The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 29, 1993 - 3
'I think we have a responsibility to reduce pain and suffering
to the minimum, but in the end I think it's appropriate to use
animals to solve human health problems.'
- Dr. Daniel Ringler
Director, Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine
'I'm against suffering, psychological or physical. ... Just
because they are mice doesn't mean we can use them
as if they were beans or something.'
Citizens for Animal Rights
Founder and Director, Washtenaw+
U i r sss msrr ag ns b
University scientists weigh use of animals in research against benefit to humnt
By DAVID RHEINGOLD
DAILY STAFF REPORTER
triding past locked rooms full of caged ani-
mals, Dr. Daniel Ringler glances at signs on
the doors to find a room he can enter without
having to don gloves and a gown.
This is the Unit for Laboratory Animal
Medicine, the nerve center ofthe University's
animal research facilities. Though animals
can be found in 30 campusbuildings, the base operations are
located beneath the medical school, where researchers in
white coats scurry through a winding series of corridors like
giant lab rats in a maze.
Ringler, the unit's director, walks into a room and scans
rows of mice sniffing inquisitively at the sound of visitors.
These are among the more than 133,000 animals used
annually in University research, three-fourths of which are
Some are immediately euthanized so their organs can be
removed and studied. The rest will be put to sleep at the end
of the experiment so researchers can take tissue samples.
"If we can use 10,000 mice to cure a kind of leukemia in
children, then I think we ought to be using those 10,000
mice," Ringler said.
"Billions of mice are born and die in nature every year.
If we can use 10,000 or 20,000 or 50,000 mice to solve a
human health problem that's causing pain and distress to
humans-and to animals -then I think we should do that."
Weighing the cost of animal lives with the benefit to
human lives is a delicate balancing act, one that Ringler and
reearchers must grapple with constantly.
On one side lies promising new treatments that will save
human lives. The landmark Salk polio vaccine, for instance,
was tested on animals at the University in the 1950s. More
recently, University researcher Francis Collins used 1,500
mice in order to pinpoint the gene for cystic fibrosis.
On the other side lies the possibility of killing animals for
medical techniques that will never prove useful.
Always the question that plagues critics: Is the sacrifice
Monkeys in the middle
An assemblage of local and national activists said the
sacrifice wasn't justified when they rallied at last year's
graduation and outside the Sept. 25 football game against
The target of their ire was Dr. James Woods, a professor
of pharmacology and psychology, who has conducted a
series of drug-addiction experiments over the past 10 years.
Woods is using monkeys to try to find treatment drugs
for heroin addicts - drugs that do not have the addictive
side-effects associated with methadone.
"We think that we may be able to develop drugs that
people are not addicted to.... I think it's a justified objective
to use a monkey for that purpose," Woods said. "But don't
misunderstand me in that I'm not alone in this, that I have a
large scientific community that agrees with me."
But the idea of heroin-addicted monkeys has enraged
"I feel thatit's cruel and very unnecessary. It's definitely
a waste of tax-payers' money," said LSA senior Jeff Zick,
who protested the research. "Already we have cures for
addiction, and we could be spending the money to rehabili-
tate people with addictions."
Woods agrees the government should increase drug-
"My own opinion is it's inappropriate to take funds from
me and give them to rehabilitation. We need funds for both.
If I had my way, I'd make sure that we had funds for
rehabilitation and my work," he said.
Activists charged the University with negligence after
11 monkeys, out of a total group of roughly 180, died in two
years. Five suffered from infections related to the catheters
that channeled narcotics into their systems, and one died of
a drug overdose, necropsy reports show.
"One of the risks associated with chronic catheter place-
ment is infection," said physiology Prof. Louis D'Alecy.
"You can't attribute the deaths to negligence. We're talking
about an animal that costs several thousand dollars to get
into the system, and then you've got to maintain them."
uomo mr* uMr to squirrei feeders
Woods' work is a small portion of the hundreds of
projects at the University that involve animals. One experi-
ment is testing whether a low-copper diet can slow down
tumor growth in mice. Another project is tryingto strengthen
weak hearts in goats by wrapping one of their back muscles
around their hearts.
Any University researcher who wants to conduct re-
search on animals must first go to the University Committee
on the Use and Care of Animals.
"Anything that you do - if you put out a squirrel feeder
Daniel Ringler, director of the University's Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, peers into container of mice used for campus research.
- technically should go through the committee," said
Philip Myers, an associate professor of biology who serves
on the committee. Myers studies squirrel migration in
Michigan, often putting radio-transmitter collars on squir-
rels to test their movements.
The 15-member committee comprises faculty, staff and
some campus outsiders. Every year, it screens about 500
applications from University researchers for projects in-
Not all the committee's faculty members conduct ani-
mal research; the committee has included English and
philosophy professors in the past. Each brings a different
perspective to the table, and almost all research proposals
end up getting revised.
