Researchers Map Cattle Genome

Researchers this month announced they had completed work on the initial draft of the genome for the Hereford breed of cattle.

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston, Texas, began the process of sequencing the cattle genome in December 2003 as part of a $53 million international effort to sequence the genomes of several breeds of cattle. Other teams of researchers will provide more detailed information about specific cattle genes to supplement Baylor’s initial draft.

The National Human Genome Research Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Texas together put up $46 million of the project, with the rest coming from various U.S. and international organizations.

This first draft of the cattle genome will be available free to researchers worldwide. In a statement accompanying the announcement that the cattle genome sequencing had been completed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said,

The bovine genome sequence will serve as a tool for agricultural researchers striving to improve health and disease management of cattle and enhance the nutritional value of beef and dairy products.

Sources:

Scientists create genetic map of cattle. H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press, October 6, 2004.

Bovine genome assembled. Press Release, National Institutes of Health, October 6, 2004.

University of Texas at Austin Disclaims Beagle Patent

Earlier this year, animal rights activists applauded the decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reconsider a patent that the University of Texas at Austin obtained on a beagle disease model. In late May, the University of Texas at Austin formally gave up all of its rights to the beagle patent.

The University of Texas at Austin was awarded Patent # 6,444,872 for a fungal lung disease model applying to beagles and a number of other animals. The American Anti-Vivisection Society and a number of intellectual property groups asked the USPTO to overturn the patent on the grounds that the method of infecting the animals with the fungal lung disease were not novel or original.

On May 21, the USPTO agreed to reexamine the patent, and shortly thereafter UTA announced it would voluntarily give up its patent rather than defend the patent.

The motivations of the group concerned with patents makes sense, but the animal rights motivation seems a bit odd. AAVS president Sue Leary was quoted in a press release as saying,

It is fundamentally illegitimate and flawed to consider any animal to be patentable subject matter, and defined as a machine, an article of manufacture, or an inventor’s composition of matter. The horrible treatment of these patented dogs is a disgraceful illustration of the convergence of bad science and bad policy.

But, of course, the patent office wasn’t going to consider whether or not animals are patentable — that they are is already well established in the United States and the USPTO has issued more than 450 patents involving animals. All that was at issue here was whether or not the particular method used to infect the beagles with the fungal infection was novel or original.

Leary’s concern about the horrible treatment is even odder. If the method were patented, UTA and the private company it had licensed the patent to would have charged for the method and split the profits (at least for the term of the patent). With the patent rights disclaimed, anyone can use this method royalty free immediately.

So, in effect, Leary and her group fought to make it easier and cheaper for researchers to use this particular method.

Way to go, Sue!

Source:

Beagles win first round in fight for reprieve from patenting. Press Release, American Anti-Vivisection Society, May 21, 2004.

Groups object to UT’s beagle project. Associated Press, February 26, 2004.

Patent on beagle dogs cancelled. Press Release, American Anti-Vivisection Society, May 27, 2004.

They're Torturing Pigs in Texas

The Texas Establishment for Animal Rights created quite a stir a couple weeks ago when it uncovered
a dastardly crime against animals taking place at a school in Lewisville,
Texas. It seems that the school system has for several years sponsored
a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in which students donate money
on behalf of a teacher. The teacher receiving the largest donations has
to kiss a pig brought in for the occasion (according to one resident,
last year the lucky winner got to kiss a pig at the halftime of a football
game with over 5,000 people in attendance).

TEAR was outraged at this
horror. Among another claims made in an email release by the group (titled
“Pig Tormented At High School”) “they [the school] are
teaching the kids that animals are somehow inferior to people and that
it is a punishment to have to kiss one.”

Although some of the activists
claimed pressure on the school was mounting to stop the pig kissing contest,
in fact it went forward and according to school officials I talked to
via email, at no point did anyone contemplating canceling the pig kissing.

Special mention goes to
an administrator at Delay who purportedly told the school’s principle,
“Maybe we should just roast the pig and see how they like that.”

Sources:

Urgent help…pig contest. Texas Establishment for Animal Rights, Press Release, January 26, 1999.

Urgent help…pig contest–correction. Texas Establishment for Animal Rights, Press Release, January 27, 1999.

Response on Kissing the Pig Contest. Bill Jones, E-mail communication, January 28, 1999.