Last year, the UW-Madison beat back a Dane County Board resolution calling for an advisory panel to explore the ethics of primate research, much to the disappointment of local monkey defenders (see Rick Marolt's opinion column, 10/14/10). Instead, the university agreed to host a series of forums, which many predicted would be a bust.
But the first of those forums, set for Thursday, Feb. 17, at the new Institutes for Discovery, 7 p.m., presents a prominent critic of primate research. "I'm extremely pleased they have selected him," says local animal-rights activist Ann Emerson.
Dr. Lawrence Hansen, an eminent neuroscientist at UC-San Diego, finds much of the research being done on monkeys by institutions like the UW morally unjustifiable. Regarded as a leading Alzheimer's researcher, Hansen says most of the Alzheimer's research being done using primates is as pointless as it is cruel.
Last summer, Hansen wrote a letter in support (PDF) of the County Board resolution, saying this is an area in which the scientists involved are simply too biased to perform the necessary ethical assessment of their work.
Dr. Eric Sandgren, the UW's top overseer of animal research, says the panel that picked the speakers knows there aren't many "middle of the road" thinkers on this topic and thus is eager to present divergent views. "It's exactly what we wanted."
Dawn Crim, the UW's director of community relations, sent an email to County Board members touting the series, saying, "we hope you will come out and participate in the discussion."
Supv. Al Matano, the main sponsor of the failed resolution, notes the irony of that, since Hansen's speech Thursday conflicts with another event in his life: the regularly scheduled meeting of the Dane County Board.