Recently animal rights
activists seem to be making some inroads into restricting and, in some
cases, banning so-called “canned hunts.” In a canned hunt, animals are
let loose in fenced-in area and hunters pay a fee to shoot the animals.
In April, Oregon’s Fish and
Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to ban canned hunts. The Louisiana
legislature was considering a bill to prohibit canned hunts and similar
bans and regulations are being considered elsewhere.
There seem to be two main arguments
animal rights activists are using against canned hunts.
The first is that the animals,
which are often exotic, nonnative species, could escape and threaten the
local wildlife. Are these the same activists who regularly condone the
release of nonnative species “liberated” from labs and fur farms, and dismiss
fears of threat to local wildlife as anti-animal propaganda? Regardless
of the hypocrisy involved, this fear certainly might call for reasonable
regulation. Requiring those who operate such as requiring establishments
to meet certain minimum requirements might make sense. This
concern alone, however, certainly does not warrant an outright ban.
The argument that really seems
to win people over, however, is that canned hunts are somehow unfair.
As Oregon legislator Ryan Deckart told The Oregonian, “It’s not
[a] fair chase.” If that is to be the standard for killing animals —
that the animal must first be given the opportunity to escape — then
Deckart should introduce legislation immediately banning slaughter houses
which, the last time I checked, rarely allow the animals they kill or
process any semblance of a “fair chase.”
This is a clear instance of
the “muddled middle” at work — it makes no sense to say that a person
can’t fence in land, populate it with animals and pay others to kill said
animals if the animals are exotic and the killers are hunters, but that
the same setup is perfectly okay if the animals are cows or chickens or
pigs and the killers are from a nearby slaughterhouse. Either both situations
are moral or they are equally immoral.
This whole issue seems to
me like a case of legislation by intuition — hunting repulses many who
wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a hamburger at McDonald’s — rather
than by rationally looking at the issue.
In April, Alexion Pharmaceuticals
and Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital announced they transplanted
genetically altered pig nerve cells into an animal model of Alzheimer’s
disease (in this case, mice). The mice regained cognitive abilities once
the pig cells were implanted.
“The current test model represents
the most rigorous animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, in which wholesale
loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with highly advanced stages
of the disease,” said Dr. Ole Isacson, associate professor in the Neuroregeneration
Laboratories at McLean Hospital. “Today’s reported findings represent
the first demonstration of functional restoration using transgenic pig
neurons in an animal model of Alzheimer’s.”
Meanwhile, researchers at Genzyme
Transgenic Corp., Tufts University and Louisiana State University announced
in April that they had genetically engineered goats to produce a human
protein used to affect the clotting of blood. The goats were the result
of a cloning experiment, suggesting that someday large numbers of genetically
engineered animals, carrying important drugs for treating human diseases
and medical conditions, may be produced relatively rapidly.
Clinton administration can’t look Sudan
in the eye
Leave it to the Clinton administration
to give a public relations coup to one of the most corrupt governments
in the world, Sudan. Last summer the United States destroyed a pharmaceutical
factory in Khartoum, Sudan, claiming the CIA had proof the factory was
being used to produce chemical weapons.
The owner of the planet, Saleh
Idris, sued the United States after it seized his assets under U.S. anti-terrorism
laws. On May 3rd the U.S. Dept. of Treasury responded to the
threat of a lawsuit by Idris and unfroze all of his assets. According
to the Clinton administration, the CIA still maintains it has proof the
pharmaceutical plant was being used to produce chemical weapons but they
can’t show the evidence in court without jeopardizing unspecified U.S.
The government isn’t getting
off that easy, though. Idris announced he plans to sue the United States
for $30 million in compensation for the destruction of the factory. Will
the United States pay $30 million to Idris rather than risk compromising
ongoing intelligence operations by actually presenting any evidence to
back up its charges? Stay tuned.
Within the past few months both the United Nations and the US Census
Bureau released important documents relating to population issues. The United
Nations released its 1998 Revision of the United Nations Population Projections,
which estimates that world population in 2050 will reach likely reach 8.9 billion
(according to its medium variant). This is down significantly from previous
years’ projections. In 1994 the UN estimated 2050’s population would reached
9.8 billion and in 1996 estimated population would reach 9.4 billion. Why does
the projected population keep falling? Because, on the positive side, fertility
keeps falling faster than previously imagined, and on the negative side, deaths
from AIDS are contributing to higher-than-expected mortality rates especially
in Africa and Asia.
The US Census Bureau recently published its annual update of the World Population
Profile. Using a different methodology from the United Nations, the Census Bureau
estimates world population will reach 9.3 billion persons by 2050. The Census
Bureau volume also provides plenty of important statistics about world population
that I’ve been adding to the Overpopulation.Com web site over the past few weeks.
If you’d like to peruse these reports for yourself, a broad summary of the
UN report is available at http://www.popin.org/pop1998/
and the entire Census Bureau report is available as an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) download
The World Health Organization recently held a conference in Kenya
to find a way to control Malaria in Africa. According to WHO, malaria kills
an estimated 1.5 to 2.7 million people every year. A staggering 270 million
to 480 million people contract malaria each year. By comparison, WHO estimates
that somewhat over 40 million people have been infected with HIV worldwide since
the late 1970s, though the mortality rate for HIV is much higher — more than
11 million have died from AIDS since the late 1970s.
Africa is especially hit hard by malaria, with 90 percent of the world’s cases
occurring there. It’s no coincidence that Africa is both the poster child for
bad government and malaria, as the former contributes to the latter. As WHO
official Edwin Afari said, “They [malaria victims] die because they lack access
to health care, life-saving drugs and treated bed nets.” Of course its hard
to provide health care and lifesaving drugs in places like Ethiopia and Eritrea,
for example, which seem far more interested in fighting over their border, or
Angola where a 25-year-old civil war simply refuses to die (though the people
there are not so lucky).
But, of course, what has WHO targeted as the major health risk for the 22nd
century? Why smoking of course.
The Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae is a small Indian tribe in Brazil — the tribe only has
about 1,800 people left. In 1991, the Brazilian government granted the tribe
rights to over 133,000 acres of land in Brazil but after court challenges by
new settlers, only 5,000 acres were left to the tribe. By all accounts the Pataxo
Ha-Ha-Hae and the settlers are constantly involved in violent conflicts — since
1982 fifty-one Indians have died in land-related conflicts.
So imagine the surprise of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae leaders when they learned
that popular politician and doctor Roland Lavigne had performed sterilization
operations on 58 Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae members in the months before Brazil’s 1994
election. The tribal leaders call the action nothing less than genocide.
As tribe member Alcides Francisco Filho told the Associated Press, “The real
issue here is land. Lavigne is allied with the big ranchers who are occupying
Such claims seem a bit odd since most of the women sterilized not only agreed
to it voluntarily but in turn voted for Lavigne in the election — in fact what
Lavigne does seem guilty of is vote buying. The free sterilization was used
as an incentive to entice the women.
There are certainly problems in some nations with unethical sterilization and
abortion practices (Peru and China come to mind), but this Brazil case doesn’t
seem like one of them.