Author Stephen Budiansky’s attacks animal rights

Stephen Budiansky, the former
Washington editor of Nature and currently a correspondent for The
Atlantic
, is author of the recently published book, If A Lion Could
Talk: Animal Intelligence and the Evolution of Consciousness
, which
attacks the animal rights’ views of animal intelligence and consciousness.

In a December interview published
on The Atlantic’s web site, Atlantic Unbound, Budiansky
tells interviewer Katie Bacon,

One of the reasons I fundamentally
disagree with the animal-rights philosophy is that it seems to be based
on the notion that pain is the overriding factor in determining whether
an animal has rights … The idea that because animals can suffer pain they
therefore deserve equal consideration is a very limited view of the world.
And even more than that, sentience or consciousness is not the same as
a moral capacity, a capacity to anticipate the future, a capacity to have
thoughts about thoughts, a capacity to have an awareness of oneself as
an independent moral agent. These are things that result in different
experiences of the world, and I think they make it perfectly valid and
normal to make distinctions between us and other animals.

Budiansky complains that in
the animal rights movement, “there’s a wholesale misrepresentation
of what biomedical research is for and what it’s about. There are a lot
of misrepresentations of animal agriculture, too.”

What really concerns Budiansky,
however, is the “sentimental anthropomorphizing” that seems
so common among animal rights groups and activists (although Budiansky
concedes such anthropomorphizing is a “highly adaptive trait”
that clearly serves some important functions for a highly social species
such as ourselves).

Source:

The animal point of view. Stephen Budiansky, Atlantic Unbound, December 9, 1998.

Pig liver keeps woman alive

In another milestone giving
a peek at wonders to come, a 33-year-old woman was kept alive for 8 days
on an artificial liver that uses pig-liver cells to purify blood. The
woman was waiting for a liver transplant which she finally received.

“It was amazing we kept
this woman going for so many days – she was very, very sick,” Elizabeth
Fagan, professor of internal medicine at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s
Medical Center in Chicago, told Wired.

According to Fagan, the woman
would have died without the device, which resembles a dialysis machine
but uses living cells. Contradicting animal rights propaganda about animals
and humans, Fagan noted that “pig livers are very similar in size
to a human’s, and the way the pig liver metabolizes hormones and chemicals
and toxins is similar.”

The success of the artificial
liver moves medical science one step forward to the day when permanent,
genetically engineered organs might replace or augment current human organ
transplantation. As such successes mount, expect animal rights activists,
extreme environmentalists, and others to step up their campaign to have
such procedures banned (on the other hand, the success of such technologies
will likely put another nail into the coffin of whatever slim possibility
the animal rights agenda has of succeeding merely through persuasion rather
than direct action and violence).

Source:

Part machine, part pig liver. Kristen Philipkoski, Wired News, January 28, 1999.

AIDS in the news

There have been a spate of
developments on the AIDS research front over the past few weeks. The biggest
news item was research purporting to demonstrate conclusively that the
HIV virus was spread from chimpanzees to human beings (hmmm…maybe there
are similarities between humans and non-humans after all.)

The evidence is from a chimpanzee
named Marilyn who died in 1985. According to Dr. Beatrice Hahn, whose
findings were published in Nature, although Marilyn had never been
used in HIV research and had not received human blood products after 1969,
simian immunodeficiency virus was found in Marilyn’s system.

The first known incident
of a human contracting AIDS, a Bantu man who died in 1959 in the Belgian
Congo, occurred in the same area where the particular subspecies of chimpanzee
that Marilyn belonged to resides. There is some speculation, though no
evidence at the moment, that the disease might have passed to humans through
the eating of chimpanzees which does occur in some parts of Africa (personally,
I think there is still far too much that isn’t known about HIV to start
saying this is how AIDS was transmitted to humans).

