in Multiple Sclerosis research at UC San Francisco. The mature marmosets will be sent to UCSF where they will be infected with experimental allergic encephalomyelitis – an animal model of multiple sclerosis. The animals will be euthanized at the experiment’s conclusion and the tissue sent back to UCSB for study.
“What’s important to us is not so much how animals are being treated, but what is being done with them,” Oswitch said.
UCSB maintains approximately 500 animals including 333 rodents, 15 other mammals, 142 cold-blooded animals and 11 birds. The animals are used for research and for teaching and are housed in two vivaria, one in Biological Sciences II and one in the Psychology building.
“The animals live in standard animal housing in a very structured environment where heat, humidity and sound are strictly controlled. They have high quality food and their environment is very clean and not crowded,” campus veterinarian and Animal Resource Center Director Diane McClure said. “Living in the lab is definitely beneficial for the animals; most have a very nice life. Many are euthanized once their project is completed. Some live out their natural life span and some are transferred to other projects. The animals are very comfortable and don’t know what’s coming.”
Most experiments at UCSB come under United States Department of Agriculture Animal Use Category C, defined as slight or momentary pain such as an injection. Those experiments involving more pain come under two protocols: those used for researching infectious diseases and studies on pain relievers.
An Animal Care Committee, comprised of a community member, a scientist, a non-scientist, a veterinarian and a grad student, reviews pain experiments. Animal experimentation and exhibition, including zoos, are regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, which was passed in 1966 and amended in 1985. Organizations like AE have access to protocol from committee meetings through the Freedom of Information Act.
Animal experimentation at UCSB is regulated by as many as 13 different agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, USDA, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and various funding groups.
“What we are asking is whether or not the university even needs this. The research done at UCSB is pure research, not lifesaving. It is not used by clinicians. Alternatives such as videotapes, in vitro, test tube and software can be used for teaching, pharmacology and dissection.” Oswitch said. “It is 2002 – we are living in the computer age, there is no need to subject animals to experimentation when there are more cost-effective alternatives.”
McClure said the computer alternatives such as software programs are inadequate and cannot match up to a living organism.
“At the present time, we cannot eliminate animal experimentation. However, professors at UCSB attempt to reduce, replace and refine their experiments so that there is less distress to animal subjects and less need for them,” she said. “I feel that using animals in teaching and research is a valuable resource. We treat them with dignity and respect, not frivolously.”
Psychology professor Gerald Jacobs uses several types of animals, including rats, cats and primates, for experiments researching color pigments and night vision in mammals, and said live animals are important for research.
“I approve of animal experimentation because it can enhance our understanding of other animals and our own physiology, ” he said. “One would use alternatives if available because they are faster, cheaper and easier, but in some cases there is no alternative. An example would be if you wanted to learn more about a species in order to protect its habitat.”