PETA's "Happy Cows" Lawsuit Trudges on

In April 2003, California Superior Court Judge David Garcia dismissed a lawsuit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against the California Milk Advisory Board. Judges in California’s First District Court of Appeal heard PETA’s appeal of that decision this week.

The California Milk Advisory Board has produced an ad campaign that emphasizes how happy cows in California are. PETA maintains that California cows are, in fact, unhappy and that the ad campaign constitutes false advertising.

Superior Court Judge Garcia dismissed the lawsuit based on narrow grounds of sovereign immunity — essentially, the lawsuit is beside the point since the state of California is exempt from its own laws.

According to New York Lawyer, the arguments before the appeals court centered on whether or not the false advertising law can be applied to the quasi-governmental milk advisory board.

Source:

PETA Suit Says Cows Are Unhappy. New York Lawyer, November 17, 2004.

PETA Takes “Happy Cows” Lawsuit to Higher Court. Press Release, PETA, Undated.

Animal Rights Groups Try to Stop Beef Bet

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and Texas Governor Rick Perry have been making friendly wagers over the outcome of the annual OU-Texas football game for the past few years. This year, however, Henry’s plan to bet a side of beef was met with complaints from animal rights activists who suggested that the governors should bet vegetarian fare rather than beef.

Vegetarians of Oklahoma and the Vegetarian Network of Austin, Texas, issued a joint statement asking the governors “to modify the annual wager between them regarding the outcome of OU-Texas football game so that the losing side of the wager provide to the victors a meal of State-grown organic produce and grains.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals could not resist getting in on the publicity, of course, and Bruce Friedrich told the Oklahoman, “Betting a side of beef is the wrong move in every way.”

Oklahoma ended up beating Texas 12-0, so Perry will be sending along a side of beef to Oklahoma for the second year in a row.

Sources:

Governors bet beef on OU-Texas game. Associated Press, October 6, 2004.

Governor to bet beef despite protests. Associated Press, October 6, 2004.

Governors urged not to bet beef. The Oklahoman, October 6, 2004.

Red River groundout. Sports Illustrated, October 9, 2004.

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.

RSPCA Helps People Pray for The Souls of Their Dinner

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in October published and distributed to thousands of clergy across Great Britain a booklet titled “A Service for Animal Welfare.” According to the RSPCA, the booklet contains “prayers for animals slaughtered for food, as well as hunted animals and laboratory animals.”

In a press release announcing the publication of the booklet, the RSPCA said,

People who attend animal services arranged by clergy on Animal Welfare Sunday on 3 October will ask God to give them compassion for animals exploited for food, for science, and for entertainment. One prayer asks that the “Compassionate God” will “awaken within us a sense of feeling for all living creatures”, and another asks for forgiveness for our “callousness and cruelty to animals”.

The new service booklet is being distributed to thousands of clergy in an attempt to raise consciousness about the plight of animals. “Clergy don’t often appreciate that animal welfare is a Christian duty”, said the author of the new service, Oxford don, the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, “after all, it was an Anglican priest who helped found the RSPCA – the first animal welfare society in the world – in 1824.”

Linzey is the animal rights theologian who last year said that hunting was “intrinsically evil” and comparable to “rape, child abuse and torture” (see this article for more information on Linzey’s views).

Source:

RSPCA launches new church service for animals. Press Release, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, October 2004.

Some Activists Unhappy with HSUS' Use of Dead Pigs in Bear Experiments

The Humane Society of the United States is making some animal rights activist unhappy with an otherwise animal rights-style project.

The HSUS has reached agreements with Six Flags Wild Safari in New Jersey to carry out an experiment in using contraception rather than hunting to control bear populations. The HSUS will do two separate tests, one in which it will inject female bears with PZP and another where it will administer a chemical castration compound, Neutrosol, to male bears.

It is the PZP experiment that had New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance activist Joe Miele complaining in a post to AR-NEWS that “HSUS [is] exploiting pigs to save bears.” When injected into bears, PZP causes an immune system reaction that has a byproduct of preventing sperm from fertilizing a female’s eggs. PZP is obtained by taking tissue from dead pigs.

Vegan birth control it ain’t. Presumably it was undertaken on one of the days of the week when HSUS doesn’t oppose animal research.

Source:

Bear contraception to be tested at Six Flags. Brian Murray, New Jersey Star-Ledger, October 8, 2004.

DARPA Funds Research Into Rat Rescuers

Back in 2002, researchers at the State University of New York made a splash of publicity — and lots of criticism from animal rights activists (Gary Francione complained at the time that “there’s got to be a level of discomfort in implanting these electrodes”) — after they created a remote-controlled rat. The researchers implanted electrodes in the brains of rats and then used a remote control computer setup to reward the animals for fulfilling tasks. In this way, they were able to train the rats to respond to a series of remote commands, essentially creating remote-controlled rats.

Neat trick, but aside from the basic science involved in helping to further map which brain regions are involved in specific behavioral changes, does this have any real world application?

DARPA, the Pentagon’s research unit, us currently funding a project to see if such rats could be used to locate people in buildings that have collapsed from earthquakes or other disasters.

Researchers Linda and Ray Hermer-Vazquez at the University of Florida in Gainesville have been training rats to identify the scent of human beings as well as for the explosives TNT and RDX. The trick then is to be able to interpret remotely when the rats have in fact discovered such scents. According to Linda Hermer-Vazquez,

There are two neural events that we believe are hallmarks of the ‘aha’ moment for the rat.

If they can reliably pick up on those neural events and have a system that allows the rat to be pinpointed when it discovers human or explosive scents, then rats could make ideal rescuers. Unlike other solutions for finding trapped people, such as remote controlled robots, the rats would be able to navigate within complex, unpredictable environments much better as well as detecting human and explosive scents in an environment that is full of competing smells, which artificial systems still have a great deal of difficulty with.

The Hermer-Vazquez’s told New Scientist that they hope to have a viable rat rescue system developed sometime in 2005.

Typically one of the fears after large earthquakes and other natural disasters is that rats will multiply and spread disease as a result of the breakdown of sanitation and other systems. How appropriate, the, that rats might also be put in service to find victims and save the lives of people trapped after such disasters.

Source:

Rats’ brain waves could find trapped people. Emily Singer, New Scientist, September 22, 2004.

“Robo-rat” controlled by brain electrodes. New Scientist, May 1, 2002.