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Of a similar mind; animal rights

BY MARCO RODRIGUEZ | Evergreen reporter

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Human brains may have more in common with other those of mammals than people realize, a panel of experts said.

The Thomas S. Foley Institute hosted a panel Thursday to discuss the ethics of animal experimentation for research as part of the institute’s Science, Ethics and Public Policy series.

Sylvie Cloutier, a research assistant in the Department of Integrated Physiology and Neuroscience and the Center for the Study of Animal Well-being at WSU, was one of the speakers.

Cloutier presented charts showing the similarities in shape between the human brain’s limbic system and that of other mammals. He said this could mean mammals share similar emotions to humans.

Cloutier discussed a specific study that involved seeing if rodents showed empathy.

The research study consisted of two rats: one behind a door and one that was free. Every time, the free rat would try to open the door.

“We aren’t clear of what exactly the motivation was, but what we do know is they did it more often when there was a rat behind the door,” Cloutier said. “There is some form of empathy there.”

Even when chocolate chips, which rats like to eat, were in plain sight, the rats still went to open the door first for the trapped rat before they took the chocolate chips, she said.

Alyssa Ballantyne, a junior human development major, was impressed by the similar brain constructions.

“I think it is amazing how closely human brains and mammal brains are structured,” she said.

Steven Russell, director of the office of the campus veterinarian, said in order to use animals in an experiment, researchers need to be approved by a board or face consequences.

In the United States, animal experimentation is heavily regulated by the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and guides for the care of lab animals in research and teaching. A guide specifically for agricultural animals also regulates their care.

Under AWA, research labs are required to set up an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to evaluate the treatment and research being conducted on the animals, Russell said.

“By law, all use of animals in research teaching and testing here at WSU have to be approved by a committee before they can (start),” he said.

The Animal Care and Use Committee is firmly against unapproved research, he said.

“Unapproved research is given a lot of strict attention,” Russell said. “You get reported to national agencies. There are all kinds of things that come along with that.”

Researchers use guiding principles to humanely use animals in research called “The Three R’s”: replace, reduce and refine, Russell said.

As a veterinarian in the committee, Russell works to make sure the lab animals are being treated as humanely as possible.

“My goal in the committee is to make sure that everything is done (appropriately),” he said.

He said he would be interested in drugs being used on the animals or how the animals are being tranquilized for any surgeries.

Megan Osborne, a junior accounting major, said she felt bad for the animals.

“Even though there are all these regulations in place, we are still forcing these animals into experiments, even though they aren’t willing participants,” Osborne said.

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Of a similar mind; animal rights