How Not to Think Logically about an Animal Issue

Hawaii’s state House briefly considered a bill that would have banned the sale of cats or dogs for food in the state.

The bill never made it out of committee, and Hawaii state Rep. Alex Sonson complained that merely introducing the bill raised harmful stereotypes about Asians.

The bills supporters used a priceless form of logic — since they had no evidence about any sort of widespread eating of cats and dogs in Hawaii, it follows that eating cats and dogs must certainly be widespread.

Here, for example, is Derrick DePledge of the Advertiser Capitol Bureau, on one such supporter,

The Hawaiian Humane Society and animal rights groups wanted the Legislature to pass the bill to protect both pets and strays. “I’m disappointed,” said Renita Chang, president of the Hawai’i Dog Foundation. She said she has only heard stories about people killing dogs and cats for food, but believes it is more common than people think.

“I don’t think it’s exaggerated at all,” Chang said.

Well, of course. If you’ve only heard stories and not seen any actual evidence, it must be true. You know, just like that Irish kid who wants to set a record for receiving the most cards or the terrorists buying UPS uniforms on E-Bay. I heard stories about it somewhere — must be true.

Sources:

No Law Against Eating Dogs And Cats. Associated Press, March 2005.

Bill to ban sale of cats, dogs for food dies in the House. Derrick DePledge, Advertiser Capitol Bureau, March 5, 2005.

British Film Censor Wanted Cut In Emir Kusturica’s Latest Film

Emir Kusturica was outraged recently by a demand from the British Board of Film Censors that he cut a very short scene from his film set during the Bosnian war, “Life Is a Miracle.”

The scene, which apparently lasts for a couple seconds, shows a cat pouncing on a pigeon. Apparently under a 1937 law, the Cinematograph Films Act, it is against the law in Great Britain to show any scene that depicting animal cruelty that was produced or staged simply for the making of said film.

Kusturica maintains that the pigeon was already dead (though its wings apparently flap in the scence), but also took the time to blast the film board,

I just don’t get it. The pigeon was already dead, we found it in the road. And no other censor has objected. What is the problem with you English? You killed millions of Indians and Africans, and yet you go nuts about the circumstances of the death of a single Serbia pigeon. I am touched you hold the lives of Serbian birds so dear, but you are crazy. I will never understand how your minds work.

Ultimately, the controversy was resolved with a wink-and-a-nod. Kusturica suddenly remembered that yes, the birds wings were flapping but only because he rigged it with bits of strings to make the wings move and appear as if it were alive. He produced a letter saying that no pigeons were harmed in the making of “Life Is a Miracle” and the BBFC withdrew its objection.

Source:

Filmmaker says will not cut pigeon killing scene. The Guardian, March 4, 2005.

Film director flummoxed by dead pigeon ban. Index for Free Expression, March 4, 2005.

“It Is An Ex-Pigeon”. Channel 4, March 2005.

PCRM vs. Ohio State University

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was making a lot of noise in February about the National Institutes of Health’s decision to investigate PCRM’s complaint about OSU’s Spinal Cord Injury Techniques Training Course.

The course teaches researchers how to injure the spinal cords of mice and rats so that they can be used in research on spinal cord injuries. The course itself is partially funded by NIH, so the agency’s decision to investigate the course is not surprising. Given that the NIH has previously approved the course, this will likely be a routine investigation unless there are problems with the course that are above and beyond PCRM’s simple objection to conducting this sort of research in animals.

In its press release announcing the NIH’s decision, PCRM takes credit for something that actually hasn’t happened,

In 2002, PCRM was instrumental in stopping NIH-funded experiments by OSU researcher Dr. Michael Podell, who infected cats with feline immunodeficiency virus and injected them with methamphetamine (“speed”) in an attempt to create an animal model for HIV-positive humans using drugs.

And, in fact, Podell made an important discovery — that HIV-like illness in felines progress much faster in cats that were exposed to methamphetamines. Podell hypothesized that this might explain why HIV-related dementia has such a quick onset in human methamphetamine users.

