Don’t Tell Joan Dunayer: Scientists Use Wasps to Detect Chemical Weapons

Researchers at the University of Georgia-Tifton have been exploring an interesting way to check for trace amounts of explosives or chemical toxins — they’re using wasps of all things.

The wasps, Microplitis croceipes in this case, is trained using conditioning methods to detect a chemical odor. According to USA Today,

To do their work, five wasps — each a half-inch long — are placed in a plastic cylinder that is 15 inches tall. This “Wasp Hound,” which costs roughly $100 per unit, has a vent in one end and a camera that connects to a laptop computer.

When the wasps pick up an odor they’ve been trained to detect they gather by the vent — a response that can be measured by the computer or actually seen by observers.

The wasps are able to detect chemicals when exposed to concentrations as low as four parts per billion.

Researchers hope to go to pilot testing soon and could have commercially available applications of their wasp research available within 5 to 10 years.

Just don’t tell activists like Joan Dunayer who think even insects should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rights.


Scientists recruit wasps for war on terror. Mimi Hall, USA Today, December 27, 2005.

Humane Education — Just A Synonym for Animal Rights Indoctrination

The Long Island Press recently ran a fawning portrayal of humane education efforts in New York State.

New York is one of a number of states that has a law requiring that courses in human education be offered. That law requires that,

The officer, board or commission authorized or required to prescribe courses of instruction shall cause instruction to be given in every elementary school under state control or supported wholly or partly by public money of the state, in the humane treatment and protection of animals and the importance of the part they play in the economy of nature as well as the necessity of controlling the proliferation of animals which are subsequently abandoned and caused to suffer extreme cruelty.

. . .

The provisions of this section shall not be construed to prohibit or constrain vocational instruction in the normal practice of animal husbandry, or prohibit or constrain instruction in environmental education activities as established by the department of environmental conservation.

For some animal rights activists, this is a wedge to get animal rights ideology into elementary schools. The Long Island Press profiles Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers executive director Lisbet Chiriboga. How does Chiriboga see humane education (emphasis added),

Our vision of humane education is broad in that it calls us to question and examine our cultural assumptions regarding the inherent value of all species and nature, helps us explore our responsibility toward the Earth and other living beings and enables us to connect our daily choices with their global impact.

The Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers site provides links to three articles explaining human education, including Lydia Antoncic’s “A New Era of Humane Education: How Troubling Youth Trends and a Call for Character Education Are Breathing New Life into Efforts to Educate Our Youth about the Value of All Life.” Antoncic is the founder of HEART, and her May 2003 article is based on an alarmism about the state of American youth,

A passing glance at newspaper headlines today reveals what
haunts most parents and educators: violence among our youth is extensive,
drug and alcohol abuse is prevalent, and teen pregnancy is a
common occurrence. These symptoms suggest a chronic deficiency in
the ethical education of our youth.

In fact, the teen pregnancy rate has dropped every year for more than a decade in the United States (the 2000 teen pregnancy rate was 28 percent lower than the 1990 rate). Arrests of youths for violent crime have also declined significantly since the early 1990s. Apparently teens have somehow been able to change their behaviors without humane education, thank you very much.

For Antoncic and her ilk, the problem with the educational system is that it reinforces the widely held view that it is morally permissible for human beings to use animals for food, medical research and other uses. For example, in a section of her paper entitled “What Humane Education Is Not”, Antoncic writes,

At first glance, it appears that the approach described above would produce uniform results, but that is not the case. Misinformation has produced many efforts to include materials in curricula that clearly do not constitute humane education. For example, a well-meaning school may attempt to teach kindness and respect to animals through projects that glorify the Iditarod Race in Alaska. In such projects, educators portray the dogs as happy and eager to run the treacherous race across Alaska in the name of sport. The dogs who suffer injuries and death in this grueling expedition are mentioned rarely. Instead, promoters depict the race as a noble act by the dogs.

The treatment of farm animals is another area that is not fairly represented in schools. Animal industry advocates have gone to great lengths to create learning exercises for students that depict farm animals as happy creatures that can move around freely, spend leisurely time outdoors, and exhibit natural behaviors. Nowhere do teachers discuss the reality of factory farming, where animals are barely given freedom to move or express natural behaviors. In addition, other special interest groups work to preserve and teach their way of life through education programs targeting youth, despite evidence indicating ill-effects, such as gun camps that target youth in an effort to preserve hunting or websites tailored for young girls that promote the consumption of animal products. Without adequate monitoring, it is difficult to ensure that materials provided to schools embody the true principles of humane education.

Antoncic then approvingly quotes a special-ed teacher from Ohio as saying,

Far from being value free, schools promote, if not actively, at least in subtle
ways, the following beliefs: Animals are ours to use as we see fit; their suffering
is inconsequential; our benefit is the primary criterion governing
their use; animals are simply a collection of muscles, bones, nerves and
tissues; and the use of animals is not an issue to be seriously discussed.