On a sour note, tests of
a live vaccine antidote for AIDS involving macaques failed when the animals
developed the disease itself. The live vaccine used genetically crippled
versions of the virus, but HIV is so wily that the virus managed to somehow
reconstruct itself and infect the target animals. As Dr. Ruth Ruprecht
of Boston’s Dan-Farber Cancer Institute said, “There is a real
risk of contracting AIDS from the vaccine itself.”

Some AIDS activists are still
pushing the National Institute of Health to approve limited trials of the vaccine in ill patients.
The NIH should approve such trials, but the outlook for this vaccine
is not good.

Finally, Scripps Howard environmental
writer Mitzi Perdue wrote an excellent article, “A different perspective
on AIDS,” on the role of fundamental research which did not address
animal rights specifically but was a good rebuttal of arguments that only
research that provides clear, immediate benefits should be approved. As
Perdue notes, the discovery that AIDS was caused by a virus was in many
ways an accident.

Among the happy coincidences
Perdue mentions is that research and development of techniques involving
viruses, and especially retroviruses, were relatively recent. If AIDS had
hit in the 1960s, the technology simply wouldn’t have been there to identify
it. As Perdue writes,

Dr. Ronald Bosch . . . sees this last point as an important lesson
about medical research. The research we had already done on viruses and
the immune system benefited humanity enormously by enabling us to detect
the AIDS virus as soon as we did. Bosch believes that the current AIDS
research will prove similarly valuable. “Some people argue that the amount
spent is disproportionate to the number who die,” he says, “but much of
it is basic virology and immunology research that may help combat other
diseases such as cancer.”

The bottom line is that medical
research does not follow a simple two or three step process from identifying
a problem to producing a cure. Numerous times over the past few decades
information gleaned from basic research experiments on animals that produced
no immediate benefit for human beings was later the key in understanding
important phenomenon. Any requirement that basic research fulfill some
utilitarian program of immediate beneficial results is simply bad science.

Sources:

HIV: from chimps to humans. Reuters, February 1, 1999.

Chimp research may help AIDS vaccine development. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, February 2, 1999.

Expert conclude AIDS virus orginated from chipms. Daniel Q. Haney, Associated Press, January 31, 1999.

‘Live’ AIDS vaccine will not work, study shows. Reuters, February 1, 1999.

A different perspective on AIDS. Mitzi Perdue, Scripps Howard, January 26, 1999.

Modified HIV shows therapeutic promise. The BBC, January 29, 1999.

Does the "Nuremberg Files" verdict have any implications for laboratories and animal enterprises?

In two separate trials over
the past several months, anti-abortion activists have been held accountable
in civil trials for their advocacy of violence under laws that may be
exploitable by those trying to stop animal rights violence.

In a Chicago trial last year,
Planned Parenthood and other groups won millions of dollars in awards
from activists who never actually committed acts of violence but did make
(often vague) statements supporting or inciting such violence. In the
recently concluded “Nuremberg Files” case, a jury delivered a
guilty verdict against an antiabortion web site that displayed “wanted
posters” of abortion doctors, along with personal information such
as addresses, phone numbers and even the names of the doctors’ children.

So what dos that have to do
with animal rights violence? A lot actually. In both cases lawyers relied
heavily on the civil provisions of the |Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations| (RICO) law. The RICO law was originally passed to allow
prosecutors to go after legitimate businesses that had been taken over
by the mob and used to hide criminal activity.

Along with the criminal provisions,
RICO included provisions allowing private individuals to sue groups and
individuals who illegally interfere with the operations of legal enterprises.

In its release after the trial,
the American Medical Association heralded the verdict and specifically
mentioned possible action “on behalf of biomedical researchers
targeted by an extreme faction of ‘animal rights activists.’” Assuming
the verdict in both the Chicago and “Nuremberg Files”
cases holds up on appeal, some animal rights organizations and web sites
could be ripe for similar lawsuits.

The most vulnerable groups would be
those posting Animal Liberation Front materials or materials in support
of ALF actions. There are several web sites that include instructions
on how to build incendiary devices along with the names and addresses of
fur farms and medical researchers. These individuals and groups are exposing themselves to an
extraordinary degree of liability under RICO.

