The web side of The Oklahoman reports that the president of Oklahoma State University has blocked some studies on anthrax from going forward:
Veterinary medicine researchers were told by e-mail last month that OSU President Burns Hargis wouldn't allow the National Institutes of Health-funded project, even though an internal faculty committee had spent more than a year setting out protocol for the care and use of the primates.
Veterinary scientists say the decision was sudden and arbitrary, and now they fear the president may call for ending other projects involving animal research.
OSU administrators declined to comment for this story, but released a statement through OSU spokesman Gary Shutt stating "this research was not in the best interest of the university. The testing of lethal pathogens on primates would be a new area for OSU that is controversial and is outside our current research programs."
ERV, in her inimitable style, called shenanigans.
OSU, you may recall, already caved to the threats of one Madeleine Pickens, wife of gazillionaire T. Boone Pickens. Earlier in the year she objected to the OSU Vet school using dogs for research and training and held a $5M donation to OSU over their heads. Now, the link to her own site is the best I could do [Update: found confirmation, the issue was the euthanasia after procedures] for confirming the fact that OSU actually responded to her extortion (yes, I realize they were under no obligation to accept her money; this is still extortion) but it certainly sets a tone.
This recent move suggests that the OSU did indeed cave to Ms. Pickens' demands. Furthermore it confirms exactly why it is inadvisable to accede to terrorist demands- it just encourages them. Now this pressure (unconfirmed that Ms. Pickens is involved but c'mon. Let's be real people) has been extended to a study on anthrax. A study which apparently has been approved by the local IACUC, by the NIH peer review process and been selected for funding, going by the media account quoted above. And going from the article, the OSU is quite happy to be doing bioterrorism research, one therefore presumes the anthrax is not the problem here.
The statement [from OSU spokesman G. Shutt] also said: "OSU is focused on enhancing and expanding its existing research strengths including our ongoing programs in bioterrorism research. The proposed work would have distracted from those efforts."
So that leaves the baboons. Call me suspicious but when the president talks about "controversial" and about the "best interests" of the University...well, you do the math. And yet ERV tells us:
Oklahoma is kinda 'known' for our baboon facilities. Um, I think its technically an Oklahoma 'resource'. The Oklahoma baboon colonies are associated with OUHSC, OMRF, schools all over OK like Oklahoma State veterinary school and HSC, schools in TX... and have been for years. Doing research on baboons is in no way 'new' for OSU. Hell, weve had people from OSU come talk about their virus research with baboons here in OK.
Yeaaah. Nothing adds up consistently, does it? Except one thing- a fearful response to ARA threats. This, my friends, is the start of the slippery slope. OSU has put the bit in Ms. Pickens' teeth and given her (and whatever ARA extremist groups have their claws into her) free rein to bring down any and all of OSU's ongoing programs she objects to. Unchecked, this is going to end up with the complete dissolution of the baboon research ERV mentioned.
Now, I can't help but point out, as I like to do, the flagrant and almost unbelievably laughable hypocritical irony of this case. One of ERV's commenters, Prometheus, put me on the track. The pride and joy of Ms. Picken's husband is one Mesa Vista Ranch.
T. Boone Pickens, "sportsman" [source]
Click on the splash page and you will get a pdf describing many interesting attributes of the Ranch. Ms. Pickens is featured prominently in a photo with her 'sportsman' husband, in case you were wondering. Anyway, Mesa Vista Ranch is a quail hunting paradise, primarily. Dressed up in the usual "conservation" language, of course, of course. But basically a vanity project so that T. Boone can indulge his passion for shooting birds. It turns out with a little Google-fu that one can also shoot other critters at the Pickens' spread.
...three groups of two hunters will be guided on an incredible day of native bobwhite hunting. Pheasant hunting is also available if requested, and deer and turkey hunting is an option, too, if in season.
Subject of "conservation" [source]
Hunting. Shooting creatures, letting them die suffering in many cases, for no other reason than the joy of ....um... killing things. I guess. These are rich people and their friends and clients (?-dunno if they only donate hunting junkets or what) are rich people. This is not about food. This is not about the progress of knowledge that will help humans, other animals or indeed our ecosphere. The justification is one hundred percent about people who like to kill animals for "sport".
Ms. Pickens is married to the guy in charge of all this hunting stuff. Why, oh why, would the president of a University take someone like her seriously when she starts in about barbaric treatment or any other thing having to do with the use of animals in research? And yet he did. Apparently twice now. Making this just the beginning, not the end.
I hope the NIH is paying attention at last. They are the ONLY thing that can hope to oppose the power of the wealthy donor. The NIH has to come out swinging. Not just with some tepid news release about how sad they are. It is well past time for the NIH to provide an equally weighty counter to the intimidation of the ARA terrorists. Because that's what this is. A University president fearing "controversial" research has been terrorized by the extremist fringe into deciding that the best path is simply to give in. To lie down and do what they want so that they will leave him alone. They never do, of course, as OSU is going to find out. And the NIH is going to find out that this sort of thing fuels replication of the same across the country. Universities will fall one by one to this sort of terrorism. It won't be dramatic and it won't be public. The details will vary. Here a University will use attrition and new hiring litmus tests. There a University will claim costs. Elsewhere the wealthy ARA donor will raise his head. Next, the nuisance lawsuits.
They will knock off the low hanging fruit first, you bet. The Med School physiology classes using companion species. The nonhuman primate labs. The drug abuse studies (it's just about individual morality you know, screw those druggies). The sexually-transmitted disease work. Antibody production in rabbits. But each success will breed new attacks on types of research that do not draw a great deal of AR attention right now.
So what can the NIH do? Well sure, they cannot insist that a given University conduct a given type of research. And holding up projects which make it into the normal funding zone veers too far into extortion for my taste. But what they can do is to use the power of the funding exception. As we've covered extensively the NIH does quite a bit of picking and choosing research projects outside of the funding line. So what they can do is simply to refuse to give any of those awards to offending Universities which have succumbed to terrorist intimidation. Make it very clear to the University that that is why they are no longer seeing grant pickups.
This the only thing that has a prayer of a chance of opposing the millions of dollars in donations such as that which was dangled by Ms. Pickens in the prior incident.