“Furever” Home or Hospice? New FDA Regulation Approves Animal Abuse and Allows Labs to put the Abused up for Adoption

Giovanna DiFilippo

Humans have used animals for experimentation in biomedical research as far back as ancient Greco-Roman times. Classic philosophers, including the likes of Aristotle and Erasistratus, recorded their experiments on animals and their writings are some of the first records of animal testing in existence. There is no doubt that animal testing has been widely utilized by experimentalists in biomedical research. Such inquiries have helped humankind to advance many of the medical developments we use today. However, technology is rapidly expanding upon society’s biomedical research and it is no longer necessary for humans to experiment on animals. In fact, many biomedical companies and cosmetics companies that test on animals have been subjected to societal pressure to cease testing on animals. Just last week the Food and Drug Administration publicly announced that it will endorse a policy that allows laboratory animals to be adopted once they are no longer needed for experimental use. Many animal rights activists view this new policy as a victory for laboratory animals, but it only perpetuates the interests of the laboratories in experimenting on these animals.

            According to Cruelty Free International, testing on animals is defined as “any scientific experiment or test in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain and suffering.” The animals are harmed deliberately and not for their own interests, but for the interests of furthering scientific inquiry for the overall benefit of society. Some experiments commonly performed on animals in laboratories include injecting animals with known toxic substances, exposing animals to radiation, performing surgery to purposefully remove vital organs and tissues, and forcing animals to inhale poisonous fumes. The most popular animals used to experiment on in laboratories are by far rats and mice. However, laboratories also use fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs and nonhuman primates.

            For years the Food and Drug Administration has defended animal testing on the basis that animal testing is essential for some medical devices where nonanimal testing would not be a viable option. However, biomedical technology has advanced enough to where a scientist can now reproduce human tissues and perform accurate experiments on that laboratory created human biological material. Yet the Food and Drug Administration maintains that animal testing reliably measures how much of a drug is absorbed into the blood stream, how a medical product is chemically broken down in the body, the toxicity of a product and how quickly that product is excreted from the body. These justifications do not take into consideration how nonhuman animals are imperfect specimens for predicting how such experiments would affect the human body.

            These laboratories obtain their animals from “class A” dealers and “class B” dealers. “Class A” dealers are those in the business of breeding animals exclusively for their use in these scientific experiments. The “class B” dealers are merely brokers who sell animals to these laboratories after acquiring them from animal shelters. Those animals who survive these abhorrent experiments are typically euthanized by the scientists that experiment on them. This new policy of the Food and Drug Administration to adopt “retired” lab animals as pets is not a new concept. Other agencies, such as the National Institute of Health and the Department of Veteran Affairs, have also supported similar policies of their own encouraging the adoption of retired laboratory dogs. No federal legislation or policy currently exists surrounding this issue.

            Many animal rights activists are celebrating the Food and Drug Administration’s new policy supporting the adoption of laboratory animals after they are no longer needed for experimental use. However, no substantial change was seen when the other agencies, such as the NIH and VA, adopted similar policies. Animals are still going to be tortured relentlessly by scientists in the name of scientific discovery and biomedical research. Animal advocates should not celebrate the recognition that these animals need homes only at the end of their experimental use. Instead, animal advocates should increase their focus on preventing the use of animals for experimental testing in the laboratories. By supporting these weak policies, animal advocates are communicating to the agencies and public that it is permissible to treat the animals as scientific commodities and, only if they survive the horrors of the lab, are they worthy of the privilege of living a healthier life.

            Even the promise of a happy and healthy retirement for laboratory animals is reprehensible. For their entire lives these animals are kept in solitude and abhorrent conditions. Most have no idea what it feels like to live outside of a small wired cage. They have been forced to undergo surgeries, ingest toxic chemicals, inhale poisonous fumes and live in high anxiety environments. Most animals will be untrusting of humans and thus would not be suitable for a family. Some others will become very sick and not survive very long in their adoptive homes.  Pulling the survivors out of these labs is comparable to releasing a cancer patient from their hospital room to live out their final days in hospice; it’s a nicer alternative than dying alone in a tiny cage, but it does not remedy what the laboratories are enabled to do to these animals in the future. It instead allows for more animals to be subject to this torturous life, only to be granted a final few years, months or days in a loving home. Animal activists and advocates alike need to save their celebratory sentiment for a larger purpose and continue the fight for animal liberation from these laboratories that exist to solely torture these vulnerable souls.

