Planning moves forward on UW-Madison research animal forums

Sept. 10, 2010

by Jill Sakai

Planning is moving ahead on a series of community forums that aim to provide a window into the use of animals in research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The program was proposed earlier this year by UW-Madison Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr. and Graduate School Dean Martin Cadwallader with the goal of increasing public discussion and understanding of issues surrounding animal research.

The public forums are intended to improve transparency of the animal research program at UW-Madison and provide opportunities for interested parties to engage in an open dialogue on complex and often challenging issues.

"There is one thing that we all agree on, and that is that more public discussion of these issues will be a good thing. This gives us an opportunity to accomplish that objective, to ask some really important and difficult questions," says Eric Sandgren, director of the UW-Madison Research Animal Resources Center. "One goal is to foster understanding of other perspectives. With better understanding, even without agreement, we hope to have less tension and hostility."

Sandgren will lead the forum-planning group. Other planning group members are David Abbott, a UW-Madison professor and scientist at the Wisconsin National Primate Center; Lisa Kane, an attorney and author with an interest in captive elephant welfare; Patricia McConnell, an animal behaviorist, author and adjunct professor of zoology at UW-Madison; Simon Peek, a veterinarian at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine; Paula Rinelli, a member of the Alliance for Animals; and Robert Streiffer, a bioethicist at UW-Madison.

"All of these people feel very strongly about animal-human interactions, though not necessarily in the same way, and they were all extremely enthusiastic about participating," Sandgren says. "I'm expecting the meetings to be a lot of fun, when you get all the people who feel most passionately about the topic in the same room."

The community forums will be held quarterly and may include panels, question-and-answer sessions, and lectures by invited speakers representing a range of interests such as scientists, ethicists, activists and patient advocates.

The first planning group meeting will take place later this month, with the first forum presentation anticipated in November.