Which animals would St. Francis bless today?

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

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You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the Blessing of the Animals offered by churches during October, usually near the Oct. 4th Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. In fact, non-Catholic denominations frequently conduct their own animal blessing services, and why not–what’s not to love?!? Heck, you don’t even have to be religious to find beauty in this simple, compassionate gesture. Continue reading

The Men Who Prune Goats

peta2.com-click on image

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

The Coast Guard motto is Sempre Paratus, “always ready.” We can rest assured that, when the need arises, they will indeed be ready to clip the legs off living goats using tree branch trimmers. They’ve apparently undergone rigorous training in Virginia to perform this very act.

A whistleblower caught the heinous deed on video and PETA released it. The Coast Guard is defending the use of live animals in combat medical training, saying,

“Animals used in trauma training are supported and monitored by well-trained, experienced veterinary staff to ensure that appropriate anesthesia and analgesia prevent them from experiencing pain or distress.” Continue reading

Reducing Funding for Animal Research

Usra Hussain

The University of Pennsylvania houses as many as 5,000 animals a year at their medical and veterinary schools.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an official warning letter to the University of Pennsylvania for its “failure to establish programs of adequate veterinary care” for some of its research animals.  Over a course of three years, reports have stated, that the Ivy League institution may be responsible for up to 115 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The inspections also noted that, “two dogs had interdigital cysts (often from standing on wire flooring); dirty and algae-filled water containers for four horses, and three gerbil deaths that occurred because of ‘unsuitable sipper tubes.”  In another incident  at Penn, a newborn puppy was found dead, trapped beneath a floor grate. The puppy had slipped through the grate unnoticed, and an unknown amount of time passed before his death.

The University of Pennsylvania had more than double the amount of violations in comparison to other Ivy League schools.  The Agriculture Department, which regulates research facilities that use animals, and  the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) found that the eight Ivy League universities had what it called “disturbingly high numbers of Animal Welfare Act violations,” many of which were repeat or severe. Despite these violations, the University of Pennsylvania continues to receive the highest amount of federal research funding among all Ivy League Schools.  According to PCRM, University of Pennsylvania received $1.4 billion from the National Institutes of Health since 2008 for researching.  Continue reading

Violence in Context

Adonia David

 Yesterday I received an email with a picture of cats that were force-fed toilet cleaner by Proctor and Gamble – an example of animal testing of the type that goes on every day.  The photo was posted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an umbrella entity that many view as a fringe and frightening network of individuals who are willing to save animals in testing facilities by taking steps that are prohibited by society such as property destruction etc. (ALF’s guidelines insist that all precautions be taken to make sure no animals or humans are harmed when any destruction occurs, but the fact remains that arson and similar activities are carried out at times).  I have seen other information posted by ALF, perhaps the most disturbing being the story of Britches, a newborn monkey stolen from his mother for a study on “maternal deprivation” and whose eyes were sewn shut to study “sight deprivation.” He was kept in what appeared to be a shut cabinet and given none of the affection a young animal requires.  Members of ALF saved him and, watching the video, I’ll freely admit that I saw them as the heroes of the story despite their reputation. Continue reading

Celebrities, Chimps, Vivisection — The Back From Vacation Blog Post

David Cassuto

Well, I’m back from vacation and I have a few things to report.  First, one of my favorite places: “Milsurp’s Surplus and More” has closed.  I have no idea what they sold there, never having ventured in.  Still, just knowing there was a place that was able to differentiate between surplus and more made me sleep better and wake with a smile.  Now I’ll have to look elsewhere for my reason for being.  Continue reading

Torturing Beagles (Because They’re Nice Dogs)

David Cassuto

I’ve been bothered by this article in U.S.A. Today since I read it.  The article, which talks about the rescue and subsequent adoption of some 120 beagles who were vivisected, has the typical feel-good, happy-ending narrative one often sees in articles of this type.  And don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the dogs were rescued and it is certainly a much better ending than anyone had any reason to expect for them.

Still, I found one passage especially haunting:   Continue reading

World Week for Animals — Making the Case Against Vivisection

David Cassuto

We´re in the middle of World Week for Animals, during which people the world over speak out against vivisection.

People often point to the need for animal experimentation to alleviate human suffering.  Putting aside the basic objection to torturing one sentient creature for the benefit of another, the premise lacks foundation.  Animal models have always been the path of least resistance.  To justifiably claim such experiments are necessary requires evidence that those seeking to carry out the experiments have unsuccessfully attempted to learn what they seek through other means.  Assuming the absence of other means, necessity would also require, at minimum, a good faith attempt to create one.  To date, precious little resources have been expended to create alternatives to animal experiments and, when such options exist, they are often ignored.    Continue reading

Justice for Sheep

David Cassuto

You know those signs in every restaurant bathroom you’ve ever been in that declare it against the law for employees not to wash their hands after using the facilities?  I want to live in a world where such signs are not necessary.  I want to live in a world where employees wash their hands irrespective of any statutory mandate.  A world where people know that good hygiene is its own reward.  Either that, or I want the statute to apply to patrons too.  Because doggone it, call me a socialist but I think everyone should wash their hands.

