Subjective dialogue

By | September 15, 2010

In late 2009, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted inspections of UW-Madison’s animal research program and found numerous violations related to animal welfare.

The community forums, slated to begin in November, “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,” stated a UW-Madison press release dated Sept. 10.

Eric Sandgren, director of the UW-Madison Research Animal Resources Center, said that more public discussion will be beneficial. “This gives us an opportunity to … ask some really important and difficult questions,” he said. “One goal is to foster understanding of other perspectives. With better understanding, even without agreement, we hope to have less tension and hostility.”

The university’s willingness to entertain dialogue on an issue that affects the lives of animals is noble. It’s sad that the same openness to dialogue does not always exist when the issue involves human lives.

In recent years, the university has been targeted by pro-life groups for initiatives promoting the destruction of human embryos and preborn babies.

In 1998, UW-Madison researcher James Thomas made history by being the first to grow embryonic stem cells in a lab. The pioneering research set off an ethical debate because embryonic stem cell research destroys human embryos. Like experiments on animals, researchers claim the work aims to develop treatments for a variety of diseases. Unlike the animal research program, no calls for dialogue or community forums were ever announced.

The university reportedly receives $5 million annually through 21 federal grants. (Funding for UW-Madison’s embryonic stem cell research was suspended last August following a federal court ruling. However, a federal appeals panel last week temporarily blocked the federal judge’s order.)

In January 2009, UW Hospital announced that it would partner with Meriter Hospital and its doctors to offer late second trimester abortions at Madison Surgery Center. The news caught the pro-life community off guard and, as expected, caused a backlash. At no point did the university hospital call for community forums to talk about transparency or provide opportunities “to engage in an open dialogue,” as is planned by the animal research group.

Madison Surgery Center abandoned its plans to offer late-term abortions last April because of public outcry.

Give Eric Sandgren credit. He wants to foster understanding of other perspectives as they relate to animal research. Maybe Sandgren can convince his colleagues at UW-Madison to be more open to viewpoints on issues that relate to human life.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top