Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Did Oklahoma State bow to activists?

Last week a commotion erupted when Oklahoma State University (OSU) cancelled an anthrax research project that appeared to have been blessed by all levels.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) had agreed to fund the study, that would have created an animal model of anthrax infection in baboons. The University's animal use and care committee had given it the green light.

OSU isn’t giving much detail about why they cancelled the study. But there are lots of people jumping to conclusions based on some circumstantial evidence. And the university is issuing some fishy statements like:

“OSU is focused on enhancing and expanding its existing research strengths including our ongoing programs in bioterrorism research. The proposed work would have distracted from those efforts."

How does doing research distract rather than enhance the reputation of the college? How is proving to the NIH that your institution is unreliable a good thing?

Word in the blog world is that it’s been cancelled because a big donor is a big animal activist. And it appears this isn’t the first time that donor has caused research to cease.  (read more)

Last April, OSU announced it would not longer be euthanizing animals in it’s veterinary labs. Madeleine Pickens, as in Mrs. T. Book Pickens, and OSU alumnus stopped that practice with her checkbook when she threatened to redirect a $5 million donation to the vet school because she did not agree with such practices. Mr. Pickens, has contributed over $450 million to the university in recent years.

A website connected to the Pickens’ posted a victory statement shortly after the announcement was made. According to http://www.sciencemag.org/ Mrs. Pickens's Web site posted an article from DVM Newsmagazine about the decision, appending the original headline with the exclamation "Kudos for a Great Decision!" suggesting that Pickens had played a role in the decision.

Regarding the cancelled program, OSU released a statement through spokesman Gary Shutt saying,
"this research was not in the best interest of the university. The testing of lethal pathogens on primates would be a new area for OSU that is controversial and is outside our current research programs.”

What’s controversial about not wanting to be a victim of anthrax?

Who could be against anthrax research that could protect both human and animal populations?

The only thing controversial--to animal activists--is research on a primate.

There’s no smoking gun yet. But let’s say that OSU did bow to activists. They may have preserved some donor money for the university, but what did it cost?
  • Activists get some real traction here in the Midwest
  • It fuels the fire for other activists to bully colleges and foundations into submissions because these tactics have been proven work
  • It prevents humans from benefiting from this kind of research.
  • OSU gets a reputation as a fickle research partner

That’s a very high price to pay.


  1. This isn't the first time OSU has changed activities to cater to the Pickens' money. Since T. Boone's massive donations of over $400 million over the past years many changes have taken place at the University. A local neighbor hood was cleared out for his athletic village (this project has remained a pile of dirt for the past 3 years), the Pickens' bought out the half-time show for Senior night this season to promote Madeline's "Save the Mustangs" program where she actually had some horses following as she made the round dressed in native American attire on the field and Michael Martin Murphy played 'Wildfire'. This is just a few of the many things that the Pickens' are able buy out from OSU with their millions. It is a real embarrassment that one of the top animal science universities allows such.

  2. This could open up the flood gates. I hope some of the other land grant universities in the area stand their ground. We need to ensure that Animal Science programs remain intact so that they can continue to teach what they were originally created to do - teach animal husbandry.


  3. I want to post part of a letter that Hargis received Monday from Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS. The bulk of the letter congratulates Hargis for his wise decision. It ends "We would be interested in discussing other measures that the university might take to further align it with progressive concerns regarding animal protection ... whether in connection with animal experimentation or other facets of university life that intersect with humane values, such as food service and human/animal studies courses."

    I assume that 'food service' refers to the animal products that go into dorm food, etc. I wonder what the menu at the Rancher's Club will look like?

    This is how HSUS works-from one issue to the other and if they get you going backward, you're sunk.

    OSU has been sold to the Pickens' and others. There is no sense of the mission and philosophy of higher education, only grubbing for donations. This has been enabled from the governing boards that oversee the university, right through the higher administration. There are some units on campus that are trying to stand firm, but that's tough when there is no support from above, and strict orders not to comment publicly.

    Question: Where are the commodity and rural interest groups on this? We have heard nothing from them.

  4. This just demonstrates the importance of educating the public about animals and agriculture. I feel that every farmer/rancher, DVM and everyone else associated with agriculture needs to take a few minutes a day to educate people. We might not reach all of them, but a lot of are wanting to be reassured that their food is safe and raised in an ethical manner.

  5. Please don't judge the entire University because of a few people.