The Major Gap in a New Bill in Congress to Rehome Research Animals

Cassie Jurenci

In May 2019, Representative Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments, and Research Act of 2019 (the AFTER Act of 2019). If passed, the bill would require all federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities that have laboratory or exhibiting animals to “facilitate the adoption or nonlaboratory placement of certain warm-blooded animals (e.g., dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits) with animal rescue organizations, animal sanctuaries, animal shelters, or individuals” who are no longer needed for research and are suitable for release. According to the US Humane Society, animals used in laboratory experiments who survive experimentation are typically euthanized at the end of the experiment, if not during. In a statement, Representative Boyle explained, “[f]or years, I’ve worked to end outdated government animal testing opposed by most Americans, and have been disturbed at how many animals are killed at the end of research even though there are individuals, rescues, and sanctuaries ready to take them in.” 

Regrettably, the AFTER Act does not extend the opportunity for rehoming following experimentation to the millions of birds, rats, or mice used in research every year.

According to the US Humane Society, rats and mice are the most-used animals in research yet, along with birds, they are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In fact, “[o]nly about 1 percent of animals used in research in the United States are protected by this legislation” according to Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado—Boulder and author of The Emotional Lives of Animals. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff explains how The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 redefined “animal” to…exclude birds, rats, and mice, bred for research. In the absence of protections under the AWA and without statistics from the USDA on the use of mice and rats in research, ascertaining the number of individuals used in research is a challenge.

The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress began the “monumental task” of estimating the number of these animals used in research and, in a report published in 2000, they determined that an estimated “85 percent of vertebrate animals used in research, education, and testing are mice and rats.” Compilers of the report contacted 100 of the 2,000 research organizations in its database, and of those organizations, the report found that between 250,000 and 1,000,000 rats, 400,000-2,000,000 mice, and 130,000-900,000 birds were registered with those facilities. Considering similar estimates by other organizations, excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act means that tens of millions of animals are not eligible for rehoming after spending their lives as research subjects.

Excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act also eliminates the opportunity for these animals to live the rich lives of which they are capable after their use in research. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff details numerous scientific observations showing the emotional and social natures of rats, mice, and birds. Bekoff explains how, “[r]ats show an increase in dopamine activity simply anticipating the opportunity to play” and have been shown to “chirp with joy.” He references brain chemistry studies that “support the idea that play is pleasurable and fun.” Bekoff goes on to say that “[r]ats who are tickled bond to the researchers and seek out tickles.”

Talking about mice, Bekoff describes a scientific study on empathy in which “adult mice were injected with acetic acid, causing them to writhe in pain…. Researchers discovered that mice who watch their peers in pain are more sensitive to it themselves and that an injected mouse writhed more if its partner was also writhing.” On sadness, Bekoff explains how mice who “are bullied or consistently dominated by other mice… [and] become withdrawn” can be successfully treated with human antidepressants. Finally, Bekoff writes about the ability of birds to display ranges of emotion from happiness to anger, highlighting researcher Irene Pepperberg’s studies of the famous African gray parrot, Alex.

Certainly, as animal researchers themselves must attest based on the results of their experiments, rats, mice, and birds are capable of emotional experiences. These animals deserve the same opportunities for adoption after research granted to other commonly used research animals.

According to Pew, a growing number of states have begun passing laws requiring research facilities to provide for the adoption of healthy cats and dogs following experimentation where possible. Federally, the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Veterans Affairs have policies relating to the adoption of certain laboratory animals no longer needed for research.

The AFTER Act is admirable in its endeavor to provide lab animals the opportunity to live the rest of their lives in caring homes and non-research facilities. However, it is deficient in scope by excluding the vast majority of animals used in research in the United States: rats, mice, and birds. The AFTER Act has remained in the House Agriculture Committee since its referral to that body upon its introduction. The bill should be amended to expand the opportunity for adoption to rats, mice, and birds.

Are Lab Animals Necessary?

Raghav Patel

For centuries animals have been used for experiments in the name of science. Scientists have urged the general public that these experiments are necessary, for the advancement of medical and scientific discovery. These scientists believe that without using nonhumans, there wouldLab Animal - Monkey be no way for us to know if the drugs or research discovered, would work or be safe for human use. This argument is flawed in many respects, but none more than the fact that nonhumans simply are not humans. Many of the experiments that bring desired results on animals does not necessarily bring the same results for humans. Actually this is the case way more often than not, with a vast majority of experiments that bring desired results in animals, but resulting in either adverse or no effect on humans. This then bears the question; why do we still use animals in scientific experiments and medical research? There really isn’t a good reason based on the facts. Researches and certain companies want us to believe that these experiments are necessary for our safety, but in reality these experiments are used by companies and researchers to hedge their liability, so that if anything does actually go wrong on the humans that use their products, they can show the results from the animal Continue reading

Ethics of Animal Experimentation — Call for Chapter Contributors

David Cassuto

From the email:

Call for Book Chapter Contributions
The Ethics of Animal experimentation: Working towards a paradigm change
Editors: Kathrin Herrmann and Kimberley Jayne
Even though nonhuman animals are used for a variety of different purposes, their use in research particularly has remained an ethical challenge. It is evident that nonhuman animals in laboratories are exposed to a great deal of physical and psychological suffering, and that the use of animals in research is growing internationally.
Arguably, legal reforms around the world have insufficiently improved the protection of nonhuman animals. However, Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes in the European Union is radical compared to other legislation. The Directive promotes a change of paradigm in nonhuman animal experimentation in establishing a goal of the full replacement of the use of live animals in research and education as soon as it is scientifically feasible (Recital 10).
Building on the radical vision of Directive 2010/63/EU, this book aims to illustrate the current situation for nonhuman animals used in science and aims to give a future outlook to the end of their use in research. Besides exploring the current ethical challenges and scientific controversies related to animal experimentation, this Volume aims to discuss ways to work towards a fundamental change of paradigm. We invite contributions from interdisciplinary scholars who share a vision for how this abolition of animal research can be achieved. The goal is to find solutions for this urging problem that are led by a culture of compassion for all animals.
List of recommended topics (but not limited to):
 The legal framework: history, present and future prospects for an end of nonhuman animal use in science
 The culture of language around the use of animals in research
 The efficacy of the ‘Culture of Care’ incl. Refinement
 Methods for assessing the quality of animal research (e.g. ARRIVE guidelines)
 The politics of nonhuman animal experimentation
 Transparency that benefits animals versus transparency that appeases the public and inhibits potential scrutiny and outrage (e.g. UK Concordat)
 The capabilities and boundaries of public engagement
 The psychological and social implications for animal research staff
 The consequences of education and training using animals
 The 3Rs – what is in it for the nonhuman animals Continue reading

Oxford Center for Animal Ethics Call for Papers

David Cassuto

From the email:

Call for Papers Second Oxford Summer School on Animal EthicsThe Ethics of Using Animals in Research

26-29 July 2015 at St Stephen’s House, Oxford

In 1947, Oxford don C. S. Lewis commented that it was “the rarest thing in the world to hear a rational discussion of vivisection”. This Summer School intends to provide just that: a rational discussion of the ethics of using animals in research.

Papers are invited from academics world-wide on any aspect relating to the ethics of animal experimentation, including philosophical and religious ethics, historical, legal, psychological, and sociological perspectives, the morality of various types of research, the use of alternatives, the confinement of animals in laboratories, and the effectiveness of current controls and future legislation.

The Centre will be producing its own review of the ethics of the use of animals in research, which should be published in the Autumn of 2014. Contributors are asked to consider responding to the methodology and conclusions of the review in their contributions to the Summer School.

Abstracts of proposed contributions (no more than 300 words) should be sent to Clair Linzey via email: depdirector@oxfordanimalethics.com. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 1 January 2015.

All selected papers will be published in book form or in the Journal of Animal Ethics.

The School is being arranged by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in partnership with the BUAV. The Centre is very grateful to the BUAV for its sponsorship of academic work on this subject, including this Summer School.

St Stephen’s House is an Anglican Theological College and a Hall of the University of Oxford.

Registration for the Summer School will shortly be available on the Centre’s website.

Our mailing address is: Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics

91 Iffley Road

Oxford, EnglandOX4 1EG

United Kingdom

Amended CHIMP Act Allows More Chimpanzees to Retire to Federal Sanctuary

Anne Haas

On Wednesday, November 27th, President Obama signed into law a Chimp Haven Photobipartisan bill to support the retirement of research chimpanzees.

Earlier this year, the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced plans to retire about 90 percent of U.S. government-owned chimpanzees currently used in medical research to Chimp Haven, a national chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. However, the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, signed into law in 2000, placed a $30 million cap on spending for federally owned chimpanzees in sanctuaries. NIH was expected to reach that cap in mid-November, affecting both the retirement and care of chimpanzees in laboratories and at Chimp Haven. Continue reading

The “Necessity” of Cosmetic Animal Testing

Andrea Rodricks

            Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) does not require cosmetic testing on animals, it does allow a company to take whatever steps necessary to prove product safety. This includes animal testing. Even though the FDA does advocate for alternative methods of testing, it seems to be an all too common perception that animal testing is necessary for the development of safe products. This is evidenced by the hundreds of companies that still test on animals. I have never understood why it is seen as the best way to test cosmetics. Does testing mascara on a rabbit really prove that it is safe for human use? There are plenty of alternatives to testing on animals, so it is any wonder why companies continue this horrific practice. rabbits-cosmetic-test

The United States is significantly behind in banning animal testing of cosmetics. In 2004, the European Union(EU) banned domestic cosmetic testing on animals. In 2009, the EU went even further by banning animal testing of the ingredients used in cosmetics. Additionally, they banned the sale of products that have been tested on animals. Finally, in early 2013, the EU’s final deadline of prohibiting marketing of products that are tested on animals was complete. On January 1, 2013, Israel’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics went into effect prohibiting the importation and marketing of products that test on animals. Similar to the EU, this was the second step in a process that started in 2007 with the banning of domestic animal testing. Finally, in July of this year, India joined the EU and Israel, by prohibiting animal testing on cosmetics and ingredients.          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

Monkey Business

Sarah Saville

What’s the difference between an ape and a monkey? In high school I would have answered: a tail. In college I would have answered: somewhere between 3%–6% genetic differences. In law school I will answer: the amount of legal protections available to the animals.

