Sound Localization Images

Released to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Below is a series of images released in July 2013 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) under Wisconsin’s open records law. The images, from a procedure performed in 2009, show a surgical procedure to place a cochlear implant into a cat, the subject of a hearing study. Earlier images were used by PETA, an organization that objects to the use of all animal models in research, to misrepresent the clinical and technological value of the work, as well as the treatment and condition of the animals used in the study. We are posting the images to preempt their misuse and continued mischaracterization of a study that has demonstrated clinical and technological benefit for humans.

The surgery depicted is virtually identical to what occurs in a human patient receiving a cochlear implant and was conducted under the exact conditions of a surgery for humans, including a sterile surgical suite and anesthesia. One of the surgeons routinely performs cochlear implants in human patients. The implant is used to test the abilities of the cat, an expert at sound localization, to identify the source of sounds and map the brain activity that accompanies the processing of sound. Insights from the research have been used to improve the quality of life for people who use cochlear implants or hearing aids. They also underlie technologies to improve the sound qualities of smart phones.

The animals in the study are in excellent health and exhibit no signs of distress. They behave normally, are well socialized to the experimenters and actively participate in the study. The few animals in the research are monitored daily and receive a high level of veterinary care and oversight. The lab where the study is conducted receives routine and unannounced inspections by both campus officials as well as officials from private and federal agencies that regulate and oversee the use of animals in all biomedical research. PETA has lodged dozens of allegations about the study, none of which have been validated by two separate inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The use and care of the animals in the study, and their general treatment, has been found to generally meet or exceed all of the standards and regulations that govern such work.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison remains committed to the highest standards of animal care and use, and to the science that ultimately benefits both people and animals.