Even the more “mainstream”
animal rights groups might not be beyond successful prosecution. In the
Chicago case, for example, several defendants were convicted based on
the following set of circumstances: a) they made rather inflammatory statements
about abortion doctors or clinics at one point or another, although they
never personally engaged in violence nor directly incited such violence;
and b) they ended up working in a broad coalition of antiabortion activists
that included both groups that condemned violence and groups that
advocated or at least sympathized with violence.

The jury in the Chicago case
agreed with Planned Parenthood lawyers who argued that the coalition of
groups met the standards of a criminal conspiracy under RICO.

I suspect the Supreme Court
may tighten up some of the requirements for such civil violations of RICO,
but it has already affirmed the fundamental tenets behind such suits.
Such laws could possibly be used to shut down animal rights groups and
sites that are clearly advocating violence.

Sources:

AMA Applauds Verdict Against Web Site That Threatened Violence Against Physicians. American Medical Association, Press Release, February 2, 1999.

Anti-abortion foes vow appeal. Maria Seminerio, ZDNN, February 3, 1999.

Limiting Web speech rights. Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, February 4, 1999.

The PETA Files

  • Busty ex-Baywatch Babe Blasts Animal Acts: Pamela Anderson
    Lee, a member in good standing of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote a letter to the National
    Association of Television Program Executives urging the organization
    to ban traveling animal acts such as that of Jack Hanna who makes frequent
    appearances on late night talk shows. In her letter, Lee says she
    “refuses to be a party to their [animals] suffering.” Someone might
    want to mention to Lee the large number of animals that have been killed
    testing silicone implants.
  • According to an email posted on an animal rights mailing list, PETA’s
    Jane Garrison was arrested on Jan. 26 for trespassing at a private lake
    where coots, small migratory birds, were being poisoned and trapped
    by a local home owners association. The association obtained a permit
    from the California Department of Fish and Game to kill up to 200 coots
    which were eating the grass and defecating on the property.
  • What will PETA do now? According to a Wall Street Journal report,
    almost all film sold in the United States contains ground up animal
    parts (bones from dead cows are ground up to create gelatin used in
    the film). I guess PETA will be on the lookout for vegan film for its
    next photo that purport to show animal cruelty.

Source:

‘VIP’ star backs animal display ban. Associated Press, January 31, 1999.

Kodak grinds cow remains, keeps costs close to the bone. Alec Klein, Wall Street Journal, January 18, 1999.

They're Torturing Pigs in Texas

The Texas Establishment for Animal Rights created quite a stir a couple weeks ago when it uncovered
a dastardly crime against animals taking place at a school in Lewisville,
Texas. It seems that the school system has for several years sponsored
a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in which students donate money
on behalf of a teacher. The teacher receiving the largest donations has
to kiss a pig brought in for the occasion (according to one resident,
last year the lucky winner got to kiss a pig at the halftime of a football
game with over 5,000 people in attendance).

TEAR was outraged at this
horror. Among another claims made in an email release by the group (titled
“Pig Tormented At High School”) “they [the school] are
teaching the kids that animals are somehow inferior to people and that
it is a punishment to have to kiss one.”

Although some of the activists
claimed pressure on the school was mounting to stop the pig kissing contest,
in fact it went forward and according to school officials I talked to
via email, at no point did anyone contemplating canceling the pig kissing.

Special mention goes to
an administrator at Delay who purportedly told the school’s principle,
“Maybe we should just roast the pig and see how they like that.”

Sources:

Urgent help…pig contest. Texas Establishment for Animal Rights, Press Release, January 26, 1999.

Urgent help…pig contest–correction. Texas Establishment for Animal Rights, Press Release, January 27, 1999.

Response on Kissing the Pig Contest. Bill Jones, E-mail communication, January 28, 1999.