- In November, Russian surgeon Vladimir Demikhov, who conducted the
worldÂ’s first animal heart and lung transplants, died at the age of
82. Demikrov also conducted the worldÂ’s first coronary bypass in a dog
- Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently
announced they found a sequence of amino acids that reduces the level
of kidney damage caused by lupus in mice. Lupus afflicts more than 1
million Americans, and about 5 percent of those with lupus suffer from
potentially fatal kidney damage. In the trials those mice left untreated
died, on average, after only 35 weeks, while 80 percent of those treated
with the amino acid were still alive after 60 weeks and most showed
no kidney damage. Development of a similar treatment for human beings
is years away from the testing phase.
- The Swedish branch of the Animal Liberation Front is threatening to
attack the web sites of two Swedish laboratories as well as the Swedish
Department of Agriculture on January 15 from 3 p.m. GMT to 6 p.m. GMT
“as a protest against vivisection and in memory of all the animals
imprisoned, tortured and murdered in the labs.”
In mid-December, Science
announced that the millimeter-long worm Caenorhadditis elegans
became the first animal to have its entire genetic structure sequenced.
Coming in at 97 million bases and over 19,000 different genes, C. elegans
might be the first animal to be completely sequenced, but it is unlikely
to be the last (about a dozen bacterial genomes have also been sequenced
as well as the genetic structure of yeast).
Already the sequencing effort
is providing important information. For example, evolutionary biologists
and geneticists long suspected that all life shared many key genes in
common. Comparing C. elegans to yeast, the two species share about
3,600 genes indicating that evolution at the genetic level is largely an
additive process (i.e. natural selection tends to cause additional genes
to build on existing genes rather than displace or reengineer existing
Analysis of the wormÂ’s genes
also yielded important information about how multi-cellular creatures
switch genes on and off to develop cellular structures that can communicate
and coordinate their activities.
The Animal Liberation Front tried to disrupt Christmas celebrations in Italy by threatening to contaminate
panettone, a traditional Italian Christmas cake, with racumin, a rat poison.
The ALF sent samples of two Nestle brand panettone contaminated with the
poison to an Italian news agency.
In response, Nestle shut down
the plant that produced the panettone and most supermarkets took the Nestle
product off their shelves.
And what message was the ALF
trying to send? It wants Nestle to abandon efforts to use genetically modified wheat in products sold in Italy. Apparently the ALF is trying to branch
out into liberating wheat.
Panettone panic. The BBC, December 13, 1998.
Nestle shuts plant after Animal Liberation Front poisons cakes. Bloomburg News, December 12, 1998.
At the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society in San Diego, California, researcher presented
preliminary results of using fetal pig cells to treat severe epilepsy.
Neurologists Steven Schacter and Donald Schomer treated two epileptic patients who were both in their forties. Both patients suffered from severe epileptic seizures that failed to respond to anti-seizure medications.
The neurologists implanted fetal pig cells in the brains of the patients. The purpose of this small study was to explore the feasibility and safety of such a transplantation. Schacter and Schomer reported there were no observed side effects, and both patients saw a reduction in the number of seizures following the transplantation.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Schacter emphasized that although the results are encouraging, much more research remains to be done to establish whether or not such
xenotransplantation will provide a long-term solution.
Seizure reduction could be credited to pig cell brain implants. The Associated Press, December 14, 1998.
Animal rights activist and
convicted arsonist Barry Horne recently ended his much-publicized hunger
strike after 68 days. Horne, currently serving an 18-year prison term
in the United Kingdom for a series of arson attacks, began his hunger
strike after Britains Labour government failed to deliver on a campaign
pledge to create a special commission to examine animal experimentation.
The prolonged hunger strike, however, raised more questions about Horne
and his supporters than about animal experimentation.
At first, Hornes
hunger strike seemed to energize at least some parts of the animal rights
community on both sides of the Atlantic. Activists in the United States
and Great Britain staged numerous demonstrations and activities in support
of Horne, and some groups began linking their generic protests against
fur or animal experimentation with Hornes hunger strike. But in
December the whole affair turned into a public relations disaster as the
animal rights terrorists got involved and Horne and his supporters made
a series of blunders.