Zoologically, great apes include bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. As defined by proposed legislation, great apes include the gibbons of Family Hylobatidae, also known as the lesser apes. The European Union ended research on captive great apes last year. Today, there are currently several proposed measures to extend protections to captive apes in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is currently reviewing whether or not to list all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Wild chimpanzees are currently listed as endangered, but captive chimpanzees are only listed as threatened. The current “split listing” permits the use of chimpanzees in research and to be kept as pets. In April, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett introduced the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011. If passed, the Act will retire all federally owned apes used in research and for breeding.   Continue reading

University of Wisconsin is Violating the Honor Code, Oh and Animal Welfare Laws

Douglas Doneson

The University of Wisconsin has slipped a measure into the state budget bill by way of the University System Omnibus Motion. Item 27:

 Liability Protections for Scientific Researchers: Specify that current law provisions prohibiting crimes against animals would not apply to persons engaged in bona fide scientific research at an educational or research institution or persons who are authorized or otherwise regulated under federal law to utilize animals for these purposes.

Basically, the University does not want to follow Wisconsin’s Crimes Against Animal laws. The university is seeking these changes with absolutely no public discussion or debate.

According to the Cap Times, scientists at colleges and universities were granted these protections June 3 by the Joint Finance Committee in measure No. 27 in this omnibus motion, which deals mostly with UW System budget issues.  No. 27 is disguised in language which demonstrates UW’s new freedoms and flexibilities state campuses were awarded from state oversight.  This measure received no public review, comment or feedback. Continue reading

Odd Animal Laws, Odd Culture

This is a guest post by Kenji Crosland, a writer for TeachStreet.  Teachstreet is a website that provides online and local classes, including classes on law and pet training classes.

In the effort to preserve a certain semblance of order certain laws (don’t steal, don’t kill) have been universal since Hammurabi, although the punishments for disobeying these laws have varied greatly. Laws concerning animal cruelty, however, are unique in that they are not necessarily “required,” to keep the peace.  For a society to establish animal cruelty laws it needs to reach a certain level of moral development.  These laws, just like the humans who created them, however, aren’t perfect, and those imperfections can give us insights into a particular culture.

These days, India and countries in Europe seem to be the most progressive, while others like China are slowly adding laws to the books.  The US is a study in contrasts: while some states are on the progressive side, there are others that are far from it.          Continue reading

Thinking Inside the Box (Where the Mice Suffer & Die)

David Cassuto

Thirty-some years ago, researchers attempting to determine if tobacco smoke was toxic put mice in boxes filled with smoke.  The mice didn’t develop cancer at the rate human smokers did.  One could conclude that tobacco was not a carcinogen but, of course, that  would be wrong.  The problem lay with the experiment, including the fact that mouse and human physiology are vastly different.

Fast forward to the present where researchers are attempting to determine if cell phone use causes cancer in humans.  Building on the knowledge gained over the last three decades of rigorous scientific method, researchers have elected to study the question by — wait for it; wait for it — putting mice in boxes.  Is it because they will learn anything of value regarding cancer, cell phones and humans?  Not hardly.  They will, however, get $25 million in funding from the NIH.    Continue reading

“Thinking About Animals Conference” at Brock University

David Cassuto

More goodies from the email:

CALL FOR PAPERS: THINKING ABOUT ANIMALS 2011- BROCK
UNIVERSITY
The Department of Sociology at Brock University is issuing a Call for Papers for a conference on “Thinking About Animals” to be held March 31 and April 1, 2011 at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.
This two-day conference will explore a variety of issues concerning the current and historical situation of nonhuman animals and interactions with humans.  The Department is organizing this conference with the assistance of the Office of the Dean of Social Sciences, the Departments of English, Political Science, History and Visual Arts, the MA Programme in Critical Sociology, and the MA Programme in Social Justice and Equity Studies.

Continue reading

Live From the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights in Brazil

Elizabeth Bennett

DAY 1 Ola from the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights.  First, I would like to say that I am very thankful that Pace Law School and the Center for Environmental Legal Studies provided me with the opportunity to attend this prestigious and world-renowned conference and for all of the conference organizers’ hard work and hospitality.  As the presentations I have attended thus far have been informative and thought-provoking for me, I will do my best to share my experience with you.