Researchers must justify the type of animals and the
number of animals to be used. They also must explain how
the project will benefit society.
One observer who watches the committee with a keen
eye is Maria Comninou, a founder and a director of
Washtenaw Citizens for Animal Rights. Comninou con-
tends the committee does not adequately balance a project's
merit with the cost to animals' lives.
"It's just a committee that tells you how you're going to
die, not whether you're going to die or whether you're going
to suffer," she said. "It's like a jury where you are presumed
guilty, and the only thing they decide is what sentence
you're going to get, what method of capital punishment and
how long you will stay in prison before you get executed."
"They may say, 'Go back and change it.' But they all
come back and get approved. But that doesn't mean I want
it to go away. I'm glad it's there --it's better than nothing."
Prof. D'Alecy, who chairs the committee, counters that
each research proposal faces a rigorous examination, and
almost all are revised.
"These people are a very diverse group, and they're far
from a rubber stamp," he said. "They're in many ways more
demanding than scientific review groups because they
make investigators explain it in a way that the layperson can
Research applicants also must predict how much dis-
comfort or pain the animals will feel.
About 60 percent of all projects fall into category A -
experiments that cause little or no pain to the animals. The
remainder lie in category B, experiments that cause some
pain, with 5 percent to 10 percent in category C, experiments
that cause significant pain.
Not surprisingly, category C research often generates the
most uproar among animal-rights activists.
A 1* er'uaWi I t t o anuials r'esearseha?
Such critics commonly call on institutions to use other
research methods instead.
"I'm opposed to most of it because a lot of times things
are done unnecessarily.... I prefer to use alternatives in any
form, because animals are not willing," said LSA junior
Laura Cieslak, a member of Students Concerned About
Cieslak and others say researchers should rely more on
computer models. Still, the difficulty is that they cannot
accurately predict how a body will react to a new drug or
"If a computer model came along that was better than an
animal model, that's what we would use," said David
Moody, a research scientist at the University's Kresge
Hearing Research Institute. "We're not using animals just
for the sake of using animals."
Comninou of Washtenaw Citizens for Animal Rights
said some animal research at the University, such as testing
whether automobile air-bags leave abrasions on pigs, should
be tested on humans instead.
, Comninou opposes research projects that confine ani-
mals or cause animals to feel pain. She also said the
University uses too many animals, particularly mice. ("Just
because they are mice doesn't mean we can use them as if
they were beans or something.")
Avegetarianwhohasfourdogs and threecats, Comninou
opposes research that confines animals or harms them.
"I'm against suffering, psychological or physical," said
Comninou, a professor of mechanical engineering at the
But she doesn't mind researchers who observe animals
in their natural habitat, and she said scientists should test
experimental treatments only on already sick animals.
Yet waiting around to obtain enough sick animals could
mean a delay in testing human treatments. "You might have
to wait three years toget enough dogs that have the sametype
of cancer," she said.
One difficulty with bypassing animal research is meet-
ing strict federal requirements for medical research.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations require
extensive testing of any new drug, and this inevitably means
animal research in the preliminary stages.
"In this day and age, it's virtually impossible to have a
procedure or compound make it from the laboratory bench
to the bedside without being tested in not one animal model,
but in several animal models in different laboratories,"
By DAVID RHEINGOLD
DAILY STAFF REPORTER
Animal-rights terrorism has never happened here.
And the University would like to keep it that way.
The University has spent more than $100,000 on an
elaborate security system - which includes computer
voice-print identification - for its Unit for Laboratory
Though expensive, the costs pale next to the damage that
terrorists have inflicted on
some research institutions 'In an
in the United States.
The University of Cali- environment
fornia at Berkeley has spentwhere you're
more than $1 million pro-
tecting itself against ani- trying to be open
mal-rights terrorism. When t
itbuiltanewresearchbuild- o the needs of
ing in 1990, the university - and allow for
had a dog sniff the site for access to
bombs every day.
At the University of professors by -
California at Davis, the
Animal Liberation Front students, it's
was suspected of torching a tough to balance
lab under construction in securityaainst
1987, costing the school
more than $3.5 million. the academic
"Previously, the Mid-
west had been relatively mission of the
spared from that. It was University.'
mostly West Coast and East
Coast," said Dr. Daniel Louis D Alecy
Ringler, director of the physjioogy
University's Unit for Labo- professor
ratory Animal Medicine. _____ ssr
But last year, an ani-
mal-rights terrorist firebombed mink research facilities at
Michigan State University, causing more than $200,000 in
damage, officials said.
The University of Michigan locks every door to labs
holding animals and deletes their room numbers from
documents released to the public.
The difficulty is preventing terrorism while maintaining
an open campus.