Human Trials of Canine Paralysis Treatment to Begin

Human trials will begin shortly on an implantable device that successfully promoted nerve regrowth in dogs and may be able to increase nerve regeneration in people who suffer from some forms of spinal cord injury.

In experiments with dogs, the device stimulated regrowth of nerve cells if the device was implanted within two weeks after certain spinal cord injuries. The device emits a very weak electrical field of about 600 microvolts per millimeter which mimics the electrical field present during rapid nerve growth in human and animal embryos.

In canine trials, about 85 percent of the injured animals showed improvements in bodily functions, including a few who regained the ability to walk after being paralyzed. Whether or not such results will translate to human beings remains to be seen.

“Something will happen,” neurosurgeon Scott Shapiro told the Associated Press. “The question is how robust the response will be. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

As Naomi Kleitman, education director for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, told the Associated Press,

The fact that they’re going to a clinical trial in Indianapolis is very exciting and it’s good evidence that the field has made progress, but obviously we have to be realistic. There’s no guarantee any of this will work in humans.

But, of course, it is important to go ahead and try, regardless of the outcome.


Trials begin for paralysis patients. Rick Callahan, The Associated Press, December 10, 2000.

HSUS Pals Burlington Coat Factory Targeted by Activists

Several months ago the Humane Society of the United States discovered that some Fur-trimmed coats being
sold by Burlington Coat Factory contained fur from dogs. The story was
widely reported in the national media and BCF agreed to not only stop
importing coats containing fur from dogs but also donated $100,000 to
HSUS to help that organization track and campaign against the import of
fur from dogs into the United States.

As I pointed out, the BCF actions
were the result of embracing what Adrian Morrison calls the “muddled middle.”
If using dog fur is wrong, certainly using mink or other animal fur, not
to mention leather, is wrong. By acting in such an unprincipled way, BCF
was only inviting further harassment from animal rights activists who
won’t be satisfied until no animal products are used in the production
of garments.

In fact, animal rights activists
now appear to be aggressively targeting BCF.

The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade and Last Chance for Animals sent a letter to BCF demanding that
they stop selling coats with fur of any sort by March 26. The two groups have designated Sunday, May 30th as a National
Day of Action Against Burlington Coat Factory. As the two groups put their
complaint in a recent press release, “Burlington Coat Factory has
so far refused to stop selling fur and fur trim, despite the big expose
where they were busted with dog fur. Somehow this company fails to see
the similarities between canines (foxes and coyotes) and canines (dogs).
Therefore they still sell fur from foxes, coyotes, raccoons and who knows
what else.”

In a separate press release, the two
groups reiterated that, “The only way BCF can avoid the protests is to voluntarily
give up selling fur by May 30, or agree to a phase-out plan.”


BCF demo next Sunday. Coaliation to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, February 21, 1999.

National day of action against Burlington. Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, April 9, 1999.

Burlington Coat Factory rejects peace overtures of anti-fur coalition; protests set. Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, March 29, 1999.

More Xenotransplantation Advances

Even if they don’t lead
immediately to treatments in human beings, the announcement of two recent
advances in genetic engineering of organs provides more evidence of the
sort of technologies likely to hit the mainstream of medical technology
before the end of the next decade.

In mid-February researchers
announced in Science News that they had successfully transplanted
bladders grown in the lab into six beagles. The scientists grew the bladder
cells around a plastic form to make it take the shape of the bladder and
then implanted the artificial bladders in the dogs. Within three months
the artificial bladders were completely active and some of the dogs have
had the bladders for almost a year with no problems.

Obviously getting the technology
to work in human beings is a whole other problem, but these experiments
are doing for this technology what the early animal experiments on organ
transplantations did – they suggest solutions and help scientists better
understand the problems they will encounter when seeking to grow human
organs in the lab.

In a related story, Canadian
researchers are hoping to take that step of translating animal experiments
into a treatment for human beings sometime this year. Researchers there
expect for the first time to use a genetically engineered pig liver to
keep a human being alive while waiting for a liver transplant from a human

Pharmaceutical company Novartis,
which has been harshly criticized by animal rights activists for its efforts
in genetic engineering, is reportedly ready to spend up to $1 billion
to develop a viable pig liver. To avoid the risk of spreading disease
from pigs to human beings, the pigs will be raised under special conditions
to assure they are disease free. The pigs are isolated from other animals
and housed in a sterile environment. The pigs are fed by hand to avoid
microbes that might pass from pig to pig while suckling.

The impetus to move forward
with this technology is especially strong in Canada which has a rather
low rate of human organ donation – only 12.1 donors per million people
compared to the U.S. with 17.7 donors per million people.

