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Mrs. K wants to give the big apes a break

Elizabeth Kucinich, pictured on Wednesday at the Rayburn House Office Building, is PCRM's new director of public affairs. (Marissa Newhall/The Washington Post)

The last time we saw Elizabeth Kucinich, the gorgeous redhead was on her husband's arm as he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination. That didn't pan out, so Rep. Dennis Kucinich went back to Congress and she went back to her work as a monetary policy wonk.

Now she's back in the spotlight, this time as the new director of public affairs for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Kucinich was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to drum up support for the Great Ape Protection Act, which would phase out invasive medical research on chimpanzees.

"For me, it's a moral issue, about practicing good science and moving with the times," she told our colleague Marissa Newhall. The longtime animal-rights advocate wants to end federal funding involving chimps -- which gets into the tricky business of, well, lobbying her husband and his colleagues.

So the couple met with ethics officials Wednesday morning. "We want to make sure everything we do is absolutely by the book, and it's a thick book," she said. Most of her work will be off the Hill, so she's not required to register as a lobbyist. But she'll make a few personal appeals in Washington -- not lobbying, mind you, but "educational awareness around a particular bill."

Even as a teenager in England, she played hooky to lobby for her favorite organizations. And she shared this: "I was quite a heavy child." Really? "Yes," said Kucinich. "I was quite picked on by children at school. Tall, overweight, ginger......"

How'd she lose the weight? Her whole family went vegan after her mother learned she had Crohn's disease, the inflammatory bowel condition, and managed it by cutting out meat and dairy products. And yes, we'll probably hear more about this -- childhood obesity and nutrition will be part of her work at PCRM.

By The Reliable Source  |  October 29, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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She is hot. I can't believe Cleveland's "boy blunder" landed her. Wow.

Posted by: RambleOn | October 29, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Thank God for that, go for it. The invasive research is a crime and it should end.

Posted by: moemongo | October 29, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Fascinating WaPo - there is NOTHING I'm more interested in than the condition of Mrs. Kucinich's bowels!

Posted by: pgr88 | October 29, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, no mention that PCRM is an offshoot of PETA? And by the way that primate research is absolutely critical for any number of diseases, including Hepatitis, infectious diseases, Alzheimer's, and viral infections? Easy to want to stop the research until you realize the important work that is being done. Let me put it this way - who do I believe on this issue - NIH or some PETA offshoot?

Posted by: mstebbins6 | October 29, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Somebody give her a nobel peace prize quick and maybe she'll quit damning medical research that has saved millions of lives.

Posted by: GordonShumway | October 29, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

pgr88 - I think it was her mom who had Crohn's disease, at least pay attention to what you are reading...shootin' from the hip?

mstebbins6 - NIH is a gov't agency. How convenient to believe in a gov't agency when it serves your hollow argument. Usually you hate "government" and everything they do, right?

Testing human disease on non-human animals has not resulted in much good ever - we have no cure for any cancer, AIDS or most other human problems out there; continuing such a practice is not only immoral, unethical and completely unnecessary, it is also costly and pointless. "Scientists" use laboratory animals because it is convenient and they keep raking in government grants (read: tax payer $$). It's not about funding to find a cure for a disease, it is about funding "scientists" deep pockets. Whichever side you're on in this debate, at least be honest with yourself before spewing knee jerk cookie cutter answers to everything deemed "liberal" or "progressive".

Posted by: AliceW2 | October 29, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

There is a case to be made for using some of the cretins who think animal research is still necessary as experimental subjects. The single largest discreditor of animal testing is in the differences between human and animal DNA that make testing on animals as wasteful as it is cruel. With computer simulations and other models now available, medicines and treatments can be tested without having to harm a defenseless animal. I am no fan of Kucinich, but I agree with Mrs. Kucinich on this. Many MDs and researchers do, too.

Posted by: panamajack | October 29, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

One day in the future, I'm convinced, people will look at animal research, and even eating meat, the way we look at slavery today. They'll be incredulous that their ancestors could ever have done anything so inhumane.

Posted by: oxhead1 | October 29, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I guess they could use Hitler's method and just use people as test subjects. I hate to break the news to anyone but you cannot have it both ways. I hate seeing this as much as anyone but it does save HUMANS so make a choice.

