Lisberger Responds to Allegations of "Cruelty"

A commentor to the previous posts characterized Lisberger's protocols as being tantamont to animal cruelty. I contacted him directly, and asked whether what was stated was true. He responded as follows:

What is in the description you've come across
is a grossly exaggerated and distorted picture
of procedures that we use for humane and ethical
experiments on monkeys.

Every one of those points has been distorted to
make it sound horrible.  In fact, our treatment
of the monkeys is humane and thoughtful.  My
institutional veterinarians and the USDA are
well aware of everything we do, and they approve.

If you would like me to correct any one of these
gruesome allegations, I'd be happy to -- just let
me know which one!

I told him to pick whatever he wanted to respond to, and he submitted:

OK: Here's the answer to the "Lisberger starts by
slicing their eyes open with scalpels so that wire
coils can be placed inside"

We do implant a very lightweight coil of wire on
the monkeys' eyes.  This is done with the monkey
under anesthesia and using sterile procedure. I use
methods I was taught by a human eye surgeon, basically
the same approach used to operate on the eye muscles
of children who have crossed eyes.  We do *not* slice
the eye open with a scalpel: instead, we use a special
kind of (tiny) scissors to carefully dissect the outer
tissue away, exposing the tough skin of the eye, called
the sclera.  We carefully suture a 16 mm diameter coil
the sclera, outside the eye (not in it).  We close the
outer tissue with sutures.  The monkeys receive the
same pain killers post-op as humans do, and within
3-5 days, it is not possible to see which eye carries
the coil.  They do not appear to be aware of the coil
and we see no evidence that it causes them discomfort.
You see, this is a very carefully performed and perfected
microsurgical procedure designed to place a measuring
device on the eye *without* affecting the integrity
of the eye or vision, or causing any discomfort.

Other questions?

I stated I was horrified by his application description of how the monkeys were killed by an aortic formalin injection. I also asked how he felt personally when he killed a monkey. His response was:

1) We seldom kill monkeys any more.  Almost all
of ours (~4 per year) are explanted, vasectomized
(not my idea), and adopted with a clean bill of
health to various sanctuaries.

2) The reason the protocol has a plan for killing
them, which involves basically kiling them with
an overdose of barbiturate anesthesia and then
perfusing them with formalin, is that we have to
put everything in the protocol that we *might*
do.  We have had to kill one monkey in the past
year for medical reasons, but that is the first
in a long time.

3) I do not mind being confronted by direct,
honest questions.  We can even agree to disagree!
But I do object to living in terror that someone
will be attempting to burn my house down, which is
where I am right now.


MM said...

I shouldn't exhibit classless humor like this but I just can't resist. Lisberger should know that the treatment of researchers by the radical members of the animal community is as "humane and thoughtful" as his research. And, like the statistics that they only killed one monkey in the last year that only one researcher's house burned down. I guess it's ok to do bad things to just one victim. Perhaps that's where OJ Simpson went wrong as he was alleged to have killed two victims. Lisberger was born fifty years too late missing the opportunity to be on a great research team. He would have been proud to assist in the noble effort to fabricate blue eyes using various injections of chemicals.

Anonymous said...

The USDA Animal Welfare act regulations are incredibly vague. They just say the "animal must have sufficient room, food and water." "Sufficient" room is enough room to stand up, sit down unless they are actively being used in a research project. Then you can constrain them. The regulations for research and circus animals is the most lax in existence. You and I must treat our pets 1000% better than any lab animal or we go to jail for cruelty. Lab animals, farm animals, even animals used for exhibition, no protection.

I have a USDA permit. The inspector says she just doesn't want to see rusted cages, open bags of food or shit encrusted cages. That's it. There is no minimum sized caging for USDA animals. I could put an opossum in a shoebox if I wanted. Of course Fish & Game regulations trump USDA so wildlife must get good, safe care in big roomy cages with toys and such. Farm animals, lab animals, there are no other regulations. He's giving you a BS line though I do believe activists probably make things out to be worse than they are. It just really pisses me off when researchers say they follow all USDA regulations. USDA regulations are nothing for lab animals!

Anonymous said...

I like how he makes a distinction between cutting open a monkey's eye and implanting a wire coil and....cutting open a monkey's eye and implanting a wire coil(?!)

Boy is that guy delusional. Nowhere in the original posting was there the suggestion that this isn't done antiseptically. He seems to think we're so stupid that we'll believe that's done for the welfare of the monkey, instead of for the good of his "experiment." After all, what good would a monkey with an eye infection be to him?

