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ARCHIVE : Issue Twelve


'DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR' AT WITS COVERS UP LAB
DOG INJURIES AND BLAMES ACTIVISTS

The scandal of BC 3, the laboratory cat who was the subject of a court action against Wits University, was
widely publicised. BC 3 had sustained extensive burn wounds during a surgical operation. Nevertheless,
experiments were continued on him on the instructions of Prof. Graham Mitchell, Head of Wits University's Central Animal Services (CAS) and described, on the Royal Society of South Africa's web site, as 'one of South Africa's most distinguished veterinary research scientists.' Not generally known is that, not long afterwards, there was a similar case, this time involving a lab dog. But, in order to obviate further bad publicity, there was a cover-up. On 5 September 1988 Prof. Graham Mitchell wrote a letter to Professor J.P.F Sellschop, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research) of Wits University, reporting that a dog had sustained an injury which was identical to that sustained by the cat BC 3. The dog had undergone surgery on the 25th August and the injury was not detected until the 2nd September, a full week later. The professor went on to say that, in his report to the Hofmeyr* Commission (*See: the Ethics' of ethics committees) he had emphasised that this had placed them in a dilemma. "It would also appear to be wise for the veterinarian caught in this dilemma to destroy not only the animals but all relevant records in order to avoid possible litigation." And that is exactly what the Wits lab did. States
Mitchell: "We were placed in an invidious position: we had to choose between censure by the SAVC and trial in a court of law, or in the press or by the university community." And so, because "the university and the Central Animal Services (CAS) could not afford a headline like: Wits Experimenters do it Again, or Another Animal Burnt at Wits," the dog was destroyed forthwith, before the imminent return from leave of Mrs. Mary Els, the whistle blower in the BC 3 case. Curiously, Prof. Mitchell, who also ran a private practice, minimised the burn injuries with the statement "similar injuries are frequently seen in private veterinary practice and are dealt with rationally. What I wish rather to stress is that the decision was taken because of Mrs. Els." Now blame shifting is a not uncommon occurrence when things go wrong in the lab, but Snout was really puzzled by Mitchell's statement that such injuries were frequently seen in private veterinary practices and thus consulted with another veterinarian in private practice, who stated:"In my opinion, based on more than 10 years' experience as a practising veterinarian, as well as interacting with other veterinarians, I would strongly dispute the suggestion that such injuries are seen frequently in private veterinary practice, if what he is implying is that animals
frequently suffer from burns during surgery." And it was not just Mrs.Els who got the blame for the fact that damning evidence had to be destroyed. At the time, Mitchell also blamed the drop in income in his private practice on the activities of animal rights activists!


EDITORIAL
We can do no better than to publish,as editorial, a gem
written by Louise van der Merwe, editor of Animal Voice
and Director of the Humane Education Trust
THE MENTALITY OF ENTITLEMENT

Nowhere is our mentality of 'entitlement' more apparent than in our dealings with animals. We need to remember that it was the mentality of entitlement that fuelled racism (whites believed they were entitled ,by virtue of
their race, to exploit blacks). It also fuels sexism, the mentality whereby men believe that by virtue of their sex, they are entitled to use and abuse women. Massive environmental destruction has been allowed because
of the mentality that has prevailed that as humans, we are entitled to take all we can from the earth, for
ourselves. When it comes to farm animals, our mentality is that, as humans, we are entitled to take
what we want from them, no matter that we cause them horrendous suffering in the process. As for commercial hunting, there is something even more grotesque in this mentality of entitlement. This is because the expert - or inexpert - devastation of an animal's body, be it by bullet or arrow, is not for food but for recreation and for vast sums of money. Before we proceed with a reckless disregard for the rights of South Africa's wildlife, we need
to remember that it is the mentality of entitlement that results in rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and other forms of violence from which we recoil. To encourage commercial hunting (a form of violence par exellance) is to breed and foster a mentality of entitlement in humans that results in desensitization and a disregard for
the sanctity of life. Sadly, it will no doubt be the innocents who will end up bearing the fall-out of such a gross distortion of our moral integrity. In Curriculum 2004, the Education Department will be doing all it can to foster in learners a sense of caring for the environment. The simple reason for this is that a lack of caring for
our basic environment has been empirically shown to breed a desrepect for everything and everyone else.
The mentality of entitlement is a greedy, selfish, callous, ultimately self-destructive state of mind. Our very survival depends on our developing a mentality of nurturing, caring and respect for the well-being of all life.


