PETA demands withdrawal Nike commercial

Coming on the heels of its complaints
about commercials featuring National Football League defenseman John Randle
chasing a chicken dressed as Brett Favre, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is demanding Nike withdraw a commercial featuring the NFL’s
Denver Broncos.

The commercial parodies the running
of the bulls in Spain. The viewer sees the bulls stampeding down a street
and a matador waiting for them in a large stadium. Before the bulls can
get to the stadium, though, the Denver Broncos defense lines up in formation
on the street. The commercial cuts back to the stadium where the matador
is perplexed by a loud crash and then wailing of bulls in the distance.

According to a PETA press release,
the commercial “promotes animal torment and cruelty.” Personally,
I thought the commercial was hilarious.


PETA sees red over Broncos Nike Ad. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Press Release, October 12, 1998.

Cornell activists burn effigy of Animal Welfare Committee chairman

Nine animal rights activists at
Cornell University were recently arrested for trespassing during a demonstration
outside a biology laboratory. A press release by two of the activists
said one of the arrested students is being charged with harassment, “a
charge which violated a restraining order placed on him by the campus
Judicial Administrator after an effigy-torching of the Animal Welfare
Committee chairman last week.”

This is what animal rights activists
must mean when they talk about having compassion for all living creatures.
What is more reprehensible is that, according to the justifications offered
by some activists in favor of “direct action,” this isn’t
really violence because, as in raids on laboratories and fur farms,
all that is being destroyed is property.

Sure, and when the KKK burns a
cross on some black family’s lawn or paints swastikas on a synagogue,
all they’re really doing is harming property in a peaceful, non-violent


Activists attempt to view animal mutilation. Cornell Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Press Release, November 2, 1998.

Amartya Sen wins Nobel Prize in economics

On Oct. 14, Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Economics Prize for his contributions
to development economics, including his analysis of famine and poverty.

Sen, 64, has often challenged the view, held by so many population doomsayers,
that lack of food is the primary cause of famine. His 1981 book, Poverty
and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation
, took up that topic
and argued that “famines have occurred even when the supply of food was
not significantly lower than during previous years” that didn’t experience

Sen has personal experience with famine – as a boy a famine struck India
when wartime inflation pushes food prices sky high, but as in most famines only
a small percentage of the population was at risk of starvation. “There
is hardly a famine that affects more than 10 percent of a population.”
Sen said. Sen argues that famines are easy to prevent in democracies where a
free press acts as a check on out-of-control politicians, whereas authoritarian
and totalitarian regimes are breeding grounds for famine because the elites
who run such nations are rarely affected by them and have no serious opposition
press or political parties.


Research on poverty and disasters earns professor Nobel for economics. Jim
Heintz, The Associated Press, October 14, 1998.

Nobel-winning work in economics was rooted in boyhood famine, winner says.
Bruce Stanley, The Associated Press, October 15, 1998.

China’s population policies come under fire

In March 1998, Chinese president
Jiang Zemin said China would intensify its population control efforts,
saying that family planning programs should be “strictly carried

A few months later, in June, a
Chinese defector, Gao Xiao Duan, testified in the US House of Representatives
that she had personally participated in a program of state-sponsored forced
abortion. GAO testified that as a provincial birth control officer, she
ordered forced abortions, the arrests of women who tried to avoid such
abortions, and many other human rights violations.

According to GAO, regional officials
who are under intense pressure to meet birth quotas, “will resort
to anything to achieve planned birth goals set by their superiors.”

The Chinese government quickly
blasted Gao’s testimony, but did appear to concede that individual officials
might be taking coercive actions.

“China, in implementing its
family planning policy, has all along stood opposed to coercive measures
in any form,” said spokesman Zhu Banazao. “As to some individual
cases of breaches in policy in the day-to-day work in the field we will
correct such practices promptly. At the same time, we stand opposed to
some people’s attempt to use this issue to distort China’s family planning.”

Genetic researchers searching for perennial food crops

A January 1998 article in New Scientist
detailed the work several groups of researchers are doing to try to create
viable perennial food crops.

Current food crops are almost all
annuals – they grow for a single season and then die, necessitating replanting
every year. Development of a perennial crop would have several advantages,
with the main one being a minimization of soil erosion. Beyond that, however,
since perennials tend to absorb more nutrients than annuals they would
likely require less fertilizer. They also tend to be more resistant to
pests and disease, and so might require less pesticides.

Plant geneticist Wes Jackson, with
the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, is experimenting with a variety
of plants from North American prairies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Southern Plains Range Research Station in Woodward, Oklahoma, is working
on breeding a variant of eastern gamagass to replace sorghum as a foraging
planet. Meanwhile, the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, is
experimenting to develop a variant of wild triga to perhaps replace wheat
as a food crop.

The major obstacle in all
of these efforts is getting the perennials to retain the features which
make them advantageous while also making them appealing to farmers. Yields
for wild triga, for example, are currently only one-fifth that of wheat.
Annual crops have gone through thousands of years of selection for properties
valued by farmers and researchers developing perennials must try to duplicate
this in the lab in a much shorter period of time.

Dredging data to "prove" white meat consumption contributes to cancer

The American Journal of Epidemiology
recently published a study that animal rights and vegan/vegetarian activists
are sure to jump on – Dr. Pramil Singh and Dr. Gary Fraser of the
Center for Health Research at Loma Linda University in California claim
their study of 34,000 Seventh Day Adventists shows that white meat consumption
increases the risk of colon cancer.

Should you give up or cut back
on white meat? Certainly not based on this study, which arrives at its
results by shameless data dredging.

What’s data dredging? Suppose
I wanted to prove that vegetarians who attend animal rights protests have
a higher rate of colon cancer than vegetarians who don’t. So I get
several thousand vegetarians to fill out questionnaires detailing how
often they attend such protests.

At first I’m sorely disappointed
by the results – vegetarians who attend animal rights protests don’t
seem to get colon cancer any more often than those who stay away from
such protests. But that’s not the result I’m looking for, so
I need to get fancy with the data. I start looking at the results from
every possible angle and find an interesting trend.

While there is no general increase
in colon cancer from attending animal rights protests, I do find an oddity
that activists who regularly read Humane Society of the United States propaganda but only occasionally attend People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-sponsored protests have lower rates of colon cancer than those
who rarely read HSUS propaganda but regularly attend PETA protests.

And so I publish my results –
I have proven that attending PETA protests increases the risk of colon


This is the sort of methodology
Singh and Fraser use. Their study, in fact, found there was no statistically significant association between read meat consumption and
colon cancer and white meat consumption and colon cancer. But that didn’t
produce the result they wanted, so they went searching for associations
in subgroups of data and found a couple.

Specifically the subgroup in their
study who reported they ate red meat more than once a week but ate white
meat only occasionally had a 90 percent increased risk of colon cancer,
while those who consumed white meat more than once per week but only occasionally
eat read meat had a 229 percent increased risk of colon cancer.


Meat consumption and colon cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology, October 15, 1998.

Study finds chicken cauces cancer too. Reuters, October, 1998.