Upon arrival, a symphony was playing.  After introductions and honorariums, Professor David Cassuto of Pace Law School and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE) spoke about current trends in environmental law and the animal world.  He discussed the intersection of animal and environmental law and how they often clash, despite the many common grounds upon which they merge.  He went on to discuss the legal framework for protecting animals, distinguishing between animal welfarists and animal rights activists, stating that animal welfarists wish for stronger laws, while animal rights activists believe that humans should not use animals at all.  He also pointed out that in the United States legal system, animals are property and the laws concerning animals regulate relationships between humans about animals.  He made an interesting comparison between the appropriateness of humans making laws on behalf of nonhuman animals and politicians enacting laws on our behalf without truly knowing us, what we desire, or how we would like to be protected.  This comparison comes as an interesting response to doubts about human ability and right to make laws about non-human animals when they do not completely understand what animals want or need.

Professor Cassuto also discussed whether animals can be considered “persons” under the law and how this would change the way we protect them.  This served as a great opening to the Conference, as many of the presentations that followed addressed these questions and dealt with similar issues. Continue reading

Help Wanted: HSUS Animal Law Litigator

David Cassuto

Hey you litigators, here’s a good looking  job:

JOB OPPORTUNITY
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seeks an attorney with at least one year of relevant legal experience for a Staff Attorney position within the Animal Protection Litigation Section in our Washington, DC office.
The Animal Protection Litigation Section at The HSUS conducts precedent-setting legal campaigns on behalf of animals in state and federal courts around the country, and also serves as the primary line of defense against legal attacks on legislative measures designed to protect animals from cruelty and abuse. With a team of over a dozen in-house litigators, numerous outside attorneys, and a docket of more than forty active cases, the Animal Protection Litigation Section oversees the largest litigation program dedicated to ensuring the humane treatment of animals in the country. More information is available at www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/litigation/.

General Description: The Staff Attorney will work with some of the nation’s leading animal protection lawyers on all aspects of the organization’s animal protection litigation efforts. The Staff Attorney will serve as lead and co-counsel in a variety of state and federal court actions, primarily including actions to protect threatened and endangered species, marine mammals, migratory birds, and other wildlife, and also actions to improve the treatment of captive animals such as those used in traveling shows and other exhibitions, animal fighting ventures, medical research and other experimentation, puppy mills, and factory farms.   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

New Book: THE ANIMAL, WITHIN THE SPHERE OF HUMANS’ NEEDS

David Cassuto

Cool new book (including a piece by our hero) coming out of the cool international animal law conference held in Montreal last year.

THE ANIMAL, WITHIN THE SPHERE OF HUMANS’ NEEDS

edited by Martine Lachance, International Research Group in Animal Law (GRIDA)

More than one year after the Montreal’s first international animal law conference, it is with great pleasure that the International Research Group in Animal Law (GRIDA) informs you of the recent publication of the conference proceedings The Animal Within the Sphere of Human’s Needs.

The bilingual book, which includes texts from the conference, can now be ordered.

5 ways to order
1. Phone: 1-800-363-3047
2. Fax: 450-263-9256
3. Orders by mail: P.O. Box 180, Cowansville (Québec) J2K 3H6
4. Email: editionsyvonblais.commandes@thomsonreuters.com
5. Web: www.editionsyvonblais.com

The table of contents follows below:

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

Conference on Alternatives to Animal Research

David Cassuto

Interesting conference on animal research and alternatives August 26-27th in Washington D.C.   Some skinny:

Fifty years after the development of the key model for the refinement, reduction, and replacement of animals in research, often referred to as the “3 Rs,” The George Washington University Medical Center and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, along with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, and the Kennedy Institute for Ethics at Georgetown University, invite you to Animals, Research, and Alternatives: Measuring Progress 50 Years Later.

This multidisciplinary conference will bring together experts from around the world to discuss the scientific and ethical imperatives associated with animal research, changing cultural perspectives about the status of animals in society, and burgeoning alternatives to animal research.

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

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

Thinking About Chimpanzees

Bruce Wagman

Lately I have been thinking about chimpanzees.  I have been fascinated by them since one spit on me as a child, and then overwhelmed by my first visit to Gombe National Park in the months before I began practicing law, when I saw their natural lives, as perfect as anything I could have imagined.  At about the same time I began to become painfully aware of their treatment by humans.  I’ve never fully returned from those first views of the Gombe chimpanzees and (on the same trip) the Rwanda gorillas, in the sense that I have always felt since that point that something had gone seriously wrong on the planet, and that my species was responsible.  What I mean is things like gorilla-hand ashtrays and chimpanzees in biomedical research where they are tortured daily, by virtue of their confinement in tiny cages with no enrichment, no stimulation for their minds, lying on metal floors alone in frightening situations.  The contrast between Gombe and that reality make heaven and hell seem like adjoining bedroom communities of the same large city.