OF GRANITE COWBOYS
AND COMPASSIONATE PETTERS

According to an article by Yilu Zhao, published in the New York Times on 9 June 2002, the majority of veterinary surgeons are soon to be women. Veterinary medicine has traditionally been a man's world. Currently, however, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, most students at veterinary schools are women and by 2005 women will become the majority in the profession. Which sent us snouting around the libraries, to research the history of the Onderstepoort Veterinary School. This unearthed some interesting historical facts. The arrival of Arnold Theiler, Swiss Veterinarian, in South Africa in 1891 saw the establishment in 1908 of the Veterinary Research Institute and, in 1920, the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort. It also heralded the start of what was subsequently described as the 'Theiler era.' Theiler's teachings were followed unquestioningly as was the norm at the traditionally Afrikaans universities. When this uncompromising gentleman's character was summed up by the perceptive sculptor Coert Steynberg, who was commissioned to sculpt a statue of Theiler, the artist decided that it should best be sculpted from granite, in order to reflect the
subject's personality. And that pretty much sums up the way forward for Onderstepoort which developed
the tough 'ride-em-cowboy' image still in vogue today amongst its progenies. After the second world war a group of veterinarians attempted to move away from Theilerism to a more humane ethic. Two camps developed - the Conservative Cowboys who saw the future of veterinary science in this country as 'livestock' and
those who saw the future of veterinary science as being companion animals, in keeping with worldwide
trends. But despite the developments in pet practices there seems to have been a reversion to the granite era. Certainly, this tough image prevailed during the Apartheid era when Onderstepoort was linked to Wouter 'Dr. Death' Basson's Biological and Warfare experiments on animals. As a professor in later years apparently warned a colleague: "This campus is littered with the bones of those who have tried to buck the system."
The trend overseas is explained in part because "veterinary salaries are not competitive with those of other medical professions." While women choose a career they feel passionate about, men feel the obligation to support a family. Another aspect that attracts women to veterinary medicine is flexibility in scheduling. Some women practice veterinary medicine part-time while raising a family. According to Lawrence E. Heider, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, there might eventually be a
shortage of veterinarians for cattle, hogs and poultry, because women are less inclined to choose farm practices.. On the other hand, veterinarians more often leave routine tasks of farm practice, like administering shots, to assistants. As a result, fewer farm veterinarians are needed. The rapidly escalating pet industry has also
contributed to this change in trends. Pets are now treated as members of the family and veterinary medicine is not the physical profession it once was. The Onderstepoort Veterinary School was unable to supply exact figures, but estimated that women graduates had increased from 20% -30% in 1990 to around 45% of students in 2002. Perhaps Theiler's ghost will yet be defeated.


