Dr. James Keen, veterinarian and whistle blower

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Dr. James Keen—a veterinarian and scientist, and surely one of this era’s most significant whistle blowers in the animal welfare realm–describes the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC), a 55 square-mile livestock research facility in Nebraska, where Keen had been directly employed from 1991-2007, before moving over to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s veterinary clinic. Dr. Keen recounts that he was initially hired at USMARC as a clinical veterinarian—his first job out USDAResearchCenter-BarfBlog_1_2of vet school—then the facility underwrote his obtaining a PhD. Given his long tenure at USMARC, I ask Dr. Keen what changed about the research being conducted there that began troubling him to the extent he decided to act as a whistle blower, and he replies that work at the Center didn’t really change—he did. Noting that many of the USMARC experiments spanned 30 years, there wasn’t much that shifted in the design or focus of the research, but Dr. Keen was shifting his position on these matters, tracing his movement from “atheist to agnostic to whistle blower to activist.” By way of example, in one study cows, who web_res_2012_06-30_FSNY_Julia_and_Babies__DSC0471_CREDITordinarily have just one calf, were manipulated to have two or three calves, many of whom were weak and unhealthy, and died shortly after birth. Likewise, pigs, who normally would give birth to six to eight offspring were having up to 15 piglets—so many that it was common for the mother to roll on some, killing them. Explaining that he mentioned his growing discomfort with these experiments to his superiors in annual reviews and meetings—to no avail—he ultimately decided his whistle blowing would take the form of contacting Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize winningwhistleblowers_keen_1a reporter at The New York Times. Providing Moss information, access to the facility, documents and more yielded a major, front page Times expose which in turn, led to a federal investigation, a bill being introduced, reforms, and the halting of some of the research projects at the Center. Dr. Keen also addresses the repercussions he experienced for his whistle blowing.(www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=30-40-05-00)

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Lynda Barhorst, founder of Sky Harbor Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, a Pasco County facility that’s been rehabbing and releasing wildlife for more than two SkyHarborIncWildlifeRescueRehabdecades, but has recently suffered serious setbacks, which threaten to shut down the operation. These include myriad financial challenges—for which there’s a GoFundMe campaign—and the need for volunteers to assist with projects on the Sky Harbor grounds. (http://skyharborwildlife.org)

COMEDY CORNER: Myq Kaplan’s “Meats and Robots” (http://myqkaplan.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Sweet’s “Fox On The Run”

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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