Progress at the Cost of Our Humanity

Seth Victor

The New York Times this week published an investigation into U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and, perhaps predictably, the results are disturbing. I heartily suggest reading the whole article, but for those in a rush, here are some of the interesting takeaway points:

  • U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is pioneering ways to produce meat more efficiently and cheaply via re-engineering farmed animals through surgery and breeding techniques
  • In pursuing this research, animal welfare has taken a backseat. For example, since 1985, 6,500 out of the 580,000 animals the center has housed have starved. 625 have died from mastitis, an easily treatable infection.
  • Nearly 10 million piglets have been crushed by their mothers each year, not because this is what mothers naturally do, but because they are being forced to have larger litters of weak piglets, and the mothers themselves are artificially larger, kept alive longer to reproduce.
  • For thirty-one years, the Center worked on genetically modifying cows to regularly produce twins, noting that single births were not an efficient way to produce meat. By injecting cows with embryos from other cows that birthed twins, and then injecting them with semen from bulls who sired twins, the Center produced cows that have a 55% chance of having twins, when naturally the chances are 3%. Many of the female calves of twins are born with deformed vaginas, and the artificially large wombs create birthing problems even for single calves. Over 16% of the twins died.
  • Thirty to forty cows die each year from exposure to bad weather, not including storms, in which several hundred more die.
  • 245 animals have died since 1985 due to treatable abscesses.
  • In 1990, the Center tried to create larger lambs by injecting pregnant ewes with an excessive amount of male hormone testosterone. Instead, the lambs were born with deformed genitals, which made urination difficult.
  • In 1989, the Center locked a young cow in place in a pen with six bulls for over an hour to determine the bulls’ libidos. The industry standard is to do this with one bull for fifteen minutes. By the time a vet was called, the cows hind legs were broken from being mounted, and she died within a few hours.
  • The scientists charged with administering the experiments, surgeries, and to euthanize do not have medical degrees. One retired scientist at the Center was quoted saying, “A vet has no business coming in and telling you how to do it. Surgery is an art you get through practice.”
  • “The leaner pigs that the center helped develop, for example, are so low in fat that one in five females cannot reproduce; center scientists have been operating on pigs’ ovaries and brains in an attempt to make the sows more fertile.”
  • Regarding oversight, “A Times examination of 850 experimental protocols since 1985 showed that the approvals [for experiments] were typically made by six or fewer staff members, often including the lead researchers for the experiment. The few questions asked dealt mostly with housekeeping matters like scheduling and the availability of animals.”
  • “The language in the protocols is revealing. While the words “profit” or “production efficiency” appear 111 times, “pain” comes up only twice.”

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Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

Rescue beagle dogs reopens the debate on Animal Experimentation Law in Brazil

Tagore Trajano

About a month ago, the rescue of approximately 178 dogs beagle of the Institute Royal research relumed the Brazilian Animal experimentation Law debate. In this week, some Brazilians representatives have discussed to install in the next few days a Parliamentary of Inquiry (CPI) to investigate all types of maltreatment of animals in Brazil.Brazilian Advocates

A Parliamentary Front in Defense of Animals have tried to approve projects prol-animals since 2003, but public policy about animal rights has always been treated as a joke in the House of Representatives. The debate involving the mistreatment of animals resurfaced after the invasion of the Royal Institute in São Paulo , by protesters opposed to animal testing .

In Brasília, activists have proposed to create a federal fund for animals, Welfare Animal Code, and a anticruelty tag in the products. Companies should inform the packaging of their products if they were or were not tested on animals.

Animals in research labs have since been protected under the Laboratory Animals Act –LAA (2008), legislation which set the rules about animal testing and research and revoked the Vivisection Act (1979). The LAA created the National Animal Experimentation Counsel (CONCEA), responsible for creating new rules about animal experimentation in Brazil. However, most of Brazilian Professors advocated that there are some incongruences with the Constitution that prohibits animal abuses.

Looks like it’s time to draw the path that Brazil wants to take in defense of animals, rethinking laws that allow to use of animals as food, entertainment, and experimentation.

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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

Sloth

Seth Victor

 I wrote that gluttony is the biggest of these applied sins, but I may have spoken too soon. Everything I’ve written so far is meaningless if no one critically considers the issues contained in these posts, and while my goal is to get people thinking and talking about these issues, that alone is not enough. It’s a tired saying, but actions do speak loudest. Where our society goes with animal rights is determined solely by what actions we take. It’s that simple. For that reason, sloth is the greatest sin to overcome.    Continue reading

The Sin of Pride

Seth Victor

I have kindly been invited by Prof. Cassuto to guest blawg for a week while he attends all-night parties in Ipanema furthers the efforts of international law in Brazil with ambition that never fails to make me feel lazy in comparison. For now I hope to interest you with a thematic series of posts. I am going to explore how animal law issues are based around the Seven Deadly Sins. The seven sins, or vices, are eerily applicable to the branches of animal law most often discussed. As always, the law can only change to the extent that it reflects the will of the people it governs. Change starts with individuals, and knowledge is the first step. With that in mind, permit me to dive into the first vice.

Pride

 Pride is the classic vice. It is the cause of many a Greek tragedy, and in the Judeo-Christian tradition it not only causes the division of heaven and hell, but is the consequence of eating from the tree of knowledge. Why is pride such a bad trait? Aren’t we encouraged to take pride in our work?

Pride becomes a problem in excess. Pride is a sin when love for oneself exceeds empathy for others. “Others” include animals. There is inherent pride in nearly every law, a pride in being human. The American legal system enforces the notion that you, simply by being human, should be and are more respected and valuable than any non-human. That is a whole discussion in itself. A more specific application of pride is vanity. How we look shouldn’t matter, or at least Saturday afternoon specials tell me as much. Yet the cosmetic industry is booming, and for every Lifetime movie, there are twelve teen magazines letting you know daily how much better looking you could be if you would just try a little harder, and oh yeah, buy this, it will help.

Animals bear the brunt of our vanity. You wouldn’t want to drop perfume in your eye to see if it is going to irritate you. Of course not. Luckily for you, rabbits are lining up by the thousands, ready to take the hit. By “lining up,” I mean being born into captivity and having no voice whatsoever in what happens to them.

The cosmetic industry, at least among the people I know, eludes the public eye in ways the other animal exploitation cannot. Unlike clothing or food, there is no obvious immediate connection between the product and the animal upon whom it was tested, and the consumer can easily be ignorant of the relationship. Because of this blindness it is essential that the laws governing animal testing be solid. 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.

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