'CANNED' PREDATOR HUNTING
A SCOURGE OF CORRUPTION, CALLOUSNESS AND GREED

Chris Mercer and Bev Pervan, co-authors of the book For the Love of Wildlife have described South African wildlife management as the "last bastion of apartheid and colonialism which promotes the exploitation and destruction of nature even while purporting to defend it". British colonialism started the shooting sprees which continued during the Apartheid era. High ranking politicians and their senior comrades-in-arms flew over herds of elephants in helicopters, mowing them down with machine guns. S.A Military Intelligence had set up a pipeline
to smuggle ivory from Savimbi's Unita, with some senior military officers allegedly enriching themselves in the process. "The Apartheid regime was nothing if not authoritarian," continues 'retired' Advocate Mercer,
"and all power was concentrated in the hands of petty provincial officials." The change in Government in South Africa brought about new laws, but affirmative action appointees are heavily outnumbered by reactionary white officials. Says Mercer: "Democratisation has not occurred because close family, cultural, economic and social ties among landowners and the provincial officials inhibit administrative decisions which might adversely impact upon the landowners." A case in point is the fact that, until fairly recently, the granting of permits to hunt or keep wild animals in the Free State province was left to the discretion of a single official. It is widely rumoured that the
particular individual had been sent on a hunting course, as well as an overseas trip, paid for by a lion
breeder – a rumour which did nothing for the image of the SAWildlife Industry. The granting of permits has
recently been relegated to a committee rather than a single individual but, unfortunately, perceptions tend
to stick. In his book Eden's Exiles, Jan Breytenbach describes how a white pharmacist, on his way from
Katima to Kongola, came across a lioness with four young cubs next to the road. "In an incredible display
of macho bravery this fellow got out of his Land Rover and shot the mother and four young cubs at
point blank range. Leaving the carcasses right there, he drove back, having made a mark as a big white hunter in Central Africa. He was a hero - he had shot five lions all by himself." This incident might well have been the forerunner of the canned hunt as we know it today. Breytenbach goes on to explain: "The Caprivi was
a mecca for the unlicensed hunter. Most law enforcement officers turned a blind eye and many partook in the slaughter." Probably the first time the general public became aware of the practice of canned hunting was when the Cook Report was screened on Carte Blanche in 1997. A pending law will pay lip service to cracking
down on canned hunts by forbidding the hunting of human-imprinted predators, night hunting, tranquillizing target animals, hunting with dogs, hunting from motor vehicles and the use of sound, scent or bait to lure
animals into shooting range. None of these conditions are susceptible to effective monitoring, particularly by
provincial conservation officials whose relationship with the hunting fraternity is incestuous. However the
policy provides gaping loopholes for the canned hunters to exploit. For example, tame lions may be hunted
by re-defining them as "managed wild." These are predators which are introduced to quasi-wild habitat
stocked with captive-reared prey species about six months before they are shot.
Recently, a big auction of predators at Hoopstad in the Free State was planned with a view to start a breeding programme of 'managed wild' predators. And this is where the crux of the matter lies. The Animal Welfare Community points out that hunting any captive-reared prey species constitutes 'canned' hunting, by virtue of the fact that these predators have become habituated to humans. Mercer who, together with his partner Bev Pervan, runs the Kalahari Raptor Centre, describes how a meerkat released into the wild three years before, appeared at
the Centre one day and jumped up on his lap. Like meerkats, lions are social animals and once habituated, will never become wild enough to flee at the sight of a hunter. On 27th September the Bloemfontein High Court
declined, on technical points, to hear an application to stop the auction. This decision redounded to the
advantage of the Animal Welfare Community when, no doubt because of the adverse publicity, the
resultant auction was a failure, with only four lions of the 60 predators on auction being sold. Furthermore,
the world media was treated to the spectacle of an SPCA inspector being beaten up by two of the bully
boy breeders. Curious this, as one of the breeders had in the recent past been supported by the SPCA when he had opposed the granting of a permit for the keeping of eight lion cubs at the Enkosini Wild Life Sanctuary.
Apart from the definition of 'canned hunting' having been carefully gerrymandered to allow the hunting of captive bred lions, the proposals for the pending law will go on to make life worse for lions and other predators:
· The hunting of large predators by bow and arrow may be allowed. · The hunting of captive-bred large predators will be permitted if any provincial nature conservation official (who has no knowledge of or training in rehabilitation) certifies that the target animal has been 'rehabilitated to wild status.' · Captive breeding for the hunting industry of not only lions but also other large predators such as wild dogs and leopards will be allowed 'for commercial purposes' i.e. to provide living targets for the hunting industry.
· Large predators may be kept in captivity for commercial purposes, i.e. hunting, but not for welfare purposes. So Wildlife sanctuaries will continue to be prohibited. · There are no regulations whatsoever on the
minimum size of cages or any other aspect of the welfare of captive animals. Contrary to the spirit of the S. African constitution, and the express provisions of the National Environmental Management Act there has been no public participation in this process. A coalition of animal welfare societies has now been formed to
challenge the matter in the High Court.

