Activists Steal Dogs Used for Genetic Disease Research

In August, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for stealing a dog and her five puppies from Jennersmead Research Farm at Massey University in New Zealand.

What makes the dogs in this case so special is that they are carriers of mucopolysaccharidosis, a degenerative genetic disease that in human beings typically leads to death before the age of 10. In dogs, the disease typically results in death by the second year of life.

The owner of the dog, who carries a copy of the defective gene but does not suffer from the disease, had apparently loaned her to the university for breeding purposes.

Grant Guilford, head of Massey’s Veterinary School, told The Dominion Post,

It [the genetic disease] causes wasting of the nervous system till by the end the dogs — and humans can only stagger about. We were given the dogs by a farmer who is very upset that they have been stolen. We were working with the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital on gene therapy to find a cure for this disease . . . Rehoming these dogs will put the families who take them at risk of serious trauma when the well-loved dog dies down the track.

Not that Guilford had to worry for very long. The dog and five puppies turned up at an animal shelter after being turned in a few days later by people who said that they had found the animals “dumped by the river” near the animal shelter. The shelter recognized the dogs as the stolen animals and returned them to the university.

Massey University is now in the process of reevaluating its security arrangements at its animal facilities. Guilford told the New Zealand Press Association,

The bigger problem [beyond this theft] is that the animal rightists are generalising their attacks beyond this one farm and now are doing their best to defile everything that Massey does, and so we’ve now got issues to consider whether the veterinary school itself is safe. That’s a problem, there’s 800 students and staff a day in the building.

Sources:

Bitch and puppies stolen from lab handed in. Michael Daly, New Zealand Press Association, August 29, 2005.

Activists ‘liberate’ diseases lab dogs. Don Kavanagh, The Dominion Post (New Zealand), August 27, 2005.

New Zealand Whaling Commissioner — Whaling Moratorium Likely to Be Rescinded Soon

New Zealand’s representative to the International Whaling Commission, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, gave a speech in March in which he predicted that the moratorium on commercial whaling is likely to be reversed sometime in the next few years.

In an interview on New Zealand Radio, Palmer didn’t really say anything that hasn’t become obvious over the past few years. Those nations that want to re-start whaling have done an excellent job of recruiting other pro-whaling countries to join (often providing said countries with economic incentives to side with the pro-whaling forces). As Palmer notes,

They [IWC nations] adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982 and it came into force in 1986. Since that time, most New Zealanders, and I think many people around the world, have thought, well, there are not going to be anymore whales killed by commercial whaling. That position is now under threat. There is going on in the International Whaling Commission, a concerted effort to come up with a plan to allow commercial whaling to resume. It is going to be very, very difficult indeed. There are meetings going on. There is one in Copenhagen at the end of the month that I am going to. There is another is Korea in the middle of June which will be a very important meeting to determine where this effort is going.

There are a number of nations who have joined the International Whaling Commission in recent times who are in favor of a resumption of commercial whaling. For the first time, the majority is under threat. That is to say, the majority of the nations who belong to the International Whaling Commission do not want a resumption of commercial whaling, and that majority looks to be under threat. On my calculations, it seems that those who favor whaling now may have a majority of about two. Now of course to bring about a resumption of commercial whaling, you need a majority of 75 percent. But having a simple majority will change the whole philosophical approachÂ…

Palmer also noted that the IWC currently has almost no enforcement ability,

Enforcement by the Commission in relation to scientific whaling is impossible because of the provisions of the Treaty. But the enforcement mechanisms of the Treaty in relation to the rest of the activities of the Commission are also exceedingly weak as you state. They are weak because there is no effective way of actually enforcing the provisions of this Convention to see they are complied with.

The only thing keeping Japan and other countries from openly restarting commercial whaling today is the public relations hit they would take for breaching the moratorium. That lack of enforcement is going to be a major problem if and when commercial whaling resumes and it comes time to set enforceable quota limits.

Sources:

Whaling moratorium likely to be dumped, New Zealand official warns. Associated Press, March 15, 2005.

Linda Clark Interview with Sir Geoffrey Palmer. March 16, 2005.

New Zealand to Ban Up Skirt Filming

According to the BBC, New Zealand is planning to crack down on up skirt filming — wherein voyeurs use camera phones, camcorders or other devices in public to surreptitiously film under women’s clothes.

A surprising number of jurisdictions, including many states in the United States, discovered as the practice became more common they didn’t have specific laws to address the problem (and, generally, recording video in public places is considered unproblematic in most instances).

New Zealand Justice Minister Phil Goff told the BBC,

It is the most serious form of intrusion that someone can make into the privacy of another individual, filming them in the most intimate situations that you can imagine. Technology makes the problem much worse, both in terms of offensive publications and in terms of voyeuristic behavior. We’ve got to update the legislation to cater for the changes in technology which make it easier for people both to capture the images and to distribute them.

New Zealand is currently proposing changes in its laws that would make up skirt filming punishable by up to three years in prison. Knowingly possessing video or other materials obtained in this manner would be punishable by up to one year in prison.

Source:

NZ aims to jail ‘up skirt’ snappers. Kim Griggs, The BBC, December 9, 2004.

New Zealand Animal Rights Activists Claim Xenotransplantation Cruel, Dangerous, and Everything Else In The Kitchen Sink

Give New Zealand’s Save Animals From Exploitation some credit for their opposition to xenotransplantation — if you do not agree with one of their arguments against xenotransplantation, they’re hoping you’ll find at least one of their potpourri of arguments appealing.

First, of course, using animals to save human lives is cruel. Save Animals From Exploitation’s Hans Kriek told Stuff.Co.NZ,

Animal organs used for xenotransplantation are not by-products from the slaughterhouse but come from transgenic animals which suffer genetic engineering, cloning, reproductive manipulations, surgical operations and close confinement in unnatural indoor conditions.

