Vegetarian Times hack piece against animal testing

The October 1998 issue of Vegetarian Times contained a mostly hack piece against animal testing by freelance
writer Kelly James-Enger. James-Enger’s article does quote Adrian Morrison
as saying, “a careful reading of the historical record [of animal
research] reveals that it’s been absolutely indispensable for discovering
and understanding basic biological processes.”

Unfortunately, James-Enger
never bothers to even try to reconcile or explain this in the context
of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine activist Steven Ragland
who in the very next sentence is quoted as saying, “Humans and animals
differ too much to make animal research useful.”

Using insulin derived from
Pigs to treat Diabetes must then qualify as yet another ineffective and
useless innovation foisted upon the world by the evil drug companies.
But if Ragland and the PCRM say humans and non-humans are too different
to make animal research useful, God forbid if anyone at Vegetarian
Times
should critically examine the claim.

Human testing to begin within a year on monkey AIDS vaccine

An area of testing animal
rights activists claimed would never produce results was AIDS research
with monkeys. Unfortunately for the activists, Australian scientists announced
a breakthrough vaccine that fights off HIV infection in monkeys.

Given to monkeys already
infected with the HIV virus, the vaccine caused their immune systems to
produce large numbers of T cells that rid their systems of the virus.
The vaccine works by exposing the monkeys to a modified form of the HIV
virus which stimulated their immune systems.

Of course monkeys are not
human beings and there is no guarantee the method used here will work
in human beings. The Australian scientists hope to begin human trials
on HIV carriers next year and possibly in non-infected human beings soon
after if those trials prove successful. Even if this vaccine should ultimately
prove itself ineffective in human beings, however, this represents an
important advance in human understanding of HIV and points to ways that
the disease can be attacked and hopefully one day cured.

The big news on the genetic revolution front

It seems like every week brings
new developments and breakthroughs in Genetic Engineering, and few announcements
have been bigger than the report that a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison
scientists were able to cultivate human stem cells. The possibilities
for future medical advances from this discovery are amazing.

The most immediate likely
use of the technology will be new diagnostic tests to screen hundreds
of thousands of compounds for possible medicinal properties. Ironic, isn’t
it — yet another technology that animal rights activists abhor might
ultimately lead to a further reduction in the number of animals used in
the drug development process (makes you kind of wonder where animal
rights activists think alternatives to animal testing come from. Do they
think they just drop from the sky?)

In the long run, the work
with stem cells could lead to all sorts of breathtaking developments from
growing heart muscle and brain tissue for transplantation to enhancing
understanding of the development of human embryos.

“Our hope is that these
cells could be grown in the laboratory and then used to regenerate failing
tissue,” said Thomas Okarma, vice president for research and development
at Geron Corporation, which paid for some of the stem cell research. “Because
these cells do not age, they could be used to generate virtually a limitless
supply of cells and tissues for transplantation.”

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.

Health Care Coverage Declining — Thank Your Government

       For several years now, both state
and federal lawmakers tried to score points with voters by piling mandates
on health insurance plans. From setting minimum hospital stays for women
who give birth to meddling in pharmaceutical drug coverage, the political
class claimed it could snap its fingers and make health care problems
disappear.       Unfortunately the bill
for this political meddling is now past due.

       A recent survey by Dun & Bradstreet
Corp. revealed that only 39% of small businesses now provide health care
benefits to their workers compared to 46% in 1996. From l996 to 1997 the
percentage of uninsured Americans increased from l5.6% to 16.1%. Why are
more Americans uninsured? Because, once again, medical costs and health
insurance premiums are rising.

       According to a survey by KPMG Peat
Marwick, rising medical costs caused insurance premiums to jump 3.3% this
year. In an article on the growing problem, Business Week cited
Thompson Marine Transportation Co. in Morgan City, Louisiana, which operates
tugboats. Thompson Marine saw insurance premiums for its 25 workers increase
50% this year. Although most small businesses won’t drop insurance coverage
altogether, they are asking their employees to assume more of the costs
of such insurance plans. Many employees are deciding the cost is simply
too high.

       So what is the government’s big
solution to the dilemma of increasing costs of health insurance premiums?
Add more mandates. The big piece of legislation on the horizon is the
so-called Patient Bill of Rights. Proposed by President Bill Clinton,
both Democrats and Republicans are offering competing versions of legislation
that would mandate even more spending by HMOs.

       In order to keep medical costs
down, HMOs have created a private sector version of Clinton’s own 1994
proposal for reforming the health care system. HMOs decide which medical
procedures, drugs and other items they will cover. If patients want something
that isn’t approved, they’ve got to pay for themselves (which is
the primary difference with the Clinton scheme, which would have left
consumers with no way to go around the government to obtain health care).

       The various Patient Bill of Rights
make such cost controls virtually impossible. For example, one of the
ways HMOs keep medical costs under control is by authorizing emergency
room visits only for genuine life threatening emergencies. Usage of emergency
rooms for nonurgent medical problems is a serious problem — some studies
suggest that close to half of all people who go to emergency rooms do
so for routine, nonurgent care.

       The various Patient Bill of Rights
proposals eliminate the ability of HMOs to save costs by preventing such
visits. For example, if I call my HMO tonight and complain that I have
an intense headache, they will tell me to take an over-the-counter pain
killer and see a doctor the next day if the pain persists. According to
some doctors and patient advocates this is a dangerously callous attitude
– my headache could actually signify any number of life threatening conditions
such as a brain aneurysm or tumor. Any number of seemingly nonurgent symptoms,
after all, could represent a life threatening problem.

       True as that may be, any health
care system which buys into that thinking will soon find medical costs
spiraling out of control. And that’s just what the Patient Bill of
Rights proposed to do – open the floodgates of medical spending.

       The end result will be a sort of
government-sponsored shell game with health care. As HMO spending increases,
so will premiums and fewer people will be able to afford insurance. This
decline will be used to justify ever more expensive regulations, which
in turn will raise the cost of insurance and so on in a vicious cycle
that will likely be resolved only with a return to free market principles
for medicine or, more likely, the continual socialization of health care
along the lines envisioned by President Clinton’s 1994 proposals.