Twenty members of the Dane County Board recently took the unusual step of questioning the UW-Madison about its use of nonhuman primates in research.
In a Feb. 5 letter to Chancellor Biddy Martin, the supervisors asked for information on how the All-Campus Animal Care and Use Committee reached its findings that university research on primates is ethical.
"Many of the committee members earn their salaries or benefit in other ways from research on animals," the letter said. "How can we be confident that self-interest did not affect their decision?"
In her response (see letters), Martin quotes Dr. Eric Sandgren, director of the UW Research Animal Resources Center, saying the university considers the ethics of animal research on a case-by-case basis, just as is done for human research. Animal rights activist Rick Marolt calls that disingenuous: "People get to decide for themselves whether or not to participate in experiments. No committee makes that decision for them."
Marolt thinks the supervisors' letter is a significant step toward forcing the university to be accountable and ethical. "And they're perhaps showing state legislators it's okay to care about this issue."