Lawmaker, DVM blasts Oklahoma State
"I bleed Orange as much as anyone, but I am deeply concerned by the actions of Oklahoma State University officials, which appear designed to cater to animal-rights fanatics instead of providing sound education in agricultural sciences," Richardson says in a Dec. 17 statement on his Web site. Richardson earned his DVM from Oklahoma State in 1967 and is a member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, the Oklahoma Pork Council, the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association and the Oklahoma State Alumni Board.
The college embarked on a plan to establish itself as a leader in infectious disease research in the 1990s by developing laboratories and other research facilities with the full knowledge of university administrators, Richardson contends. Yet, the recent cancellation of a study on anthrax that would have required the euthanasia of primates involved in the research undermines that plan, he says.
"The decision is consistent with several made in the past year to curry favor with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the wife of the university's major donor, an avowed animal-rights activist," Richardson says. "The HSUS spends millions of dollars on programs that seek to economically cripple meat and dairy producers, eliminate the use of animals in biomedical research and eliminate hunting. It is impossible to follow all the tentacles of the organization, but its underlying goal is to destroy animal agriculture."
Richardson's accusations follow Oklahoma State president’s controversial decision to terminate a federally funded research project that would have studied the effects of anthrax on live baboons at the school's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.
In a written statement, Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis explained that testing of lethal pathogens on primates would be "controversial ... and outside our current research programs."
The project proposal had been approved by the school's lab animal veterinarian, research scientists, and lay persons who compose the school's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), according to Dr. Kenneth Bartels, the veterinary college's representative on the Oklahoma State’s Faculty Council.
This is the second case this year of controversy surrounding euthanasia at Oklahoma State's veterinary college. In February, DVM Newsmagazine reported that Madeleine Pickens, wife of OSU alumnus and philanthropist T. Boone Pickens, said she wanted to redirect her $5 million donation from the veterinary school because of the euthanasia after two surgeries of privately acquired live animals. In May, veterinary school dean Dr. Michael Lorenz used new funding to support a program that returned the animals after surgeries to shelters for adoption.
Richardson also criticized those actions on his Web site, and says these recent events run contrary to the founding mission of OSU. He issued a call to action for the replacement of some members of the university's board of regents.
"Oklahoma State University is a land-grant institution of this state, which means it was established to ensure that this nation has a plentiful supply of food, fiber, raw materials and fuel. This is directly accomplished through studies, research and technology related to agriculture," he says.
Several OSU Board of Regents members are required by law to make a living through agriculture, Richardson points out, adding it is a qualification that is not being met by the current membership.
"If the board's membership were legally qualified, I believe many of these controversies would have been avoided and I believe the Legislature should address this issue as soon as possible," Richardson says. "If you are involved in agriculture, believe it's okay to hunt animals, agree that animal research has advanced man's medical knowledge and treatment of disease through the use of vaccines, or if you simply appreciate the fact that you live in a country that provides the most low-cost, abundant food supply in the world, then you should be concerned that OSU's current administration appears to be more attuned to appeasing its donor base than fulfilling its mission to the citizens of this state."
Derinda Lowe, a spokesperson for Oklahoma State’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, says Richardson's comments are shared by many academicians and veterinarians. The veterinary school's dean and school leaders are working to find a way to resolve the conflict.