Pig cell transplant a possible treatment for severe epilepsy

At the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society in San Diego, California, researcher presented
preliminary results of using fetal pig cells to treat severe epilepsy.

Neurologists Steven Schacter and Donald Schomer treated two epileptic patients who were both in their forties. Both patients suffered from severe epileptic seizures that failed to respond to anti-seizure medications.

The neurologists implanted fetal pig cells in the brains of the patients. The purpose of this small study was to explore the feasibility and safety of such a transplantation. Schacter and Schomer reported there were no observed side effects, and both patients saw a reduction in the number of seizures following the transplantation.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Schacter emphasized that although the results are encouraging, much more research remains to be done to establish whether or not such
xenotransplantation will provide a long-term solution.

Source:

Seizure reduction could be credited to pig cell brain implants. The Associated Press, December 14, 1998.

ALF activists poison food in Italy

The Animal Liberation Front tried to disrupt Christmas celebrations in Italy by threatening to contaminate
panettone, a traditional Italian Christmas cake, with racumin, a rat poison.
The ALF sent samples of two Nestle brand panettone contaminated with the
poison to an Italian news agency.

In response, Nestle shut down
the plant that produced the panettone and most supermarkets took the Nestle
product off their shelves.

And what message was the ALF
trying to send? It wants Nestle to abandon efforts to use genetically modified wheat in products sold in Italy. Apparently the ALF is trying to branch
out into liberating wheat.

Source:

Panettone panic. The BBC, December 13, 1998.

Nestle shuts plant after Animal Liberation Front poisons cakes. Bloomburg News, December 12, 1998.

The Barry Horne Fiasco

Animal rights activist and
convicted arsonist Barry Horne recently ended his much-publicized hunger
strike after 68 days. Horne, currently serving an 18-year prison term
in the United Kingdom for a series of arson attacks, began his hunger
strike after Britain’s Labour government failed to deliver on a campaign
pledge to create a special commission to examine animal experimentation.
The prolonged hunger strike, however, raised more questions about Horne
and his supporters than about animal experimentation.

At first, Horne’s
hunger strike seemed to energize at least some parts of the animal rights
community on both sides of the Atlantic. Activists in the United States
and Great Britain staged numerous demonstrations and activities in support
of Horne, and some groups began linking their generic protests against
fur or animal experimentation with Horne’s hunger strike. But in
December the whole affair turned into a public relations disaster as the
animal rights terrorists got involved and Horne and his supporters made
a series of blunders.

Everything started to unravel
thanks to UK Animal Liberation Front spokesman Robin Webb. Webb, who made
numerous television appearances during the hunger strike, gave the media
a list he claimed came from the radical Animal Rights Militia. On the
list were the names of four people the ARM claimed would be assassinated
should Horne die.

The list included Christopher
Brown of Hillgrove Farm, who provides animal uses in medical experiments;
Colin Blakemore of Oxford University; Clive Page of King’s College;
and Mark Matfield of the Research Defence Society. Death threats are no
strangers to Brown and Blakemore who have been targeted by UK activists
in an unrelenting campaign of harassment and terror; Blakemore’s
children once received mail bombs intended for him.

Webb tried to distance himself
from the ARM hit list, saying, “we do not condone this,” but
he couldn’t bring himself to condemn the threat of violence either,
and perhaps for good reason. A British television documentary on animal
rights violence included allegations that Webb actively encouraged such
violence. Former ALF member David Hammond claimed, for example, that Webb
was the main force behind the violent animal rights group, the |Justice
Department|. Hammond also claimed that Webb once offered him a sawed-off
shotgun and asked whether he knew Blakemore. Suddenly, Webb was off consulting
with lawyers rather than distributing hit lists.

