Julia Butterfly Hill Joins PETA Campaign Against Columbia University

Julia Butterfly Hill, who became famous by spending several years in a tree to protest and logging, recently joined People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ campaign against Columbia University. Hill sent a letter on behalf of PETA urging other activists to support PETA’s ongoing campaign against Columbia.

PETA did not release a copy of Hill’s letter, but did include the following quote regarding Columbia’s use of primates to better understand irregular menstrual cycles,

As a woman, I am outraged that other beings are undergoing such outrageous and inhumane torture under the guise of ‘helping women.’

For its part, PETA seems to fundamentally misunderstand the point of the research, as it says in its press release about hill,

Millions of dollars designated for womenÂ’s health issues have been commandeered by Columbia experimenter Michel Ferin and squandered on cruel, irrelevant animal experiments while women who suffer extreme stress during their menstrual cycles are left without the resources to obtain the medical care that they need.

Ferin’s research is aimed not at trying to understand stress during menstrual cycles, but rather the role that stress might play in causing irregular menstrual cycles which is a common cause of female infertility.

PETA’s Bill Maher also mischaracterized the nature of the Columbia research when he spammed Columbia University staff earlier this year.


Julia Butterfly Hill Asks Friends and Colleagues to Help Stop Columbia University’s Mutilation of Primates in Menstrual Experiments. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, September 8, 2004.

Bill Maher Calls/E-Mails Columbia Researchers Urging Them to Abandon Animal Research

In early May, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Bill Maher made phone calls and spammed Columbia University researchers urging them to stop animal research there. PETA has been harassing Columbia president Lee Bollinger for several months and has filed a complaint with the New York County District Attorney’s Office seeking to have criminal charges brought against animal researchers at Columbia.

Maher’s e-mail read,

Dear Columbia Employee,

I recently heard from my friends at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that baboons and other primates are being subjected to some very strange experiments in laboratories at Columbia University. In one experiment, pregnant baboons are pumped full of nicotine and morphine and their babies are operated on in utero. Now, I might have thought that the point was to figure out the effects of cigarettes and morphine on pregnant women and their babies, but fetuses don’t normally smoke and shoot up, even if their parents do play self-esteem tapes before they’re born. Haven’t these experimenters heard that cigarettes are called “cancer sticks”? That’s right—they’re bad for you! Who knew? As for morphine, Edgar Allen Poe knew 100 years ago that it was addictive and just about—but not quite—as dangerous as animal experimenters with too much money and too little accountability. Even Poe in a morphine-induced nightmare couldn’t have dreamed up anything as scary as this.

Although we might all know that certain drugs and compounds are addictive, exactly how they tend to result in addiction is, in many cases, still a mystery and animal research has offered a number of surprises. For example, it is known that cocaine stimulates certain receptors in the brain leading to the obvious hypothesis that the brain becomes addicted to having those receptors stimulated. But research on mice performed at Columbia demonstrated that the animals became addicted to cocaine even when genetically modified to be missing the specific receptor that cocaine acts on. The actions of addictive, dangerous drugs are far more complex and more poorly understand than Bill Maher’s non-sequiters let on.

Forget drugs—maybe they should study infections at Columbia, because apparently, this kind of thing is catching. Another experimenter is trying to study the effects of stress on women’s menstrual cycles by implanting metal pipes into the skulls of rhesus monkeys. One hundred million women in America with PMS, and this guy’s Frankensteining monkeys? It’s just a wild guess on my part, but wouldn’t he learn more from talking to actual women under stress than from plumbing monkey heads? Anyway, most women have the old-fashioned kind of stress, like money troubles and tough jobs, rather than having pipes fall out of the sky and lodge in their skulls.   

Here Maher is both lying and extremely cruel to women and their partners who struggle with infertility caused by irregular menstrual cycles. Columbia University researchers study rhesus monkeys in order to better understand the various roles played by hormones in causing regular menstrual cycles and the effects that environmental conditions, such as stress, can have on those hormones.

It’s a little disturbing to me to know that this Brian De Palma film is playing not in some dugout in Iraq, but at Columbia—not exactly your local city college. The guys playing the monkeys like cards in a poker game aren’t Osama. One’s a neuroscientist, one’s a physiologist, and—get this—one’s a pediatrician. Wouldn’t you want to take little Johnny to this doc for a sore throat? At least there was one decent human being in these labs: the veterinarian who called PETA to report her colleagues’ work habits. When she saw one of the experimenters take out a monkey’s eyeball to cause a stroke, she had a Network moment—she got mad as hell and decided that she wasn’t going to take it anymore.

Maher forgets to mention that when Columbia was first notified of possible problems in 2002, they initiated an in-house review of animal research as well as notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The university made a number of changes to its procedures. As for the stroke research, this is being conducted by E. Sander Connolly whose animal research has led to a number of intriguing findings, including the fact that antioxidants can cross the bloodstream/brain barrier and possibly reduce damage caused when a blood clot plugs an artery.