But what if you don’t consider the production of transgenic animals particularly cruel? Not to worry — xenotransplantation could also endanger the very existence of humanity. Again, according to Kriek,

All animals harbor viruses, and there is no better way to jump the species barrier than to implant animal organs into humans.

. . .

Xenotransplantation raises the stakes even further by increasing the danger of new, dreadful epidemics.

Which, of course, is why researchers are going to use transgenic animals. But don’t look at the man behind the curtain for the moment.

Instead, ponder the horrific outcome if it should turn out that many people reject the idea that creating transgenic is cruel and the virus situation is exaggerated. What if xenotransplantation actually reaches a point where it is viable?

Well, in that case, Kriek wants us to know that its all about those greedy researchers getting rich off our pain,

Xenotransplantation is heavily promoted by biotech and pharmaceutical companies who would gain huge profits from breeding transgenic animals and selling anti-rejection and other drugs.

Damn bastards! Actually spending large amounts of money researching xenotransplantation and expecting to make a profit off it at the end of the day, when we all know that all other medical technologies from life-saving insulin to heart transplants are completely free and have never involved any animal research at all.

Source:

Harvesting organs from animals for human transplants ‘cruel’. Kent Atkinson, Stuff.Co.NZ, February 2, 2005.

Those Dastardly Scientists Give Evolution Expert and Animal Rights Activist Award

Massey University biologist David Penny recently received New Zealand’s top science award, the Rutherford Medal. Penny is a biologist who earlier this year published a paper in Nature speculating on how and why human beings evolved such relatively large brains. Penny’s hypothesis didn’t go over very well with animal rights activists, however, since his paper places meat eating as an important reason for the relatively sudden increase in brain size.

Penny’s hypothesis is complicated, but allow me to oversimplify it a bit. One of the downsides of having a brain the size of homo sapiens is that the damn thing needs a lot of energy to maintain it and keep it going. Although today there are plenty of plant sources that can yield a high protein, vegetarian diet, most of those sources simply wouldn’t have been widely available to early homo sapiens. For example, beans are a good source of protein, but only became domesticated very recently in human history. Penny’s conclusion? As he wrote in Nature, “an increased proportion of meat in the diet of early humans was important for an increase in brain size.”

Of course to some animal rights activists, that’s heresy. For example, here’s how one activist criticized the award to Dr. Penny on the AR-News mailing list,

This is yet another example of organized science in the service of industry engaging in dastardly support of vested interests that are contrary to the ethics of sound science. Is [sic] does not take a rocket scientist to deflate this flatulent hypothesis — look at the brains and social lives of elephants, who are vegetarian, and when it comes to doing good for their own kind and for their environment, do a far better job than those arrogant primates who believe that meat eating gave them bigger and better brains: Bigger egos, and little else.

Ah, yes, those dastardly scientists giving out awards in slavish obedience to “vested interests.” The elephant counter example was at least good for a laugh. The commentator apparently didn’t see fit to mention that although elephants do have large brains, they are smaller relative to body size than is the human brain and, more importantly, elephants in the wild have to spend as much as 20 hours a day foraging for the 300-500 pounds of vegetation they require daily to sustain their body mass and brain.

The person who posted this is also apparently unaware that Penny is himself something of an animal rights activist. Penny is affiliated with the Great Ape Project which seeks to have New Zealand amend its constitution to recognize the rights of Great Apes.

But he’s probably doing that simply in the service of industry and the dastardly support of vested interests. At least, unlike the AR-News individual, Penny knows the difference between science and ideology.

Source:

Evolution expert takes highest science award. Simon Collins, The New Zealand Herald, September 25, 2004.

New Zealand's Egg Producer Federation Says It Would Prefer Bare Facts to Activists' Bare Bodies

In response to a campaign by animal rights activists in which models stripped to oppose cage production of eggs, the executive director of the Egg Producers Federation said he would prefer to debate the “bare facts” rather than “bare bodies.”

Egg Producers Federation executive director Michael brooks said in a press release,

This sort of publicity-seeking [by models stripping] trivializes a very important issue.

Brooks went on to note that the production methods of eggs are dictated largely by the need to present consumers with low cost food. According to Brooks,

This is an issue of the right of consumers to choose what sort of product they wish to buy. At present, less than 6 percent of eggs purchased are free-range. Over 92 percent are from caged hens with the balance barn-raised. Eggs are a vital and low cost source of protein consumed particularly by low socio-economic groups who cannot necessarily afford the much greater costs of free range eggs.

The public may say that they disapprove of caging in a telephone survey, but every day at the super market they buy crate produced eggs.

It is also an issue of the right to farm and behind the industry are families, individuals and communities that rely on egg production for their livelihood.

If we are to take actions that ultimately destroy an industry, we need to have very good reasons. Most of the arguments put forward by animal welfare activists simply do not stand up to scientific analysis

.

The Egg Producers Federation notes, for example, that the activists are wrong when they claim that egg producers remove the beaks from hens. According to the Egg Producers Federation,

Birds’ beaks are not removed and never have been. In fact, less than 40 percent of caged hens have the tips of their beaks trimmed — a process undertaken as small chickens when the beak is soft and there is little or no pain. It is a humane practice designed to avoid feather pecking and cannibalism. . . . Beak trimming is also practiced on free range farms for the same reason.

Brooks sums up by saying,

The point is that these matters are not simple or black and white, as the activists lead us to believe. They are trying to turn this issue into one of heroes and villains which is totally inappropriate.

On the other hand if I were an animal rights activist deciding between resting on the strength of my argument or models stripping, I think I’d have to go with the stripping models too.

Source:

Bare facts rather than bare bodies. Press Release, Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand, September 20, 2004.