*


THE 'ETHICS' OF ETHICS COMMITTEES

Vivisectors have traditionally invited onto their ethics committees members of 'tame' animal welfare
organisations, who can be relied upon not to make too much of a fuss. Or 'men of the cloth' who, albeit not fully
informed about the issues at stake, further serve to assuage the fears of the general public, with the assurance
that animal welfarists are serving as 'watchdogs'. Now any property owner who employed a watchdog that had
had its teeth extracted would surely be given a wide berth by right-minded people. But when it comes to ethics
committees, few pause to wonder why inhumane conditions at laboratories come to be unmasked by
outsiders rather than by these so-called watchdogs. The answer might be found in an arrangement that goes back to the Apartheid Government's covert warfare experiments. On 6th July 1988 Prof. C.F. Beyers Hofmeyr, Dean of the Onderstepoort Veterinary School, who had a close association with Brig. Wouter 'Dr. Death' Basson, wrote a secret memorandum to the latter with whom he collaborated regarding covert warfare experiments. (Yes, the same Beyers Hofmeyr who defrauded his own son - see Noseweek Magazine Issue No. 20). The background to this secret memorandum was that, in December 1987, a lab Technician at the Medical School of the University of the Witswatersrand (Wits) approached the SPCA with evidence of gross cruelty to a laboratory cat named BC 3. The SPCA instituted court proceedings against Wits but the matter was later settled out of court. In his memorandum, Hofmeyr warned of the danger of other (animal) organisations 'with the hidden agenda of, by means of stirring up public emotions, obtaining the necessary legal right to free entry to secret experiments that are in the interest of the country.' Hofmeyr then undertook to serve as a one man commission to
investigate the matter. His report was handed to the Vice-Chancellor and Rector of Wits who, according to Hofmeyr, 'strongly supported it and assured me of the full support of the University Council.' In the report Hofmeyr suggested that the Wits animal lab should be run as an animal hospital. Staff would thus be bound by the disciplinary policy of the Veterinary Council. Hofmeyr goes on to suggest: 'this argument can be used effectively to stave off free access to lay persons organisations. My real motivation is therefore to ensure
that it will be impossible for enemies with secret motives to gain entry to secret experiments.' The argument could
also be used to pacify a general public which was not aware of the close link between some members of the
S.A. Veterinary Council and Basson's warfare experiments on animals. The proposal was also put to Dr. J.M. Erasmus, the Vice-President of the South African Veterinary Council, whom Hofmeyr 'believed to have top secret clearance.' Subsequent to the out-of-court settlement, and mindful of Hofmeyr's recommendation, an agreement was entered into between Wits and the SPCA. According to the agreement, an Animal Ethics and
Control Committee (AECC) would be established at Wits. The agreement kicks off with a general background
wherein they refer to the recommendations of the 'One Man Commission' (Hofmeyr), which was by virtue of the
agreement adopted by both parties, and the rather Orwellian statement that "The 'SPCA and the University
recognize and respect each other's roles in the prevention of cruelty to animals." A member of the SPCA would serve on the committee but only as an observer with no voting powers 'provided that he/she would not unreasonably and without good cause interfere with the proper running of the AECC.' And then came the extraction of the watchdog's teeth. Under Clause 9, a stringent confidentiality clause, the SPCA was sworn to secrecy - they would not make public any information gleaned by virtue of their membership of the AECC.
Which might partly explain the peculiar fact that cases of cruelty to laboratory animals are traditionally unmasked by non-SPCA aligned organisations, rather than by the 'watch dogs.' A 'Donation Clause' stipulated that as a gesture of goodwill, and without prejudice, the University would make a donation to the general funds of the SPCA and that 'The fact of such donation shall not be divulged.' This clause was subsequently removed. It is unclear whether this was done because it had become obsolete, or in order to comply with the 'non divulgence' stipulation. And so Hofmeyr's grand plan was instituted. It did not take Wits long to capitalize on the situation.
In a subsequent interview with the student publication, Wits Student, Graham Mitchell was at pains to explain
that the BC3 case (which had been settled out of court) 'never went to trial…There are, therefore, no grounds to
suppose that there had been blatant and indefensible cruelty' and 'this university's facilities are registered
under the Act as a Veterinary Hospital. Thus, any improper behaviour by the university can be investigated
by the South African Veterinary Council which regulates this Act.'


STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS
LABORATORY ANIMALS RESCUED

During the early part of 2002, as result of a tip-off, representatives from SAAV and the Vervet Monkey Foundation paid a visit to the animal laboratory of the Medical University of South Africa (Medunsa). Photos were taken of baboons, monkeys and rabbits being kept under cruel conditions, in transgression of the animal welfare law. Prosecution of animal cruelty in laboratories under the current Animal Protection Act is extremely difficult and under these circumstances the lab animals are usually killed, either by the laboratory or by organisations such as the NSPCA. SAAV and the Vervet Monkey Foundation therefore took the
decision rather to initiate discussions with Medunsa so as to prioritise the interests of the animals and secure their
release. The animals were moved to better accommodation and, after months of discrete negotiations, custody of the nine monkeys was handed over the Vervet Monkey Foundation who would receive them before Christmas and rehabilitate them in a newly built enclosure sponsored by SAAV. Not surprisingly the NSPCA, who had
lately been receiving increasingly bad publicity because of their handling of the Enkosini Lion saga, and had been
picketed by animal lovers because of the 'unnecessary' euthanasing of over 300 dogs at their Roodepoort branch,
saw this as a golden opportunity to save face and moved in on Medunsa in a manner which caused the latter to
change their minds about handing over the monkeys, so that a court order had to be obtained. True to form, they had brought press- and TV cameras with them and claimed all the credit for the release.
Of course, no mention was made of the fact that the NSPCA had been serving on the ethics committee at Medunsa at the time!! Nor was it mentioned that this was not the first time that SAAV had uncovered conditions of extreme cruelty at a lab which was supposedly being 'monitored' by the NSPCA. And there are wider ramifications. SAAV, which has a history of negotiating animals away from laboratories, might be forgiven if they
were to think that the NSPCA acted in a manner which put the interests of the animals secondary to their perceived public image. This might well be to the detriment of future negotiations with animal laboratories.
(Watch this space)




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