Which is pretty much the way I feel right now. Tossing millions of dollars of tax money out the window is one thing—think searching for ice on Mars—but wasting money to cause strokes in, disfigure, and terrorize animals puts Columbia in an ugly and embarrassing position. I’m asking Columbia to stop this now and forever, and I’m asking you to join me. You can find out more and see the pictures at ColumbiaCruelty.com or by calling PETA at 757-622-7382.

Maher, of course, couldn’t care less whether or not any of the research at Columbia could lead to life saving treatments for human beings. As Maher once told Us magazine,

To those people who say, ‘My father is alive because of animal experimentation,’ I say ‘Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live.Â’ Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade off.


E-mail to Columbia University researchers. Bill Maher, May 2004.

Ark Trust Genesis Awards

Ark Trust recently announced the winners of its Fifteenth Annual Genesis Awards, given to individuals and programs in the media that further the cause of animal rights. The award show aired on May 12 and May 13 on Animal Planet.

From an Ark Trust press release announcing the winners,

“Politically Incorrect” won in the Outstanding Television Talk Show category for fearlessly dissecting the arguments of those who defend Hunting, declaring that animals’ right to live supersedes a dying child’s wish to kill. The discussion followed a policy change by the |Make A Wish Foundation| that denies last wishes involving firearms.

“I thank you all for having me, for giving me this, for noticing, for joining in,” said “Politically Incorrect” host and Executive Producer [Bill] Maher upon accepting his award. “The animals are the most innocent, most speechless, most defenseless creatures and they deserve a mean, take-no-prisoners son-of-a-bitch like me talking for them.”

The Make A Wish Foundation caved into activists a couple years ago in announcing it would no longer consider requests from young people for hunting trips. Philosophically the argument offered by Maher and others makes no sense unless they also are going to start targeting the Make A Wish Foundation for paying for meals for dying kids that include meat — does an animals right to live supersedes a dying child’s wish to have a hamburger at McDonald’s?

And, of course, Maher and other activists are on record as opposing the sort of ongoing animal research aimed at the treatment and prevention of the diseases that are killing these kids in the first place. Maher’s view is closer to saying that a child’s right to live does not supersede an animals right to live.

As with most animal rights “victories,” by the way, their conquering of the Make A Wish Foundation really didn’t amount to much. Ted Nugent and other hunters quickly set up the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation to specifically fulfill hunting wishes of dying children, and the Safari Club International stepped in to pay for the costs of a bear hunting trip for Erick Ness whose requested started the controversy (hunters in Minnesota raised the $18,000 necessary in three days).


Genesis Awards Celebrates 11 Years on TV!. Ark Trust, Press Release, March 10, 2001.

Newsweek Donated Ad Space to PETA; PETA Reaffirms Its Foot and Mouth Stance

Apparently not troubled at all by Ingrid Newkirk’s recent declaration that she hoped foot-and-mouth disease comes to the United States, Newsweek recently donated ad space to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

According to The New York Post, copies of the March 26 edition distributed in the New York area — including New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — featured a one-column, black-and-white ad featuring Bill Maher. Newsweek told The Post that the advertisement was a pro bono ad inserted to fill unsold ad space (a common practice with newspapers and magazines).

Bud Pidgeon, president of the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, gave a great quote to The Post,

Newsweek provided an ad to a group [PETA] who has paid the legal fees of convicted terrorist Rodney Coronado. This same group’s chairman has stated her hope that the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Europe will strike the U.S. meat industry. I really think Newsweek needs to re-evaluate who they provide free space to.

Speaking of Newkirk’s statements on foot and mouth disease, PETA recently reaffirmed her statements. In an interview with the Associated Press on April 27, she restated her hopes that the disease comes to the United States. “It’s a peculiar and disturbing thing to say,” Newkirk told the Associated Press, “but it would be less than truthful if I pretended otherwise.”

PETA’s Bruce Friedrich also got in on the act telling the Associated Press,

These animals suffer unmitigated misery throughout their lives, during transport to slaughter and in slaughterhouses where they’re routinely skinned and dismembered while conscious. Anything that accelerates the demise of the meat industry … is a very good thing.

Friedrich added that he fully supported Newkirk’s views on foot and mouth disease saying, “I can’t imagine anybody who cares about animals arguing with that statement.”


State veterinarian, PETA Head Differ On Outbreak. Steven Barrett, The Associated Press, April 27, 2001.

Dog-Gone Legislation May Target Hunters. Ken Moran, The New York Post, April 25, 2001.