And then something really strange
happened – amidst all of the talk over who would be killed if he
should died, Horne ended his hunger strike without obtaining any of the
concessions he demanded. This was odd because only several days before
the British newspaper The Observer ran a story quoting Horne
saying, “I want to die. This is the end. In death you win. …
It is not a question of dying. It’s a question of fighting. If I
die, so be it. We have tried to negotiate with the Government. They have
condemned me to death.”

The same story quoted his next-of-kin,
Alison Lawson, saying “It is only a matter of time now [before Horne
dies].”

Following publication of that
story, however, Horne and the Animals Betrayed Coalition, which has been
the main animal rights group publicizing Horne’s plight, denounced
The Observer’s story and emphatically said that Horne,
in fact, wanted to live. What was going on here?

According to a story published in The Observer a few days after Horne ended his hunger strike, Horne had
planned a long fast but wanted to end his strike well before death, much
as he had done in two previous hunger strikes. Seeing newspaper stories
with quotes from activists such as Tony Humphries suggesting “he
is a dead man” forced Horne’s hand, The Observer argues, and led him to issue the press release insisting he wanted to
live. Some animal rights activists might have wanted a martyr, but Horne
wasn’t willing to play the part.

Ultimately, Horne ended his
hunger strike not only without getting the concessions from the Labour
government he sought, but if anything his actions delayed the creation
of a committee to look at animal experimentation, since the Labour government
doesn’t want to be seen as giving in to blackmail and threats of
political terrorism. The Animals Betrayed Coalition did try to put a positive
spin on the story by claiming Horne decided to end his hunger strike after
examining papers sent to him by the Labour government, but those were
apparently papers Horne had in his possession for some time and which,
in any case, did not grant the assurances Horne sought.

There are many lessons from
the Horne fiasco, the most obvious of which is the extent to which animal
rights activists of all stripes are willing to support terrorists and
terrorist activities, starting with Horne himself. Although Horne wasn’t
willing to die for the cause, he was willing to endanger the lives of
others during the arson campaign for which he is now serving an 18-year
sentence. Horne planted incendiary devices, hidden in a packet of cigarettes,
in stores of which he disapproved. Horne’s activities were particularly
dangerous, however, because he planted his bombs in the products sold
at the stores.

One of his devices, for example,
was hidden in a leather bag which a woman subsequently bought. The device
wasn’t discovered until four months later, after the woman had allowed
her children to play with the bag. Horne’s activities represent an
extraordinarily callous disregard for human life, and he deserves every
single day of his jail term. As Ian Glen, who prosecuted Horne, told the
jury that convicted him, “the risks and dangers to human life were
blindingly obvious and the risks were either run or ignored for the sake
of political beliefs.”

That animal rights activists
would rally around such an individual speaks volumes about the moral compass
of the movement. Animal rights activists like to compare their cause to
the U.S. civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King Jr. and others
didn’t sneak around planting bombs in handbags – in fact the
civil rights movement activists were victims of the sort of violence the
animal rights movement perpetuates.

Medical researcher Colin
Blakemore, one of the targets of the ARM hit list, wrote an op-ed piece
noting something peculiar about those singled out for violence:

[When he was first targeted by activists] I was convinced that openness
offered the only route to understanding. But that very stance angers
the terrorists. It is surely significant that three of the four people
who were actually named for assassination by the Animal Rights Militia,
myself included, have participated in broadcast debates on the use of
animals in the past few weeks. The message is clear: defend yourself,
try to respond to criticism, and you may be killed. The perpetrators
of such tactics are not interested in dialogue: they are a lynch mob
that will not even give their victims the right to defend themselves.

The other important lesson
is that negotiating with terrorists only encourages more terrorism. As
Blakemore points out in his article, Horne and other animal rights activists
have been encouraged by a Labour government that actively courted them
during the most recent election cycle. According to Blakemore, Labour
accepted over 1 million pounds in donations from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and in exchange led animal rights activists to believe
it would convene a commission to look at modifying Great Britain’s
1986 Animals Act which regulates animal experimentation.

