Burlington Coat Factory Contributes to HSUS

Stung by revelations that
some of its fur-trimmed parkas were made with dog fur, Burlington Coat Factory announced in December it was giving $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States. to help that group lobby for a federal ban on the
commercial sale of cat and dog fur.

What is Burlington Coat Factory

Certainly the companyÂ’s anger
is understandable; most of the coats were made in China and the company
had no idea dog fur was being used. Burlington did the right thing in
offering to take back the coats from customers who were misled. But to
donate $100,000 to a group dedicated to making sure no animal products
are used in the production of clothes makes no sense, except as a crass
publicity maneuver.

And one that will certainly
backfire, as executives may already be finding out. As numerous animal
rights activists have pointed out, BurlingtonÂ’s support of a ban on cat
and dog fur is extremely hypocritical. If it is wrong to use cat and dog
fur on coats, isnÂ’t it wrong to use fur from other animals as well? Why
isnÂ’t Burlington lobbying for a ban on leather coats if it is suddenly
so committed to the rights of animals?

Those who deal with animals
canÂ’t have it both ways. Researchers canÂ’t claim itÂ’s okay for them
to experiment on and eventually kill animals for the important medical
knowledge such activities provide, but it is wrong for others to eat animals
or use them for clothing. Hunters canÂ’t go on at length about the mystical
experiences they have in the wilderness, but turn around and argue what
medical researchers do is completely different (so long as, in both examples,
the guidelines for treating the animals are similar – one need not argue
that in order to be consistent an animal researcher or hunter must approve
of the individuals who harm animals solely for the sadistic pleasure of
doing so).

Adrian Morrison, president
of the National Animal Interest Alliance
has coined the term “muddled middle” to describe such positions.
As Morrison wrote in a recent NAIA newsletter:

Those opposing animal use and those questioning the quality of animal
use (traditional animal welfarists) blended into a new grouping, the
animal protection community. And with that came the call to seek a common
ground, to abandon polemics for the sake of the animals. And so was
created (conveniently) a muddled middle, inhabited by those who do not
see that a middle ground between use and non-use of animals is a logical
impossibility . . . The muddled middle does not have a clear understanding
of how a variety of uses fit into a coherent whole: the necessary participation
of humans, and most especially modern humans, in the intricacies of
Nature. At the same time, we who choose to use animals for pleasure
and those who do so out of necessity must do so responsibly.

Ironically, this is a small area of agreement with the animal rights
activists . . . the use of animals in human society either stands or falls
as a whole in this writerÂ’s opinion. If fur is an abomination, certainly
leather is as well. If using animals in circuses (provided they are treated
responsibly) is wrong, I donÂ’t see how seeing eye dogs for the blind become
defensible except through some incredibly complex utilitarian calculus
that few people would find coherent, much less workable.

PETAÂ’'s Take on Fur

The 1998 award for poorly timed
press releases goes to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which
had strangely disjointed press releases on successive days at the end
of December.

In a December 29 press release,
PETA announced it was donating fur coats to homeless people in Chicago.
PETA received the furs as donations from celebrities and others who converted
to the animal rights cause and no longer wanted to wear fur. PETA president
Ingrid Newkirk summed up the groupÂ’s motivation in giving away the coats
by saying, “only people struggling to survive have any excuse for
wearing fur.” Newkirk didnÂ’t address why, if struggling to survive
allows one to use animals, medical researchers canÂ’t use animals to try
to find treatments for terminally ill patients “struggling to survive.”

In any event, on December
30 PETA released yet another press release on fur announcing that “only
cave people wear fur.” So are homeless people “struggling to
survive” or are they stone aged Neanderthals? You be the judge, but
PETA did announce an anti-fur demonstration that would include “members
of PETA and Animal Action wielding clubs and draped in animal skins.”

The image of PETA members
dressed up as Fred Flintstone is certainly a compelling one, but at least
PETA did everyone a favor by highlighting how long animal use has been
a central part of human societies.

Other recent events

  • 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
    in 1952.

  • 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.”

C. Elegans Makes History

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.

ALF activists poison food in Italy

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.

Pig cell transplant a possible treatment for severe epilepsy

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.