Usual Suspects Attack Americans for Medical Progress over Xenotransplantation

As animal rights activists
and extremist environmental groups gear up to seek an outright ban on
the transplantation of organs from non-human animals to humans, Americans for Medical Progress‘s Jacquie Calnan wrote an excellent, widely published
op-ed on the importance of pursuing research on xenotransplantation and
similar technologies. She and AMP were subsequently attacked in a release
by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace and

Calnan’s op-ed, “Payton’s
hope” (available at http://amprogress.org/news/payton.htm) highlighted the problems of former Chicago Bear running back Walter
Payton, who recently announced he has a rare liver disease and may die
within two years if he does not receive a transplant.

As Calnan noted in her op-ed,
although there are 12,000 people on the waiting list for livers, only
about 4,000 such transplants are performed each year. In 1997 more than
1,000 people died while waiting for a matching liver. Calnan’s editorial
did an excellent job of highlighting animal rights hypocrisy, which is
why I suspect it was so quickly attacked. She repeated PETA celebrity
spokesman Bill Maher‘s recent quote to US Magazine that: “To those
people who say, ‘My father is alive because of animal experimentation,’
I say ‘Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live.’
Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade off.” Someone
should send Maher a thank you note for so succinctly summing up the animal
rights philosophy.

Calnan mentioned the newly
developed device I mentioned a couple weeks ago that uses pig cells to
help keep some people alive while waiting transplants. The fact is this
technology is here today and it is already saving lives, so the animal
rights and extreme environmental activists have to fall back on two claims
to discredit the technology.

The first is that the risk
of passing diseases from non-humans to humans is too high. Animal rights
activists have released claim after claim trying to make this point, but
most of the more serious ones have later turned out to be baseless. On
the other hand, like any other thing human beings do, there is always
some risk associated with it – the risk of some new deadly disease crossing
from non-humans to humans will never be zero.

But if our society was that
risk-averse no pharmaceutical drugs or medical technology would ever be
approved since the risk of a calamity from any new technology is never
zero. If this sort of principle actually guided medical technology, certainly
technologies that we take for granted, such as vaccination, would never
have been allowed since the potential risks were only poorly known at best.

The second claim is that there
are more than enough organ donors to go around. At the end of her article,
Calnan ask for more people to become organ donors, which is a reasonable
position, but the critics of xenotransplantation seem to assume that those
organ donors are here today. A recent press release from the Boston-based
Campaign for Responsible Transplantation claimed, for example, that Xenotransplantation
advocates “use statistics and emotion to make their case … some 3,000
transplant patients die each year on in the U.S. … [but a ] US General
Accounting Office report … reveals a potential organ donor pool of 150,000
people. This is in stark contrast to previous estimates of 5,000 to 29,000
people annually … if these organs are secured, it would solve the national
organ shortage, and completely eliminate the need for animal organ transplants.”

As is the typical modus operandi with
these groups, however, this last claim is a distortion. The GAO report
was written to explore different methods of evaluating the performance
of Organ Procurement Organizations, who are assigned the task of procuring
organs and getting them into the organ sharing network. In order to do
that sort of evaluation, the GAO wanted a baseline of the upper bound of
eligible organ donors, which it estimated at 147,000 in 1994 using a technique
to estimate actual deaths and then adjust the figures to determine how
many of those deaths would have had harvestable organs.

The interesting thing is that
in the very next paragraph after giving this estimate, the GAO notes the
limits of counting potential organs this way, “we found that both
the death and adjusted-death measures [which are the source of the 147,000
figure] have drawbacks that limit their usefulness, however, including
lack of timely data and inability to identify those deaths suitable for
use in organ donation.”

First, this explicitly concedes
that the 147,000 figure was obtained using a method that the GAO admits
has an “inability to identify those deaths suitable for use in organ
donation,” which is the crux of the problem with human organ donation
itself. If it was too expensive and time consuming for the GAO to go back
four years and decide how many people were eligible organ donors,
imagine the difficulty in trying to harvest those organs on the spot.

It is one thing to look back
several years later and say there were say 40,000 automobile deaths and
of those 6,000 were potential organ donors. It is another thing to be
in place to actually obtain those organs (a severe problem in organ donation
is that even among those who have signed organ donor cards and are good candidates
to donate organs, often the organs are no longer usable by the time doctors
are aware of the potential donor or get permission from family members
to proceed. This is a situation that is unlikely to change significantly
in the near future).

In addition, the CRT release
failed to note that the number organ donors has increased over the last
few years – but the number of people eligible for organ donation has increased
even faster. I suppose if PETA had its way, this wouldn’t be a problem
since there would be no animal research and fewer people would be transplant
candidates since the medical knowledge to save their lives simply wouldn’t
exist, but barring this it seems clear that future advances in medical
science are going to continue to drive the demand for organ donation at
a much faster rate than the increase in donated organs.

If anything the GAO report
on the failures of Organ Procurement Organizations to obtain more organs
is evidence of just how difficult it is going to be to increase the level
of organ donation, and further emphasizes why xenotransplantation and
similar technologies will likely play a key role in the 21st century – provided animal rights activists aren’t given the chance to
halt this important advance.