The Labour government did
follow throw by banning Cosmetics Testing, which was a rather minor
victory given how few such tests were actually being carried out in the
UK (most such tests are performed in the United States, Japan or France).
The British government should follow Blakemore’s advice and condemn
all animal rights violence and extremism.

Sources:

I will talk to those who threaten to murder me. Colin Blakemore, Sunday Telegraph (UK), December 1998.

Horne: I’m dying to save ‘tortured’ animals. Yahoo! News, December 6, 1998.

‘I want to die. It’s the end.’ The Observer (UK), December 6, 1998.

Animal activist attacked shops with fire-bombs. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 4, 1997.

‘Ruthless’ animal rights bomber convicted. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 13, 1997.

Horne ends hunger strike. A.J. McIlroy, December 13, 1998.

Revealed: how Barry Horne refused to become a martyr for the cause. The Observer, December 20, 1998.

Animal rights protester ends hunger strike. ITV News, December 14, 1998.

Militant protests target Britain. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 24, 1998.

Police fear backlash if animal activist dies. John Steele, November 26, 1998.

Supporters rally for hunger striker. The BBC, November 29, 1998.

Hunger striker back in jail. The BBC, December 11, 1998.

Ordinary guy heading for martyrdom. The Telegraph, December 7, 1998.

Day 53 of Hunger Strike. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 29, 1998.

Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Release, November 22, 1998.

Prisoner in hunger protest ‘near death.’ The Independent (UK), November 22, 1998.

Animal liberation prisone hunger striker given last rites: Barry Horne to go into intensive care. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 23, 1998.

Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 22, 1998.

ARM lists potential targets. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, December 3, 1998.

Animal rights ‘hit list.’ The Guardian (UK), December 3, 1998.

Dolly Scientists on Security Alert. The Scottsman, December 3, 1998.

We’ll kill 10 if this man dies. The Mirror, December 3, 1998.

Scientists on alert after death threats. The BBC, December 4, 1998.

Renewed fight between Chinese merchants and animal rights activists

Just when it looked like animal
rights activists and merchants in San Francisco’s Chinatown had reached
an uneasy truce, once again the two groups are squaring off over the sale
of live animals in Chinatown’s markets.

For a brief recap, the animal
activists charged live animals being offered for sale in the markets were
being treated cruelly. The merchants argued the activists were interfering
with their traditional cultural practices. The activists sued, but the
whole issue appeared to be resolved when the merchants agreed to abide
by a voluntary code of conduct and the activists agreed, in return, not
to appeal a judge’s ruling against the activists.

The whole agreement broke
down, however, over hard-shell turtles. The merchants currently remove
the turtle’s shell and then cut off the animal’s head, which the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals considers cruel. Instead,
it wants the merchants to cut off the turtle’s head first and then remove
the shell. The merchants argue that because turtles instinctively withdraw
their heads into their shells, trying to cut the head off before removing
the shell is too dangerous.

The markets are very crowded,
and “when you try to chop off (the head)while your finger is right
next to the butcher knife, you have to beware of the workers walking back
and forth behind you,” said Michael Lau who works in the market.
“Sooner or later you’ll chop off something besides the head.”

The ASPCA accuses the merchants
of failing to meet an October deadline for adopting humane practices on
the storage and slaughter of frogs and soft-shell turtles. The merchants,
in response, say the ASPCA never really gave them a fair shot at resolving
the implementation problems.

The ASPCA is now apparently
going to join animal rights groups appealing to the California Fish and
Game Commission seeking legislation to regulate the markets’ treatment
of live animals.

Could animal rights activist be wrong about gene therapy?

For the past few months animal
rights groups and activists have been repeating the same old line about
new advances in Genetic Engineering — it’ll never work, it’s cruel because
some of it uses animals, and it is being pushed just so greedy companies
can bilk people out of their money.

