PETAÂ’'s Take on Fur

The 1998 award for poorly timed
press releases goes to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which
had strangely disjointed press releases on successive days at the end
of December.

In a December 29 press release,
PETA announced it was donating fur coats to homeless people in Chicago.
PETA received the furs as donations from celebrities and others who converted
to the animal rights cause and no longer wanted to wear fur. PETA president
Ingrid Newkirk summed up the groupÂ’s motivation in giving away the coats
by saying, “only people struggling to survive have any excuse for
wearing fur.” Newkirk didnÂ’t address why, if struggling to survive
allows one to use animals, medical researchers canÂ’t use animals to try
to find treatments for terminally ill patients “struggling to survive.”

In any event, on December
30 PETA released yet another press release on fur announcing that “only
cave people wear fur.” So are homeless people “struggling to
survive” or are they stone aged Neanderthals? You be the judge, but
PETA did announce an anti-fur demonstration that would include “members
of PETA and Animal Action wielding clubs and draped in animal skins.”

The image of PETA members
dressed up as Fred Flintstone is certainly a compelling one, but at least
PETA did everyone a favor by highlighting how long animal use has been
a central part of human societies.

Burlington Coat Factory Contributes to HSUS

Stung by revelations that
some of its fur-trimmed parkas were made with dog fur, Burlington Coat Factory announced in December it was giving $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States. to help that group lobby for a federal ban on the
commercial sale of cat and dog fur.

What is Burlington Coat Factory
thinking?

Certainly the companyÂ’s anger
is understandable; most of the coats were made in China and the company
had no idea dog fur was being used. Burlington did the right thing in
offering to take back the coats from customers who were misled. But to
donate $100,000 to a group dedicated to making sure no animal products
are used in the production of clothes makes no sense, except as a crass
publicity maneuver.

And one that will certainly
backfire, as executives may already be finding out. As numerous animal
rights activists have pointed out, BurlingtonÂ’s support of a ban on cat
and dog fur is extremely hypocritical. If it is wrong to use cat and dog
fur on coats, isnÂ’t it wrong to use fur from other animals as well? Why
isnÂ’t Burlington lobbying for a ban on leather coats if it is suddenly
so committed to the rights of animals?

Those who deal with animals
canÂ’t have it both ways. Researchers canÂ’t claim itÂ’s okay for them
to experiment on and eventually kill animals for the important medical
knowledge such activities provide, but it is wrong for others to eat animals
or use them for clothing. Hunters canÂ’t go on at length about the mystical
experiences they have in the wilderness, but turn around and argue what
medical researchers do is completely different (so long as, in both examples,
the guidelines for treating the animals are similar – one need not argue
that in order to be consistent an animal researcher or hunter must approve
of the individuals who harm animals solely for the sadistic pleasure of
doing so).

Adrian Morrison, president
of the National Animal Interest Alliance
has coined the term “muddled middle” to describe such positions.
As Morrison wrote in a recent NAIA newsletter:

Those opposing animal use and those questioning the quality of animal
use (traditional animal welfarists) blended into a new grouping, the
animal protection community. And with that came the call to seek a common
ground, to abandon polemics for the sake of the animals. And so was
created (conveniently) a muddled middle, inhabited by those who do not
see that a middle ground between use and non-use of animals is a logical
impossibility . . . The muddled middle does not have a clear understanding
of how a variety of uses fit into a coherent whole: the necessary participation
of humans, and most especially modern humans, in the intricacies of
Nature. At the same time, we who choose to use animals for pleasure
and those who do so out of necessity must do so responsibly.

Ironically, this is a small area of agreement with the animal rights
activists . . . the use of animals in human society either stands or falls
as a whole in this writerÂ’s opinion. If fur is an abomination, certainly
leather is as well. If using animals in circuses (provided they are treated
responsibly) is wrong, I donÂ’t see how seeing eye dogs for the blind become
defensible except through some incredibly complex utilitarian calculus
that few people would find coherent, much less workable.

Other recent events

  • In November, Russian surgeon Vladimir Demikhov, who conducted the
    worldÂ’s first animal heart and lung transplants, died at the age of
    82. Demikrov also conducted the worldÂ’s first coronary bypass in a dog
    in 1952.

  • Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently
    announced they found a sequence of amino acids that reduces the level
    of kidney damage caused by lupus in mice. Lupus afflicts more than 1
    million Americans, and about 5 percent of those with lupus suffer from
    potentially fatal kidney damage. In the trials those mice left untreated
    died, on average, after only 35 weeks, while 80 percent of those treated
    with the amino acid were still alive after 60 weeks and most showed
    no kidney damage. Development of a similar treatment for human beings
    is years away from the testing phase.

  • The Swedish branch of the Animal Liberation Front is threatening to
    attack the web sites of two Swedish laboratories as well as the Swedish
    Department of Agriculture on January 15 from 3 p.m. GMT to 6 p.m. GMT
    “as a protest against vivisection and in memory of all the animals
    imprisoned, tortured and murdered in the labs.”

C. Elegans Makes History

In mid-December, Science
announced that the millimeter-long worm Caenorhadditis elegans
became the first animal to have its entire genetic structure sequenced.
Coming in at 97 million bases and over 19,000 different genes, C. elegans
might be the first animal to be completely sequenced, but it is unlikely
to be the last (about a dozen bacterial genomes have also been sequenced
as well as the genetic structure of yeast).

Already the sequencing effort
is providing important information. For example, evolutionary biologists
and geneticists long suspected that all life shared many key genes in
common. Comparing C. elegans to yeast, the two species share about
3,600 genes indicating that evolution at the genetic level is largely an
additive process (i.e. natural selection tends to cause additional genes
to build on existing genes rather than displace or reengineer existing
genes).

Analysis of the wormÂ’s genes
also yielded important information about how multi-cellular creatures
switch genes on and off to develop cellular structures that can communicate
and coordinate their activities.

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.

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.