PITTSFIELD

Ana Wolf is a 1989 graduate of Wahconah Regional High School and has lived in Hinsdale, Lenox, Peru, Pittsfield, North Adams, and now lives in Worthington. She has worked in Pittsfield since 1998 at the Brien Center. She belongs to a Berkshire Based ultra running group, Berkshire Ultra Runner’s Community For Service BURCS), and is co-director of an Ultra Marathon on June 14 at the Pittsfield State Forest, the Vegan Power 50 K. She loves animals so much, she doesn’t even use leather.

But as local as Ana Wolf is, on Jan. 15, after five days of hiking uphill, passing through five different climate zones, on five hours of sleep, the 42-year-old Wolf will be waking up at midnight in the African country of Tanzania and starting the summit push up Mt. Kilimanjaro at dawn to plant the flag for SAEN -- Stop Animal Exploitation Now. Wolf is making the climb to raise money and awareness for animals being tested on in laboratory settings. She is paying for all the travel expenses herself and every donation goes directly towards the non-profit watchdog group SAEN -- Stop Animal Exploitation Now.

Wolf says that she is "doing this because when I saw videos and photographs of cats and primates with implants in their skulls, dogs living in cages being forced to inhale smoke or run on a treadmill until they died, and heard stories of taxpayer dollars being spent on getting monkeys addicted to crystal meth and cocaine I knew I had to do something."

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The argument for animal testing is that it is an evil necessary to protect people, but Wolf makes the case that animal testing is dangerously unreliable and unnecessary. She notes, for example, drugs like thalidomide and redux are dangerous and even deadly in humans but passed all animal testing. There are many other examples, including Selacryn, a diuretic, which was thoroughly tested on animals but was withdrawn in 1979 after 24 people died from drug-induced liver failure. Suprofen, an arthritis drug, was withdrawn from the market when patients suffered kidney toxicity. Clioquinol, an antidiarrheal, passed tests in rats, cats, dogs and rabbits. It was pulled off the shelves all over the world in 1982 after it was found to cause blindness and paralysis in humans. There are dozens of other examples.

According to Wolf, the problem works the other way as well: some drugs that have been helpful in humans like digitalis and penicillin fail testing in animals. Dr. Aysha Akhtar, a neurologist and public health specialist, is quoted as saying "Again and again, drugs found effective in animals in the laboratory have failed when tried in humans. The main reason for these high failure rates? Animal experiments simply don’t make good ‘models’ of human physiology and human diseases."

The former National Institute of Health NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, had this to say "We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one, me included, researchers have over-relied on animal data. The problem is that it hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem. . . . We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans."

Wolf notes that "In addition to the dangerous and ineffectiveness of animal testing, we are also wasting more than $12 billion per year of taxpayer dollars alone on animal testing in the US." Wolf cites the fact that the European Union banned product testing on animals in 2013 and will not import products that are tested on animals from other nations.

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Stop Animal Exploitation Now ended primate research at Pennsylvania State University Medical School and forced Harvard to close its New England National Primate Research Center by 2015. It ensured that chimps used in lab testing were retired to a sanctuary instead of another research facility and forced the USDA to investigate and prosecute 13 different universities and private research companies for violations. They collaboratively pressured the Nepalese government to ban monkey exports to US labs.

At the core is Wolf’s compassion: "I think most peoples’ hearts would break if they saw photos or footage of lab experiments, I know mine does." Soon she will be literally at the top of world fighting for those animals.

For information on how to make a donation visit www.crowdrise.com/Kilimanjaroforlabanimals

Rinaldo Del Gallo, III is an occasional Eagle contributor.