It is true that Podell left Ohio State University in 2002 due to the level of harassment that animal rights activists directed at him, but the research did not stop. It was handed off to another researcher who used tissue cultures to study more closely this effect, but who made it clear that after that study was finished the research would return to using cats in the 4th or 5th year of the study (which would have been 2004 or 2005 — the grant ends May 31, 2005).

As anti-research group Protect Our Earths Treasures noted in 2003,

September 2003, five (5) cats arrive at OSU from Liberty Labs and enter protocol 020047/96A0038.

Why are we concerned? A portion of protocol, 96A0038, was used by Michael Podell to conduct his pilot study which lead to his own protocol – Cats On Meth.

PCRM might have moved on to other things, but the research on felines at OSU apparently continued.

Sources:

NIH to Investigate OSU’s Spinal Injury Course. Press Release, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, February 8, 2005.

Remembrance for the Animals Used In the Labs at The Ohio State University. Protect Our Earths Treasures, Undated, Accessed: February 28, 2005.

Iams to End Outside Animal Tests and Expand Its Own Internal Animal Testing Facilities

Iams, which has been targeted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals over conditions at testing labs it contracts to, announced in October that within two years it would end all testing contracts without outside laboratories. Instead, the pet food company will more than double its own animal testing facilities from 350 cats and dogs to more than 800 cats and dogs by the end of 2005.

That represents a victory of sorts for PETA which had included among its demands that Iams end all contracted animal testing, but its a bit of a pyrrhic one. The animal rights organization had been able to gain a lot of publicity on the backs of the contracted labs, especially when Iams ended up funding an animal welfare specialist at a Missouri lab who turned out to be a PETA mole. Now that Iams is essentially going to do the same amount of testing internally, it should prove more difficult for PETA to get those attention grabbing headlines.

PETA’s Mary Beth Sweetland said of the change,

I think Iams has to prove itself to us. Yes, this is part of what PETA wants. But that said, Iams has lied to us in the past. The question is, is Iams going to commit to ending testing on all animals? The expansion of that Dayton facility means more testing.

PETA sponsored a resolution at the annual shareholder meeting of Procter & Gamble, which owns Iams, calling on Iams to end all animal testing, but the measure was overwhelmingly defeated.

PETA’s Allison Ezell told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “P&G should make Iams move out of the laboratory completely, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Sources:

Iams division to change animal testing practices. Associated Press, October 7, 2004.

Iams bringing animal tests inside. Cliff Peale, Cincinnati Enquirer, October 7, 2004.

Lafley to stockholders: Few problems at P&G. Cliff Peale, Cincinnati Enquirer, October 13, 2004.

Jackson County, MI, Commission Votes to Continue Sales of Pound Animals for Research Purposes

The Jackson County Commission in Michigan earned the wrath of animal rights activists when it voted in late August to continue its practice of selling unclaimed pound animals to class B dealers as well as directly to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University for research purposes.

Commissioners Jim Videto had moved to have the county’s Animal Control Manager draft a policy to ban the sale of animals to class B dealers or directly to research institutions. According to the minutes of the meeting,

Moved by Videto supported by Lacinski to Move to Direct the Animal Control Manager to Draft a Policy to Prohibit Sales of Live Animals to Class B Dealers. Brittain asked how many people in the audience were from Leoni 1,2,3, & 4. Brittain stated that he never received one call from his constituents against the sale of animals, but he did receive 3 calls from people in support of the sale of animals to class B dealers. Mahoney supports MSU and feels there is a distinction between legitimate research, not experimentation. Elwell is in favor of selling animals, but it should be restricted. Day stated that he was here 14 years ago facing this same issue and voted against banning selling animals for research. If it werenÂ’t for the pig valve in his heart, he probably wouldnÂ’t be here now. Wilson thanked the audience for their participation in this emotional issue. He voiced concern that by stopping the sale we may be putting someoneÂ’s life in jeopardy. ItÂ’s up to the Board to separate facts from emotions. Wilson will be supporting ElwellÂ’s alternate motion. Lacinski supports VidetoÂ’s motion to prohibit the selling of live animals to class B dealers. Berkemeier said that he appreciated everyone being here tonight, but that there are many people involved with animals that have no objection to the sale of animals for research. The Board hears from people everywhere, not just here. He tried to review all of the information and found that 40%-80% of the animals at the shelter are either taken there by the owner, or abandon. Berkemeier will be supporting ElwellÂ’s alternate motion and believes in tracking the animals that are being sold to hospitals and medical facilities.

