For those of you that haven't been following along, Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis unilaterally blocked a project on anthrax vaccine development from going forward. The project was IACUC approved and NIH funding had been allocated (OSU's end was a subcontract on the project). The reasons given by President Hargis were less than convincing. It boiled down to an assertion that the work was "controversial" and "not in the interests of OSU", combined with a rejection of the speculation that he had caved in to demands from one of OSU's biggest donor couples (the wife of the couple is a noted AR activist and well beloved by extremist organizations). Did I mention the project included baboons as research subjects?
[ A great summary is here at Speaking of Research. ]
In all the explaining coming from President Hargis and OSU spokespeople, we have a continued assertion that the University is not against all animal reseach and has not been swayed by AR activists. Well, one of the Oklahoma state legislators isn't buying this line of bullpockey anymore than I am.
Representative Phil Richardson:
"I bleed Orange as much as anyone, but I am deeply concerned by the actions of OSU officials, which appear designed to cater to animal-rights fanatics instead of providing a sound education in agricultural sciences," said Richardson, a Minco Republican who received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from OSU in 1967.
"This decision is consistent with several made in the past year to curry favor with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the wife of the university's major donor, an avowed animal rights activist," Richardson said.
He noted HSUS is a humane society "in name only" and does not operate animal shelters and should not be confused with the Oklahoma Humane Society or other legitimate animal welfare organizations that provide a valuable service to animals.
"The HSUS spends millions of dollars on programs that seek to economically cripple meat and dairy producers, eliminate the use of animals in biomedical research, and eliminate hunting," Richardson said. "It is impossible to follow all the tentacles of the organization, but its underlying goal is to destroy animal agriculture."
Yeah... you know, this is why the extremist organizations step a little lightly around agri-biz and the animal husbandry industry. It is big. People in the US like their animal-derived food products. Sure, the use of animals for these purposes absolutely dwarfs any accounting of the use of animals in research. The treatment of those animals, while regulated, is much less closely overseen than the treatment of research subjects. So you'd think if the ARA wackanuts were actually serious in their more understandable goals they would focus on the farmers and ranchers, right? So why don't they?
anyway, moving along....
"Oklahoma State University is the land grant institution of this state, which means it was established to help ensure that this nation has a plentiful supply of food, fiber, raw materials and fuel," Richardson said. "This is directly accomplished through studies, research and technology related to agriculture - the production of food and goods through farming and forestry. As a land grant university, OSU bears the major responsibility for agricultural research and teaching responsibility, as well as a major outreach or extension education mission to the public."
Which really questions President Hargis' attitude about the interests of his University, does it not? It seems as though they have an extra special interest in opposing AR philosophy to me. That is what is in their best interest. And it looks like Rep Richardson is planning to make a big stink over the members of the trustees of OSU, having something to do with legal requirements that some of them are actually farmers/ranchers.
The OSU has come out with a minor response to Rep Richardson in the Stillwater paper.
OSU President Burns Hargis refused to be interviewed for this article. An OSU spokesman said in a statement the university's decision had no outside influence from donors or animal rights groups.
"We fully appreciate the many benefits of animal research as long as it is consistent with the highest ethical standards in developing new treatments for animal and human diseases," OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said in an e-mailed statement. "With that being said, we could not be any clearer -- this decision was not influenced by animal rights organizations or donors."
Curious how they keep backing themselves further into a corner. Apparently the official OSU line is that President Hargis decided for himself that these studies were inconsistent with "the highest ethical standards". Yet the project was reviewed and approved by the local IACUC, Attending Veterinarian (under his/her independent obligation under the Animal Welfare Act) and the peer review panels of the NIH. President Hargis is asserting that this process has failed.
On the basis of what evidence, rationale or expertise, one wonders?