Antoncic does, to her credit, argue that students should be allowed to make up their own minds, but based on the examples from HEART’s website, this is simply lip service — the goal is not to promote a reasoned debate about animal use (which would be inappropriate, to my mind, for elementary students anyway), but rather to convince students of the correctness of the animal rights position. For example, HEART on its website offers examples from teachers to “inspire others.” Here’s one such example from reading specialist Trudy Schilder,

I am a Reading Specialist who works with 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders…very open and impressionable age range. I have been a “humane education specialist” since the age of 4! Teaching has given be the blessed opportunity at every crossroad to show these children what it means to me “humane”.

My favorite prompt is this: “How many of you believe that animals have feelings?”… To those who agree, I ask “What kind of feelings do animals have?” If your lucky, one child might pop right up with, “The same feelings we have!” That is the answer I am going for, but usually it takes a whole list of feelings at which time I ask them…”Do these feelings sound familiar”? Looking for, “Yes, these are the same feelings we have”. This opening launches an enthusiastic, and “eye opening” discussion for those who didn’t raise their hands in agreement. This dialogue, led by the teacher can go in many, many directions. At some point I segue into my belief that insects and bugs have the same feelings as well!! It often takes some loving convincing, but it is well worth all the time it takes!

This is not letting children make up their own minds, this is straightforward ideological indoctrination of very young children. Is this what New York state wants animal rights activists to be doing? To lovingly convince 3rd graders that insects are just like them emotionally?


Teaching kids humane education. Alicyn Leigh, Long Island Press, August 19, 2004.

Teacher Connection. HEART Web Site, Accessed September 16, 2004.

A New Era In Humane Education: How Troubling Youth Trends And A Call For Character Education Are Breathing New Life Into Efforts To Educate Our Youth About The Value Of All Life. Lydia S. Antoncic, May 12, 2003.

PETA Complains about Using Chickens as Sentinels for West Nile Virus

The Washington Post ran a story in early June about an ongoing project in Virginia to use chickens as a sentinel species to provide advance warning of West Nile virus. Maryland abandoned a similar project in 2000 in large part due to protests by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals along with concerns that the program was ineffective, and PETA’s not to happy about West Virginia’s program.

The $300,000 program has chickens situated throughout the state waiting to be bitten by mosquitoes. Officials take blood samples from the animals twice a month looking for the presence of antibodies to West Nile virus. Chickens do not get sick from West Nile, but any animal that tests positive for the antibodies is euthanized.

PETA, of course, thinks this is incredibly cruel. The Post quoted PETA research associate Cem Akin as saying,

Given the caged confinement endured by sentinel chickens and the painful blood samples taken regularly and the often sub-part conditions these animals are kept in, coupled with the complete ineffectiveness of such testing in general, we think other methods should be used to monitor for West Nile virus, such as monitoring dead bird populations, dead crows specifically.

Cyrus Lesser, chief of the mosquito control section of the Maryland Department of Agriculture, told the Post that Maryland abandoned its sentinel chicken program largely to avoid protests from animal rights activists,

We didn’t want to be on the defensive against another issue. In mosquito control, we have issues of pesticides, disease. We’ve even had people who are inquiring who think mosquitoes have rights, too.

Well, do not forget that PETA thinks ants “are sentient beings” so they would probably be defend the rights of mosquitoes as well.


Fighting a disease with hidden hens. Annie Gowen, Washington Post, June 6, 2003.

Joan Dunayer on Steven Wise and Peter Singer

In 2001 Joan Dunayer and Peter Singer were involved in a public dispute over the intricacies of animal rights arguments. Singer partially panned a book written by Dunayer for her claim that the death of an animal such as a chicken was just as tragic as a human being. Dunayer shot back that this, of course, is at the heart of what animal rights is about and criticized what she said was Singer’s reform-minded agenda as opposed to Dunayer’s abolition perspective.

Dunayer recently distributed the text of a speech she gave at an Austrian national animal rights conference attacking Singer and animal rights lawyer Steven Wise.

Dunayer’s main complaint against Wise revolves around the model he offers in Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights which relies on a number of criteria related to the mental capabilities of animals to decided whether or not they should be accorded rights. Wise’s argument is basically that animals that, in his view, share some cognitive abilities with human beings should be given legal protection — only humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and bottle-nosed dolphins clearly meet Wise’s criteria.

Dunayer is upset by this argument because Wise denies rights to insects, which she maintains are capable of reasoning. She offers a long-winded and not terribly coherent description of honeybees “reasoning”,

In his first book, Rattling the Cage, Wise completely dismissed the idea that insects might reason. I told him I knew of much evidence that honeybees and other insects reason. He requested references. The evidence I supplied included the following: When a honeybee colony requires a new hive site, honeybee scouts search for a cavity of suitable location, dryness, and size. Each scout evaluates potential sites and reports back, dancing about the site that she most recommends. A honeybee scout may advertise one site over a period of days, but she repeatedly inspects her choice. She also examines sites proposed by others. If a sister’s find proves more desirable than her own, the honeybee stops advocating her original choice and starts dancing in favor of the superior site. In other words she’s capable of changing her mind and her “vote.” Eventually colony members reach a consensus.