I also want to live in a world where there is no need to outlaw the killing of sheep by decompression.  Until I do though, my hat’s off to Wisconsin.  It’s illegal to kill sheep by decompression there.  Of course, that didn’t stop some faculty members at the University of Wisconsin (with support from the Navy) from doing it anyway.     Continue reading

Animal Law and Lab Animals — Fearing a Paper Tiger

David Cassuto

P. Michael Conn, Director of Research Advocacy at Oregon Health and Sciences University and the the Oregon National Primate Research Center is concerned that the proliferation of animal law courses taught at U.S. law schools (111 schools at last count) poses a threat to animal research.  This claim is interesting on a number of levels.

First and lamentably, the law currently poses almost no threat at all to animal research.  To the extent that laboratory animals have any protection at all (and most don’t — mice and rats, the most popular lab animals, are exempt from the paltry protections of the Animal Welfare Act), virtually no one has standing to enforce those protections.  So Mr. Conn’s concern seems unfounded.   Continue reading

More Human than Humans

Michael Friese

As the years go by mankind finds that it has more in common with its ape cousins than previously thought.  The ape that humans have the most in common with is the chimpanzee.  Emory University may have closed the gap even further with a new play entitled Hominids.  In this play humans enact a true story of intrigue that occurred within a troop of chimpanzees in the 1970s.  The most interesting thing about the play is that the actors are not pretending to be chimpanzees, rather the play’s  approach is to enact the story as if it were humans upon whom the story is based.

A summary of the play is as follows:

“A conniving kingmaker and his young protégé conspire to overthrow a popular king. Their plot fails, so they murder him instead. The kingmaker then installs his protégé as ruler. The young king does not properly reward his mentor, however, so the kingmaker selects a new protégé. Together, they torment the young king to the point of madness. He throws himself into the palace moat and drowns.
The brutal power struggle reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, but it actually happened on an island of captive chimpanzees at a Holland zoo during the late 1970s.”

The implications of this play are far reaching.  It intends to leave spectators wondering what makes us human.  The play asks how different are chimpanzees than humans?  Specifically these questions have important effects on the ethics of medical testing on human’s closest relatives.  If chimpanzees’ actions are so close to human actions, then how can we justify testing on chimpanzees in situations where testing on humans would be unethical?

Chimpanzees have and are used in biomedical research because of their close genetic similarity to human beings.  In some cases chimpanzees are the only available nonhuman species that can be infected with the microorganism that is being studied.  Two well known microorganisms whose creation of vaccines depended on the testing of chimpanzees, are Hepatitis B and C.

Continue reading

Animal Testing Critiqued in USA Today

USA Today, of all places, ran an op-ed by Dr. John Pippin of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) condemning animal testing as cruel, useless, and even medically pernicious.  The piece is worth reading in its entirety but I note especially Pippin’s observation that: “Numerous reports confirm very poor correlations between animal research results and human results, and the research breakthroughs so optimistically reported in the media almost always fail in humans.”  Hat tip to Please Do Not Tap on the Glass for a fine post on the article and related issues.

David Cassuto

Human Superiority and Other Educational Tropes

In my son’s 4th grade classroom – which I happened to visit yesterday – the chalkboard had written upon it the following explanation of the difference between humans and animals:

Birds build nests.  Humans build houses.

Birds can fly.  Humans build airplanes.

There was more but I don’t remember it all.  The point seemed to be that animals’ skills are both narrow and limited while human skills are unbounded, as is their potential.

As an initial matter, the opposition is flawed.  For the comparison to work, all humans must be able to build houses and airplanes just as all birds (or the vast majority, anyway) can build nests and fly.  Of course, this is simply not so.  The majority of humans can build neither a house nor a nest.  And most of us certainly couldn’t build an airplane, much less fly one.

So, the comparison should say:

Birds build nests and can fly.  Some humans can do some of the following: build houses and build and fly airplanes.  Precious few can do all three.

Phrased thus, the human side of the equation appears much less majestic.  It rather highlights the fact that most of us lack basic survival and building skills that birds (and other animals) possess in abundance.  We compensate for our individual shortcomings by relying on a select few people who possess the skills necessary to create an environment in which the rest of us can survive (as I write this, a contractor is at work on my house, insulating a portion of the house too cold for my family to inhabit).

One wonders, therefore, why we aggrandize humanity.  One further wonders why we feel entitled to take credit for the achievements and abilities of others while simultaneously derogating other beings who are individually far more skilled and better adapted for survival than we.

This hubris has cascading consequences.  Because we classify nonhumans as “lesser creatures,” they fall beneath our normative notice.  Thus, industrial farming, canned hunting, pseudo-scientific experimentation, and other horrific wrongs are routinely perpetrated upon them because they allegedly lack the necessary qualities for membership in the moral community.  Our laws memorialize this normative vision, which then gets perpetuated in (among other places) my son’s classroom.

I want to talk to him about all this. But I don’t know what to say.

David Cassuto

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