Everything started to unravel
thanks to UK Animal Liberation Front spokesman Robin Webb. Webb, who made
numerous television appearances during the hunger strike, gave the media
a list he claimed came from the radical Animal Rights Militia. On the
list were the names of four people the ARM claimed would be assassinated
should Horne die.
The list included Christopher
Brown of Hillgrove Farm, who provides animal uses in medical experiments;
Colin Blakemore of Oxford University; Clive Page of Kings College;
and Mark Matfield of the Research Defence Society. Death threats are no
strangers to Brown and Blakemore who have been targeted by UK activists
in an unrelenting campaign of harassment and terror; Blakemores
children once received mail bombs intended for him.
Webb tried to distance himself
from the ARM hit list, saying, “we do not condone this,” but
he couldnt bring himself to condemn the threat of violence either,
and perhaps for good reason. A British television documentary on animal
rights violence included allegations that Webb actively encouraged such
violence. Former ALF member David Hammond claimed, for example, that Webb
was the main force behind the violent animal rights group, the |Justice
Department|. Hammond also claimed that Webb once offered him a sawed-off
shotgun and asked whether he knew Blakemore. Suddenly, Webb was off consulting
with lawyers rather than distributing hit lists.
And then something really strange
happened amidst all of the talk over who would be killed if he
should died, Horne ended his hunger strike without obtaining any of the
concessions he demanded. This was odd because only several days before
the British newspaper The Observer ran a story quoting Horne
saying, “I want to die. This is the end. In death you win.
It is not a question of dying. Its a question of fighting. If I
die, so be it. We have tried to negotiate with the Government. They have
condemned me to death.”
The same story quoted his next-of-kin,
Alison Lawson, saying “It is only a matter of time now [before Horne
Following publication of that
story, however, Horne and the Animals Betrayed Coalition, which has been
the main animal rights group publicizing Hornes plight, denounced
The Observers story and emphatically said that Horne,
in fact, wanted to live. What was going on here?
According to a story published in The Observer a few days after Horne ended his hunger strike, Horne had
planned a long fast but wanted to end his strike well before death, much
as he had done in two previous hunger strikes. Seeing newspaper stories
with quotes from activists such as Tony Humphries suggesting “he
is a dead man” forced Hornes hand, The Observer argues, and led him to issue the press release insisting he wanted to
live. Some animal rights activists might have wanted a martyr, but Horne
wasnt willing to play the part.
Ultimately, Horne ended his
hunger strike not only without getting the concessions from the Labour
government he sought, but if anything his actions delayed the creation
of a committee to look at animal experimentation, since the Labour government
doesnt want to be seen as giving in to blackmail and threats of
political terrorism. The Animals Betrayed Coalition did try to put a positive
spin on the story by claiming Horne decided to end his hunger strike after
examining papers sent to him by the Labour government, but those were
apparently papers Horne had in his possession for some time and which,
in any case, did not grant the assurances Horne sought.
There are many lessons from
the Horne fiasco, the most obvious of which is the extent to which animal
rights activists of all stripes are willing to support terrorists and
terrorist activities, starting with Horne himself. Although Horne wasnt
willing to die for the cause, he was willing to endanger the lives of
others during the arson campaign for which he is now serving an 18-year
sentence. Horne planted incendiary devices, hidden in a packet of cigarettes,
in stores of which he disapproved. Hornes activities were particularly
dangerous, however, because he planted his bombs in the products sold
at the stores.
One of his devices, for example,
was hidden in a leather bag which a woman subsequently bought. The device
wasnt discovered until four months later, after the woman had allowed
her children to play with the bag. Hornes activities represent an
extraordinarily callous disregard for human life, and he deserves every
single day of his jail term. As Ian Glen, who prosecuted Horne, told the
jury that convicted him, “the risks and dangers to human life were
blindingly obvious and the risks were either run or ignored for the sake
of political beliefs.”
That animal rights activists
would rally around such an individual speaks volumes about the moral compass
of the movement. Animal rights activists like to compare their cause to
the U.S. civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King Jr. and others
didnt sneak around planting bombs in handbags in fact the
civil rights movement activists were victims of the sort of violence the
animal rights movement perpetuates.