The accepted facts are that chimpanzees have the intellectual capacity of a three- to five-year old human and their emotional lives are at least as rich and vibrant as ours.  So imagine taking any intelligent three-, four- or five-year old human that you know and locking her up, alone, in a metal cage without a toy or book or parent or sibling or friend.  Imagine then some horrible monster comes in every once in awhile and sprays her down or drags her out of her cage to be anesthetized and then dumped back in her cage.  That horror of horrors – which is legally repeated thousands of times a day for thousands of chimpanzees – is a reality that leaves me gasping for breath, fighting back tears, and feeling like I would give my life to change theirs.   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

Monkeys, Torture and Tort Law

David Cassuto

monkeyInVivo Therapeutics Corp. recently sued the Oregon Health and Science University, alleging that the rhesus monkeys InVivo purchased were defective.  Apparently, many of the monkeys — which were slated for spinal cord experiments — did not survive the surgery that was supposed to prepare them for their ordeal. InVivo had to abandon its project and is seeking damages.

There is much one could say about this but I choose to focus on the way the story was covered in the Boston Herald.  The lede states that the monkeys had to suffer in the name of medical science but that InVivo did not expect the monkeys to have to suffer more than necessary.  Hence the lawsuit. Continue reading

Who Gets to Know What About Whom Regarding Animal Experimentation

Guest blogger: Vanessa Merton

I know absolutely nothing about the legal merit of the ruling described below, but it raises the question whether personal identifier data about particular individual researchers legitimately should be withheld from these reports, in an era when scientists like Dr. George Tiller and Dr. Barnett Slepian are gunned down in their home or church because crusaders object to the morality of their work.  http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/violence/murders.asp

I can understand why animal rights activists may want to know all the details of what takes place during experimentation on animals, but it’s less clear why they need to and should know precisely who is conducting the experimentation (presumably, generic listings of the credentials, licensure, training, etc. of researchers could satisfy concerns about staff competence to conduct research).  So, would and should animal rights activists agree that the research facilities may redact personal identifiers, in deference to their concerns about risk to the individual researchers?

The United States Doesn’t Torture? Animal Testing in the Military

Charles J. Rosciam is a retired captain with the Navy Medical Services Corps – a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient.  He and 16 other retired armed forces medical personnel are attempting to convince the Department of Defense (DOD) to stop torturing and killing animals as part of its trauma training program.  Each year, in the name of national security and good medicine, 8500 animals get stabbed, shot, burned and amputated.  Over in the chemical casualty program, vervet monkeys get tormented with drugs whose effects have long since been banned on the field of battleanimal-testingCaptain Rosciam and his colleagues would like to see all that come to an end.

In June, the group joined with the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to brief both the House and Senate on the issue.  The DOD’s own animal regulations require that non-animal substitutes be used whenever possible.  And, according to PCRM, every one of the military’s medical uses of animals could be replaced with equivalent or superior non-animal methods. Those methods range from human-patient simulators to rotations through civilian trauma centers.

Here’s a little bit of irony: Amidst all the controversy and perseveration over detainee torture and whether such grotesqueries are legal and/or acceptable given the heinous crimes the prisoners are alleged to have committed, no one has stopped to consider why it is okay to do all that and worse to beings whose innocence is beyond dispute.  Of course, in the larger scheme, innocence or guilt is irrelevant; Torture is wrong no matter to whom it happens.  And that’s precisely the point here.

When our former president said the United States does not torture, he lied.  When our current president says it, he‘d like it to be true.

Let’s hope he hears and heeds Captain Rosciam.

You go, sir.  Fight on.

–David Cassuto

Talking Factory Farming and Vivisection in Florence

I’m in Florence at the moment and, when not gawking at the Duomo, am attending the annual conference of the Global Ecological Integrity Group (GEIG).  This conference offers a good venue to talk to my fellow enviros about animal issues.  The audience tends to be receptive, albeit sometimes skeptical — just the kind of folks I want to reach.  Indeed, one attendee told me today that after hearing me speak on ethics and agriculture 3 years ago at this conference, he became a vegetarian.

Today, I spoke on the distorted notion of efficiency within industrial agriculture and the implications of that distortion for a post-industrial risk society.  Once again, the questions were thoughtful, probing and rigorous.  One questioner, however, was an archetype.  Even though my talk was about industrial agriculture, she wanted to talk about animal testing.  Then, during the break, she again approached me — this time with the cliched question about what I would do if my child were sick.  Would I, she wondered, support animal testing to save his life?  I said,  “sure.”  She looked triumphant until I also said that if my child were sick and someone told me experimenting on her would save his life, I would support that too.  The fact that I would do virtually anything to protect my child does not necessarily have any bearing on the morality of my actions.

She was unconvinced.  I wonder if anyone has any techniques for reaching out to folks like this.  She’s a neurobiologist who conducts animal research because she believes in its necessity.  She is utterly certain of the moral rightness of her position.  I do not flatter myself that I can convince her of anything but I would like to get her (and others like her) thinking about other points of view.