It's so bizarre that he picked that procedure to "de-bunk" (even though what he in fact did is verify that what he's being accused of is true), yet he doesn't address implanting bolts in monkeys' skulls so their heads can be bolted in place for experiments, etc. etc.

All due respect to the first commenter, but radical members of the humane community have NEVER, to my knowledge (I'm not one, but I can read a newspaper) EVER treated a researcher anywhere near as cruelly and evilly as Lisberger treats monkeys. To my knowledge, the one human in recent memory who has treated other humans like Lisberger treats monkeys is Jeffrey Dahmer.

He's scared people are going to burn his house down? Well I'm guessing that's a drop in the ocean of paralyzing terror "his" monkeys feel when they see him. He's afraid of something that hasn't happened, while our tax and tuition money are paying for him to ACTUALLY torture, terrorize and butcher helpless monkeys.

You know what else he failed to mention? ONE THING his "research" has accomplished. You can bet if he had one thing to say on that subject he'd have mentioned it.

Can you imagine the kind of soullessness it would take to do that to monkeys for a living, for years?

He should be in jail.

Ed Muzika said...

Dr. Lisberger has not responded to the other allegations of the commenter.

In a follow up question I asked whether the following was true:
Screws are then drilled into their skulls, and a metal plate is placed under the scalp. Bolts that protrude from the plate through the scalp will later be used to screw monkeys by the head into restraining chairs.

Next, Lisberger drills holes into the monkeys' skulls and inserts stainless steel recording cylinders. Electrodes are driven through the cylinders directly into their brains. After a series of surgical procedures, a neurosurgeon drills into the skull, exposes the brain and removes a part of it with suction. After this, the monkeys cannot sit or stand for several days, and must be handfed food and drink.

He has not responded.

If he does, I will ask him about the results of his experiements and what were the beneficial applications of these results.

I will also ask about his funding sources and the contract amounts.

Do you think he will respond?

Boks (and Lisberger) = Death said...

I think he will call you a terrorist for asking.

Ed Muzika said...

I sent this at 6 pm to Lisberger:

I guess you are not going to respond to the second set of questions I asked that you said were exaggerated.

1. Let me ask you this then, what is the practical application of your research? The only mention I see of application is something to do with human strokes. but, I see nothing in the application that actually discusses that.

I see goals that don't have much to do with human medical application.

Nor do I see any discussion of how we can go from a money model to a human model.

2. That is, what does money brain results have to do with human brain results?

3. The allegation from anti animal experimenters is that a lot of you guys do animal experimentation for the money. I see one project application that asks for $150,000 annual funding. You as PI and staff get salaries. This does not seem like big money, but if you have several projects going, along with University Salaries, the money could add up.

Can you explain the financial gain allegations--i.e., many of you do useless experiments for the money.

Steve Lisberger said...

Lisberger response:

No, no response to the other questions. I was
not pleased with (also not surprised by) the reactions
posted by others and decided to spare myself the
additional aggravation. Sorry.

As for the money, I am paid a salary by my
institution. There is no additional financial
gain for me if I bring in more money, publish
more papers, etc. This is true uniformly across
the neuroscience field, as far as I am aware.


Anonymous said...

So Stephen Lisberger only responds to people who unquestioningly accept what he does to monkeys without even expressing curiosity as to these techniques' effectiveness?

Since he is "not pleased" with our responses he has decided that we, as residents of California, are not qualified to know what our money (in taxes and tuition) for his salary is paying for him to do in a California state university laboratory?

Is that really what he's saying?

Anonymous said...

He is saying he only talks to those who emotionally support him. He doesn't want to know how completely outside he is from current moral standards. I think he finds little public support for his research.

Anonymous said...

Don't be ridiculous. Of course he could find tons of public support for his work (sorry you all), but those people who would support his work aren't blogging on a blog called "LA Animal Watch", know what I mean?

That's like going to the website of the Catholic Church. Do you think there's going to be a lot of pro life people dropping in to post their opinions? Of course not. Unless they were rebel rousers like me around.

Do you think interracially married people are posting over at the KKK site?

I doubt Mr. Lisberger is concerned with most of your illogical thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lisberger to you.

He is concerned. Didn't you read the comments 2 before yours? He said:

"I was not pleased with (also not surprised by) the reactions
posted by others and decided to spare myself the additional aggravation. Sorry."

He is concerned and aggravated.

Anonymous said...

Yes, concerned and aggravated by the likes of you. Where is the aggravation against anyone else but you, the animal "lovers"?

This is the same as the way you "heard" Obama promising to get a dog from the shelter when he really said that he hoped it would "balance out". Where's the promise?