Dunayer says this and similar evidence proves that honeybees reason, and apparently Wise agrees with her. But Wise still denies rights to honeybees and other insects, “Because, he says, they’re invertebrates. If they were vertebrates — like us — he’d grade them .75 or .8, and they’d qualify for rights. Too bad, honeybees.”

Dunayer, on the other hand, would clearly grant rights to honeybees and the rest of the invertebrate kingdom.
Dunayer also objects to Wise’s use of a common animal rights argument — that since some animals have cognitive abilities similar to those of some human patients such as very young children, the animals should be accorded rights. Dunayer finds this argument insulting . . . to the animals.

Wise advocates assessing the intelligence of nonhuman animals by giving them tests designed for human children, even though, by his own admission, tests designed for children may not be valid for nonhumans. Comparing nonhumans to human children insults humans. Some birds, such as Clark’s nutcrackers, can remember thousands of soil locations in which they’ve buried seed. What test designed for children, or even adult humans, possibly could reveal that? If captive adult gorillas and bottle-nosed dolphins seem to resemble human children, it’s because certain humans choose to view them that way and because they’ve been placed in stultifying environments that tallow scant expression of their natural adult nonhuman abilities. Personally I’m grateful that nonhuman animals aren’t like children. Imagine how annoying it would be if fishes, birds, and other nonhumans started going around whining, “I wanna cookie. I wanna cookie. I wanna cookie.”

Dunayer takes this argument to its logical extreme several paragraphs later (emphasis added),

We need to create the moral outrage that American abolitionists created about black enslavement, until the groundswell of public opinion forces legislation that recognizes sentience as the basis for rights. If some individual judges rule that a chimpanzee is a rights-holder because the chimpanzee shows human-like intelligence rather than because the chimp is sentient, we’ll have set the wrong kind of precedent. We don’t want a few nonhuman animals to be regarded a honorary humans. We want to get rid of humanness as the basis for rights.

Dunayer then carries her argument to Singer, criticizing him for having written approvingly of Wise’s argument. Dunayer is upset that Singer does not grant much consideration to chickens or fish. Dunayer responds,

Fourth, Singer’s disrespect for chickens, fishes, and so many other nonhuman animals is inconsistent with his own espoused philosophy, which values benign individuals more than those who, on balance, cause harm. By that measure, chickens and fishes are worthier than most humans, who needlessly cause much suffering and death (for example, by eating or wearing animal-derived products).

Dunayer adds that every animal is literally equal and worthy of rights, including houseflies,

Speciesism’s hallmark trait is denial of nonhuman individuality. In reality, no animal is replaceable. Both physically and mentally, ever sentient being is unique. Every lobster, every crow, every housefly, is an individual who has a unique life experience and never will exist again. But that’s not how abusers see it. For example, the flesh industry. In the flesh industry’s view — and that of flesh-eaters — chickens, fishes, and other nonhumans can be killed by the billions each year provided that others of their species remain available for future killing. Essentially, Singer has the same view.

Yes, that’s right, housefly rights.


Animal Equality. Joan Dunayer, Speech given at Austrian animal rights convention, September 5-9, 2002.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Ants?

The Los Angeles Times wrote a profile this week of Milton Levine who, in 1956, created a novelty craze with his Uncle Milton Ant Farm. Since 1956, Levine’s company has sold more than 20 million ant farms and sales for the product are still strong.

The reporter decided to call People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for their take on ant farms, and PETA’s Stephanie Boyles obliged with the following,

Ants are sentient beings, like we are, and have a right to life like we do, and they shouldn’t be shown the level of disrespect the producers of ant farms show them. We can learn about ants without having an ant farm. Kids end up getting tired of them and they perish.

Usually anti-animal rights folks are told that they are being disingenous when they claim that animal rights will inevitably be pushed to its logical outcome of granting insects and other very primitive life forms rights. It is nice to see PETA admit that it thinks even ants are “sentient beings” like us and should be accorded rights.


Creator of the Ant Farm Finds That His Tiny Workers Can Still Pull Their Weight. David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2002.

Can Worms Suffer?

This weekend I happened to be watching cartoons on the WB Network. Several times during the commercial breaks an anti-dissection advertisement paid for by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In the ad, which features WB actor David Gallagher, Gallagher makes the absurd claim that worms can suffer.

Gallagher explains that around the country many students are asked to dissect rabbits and other animals. As an aside, Gallahger adds that kids are also asked to dissect worms and assures the viewer that they can suffer too (PETA has a RealVideo version of the advertisement linked from this page).

When opponents of animal rights point out that the claims made for higher order animals will inevitably lead to protection for even insects and other lower forms of life, they are accused of using a straw man. But here’s the largest animal rights organization in the United States explicitly backing the view that even a worm can suffer and should be given special protections.

There really is no end to the absurdities that animal rights ultimately entails.