You couldn’t make this stuff up, except someone apparently did sometime in the 16th century (though the excerpt below is from a later 19th century work) according to Wikipedia,
This instrument [the cat organ or piano] was described by the French writer Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin in his book Musiciana, extraits d’ouvrages rare ou bizarre (Musiciana, descriptions of rare or bizarre inventions):
When the King of Spain Felipe II was in Brussels in 1549 visiting his father the Emperor Charles V, each saw the other rejoicing at the sight of a completely singular procession. At the head marched an enormous bull whose horns were burning, between which there was also a small devil. Behind the bull a young boy sewn into a bear skin rode on a horse whose ears and tail were cut off. Then came the archangel Saint Michael in bright clothing, and carrying a balance in his hand.
The most curious was on a chariot that carried the most singular music that can be imagined. It held a bear that played the organ; instead of pipes, there were sixteen cat heads each with its body confined; the tails were sticking out and were held to be played as the strings on a piano, if a key was pressed on the keyboard, the corresponding tail would be pulled hard, and it would produce each time a lamentable meow. The historian Juan Christoval Calvete, noted the cats were arranged properly to produce a succession of notes from the octave… (chromatically, I think).
This abominable orchestra arranged itself inside a theatre where monkeys, wolves, deer and other animals danced to the sounds of this infernal music.
The cat organ was almost certainly never built but rather was likely the equivalent of a 16th century urban legend. However, an article at Mental Floss maintains that a similar musical instrument using pigs was actually constructed in the 15th century and again in Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid-19th century,
We are sure, however, of the existence of the katzenklavier’s [cat organ] cousin: the pig organ. In the 15th century, King Louis XI of France ordered Abbot de Beigne to create a “concert of swine’s voices.” Obliging, the abbot built a crude keyboard made of live pigs, which jabbed spikes into the rumps of squealing swine. A similar instrument—the porko-forte—was designed in Cincinnati 400 years later.
I’m skeptical of both of those accounts. The Porco-Forte, supposedly built in 1839 in Cincinnati, Ohio, has all the earmarks of a hoax.
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a report announcing that the antibiotic Baytril would be banned from use in poultry effective September 12, 2005. The drug will remain on the market and approved for use in treating infections in dogs, cats and cows.
The FDA took the extraordinary move out of concern that use of Baytril in poultry could lead to antibiotic-resistant form of the campylobacter bacteria. Campylobacter is common in the intestines of turkey and chickens, but it doesn’t usually cause the animals disease. When Baytril is administered to poultry, it tends to lead to the emergence of antibiotic resistant forms of the bacteria.
The FDA fears that, while not causing illness to poultry, these antibiotic resistant forms of campylobacter could find their way to human beings, impairing the ability of existing antibiotics to treat these human infections.
The Associated Press reported that,
Resistant bacteria my be present in poultry sold at retail outlets. [FDA commissioner Lester] Crawford noted that since the drug was introduced for poultry in the 1990s, the proportion of resistant campylobacter infections in humans has risen significantly.
That can prolong the length of infections in people and increase the risk of complications, Crawford said. Complications can include reactive arthritis and blood stream infections.
Bayer, the manufacturer of Baytril, has 60 days to appeal the FDA’s decision.
The full FDA report on Baytril can be read here (2 mb PDF file).
FDA bans use of Baytril in poultry. Randolph Schmid, Associated Press, July 29, 2995.
Knight Ridder recently reported on a protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Action for Animals, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States against California Rodeo Salinas.
The story included only one quote from an activist at the event, one Alfredo Kuba who had this to say of participating in an animal rights protest,
I always get butterflies before I do something like this. Any time you express opinions that are different from the status quo, you have a little bit of fear. You can’t help but be concerned how people might react.
Kuba’s “nervous little activist” routine seems a bit thin given the things he’s said over the years. Kuba has been active in the California animal rights scene for more than a decade, and shows up in dozens of articles on Google and Lexis-Nexis.
What sort of things does Kuba believe that are different from the status quo? In a December 31, 2004 letter to the editor of the Mountain View (California) Voice, Kuba offered his views of hunting,
. . . Hunters are animal terrorists. Hunters make absurd claims of why murdering other beings is their “right” as if animals have no right to exist.