Posted by: askgees | October 29, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Wait..I thought Elizabeth gave a big ape a break when she married one?

Posted by: Homunculus | October 29, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I guess she's volunteering herself to be tested instead of the apes???

Posted by: goaway5 | October 29, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

One day in the future, I'm convinced, people will look at animal research, and even eating meat, the way we look at slavery today. They'll be incredulous that their ancestors could ever have done anything so inhumane.

Posted by: oxhead1 | October 29, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Sure they will. Just as soon as they figure out a way to survive with out EATING. Let me guess, you're a veg head. Did you know it's you all that are causing climate change. Plants absorb the CO2 and since you eat them we have more CO2 I guess you never thought about that??? But then again most LIB T@RDS don't think they just react.

Posted by: askgees | October 29, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone explain to me how that horrid little hermoculous ended up with this beauty? He must be holding her parents hostage somewhere, or maybe the dude is "packin'". Maybe he wraps that rascal with thousand dollar bills. This union defies all logical attempts to justify, and has caused me to abandon any notions I once had regarding order in the universe. That's right, I'm jealous as hell.

Posted by: ddnfla | October 29, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The European Union is taking this question very seriously, the world is changeing and empathy for animals in labs is on the increase. So like it or not primates will be spared from this inquisition like torture in the foreseeable future. As it has already been pointed out there are alternatives today that provide far better results for medical research. We really need to move on.

Posted by: renewoods | October 29, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I just had to weigh in on askgees' comment that vegetarians "are causing all the climate change" because they eat plants, which absorb CO2.

First off, I am not a vegetarian, and I have no vested interest in this either way. I just wanted to point out the amazing stupidity of this argument, because it really is amazing.

Plants are renewable. If you eat a plant, you can take the seeds and plant them in the ground and grow new plants. This process uses a certain amount of non-renewable energy, for fertilizer (none if you are going organic), gasoline for the tractors and harvester, etc.

Animals are also renewable, in the sense that you can breed the ones you have to give birth to other ones before you eat them. However, this process uses several orders of magnitude more non-renewable energy than growing plants, mainly (but not entirely) because someone somewhere has to grow the plants that you need to feed the animals.

Therefore, raising animals for food not only uses a great deal of non-renewable energy for raising the animals themselves, but also for growing the animal feed. And it is the non-renewable energy usage that is causing climate change. Can you understand?

Posted by: tlowell5 | October 30, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The United States is one of the last countries that still uses chimpanzees in research, and most are simply warehoused because research hasn't produced much information that would lead to helping humans.

The interests and intelligence of the individual chimpanzees used in testing should be considered. You can meet some former biomedical research chimpanzees at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest's website: ChimpSanctuaryNW . org

Posted by: Diana16 | October 30, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Chimpanzees are crucial animal models for some diseases, like hepatitis C, for which no other model exists. If we want vaccines and treatments for this disease, these animals continue to be critical. The only other alternative is to experiment on humans, which is not only illegal, but most would argue immoral.

It is not entirely true to say the rest of the world does not use chimps in research. European pharmaceutical companies simply contract with U.S. labs to continue their studies.

Not only would this bill bring to a halt medical research that could potentially save millions of lives, it also could harm research designed to benefit great apes themselves. Did you know that chimps in the wild are dying of E. bola? That gorillas in zoos are prone to cardiac conditions? How do you think we're going to address these medical issues for great apes if we cannot test new treatments and vaccines on them?

If you're totally opposed to the use of animals in research, nothing I am going to day will convince you. (Although I might argue you should feel ashamed for benefitting from vaccines, antibiotics, insulin, pacemakers, statins, anti-virals, and the hundreds of other treatments developed through the use of animals in research).

But if you are supporting this bill simply because Elizabeth Kucinich or anyone else is telling you to, please take the time to get the facts. The use of animals in research is highly regulated, and there are many protections in place to ensure their welfare. Chimps are used only when absolutely necessary. It is absolutely untrue that no good has come out of the use of animals in research, and animal models remain crucially important to stopping our most deadly diseases. The vast, vast majority of the scientific and medical communities support the humane use of animals in research.

Posted by: SilverSpringirl | October 30, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

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