As I noted two weeks ago,
the Campaign for Responsible Transplantation attacked Americans for Medical Progress for highlighting former Chicago Bear running back Walter Payton’s
recent announcement that he has a rare fatal liver disease. The CRT attack
on AMP, however, seemed like an act of desperation. They tried to throw
everything but the kitchen sink at AMP – xenotransplantation might not
work, it poses a risk of transmitting disease across species, it could
be avoided by increasing the donor pool, etc.

There are many responses to
these claims (CRT doesn’t seem to keep up with recent scientific advancements
in genetic engineering) but as far as I can tell the bottom line is this:
animal rights activism in the medical experimentation field has been successful
largely to the extent that it has engaged people’s sympathies against
hurting animals, especially unnecessarily. But that play on emotionalism
is a double-edged sword, since most people are openly “speciesist”
who, when it comes down to it, will find the suffering and pain of Walter
Payton far more compelling and worthy of alleviation than that of a pig
whose death could save Payton’s life.

What seems to anger CRT to
no end is that AMP gave them a taste of their own medicine with their
focus on Payton. I say more power to them.

Just how long have humans been hunting with dogs anyway?

A recent book on human evolution suggests humans began Hunting
with domesticated wolves 135,000 years ago – right after our species began
migrating out of Africa. According to evolutionary biologist John Allman,
the domestication of wolves may have played a key role in Homo Sapiens
successful competition with other species, including the Neanderthals.

In Allman’s book,
Evolving Brains, he argues that domesticated wolves “would
have been a huge selective advantage for whatever human population did
that because it would have allowed modern humans to move into areas that
were previously inhospitable.”

Interesting hypothesis,
but is there any evidence for it? Allman believes DNA evidence and observations
of contemporary humans, wolves and dogs support his claim.

DNA evidence of humans
suggests homo sapiens began migrating out of Africa into Asia about 140,000
years ago. Analysis of canine DNA suggests domestication of wolves began
about 135,000 years ago.


Human hunting skills linked to domestication of wolves. Minerva Canto, Associated Press, January 19, 1999.

Washington Lawmakers Consider Overturning Cougar Initiative

In 1996,
Washington state voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 655 which banned
the use of hounds to Hunt Cougars in the state. Two years later many people
are having second thoughts about the wisdom of the law, and the state
legislature may override the initiative.

Those who supported
the initiative used the standard arguments – using dogs to hunt cougars
was cruel and unsporting. But, above all, the dogs were extremely effective.
In 1995 hunters in Washington killed 283 cougars using hounds, but by
1997 only 132 cougars were killed, which some people believe is the crux
of the problem.

the passage of the initiative the number of cougars in Washington has
soared, as has the number of reports of human-cougar contact. The cougar
population rose to about 2,500 and the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife reported cougar-human incidents rose from 495 in 1996 to 927
in 1998.

contact has the potential for tragedy. In August 1998, a 5-year-old girl
was ambushed and severely wounded by a cougar near the campsite she was
visiting. In another incident, two cougars became trapped in a school

of Initiative 655 claim the ban on dogs caused the cougar population to
increase dramatically, and they suspect the big cats are drawn to suburban
areas to prey on domestic animals and livestock. Supporters claim the
cougar population had been increasing even before the passage of the initiative
and the increased reports of human-cougar contact are more likely the
result of increased awareness and press coverage of the issue during and
after the vote on the initiative.

cause of the increase in cougar incidents may be up for debate, but the
ban on using dogs highlights an odd aspect of animal rights philosophy
– namely that it simultaneously seeks to place all sentient beings on
the same moral plane but does not apply morality consistently among all
sentient beings.

Consider the animal
rights objection to the use of hunting dogs. I take the claim to be that
(a) cougars are sentient, (b) using carnivorous predators to hunt down sentient
beings is cruel, (c) sentient beings should not be subjected to cruelty,
so (d) predators (dogs) should not be used to hunt down cougars.

To avoid
turning this into an argument against all predation by sentient beings
(leaving Ingrid Newkirk‘s fantasies aside for the moment), animal rights
activists must perform the logical leap of maintaining that of all sentient
beings, only for homo sapiens is predation forbidden on
moral grounds. Furthermore, that moral edict extends to any sort
of interaction which may assist any act of predation.

If a
pack of wolves decide to attack a cougar, this presumably is simply part
of the natural world. If a human being takes a pack of dogs to hunt a
cougar, somehow the act is transformed into an immoral one simply by the
presence of the homo sapiens. To paraphrase George Orwell, all sentient
beings are equal, but some are less equal than others.


Bills would send hounds after cougars. Deidre Silva, The Spokane Spokesman-Review, January 21, 1999.

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

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.