Hunting is a human wrong, just like slavery or the concentration camps. In the slavery era, whites felt they had the right to have slaves and slaves had no rights. In Nazi Germany, white supremacists believed they were the superior race under “God” thus rationalizing the extermination of Jews and other races “inferior” to them.
Hunters likewise rationalize to persecute, stalk, terrorize, maim and murder other living beings under the guise of superiority and difference of species. Hunters invade other species’ homes with the sole purpose of ending their existence.
Hunting is cold-blooded murder. Who made hunters God and gave them the power to decide who lives and who dies? The sickening aspect of hunters is that they find pleasure in the destruction of “God’s creation.”
Kuba despises hunting enough that he forces a vegan diet on his feline companion — and Kuba’s own dietary choices might hint at another explanation for those “butterflies.” In a 2004 AlterNet story on vegan pet diets, Kuba was quoted as saying (emphasis added),
You’re saving animals by not feeding your cat meat. It makes you feel good to feed your kitty something this good. Sometimes I even try some myself when I’m cooking.
Kuba’s not so concerned about the possibility of other cats having meat-oriented snacks. In May 2004, a mountain lion was spotted near Palo Alto, California. The lion was sleeping in a tree about 20 feet above a police car. Police initially planned to tranquilize the animal, but it woke up first, and the decision was made to kill the animal. Police said that since the timing of the incident made killing the animal necessary,
Because of the environment that it was in, school is about to be let out, the only safe thing to do to protect the community was to dispatch the animal. One shot was fired, the animal was felled.
Kuba disagreed, telling CBS5,
I think it’s absolutely atrocious the way the police behaved. Obviously the animal was not posing a threat to anyone. It was in a tree.
Kuba is also an expert on circuses. At a 2003 protest against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Kuba told the San Mateo Daily Journal that,
Daily beatings are a part of everyday life for animals in circuses.
Kuba recently started petition to ask KPFA 94.1FM to add an animal rights-themed show to its lineup. The petition reads,
Please sign petition asking KPFA 94.1FM to include an animal rights program on a regular basis. Animal rights is a topic of interest, often demoniced [sic] by the corporate propagandist media and not given a voice. Animals are voiceless and KPFA can provide that much desperately needed voice.
Surely purely by coincidence Kuba would host this new animal rights show on KPFA.
Those must be some strange butterflies.
Rodeo draws animal rights protesters. Dennis Taylor, Knight Ridder, July 26, 2005.
Hunters destroy ‘God’s creation’. Alfredo Kuba, Letter to the Editor, Mountain Valley Voice, December 31, 2004.
Mountain lion killed in Palo Alto. Len Ramirez, CBS 5, May 17, 2004.
Circus defends animal treatment. San Mateo Daily Journal, August 28, 2003.
Animal Rights Radio. Petition, 2005.
The Cat That Ate Tofu. Michael Rosen-Molina, Alternet, May 23, 2004.
In 2001, Jesse Power and Anthony Wenneker were arrested in Canada for torturing a cat to death and filming their criminal acts. Matthew Kaczorowski, who also participated in the torture, was apprehended in 2003.
Power and Wenneker tried to defend their torture of a cat by claiming they tortured the cat and filmed it as an artistic statement against animal cruelty. Its the sort of logic some activists appear comfortable with, such as PETA’s “we have to kill the animals to protect their rights” mentality, but courts rejected the argument and all three men were ultimately found guilty of animal cruelty. All three also received ridiculously short sentences for such a base, premeditated act of cruelty.
Enter filmmaker Zev Asher, who decided to make a documentary about the case. Asher interviewed Power, Wenneker, and Kaczorowski, along with animal rights activists, police, art gallery and others about the case. The actual video of the cat torture is not shown.
I have not seen the film, but the New York Times review of it noted,
”Casuistry” consists mainly of talking-head interviews — with animal rights advocates, art gallery owners and two of the three accused young men — intercut with news clips about the event, shots of Mr. Power’s disturbing artwork, and extreme close-ups of a variety of cats (all of whom, pet lovers will be relieved to know, remain alive and well throughout). The offending videotape is never seen, but the entire film is built around its absence. Periodically, the film returns to a written police account of the video, which scrolls up the screen, documenting the animal’s suffering blow by blow to the sound of ominous music.