Medical researcher Colin
Blakemore, one of the targets of the ARM hit list, wrote an op-ed piece
noting something peculiar about those singled out for violence:
[When he was first targeted by activists] I was convinced that openness
offered the only route to understanding. But that very stance angers
the terrorists. It is surely significant that three of the four people
who were actually named for assassination by the Animal Rights Militia,
myself included, have participated in broadcast debates on the use of
animals in the past few weeks. The message is clear: defend yourself,
try to respond to criticism, and you may be killed. The perpetrators
of such tactics are not interested in dialogue: they are a lynch mob
that will not even give their victims the right to defend themselves.
The other important lesson
is that negotiating with terrorists only encourages more terrorism. As
Blakemore points out in his article, Horne and other animal rights activists
have been encouraged by a Labour government that actively courted them
during the most recent election cycle. According to Blakemore, Labour
accepted over 1 million pounds in donations from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and in exchange led animal rights activists to believe
it would convene a commission to look at modifying Great Britains
1986 Animals Act which regulates animal experimentation.
The Labour government did
follow throw by banning Cosmetics Testing, which was a rather minor
victory given how few such tests were actually being carried out in the
UK (most such tests are performed in the United States, Japan or France).
The British government should follow Blakemores advice and condemn
all animal rights violence and extremism.
I will talk to those who threaten to murder me. Colin Blakemore, Sunday Telegraph (UK), December 1998.
Horne: I’m dying to save ‘tortured’ animals. Yahoo! News, December 6, 1998.
‘I want to die. It’s the end.’ The Observer (UK), December 6, 1998.
Animal activist attacked shops with fire-bombs. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 4, 1997.
‘Ruthless’ animal rights bomber convicted. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 13, 1997.
Horne ends hunger strike. A.J. McIlroy, December 13, 1998.
Revealed: how Barry Horne refused to become a martyr for the cause. The Observer, December 20, 1998.
Animal rights protester ends hunger strike. ITV News, December 14, 1998.
Militant protests target Britain. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 24, 1998.
Police fear backlash if animal activist dies. John Steele, November 26, 1998.
Supporters rally for hunger striker. The BBC, November 29, 1998.
Hunger striker back in jail. The BBC, December 11, 1998.
Ordinary guy heading for martyrdom. The Telegraph, December 7, 1998.
Day 53 of Hunger Strike. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 29, 1998.
Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Release, November 22, 1998.
Prisoner in hunger protest ‘near death.’ The Independent (UK), November 22, 1998.
Animal liberation prisone hunger striker given last rites: Barry Horne to go into intensive care. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 23, 1998.
Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 22, 1998.
ARM lists potential targets. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, December 3, 1998.
Animal rights ‘hit list.’ The Guardian (UK), December 3, 1998.
Dolly Scientists on Security Alert. The Scottsman, December 3, 1998.
We’ll kill 10 if this man dies. The Mirror, December 3, 1998.
Scientists on alert after death threats. The BBC, December 4, 1998.
It seems like every week brings
new developments and breakthroughs in Genetic Engineering, and few announcements
have been bigger than the report that a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison
scientists were able to cultivate human stem cells. The possibilities
for future medical advances from this discovery are amazing.
The most immediate likely
use of the technology will be new diagnostic tests to screen hundreds
of thousands of compounds for possible medicinal properties. Ironic, isn’t
it — yet another technology that animal rights activists abhor might
ultimately lead to a further reduction in the number of animals used in
the drug development process (makes you kind of wonder where animal
rights activists think alternatives to animal testing come from. Do they
think they just drop from the sky?)
In the long run, the work
with stem cells could lead to all sorts of breathtaking developments from
growing heart muscle and brain tissue for transplantation to enhancing
understanding of the development of human embryos.
“Our hope is that these
cells could be grown in the laboratory and then used to regenerate failing
tissue,” said Thomas Okarma, vice president for research and development
at Geron Corporation, which paid for some of the stem cell research. “Because
these cells do not age, they could be used to generate virtually a limitless
supply of cells and tissues for transplantation.”