The commission then voted on the measure which failed 9-3. Supporters of the policy of selling unclaimed animals to class B dealers or research facilities then proposed that the Director of Animal Control draft a policy dealing with the sale of live animals which would continue to allow such sales but require class B dealers to document to whom the animals are eventually sold,

Moved by Elwell supported by Wilson to Direct the Director of Animal Control, with the assistance of the County Administrator, to develop a policy and agreement that deals with the sale of live animals.

Agreement shall be signed by Hodgins Kennels, or any other class “B” dealer that we sell live animals to. Said agreement shall specifically list who they can sell live animals to that came from Jackson County Animal Control. The list of such facilities may be added to (or limited), only by approval of County Agencies.

Said agreement shall contain the requirement that monthly reports be provided to the Jackson County Animal Control that clearly details which specific animals are going where, and it be in a manner that allows further tracking after the research facility is done with the animal. Jackson County Animal Control shall specify the format for said report.

All tags on dogs when they come in to Jackson County Animal Control hall remain with the dog at all times, including when a dog passes from the class ”B” dealer to an approved facility. The above noted report shall also note what tags are on the dogs.

Jackson County Animal Control shall maintain said records in a manner that is easily tracked. Copies of the records shall be available under FOIA, with a report submitted to County Agencies six months after implementation of this plan.

Commissioners shall be allowed unannounced visits to class “B” dealers Jackson County sells animals to. Such visits shall be allowed during the week, during daytime hours.

Adoptions of animals are encouraged, as are transfers to facilities such as the Cascade Humane Society.

Direct sales of live animals to specific research facilities such as Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, and other such facilities as designated in this policy, shall be continued, where it is desired by the facilities and by Jackson County.

This motion passed 11-1. Commissioner Robert Lacinski, who voted for the ban, was the lone commissioner who voted against drafting a new policy dealing with the sale of live animals.

According to the Jackson Citizen-Patriot, although is legal for animal shelters to sell animals to research facilities in Michigan, 75 other Michigan counties ban the practice. Jackson County has been allowed the selling of animals to research facilities for the last 35 years.

Sources:

County does not ban sale of strays. Brian Wheeler, The Jackson Citizen Patriot, August 25, 2004.

Archaic Michigan Commissioners Vote to Sell Strays for Vivisection. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, August 2004.

Italian Activists' "Close Down Morini" Campaign

Massimo Tettamanti and Marian Berati, two Italian animal rights activists associated with Italian anti-research organization No Vivisezione, sent out an e-mail in September asking for help in shutting down Morini, an firm that breeds animals for medical research.

In August 2002, the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy passed a statute forbidding the breeding sale or use of dogs or cats for medical research purposes. The Italian Ministry of Health appealed to Italy’s Constitutional court arguing that the law should be voided since it conflicted with a national law that allows cats and dogs to be used for medical research.

The Constitutional Court struck down the Emilia-Romagna ban, agreeing with the Ministry of Health that regions could not enact anti-research bans that contradicted national laws.

According to the e-mail sent out by Tettamanti and Berati,

But at the moment the farm cannot sell dogs tot he laboratories, yet, because in order to have the necessary permission renewed, the Mayor of the town must give an explicit authorization.

The former Mayor was absolutely in favor of the Morini farm, but A FEW WEEKS AGO A NEW MAYOR HAS BEEN ELECTED! So it’s really important to make pressure on him to convince him to “reconvert” the farm to another activity.”

The e-mail goes on to urge activists to send e-mails to the Mayor and others to convince the new Mayor to continue to refuse to allow the farm to sell animals to research laboratories.

Source:

Please, help saving beagle dogs from vivisection! Press Release, No Vivisezione, September 16, 2004.