Two of the cat’s assailants come off as bored, alienated and none-too-bright young men seeking a nihilistic thrill. The third, Mr. Power, is a more complex figure, an intelligent and well-spoken but possibly psychopathic art student who has long been obsessed with the death of animals (he once took a job in an abattoir, he says, to better understand the suffering of the animals he ate). Among the least sympathetic figures in the film are two local gallery owners who seem callow and pretentious as they refuse to judge Mr. Power for his actions. Though it clearly takes the position that the animal’s death was a crime, Mr. Asher’s film is likely to leave viewers eager to discuss the limits of artistic freedom and the extension of human rights to animals.
The Village Voice went further in its review, saying that the film makes unfavorable connections between what Power and company did to what medical researchers do.
And yet, for all that, animal rights activists have turned out to protest the film and demand that it be pulled from film festivals almost everywhere it appears.
For example, when the film was shown in Australia as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival in July, activists from Animal Active showed up to protest the film. Animal Active spokeswoman Rheya Linden told The Herald Sun that screening the film was irresponsible,
This film presents animal abuse voyeuristically to a general audience in the name of art and entertainment.
Similarly, when the film was shown last September at the Toronto Film Festival, activists also showed up to protest with Suzanne Lahaie of Freedom for Animals telling the BBC that the film should never be shown because it includes interviews with Power, Wenneker and Kaczorowski,
Shame on the international film festival for allowing this to go on.
When an e-mail was posted to AR-NEWS recently calling for activists to pepper James Hewison of the Melbourne International Film Festival with calls and e-mails to stop the showing of the film. It was left to Toronto Star columnist and animal activist Barry Kent McKay (who is often a voice of reason on AR-NEWS) to note that,
Many animal advocates who have seen the film feel it should be shown to the
public. It certainly does not in any way glorify the abuse, but rather,
exposes something that should be exposed. Actual torture is apparently not
on screen. It is seen by many to be a powerful indictment against animal
abuse, at most, and a stimulant to debate at least. Others, particularly
those who have not seen it, oppose it.
I have no view one way or the other, as I have not seen it.
What is interesting and telling, however, is just how many activists simply don’t want a film shown because they disagree with it, and often even though they haven’t even seen it.
Catcalls unheeded at movie screening. Herald Sun, July 25, 2005.
FILM REVIEW; A Self-Proclaimed Artist and an Inexplicable Act of Cruelty. Dana Stevens, The New York Times, April 27, 2005.
Fur flies over cat-killing film. The BBC, September 15, 2004.
A California company, Genetic Savings & Clone, became the first company in the country to offer cloned animals private individuals. Cloned animals have been available for commercial livestock and some endangered species, but Genetic Savings & Clone is the first company to my mind where anyone can walk in, put down their money, and at some point walk out with a cloned animal — in this case, cats.
The service is not cheap. The company charges $295 to $1,395 plus annual charges to store the genetic material of cats. Producing an actual clone from said genetic material will run more than $30,000 (initially the company charged $50,000, but apparently reduced that due to lack of demand).
Of course such services have produced an inevitable backlash, especially given how many unwanted cats there are out there. The California legislature is considering banning cat cloning, the American Anti-Vivisection Society has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate it, and even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is getting in on the action with a very odd argument.
In a report on the cat cloning business on the website of Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper, PETA’s Mary Beth Sweetland is quoted as saying,
It defies logic to think that somebody can feel right about paying $50,000 for a cat when 17 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters every year. That money could be put towards the support of innumerable homeless animals if these people truly care about animals.
Huh? Has Sweetland check out any of PETA’s Form 990s lately? For example, according to its 2002 Form 990, PETA had total expenses in 2002 of $21,484,419. How much of that went to helping alleviate the issue of pet overpopulation? Exactly $208,598 for a spay/neuter program. In contrast, that same year PETA sent almost $4.8 million to the Foundation to Support Animal Protection which is a front group PETA uses to contribute money to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine while pretending the two are independent organizations.
How much good could PETA have done by spending that $4.8 million on helping shelters? Yet Sweetland has the gall to complain because someone might spend 1 percent of that amount to clone a favorite pet?
I personally think spending that much to clone a cat is a bit silly, but then again I also do not understand why anyone would pay $35,000 for a Mickey Mantle rookie card or $200,000 for a Lamborghini. To each his own.
‘Frankenkitty’ or priceless duplicate? Howard Witt, Sun-Sentinel.Com, March 6, 2005.