At rally, group lobbies for rights of animals in 'U' research labs

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At rally, group lobbies for rights of animals in 'U' research labs

Anna Schulte/Daily Members of the Michigan Animal Rights Society Graduate student, Sonya Molina and Ann Arbor resident Kate Brindle protest after the University was named the 10th worst primate lab in the nation on Ann Street on October 23, 2010.

A small group of University students held a protest at the intersection of Ann and Zina Pitcher Place Streets Friday, condemning the University’s use of primates in medical research.

More like this Protesters take aim at primate research PETA files complaint against 'U' Survival Flight course From the Daily: Simulate Survival Flight Viewpoint: Don't sacrifice animals for science Members of the Michigan Animal Rights Society protested in response to a report released by national research watchdog group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!, which named the University’s primate lab as the 10th “worst lab” in the country.

According to a SAEN press release, United States Department of Agriculture reports show the University performed experiments on 82 primates, none of whom received pain relievers during the tests. The University of Michigan Health System website states that researchers use primates to conduct artificial joint replacement, coronary bypass surgery and organ transplants.

However, less than 1 percent of animals used in research are primates, according to the UMHS website. The website states that primates are only used “when there is no acceptable alternative.”

School of Public Policy senior Joseph Varilone, a MARS member, organized the protest. Varilone said he opposes research that is conducted on primates as well as the internment of animals.

“I don’t think it’s right that we hold animals,” Varilone said. “Imagine if you were in a cage for all your life. You would go crazy.”

The protesters gathered on the corner and held signs that read, “It’s not the animals who need their heads examined.” The protest even prompted a University bus driver to stop her bus on Ann Street to encourage the protesters to continue their demonstration.

Varilone said MARS, a University-recognized student organization, was formed in 1997 in order to raise awareness about campus issues concerning animal exploitation.

In addition to Friday’s protest, MARS is currently lobbying UMHS to stop using animals in the training for their Survival Flight program. In September the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a formal complaint with the USDA about the Survival Flight program, which uses cats and pigs to train nurses to perform some medical procedures.

Sonya Molina, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, participated in Friday’s protest.

“I came out to support the cause that people need to become aware of what’s going on in their own community, especially at the University of Michigan’s hospital,” Molina said.

According to Molina, Michigan State University has banned primate testing in its research laboratories. She said the University of Michigan should follow its lead and do the same.

Dr. Howard Rush, associate professor and director of the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine in the Medical School, is responsible for the care of animals used in University research labs, In an interview Rush said that UMHS’s policies are “formed by the law and standards pertaining to the use of animals in research.”

“We do not have any citations from the Department of Agriculture on our use of primates,” he said.

Rush said primates are mainly used to test treatments for drug addiction or vascular disease and involve a limited number of animals.

Rush, who attended the protest, said the allegations by SAEN Executive Director Michael Budkie concerning the mistreatment of primates are based on Budkie’s personal opinion.

“I find it hard to believe that the Department of Agriculture, that is responsible for inspecting our facilities, has missed all the things Mr. Budkie claims are occurring here,” Rush said.

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