So imagine my surprise when
it was announced this week that the first genetic therapy to correct a
human health problem has been tested and appears to work rather well.
The experiment involved injecting a gene for a protein that helps the
heart build new blood vessels to relieve chest pains from angina. The
16 patients who received the injections of vascular endothelia growth
factor suffer from clogged arteries but were considered to week to undergo
bypass surgery or angioplasty.

Sixteen patients of Dr. Jeffrey
Isner of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston who suffered from extreme
chest pains with even minor exertions all saw substantial improvements
in their angina. Of 11 patients who were followed up after three months,
six were entirely free of pain.

One of the patients, farmer
Floyd Stokes from DeLeon Texas, described his experience on the new treatment,
“One Sunday morning I woke up and told my wife I hadn’t felt so good
in 15 years. I felt fantastic.”

More studies are required to measure
the long term improvement to decide whether this treatment is more efficacious
than currently available treatments, but so far the results are promising.
Thank goodness these researchers weren’t listening when animal rights
activists said genetic engineering would never work.

Wall Street Journal keeps pressure on Peter Singer and Princeton

A few weeks ago I mentioned
that the Wall Street Journal published two scathing attacks on
Princeton for naming animal rights advocate Peter Singer to the prestigious
position of De Camp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton’s Center for Human
Values. Aside from his position on animal liberation, Singer has argued
for infanticide and involuntary euthanasia for people he claims
aren’t leading lives that have value, such as the severely retarded.

Singer and Princeton recently
launched a counterattack, writing letters to the Journal arguing
that the articles distorted Singer’s views on euthanasia and infanticide,
and claiming academic freedom should allow Singer to make his arguments
and let others decide their validity. Journal columnist William
McGurn effectively debunked both these arguments in the Nov. 13 edition
of the paper.

Has the Journal distorted
Singer’s record? Singer claims he qualifies his support of murder, but
as the Journal points out, those qualifications are rarely very
edifying. For example Singer has written, “We should certainly put
very strict conditions on permissible infanticide, but these conditions
might owe more to the effects of infanticide on others than to the intrinsic
wrongness of killing an infant.”

In other words, there’s nothing
wrong per se with killing a severely retarded infant, but certain
restrictions might be necessary to make it appear less horrific to those
of us still squeamish and irrational enough to believe in the sanctity
of human life. As McGurn points out, this only highlights the fundamental
problem with Singer’s utilitarian philosophy — Singer sees human beings
as merely means and never ends in themselves.

Singer also tries to sidestep
the problems with his views by pointing out that technology creates many
of these dilemmas — some severely retarded infants, who in earlier periods
would have died, can now be made to live — and at least he is willing
to debate the issues that technology brings up. McGurn demolishes this
sophistry, writing:

… normally when changing circumstances challenge our principles we
look to adapt them. The Internet, for example, has made things easier
for pedophiles. But we do not conclude that our view of pedophilia is
old-fashioned. It is similarly difficult to believe that the path to
a healthy debate begins with a man whose own starting point is the jettisoning
of the understanding of man’s dignity that has defined Western civilization
for two millennia, and who apparently can’t conceive of someone who
could both understand him and disagree.

Finally, does academic freedom
require universities to hire people who believe infanticide is morally
permissible? McGurn writes that a Princeton spokesperson told him that
Singer’s views fall “this side of the moral divide between moral
debate and Nazism.” This is the standard applied at our elite universities
— as long as someone isn’t an out and out Nazi, he or she is more than
welcome. One wonders what keeps Princeton from being selective enough
to exclude Nazis. Would David Duke be acceptable to Princeton, McGurn
asks, if he had a Ph.D.?

As McGurn sums up his article,
Singer’s appointment “leaves us with one of our most elite universities
anointing an ethicist who can at once argue for the killing of infants
while teaching that drawing a moral distinction between child and chimp
is mere prejudice. And then we wonder why so many of our best and brightest
have such a hard time telling right from wrong.”