–David Cassuto

Week-Long Series at Slate on “Pepper the Stolen Dog Who Changed America”

Slate features an important, fascinating, and disturbing  tale of dog who was kidnapped from her home in Pennsylvania and made the subject of a grotesque series of experiments (which I will not dignify with the adjective “scientific”) by Ivan Pavlov (of “Pavlov’s dog” fame).  First article in the series is here.

–David Cassuto

GRIDA in Rearview — A Most Excellent Event

Only time for a brief word about the GRIDA conference b/c I’m now at a different conference, this time of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.  The GRIDA event was outstanding.  Lecture topics ranged from animal behavior to AETA.  Among the highlights: David Favre advanced his vision of animals as living property; Steve Wise sketched out a continuum for legal recognition for nonhumans that seemed simultaneously revolutionary and inevitable; Kathy Hessler lucidly described the inanities of vivisection (for example, just eliminating the redundancies in animal research would decrease the number of animals killed by over two thirds);  Maneesha Deckha offered a feminist critique of Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach; Luc-Alain Giraldeau’s description of the history and science of animal behaviorism made clear how much most of us don’t know and probably should about the beings for whom we advocate; and Carol Morgan described her doctoral fieldwork (for her degree in ethics) among  her fellow veterinarians.  The disconnect between veterinarians’ duties to their patients and their duties to their clients brings the incompatibility of economics and ethics into stark relief.  There were many more excellent presentations and a welcome interdisciplinary and international collegiality.  Professor Martine Lachance and her colleagues at UQAM deserve a rousing cheer and congratulations.

–David Cassuto

Foreskins vs. Lab Rats

You never know where you will encounter an ethical dilemma.  This article discusses how scientists are making significant progress toward phasing out animal experimentation by using cells from neonatal (human)  foreskins instead of animals in their research.   In many, if not most respects, this capability represents a tremendous leap forward.  Experimentation on animals results in the gruesome mistreatment and death of millions of animals annually (rats and mice are not even covered by the inadequate protections afforded other animals under the Animal Welfare Act) (see also here).

However, routine circumcision of infants is itself a highly problematic endeavor.  Consequently, substituting the one for the other is less a solution than a step along what one hopes will be a path toward a scientific method that does not rely on the suffering of any being at all.

David Cassuto

The Choice Quandary – A Response to Bridget Crawford

David Cassuto

Imputing a lack of agency to sentient beings of whatever type makes for a difficult row to hoe.  In the animal advocacy community, there are many who feel strongly that domesticating animals is ethically wrong because it involves involuntary servitude.  Thus, the practice should be phased out.  Since most animals bred for a domestic existence could not exist on their own, this would, of course, mean phasing out the animals as well.

This position raises all sorts of interesting issues.  For example, the same Marxian critique that Professor Crawford cites could cut either way.  One might argue that choosing to portray companion animals as involuntarily enslaved reflects an androcentric conception of class relationships and denies the domestic animals their right to exist.  One could conversely maintain that the act of keeping the animals reflects a lack of class consciousness borne of false consciousness.

More quandaries present themselves.  Abolitionists might say that in addition to the ethical problems inherent to domestication, practical reality also militates for the institution’s demise.  Billions of animals suffer and die each year in agriculture and countless millions of unwanted companion animals die in shelters.  This wholesale slaughter should not stand.  And, since it results directly from our misguided and exploitive relationship with animals, if the relationship goes, so too will the exploitation.

The counter-argument might propose that exploitation need not be inherent. As Michael Pollan among others has argued, there exists a potentially symbiotic relationship between humans and domestic animals.  In other words, animals and humans co-evolved into mutual reliance.  One might further note that exploitation is subjective in its very essence.  If one doesn’t feel exploited, how can one be exploited?  And that leads to the query: what do the animals feel about their situation?  Putting aside the factory farm situation where it would be hard for any rational person to argue that the animals benefit from or enjoy their torment, we cannot know what the animals feel.  It’s the dilemma of Wittgenstein’s lion: If the lion could talk, we could not understand him.

So what do we do?  I think about this stuff all the time but feel less certain every day about the bounding principles of the discourse.  In other words, I do not know what is right.  However, I remain confident that certain things are wrong.  Factory farming, vivisection, gratuitous cruelty, etc.  Maybe we could agree to get rid of the obviously wrong while continuing to talk about the not so obvious stuff.

All this by way of circling back to the high heels issue.  Is there choice there?  I feel like there is because there exists both the potential for choice and the language through which to express it.  I say this though fully cognizant of the argument that language is itself a tool of the oppressor and thus inherently constrains choice.  Still, I maintain that — though imperfect — language in its present form can express a feminist perspective.  Not so for the lion’s perspective.  Or the chicken’s.  Or that of  any other non-human.  And that’s what makes speaking for the voiceless so darn hard.

x-posted in Feminist Law Professors

Crime vs. Terrorism: The Case Against AETA

As one commenter recently noted, 4 animal rights activists were recently arrested and charged with suspicion of terrorism for their threats and harassment of University of California researchers (full story here).  I have not seen enough details to take a substantive position on the case but I do have something to say about the the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), the law under which the defendants were charged.  AETA is, in my view, one of the most dangerous laws this nation has ever enacted.  Here’s why:

The following scenario could happen tomorrow: A sixty-eight year old grandmother from Long Island gets tired of reading about the awful conditions in factory farms and determines to see for herself.  She receives permission from Big Food, Inc. to visit a company facility in New Jersey.  Big Food insists, however, that she take no pictures while inside and she agrees.   During the tour, the woman becomes sickened by the conditions under which the animals are housed and surreptitiously snaps a few pictures on her cell phone.  She then circulates the photos to an animal rights group for posting on the group’s website along with a plea that something be done to save the animals.

Did our Long Island grandmother break the law?  Absolutely.  She could be prosecuted for trespass, harassment and other violations, in addition to facing civil liability.  But thanks to AETA, she has become more than a mere lawbreaker.  She is now a terrorist.

AETA became law in November, 2006.  It was enacted ostensibly because industry groups feared violent attacks by animal rights “extremists.”  Yet, AETA’s predecessor, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (“AEPA”), already contained harsh penalties for violent acts against animal enterprises.  AETA incorporates those penalties but also goes much further.

Under AETA, non-violent “interference” with an “animal enterprise,” which causes no economic damage and endangers no one, can land a person in prison for a year.  If economic damage results, the penalties increase dramatically.  For example, if our fictional grandmother’s behavior inspired acts of civil disobedience (e.g., forming human chains that prevented trucks from transporting animals in or out of the facility) that caused Big Food to lose money, she could face ten years.  Yet, if her deeds had been directed at a non “animal enterprise,” she would likely incur a fine and/or community service.  At best, this harsh, arbitrary and selective prosecution amounts to bad public policy.  At worst, it violates the Constitution.

To pass constitutional muster, a law cannot be vague or overbroad or impose cruel or unusual punishment.  It must also have a rational basis for existing.  AETA fails in all three categories.

First, it is both vague and overbroad.  As the law is written, virtually anything could be an “animal enterprise” and the supposedly criminal behavior of “interfering with” such enterprises is very poorly defined.  Despite good faith efforts to comply with the law, one could still be violating AETA without knowing or meaning to do so.

Second, AETA imposes disproportionate sentences far in excess of those imposed for similar behavior under other laws.  Indeed, its penalties dwarf those for crimes most of us would consider far more severe.  For example, it is hard to understand why someone protesting slaughterhouse conditions could land in jail for ten years while sex offenders usually do less than five.

Finally, AETA (re)criminalizes conduct that neither causes nor threatens bodily harm, economic damage, or even non-violent physical obstruction, and which is already illegal under existing state and federal law.  Such redundancy lacks any rational basis.  It seems more concerned with stifling dissent than protecting the public from terrorism.

Terrorism usually refers to the intimidation (terrorizing) of a civilian population through mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.  A terrorist is someone who commits such acts.  Classifying standard-issue crimes – including civil disobedience – as terrorism conflates crime (the breach of a legal duty), and terrorism (the use or threat of violence to intimidate or cause panic, especially as a means of affecting political conduct).  All terrorists are criminals but not all criminals are terrorists.  Merging the two erodes normative protections that our founders painstakingly created to safeguard us from tyranny.

Under AETA, well-meaning citizens peacefully trying to bring about social change become the domestic equivalent of enemy combatants.  The danger here is not just that people like our grandmother from Long Island will become stigmatized and get imprisoned for long periods, though that by itself would be problem enough.  It is also that over time, the term terrorism will lose its meaning.

Terrorism should mean something.  We should fear it, do everything we can to suppress it, and punish it when it occurs.  When our government labels something a terrorist threat, the national response should be one of unity and singularity of purpose.

Yet, some activities classified as terrorism under AETA enjoy widespread sympathy and could also be constitutionally protected.  For example, organized protests against puppy mills or the treatment of veal calves could lead to prosecution under the Act.  Calling such protests terrorism has a deeply pernicious effect.  When the nature of the so-called terrorism becomes plain, we could find ourselves empathizing with the perpetrators.  That means we would become – in the eyes of our government – terrorist sympathizers.

So what has AETA wrought?  It has produced a legal regime that stifles free expression and labels dissent a terrorist act.  As a result, it has created a rogue nation of terrorists and terrorist sympathizers and opened a new front of the War on Terror.

We have met the new enemy.  And once again, it is us.

dnc

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