Thursday, March 8, 2018

Crating Dogs

A little off topic.

Micky and me. I'm the one in the hat.

A few years ago, we learned that a neighbor was locking their dog in a crate whenever they left. We told them that they could drop her off at our house instead; we gave them a key for times when we were gone. For some reason, they didn't care whether we were home or not; they were happy to just drop her off. Now, they never lock her in a crate. I suspect that she is happier looking out the window than being locked in a cage.

I've not been able to pinpoint the rise in popularity in cages for dogs, but from what I have been able to glean it might coincide with the dramatic change in the number of women in the workforce. Puppies could be house trained fairly easily if there was always someone who could catch them in the act and take them outside.

Like so many things that are sometimes thought of as signs of progress, the move from housewife to wage-earner had some negative consequences, and in this case, it may be that one of them was a massive increase in the number of dogs spending most of their waking hours locked in a cage.

A somewhat common claim on the internet is that there is nothing wrong with locking a dog up for hours on end everyday. Like this one: "It is not unreasonable to leave your dog in a crate for 9 to 10 hours at a time, which is a traditional workday."

In the myriad advertisements and images of dog crates one can see on line, it is seemingly the norm to leave them on the floor. When we are away for the day, our boy Micky is always parked on the back of a couch looking out a window. From there he can keep watch and bark at anyone walking by, at the mail carrier, and any truck that happens to stop, or heaven forbid, has letters pained on the side, and of course, he can keep a sharp eye out (when not asleep) for our car pulling into the driveway.

If he were left locked in a cage on the floor all day, I suspect he would perceive it to be a torturous experience. Over the weeks, months, and years of being caged, he might get used to it, but the idea that he would like it seems absurd and ethically blind to me.

In my reading about this phenomena, I happened upon a much more reasonable and humane option for people who for whatever reason, think their dog should not have the run of the house when they are gone. Turn a room into dog-safe space and put a gate in the doorway. Even this, if a chronic practice, seems wrong-headed to me, but it isn't as bad as putting a dog in a cage for long periods. The room would be best with a window and a place to lie down and be able to see out.

Mainly, I think that people who can't have a dog without keeping them in a crate should not be allowed to have a dog.

One final note note for the many people who think exceptions justify the general case. In rare cases, a dog recovering from surgery might be best served by being kept in a small space when no one can be with them. There might be other rare cases, maybe when in a car, that a reasonable argument could be made to justify caging a dog, but those cases are rare exceptions and have no bearing on the routine and cruel practice of daily crating that has gained in popularity over the years.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

They were only Jews.

What did you do during the animal holocaust? Did you stay quiet like most Germans did?

They were only Jews. They are only monkeys.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Cultured Meat Misses the Mark

The idea of growing meat in a vat instead of on an animal is gaining traction, and a handful of new companies have been formed to pursue the dream of animal-free meat. It appears that there is almost all upside to the notion. Were everyone in the world who currently eats animals to make the switch, the benefits to the planet’s health would be immense.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about cultured meat which almost resulted in a $100 wager. He thought that cultured meat would have a huge effect across the board: ethically, environmentally, and economically. And, if a large part of the population embraces the product, it could.

But the more we talked, him the optimist, me the pessimist, the less sure he became. He said that he thought cultured meats would follow a market penetration path somewhat similar to the plant-based milks, which he thought was about 10%. He decided that with luck, we might see a 5% market penetration of cultured meat within 20 years. I suggested that if many of those buying the plant milks would be those also buying the cultured meat, then maybe the meats would not result in a significant change.

Further consideration led him to abandon the bet. I gloated to myself a bit, but further study of the issue has nudged me toward his side of the argument.

The plant-based milks seem to have been more successful than we assumed. Here are numerous bits of data and projections that make it look like the plant-based milks are kicking-ass, market-wise. Plant-based milks have enjoyed a 33% market penetration, and the projections are that this number is increasing.

But, as happy as that statistic made me, the success of the plant milks do not seem to have had a noticeable impact on the U.S. dairy industry so far:

Thinking of other animal product replacements that have come along, I am hard-pressed to point to many that have resulted in a reduction in animal use. Faux fur doesn't seem to have had much if any impact on the fur industry, and since leather is a byproduct of beef production, plastic shoes, even if everyone was wearing them, probably wouldn't have any effect on the number of animals slaughtered.

Someone else suggested that plastic had replaced the use bone for knitting needles and vegetable oil has replaced lard, but in spite of those replacements,
American consumption of red meat and poultry per capita is forecast to hit 222.2 pounds per person in 2018, up from 216.9 pounds in 2017 and 210.2 pounds in 1998, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s the highest amount of meat consumption within the last 50 years. Production of both red meat and poultry will increase in 2018, at the same time the U.S. economy is growing and Americans have more money to spend on food, it found. []
The one case I thought of as being an example of a widely used animal product being forced out of the market by consumer preferences was whale oil. Apparently though, that wasn't the case either.

The internal combustion engine must have resulted in a drastic reduction in the horse population, so it isn't impossible for technological advances to lead to less animal use, but then, the opposite is possible as in the case of the cotton gin leading to a dramatic increase in the number of slaves in the antebellum south.

All of this brings me to the point of this essay: namely, that new product introductions will not lead to advances in ethics and moral behavior. In order to see real improvement in how we treat the planet, in how we treat its other residents, we have to change people's minds, we have to instill a concern for others, we have to sell them on the universality of the Golden Rule.

Without a change of heart, no technological advance is likely to mean very much in a statistical sense when if comes to the animals we harm and kill, the animals whose homes we destroy, whose lives remain unnoticed and unimportant to us. But a change in popular belief would have an immediate and sweeping impact because behavior would be instantly altered.

To the degree that the animal rights movement has had an effect, that veganism has become more commonly mentioned, this has been caused by words rather than new products. Likewise for every social gain we have made. Words motivate action. Words lead to changes in the law. Words change people's beliefs. Words have always been the catalyst for social progress. We need more and better words. Louder words, and of course, lots of pictures.

[For those with an interest in the science behind the lab-grown meats, I found this article to be helpful.]

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mindful magazine and the new age hoodwink

We just received an offer in the mail to subscribe to a new age magazine called Mindful. The piece was high-end glossy and filled with images of seemingly happy people. One image, apparently the lead off to an article from a past issue, was titled, "A Kinder, Gentler World." What really caught me eye was the image above, both on the envelope and then again as the largest image in the enclosed advert.

The universe is complex. Things that seem impossible sometimes aren't. So, it isn't absolutely impossible that a university program led by a primate vivisector could teach people to be kind, but the notion is creepy and the endeavor somehow tainted. It is sort like the faith healer Benny Hinn urging people to be charitable.

It seems to be little more than a charade, a bamboozle of sorts, a gimmick that benefits the purveyor. The benefits to the buyer, though not necessarily always zero, are secondary to the interests of the seller. Even faith healers sometimes heal people; even snake oil has had its successes; the mind is complex and the placebo effect is real.

But there is something particularly distasteful about a primate vivisector telling people that he has discovered an ancient secret from the Great Masters of the Himalayas for becoming more compassionate, and that really is Richard Davidson's schtick. And then he dresses it up in science to make it appear respectable. And boy, people really lap it up.

Of course, most of his adorers have no knowledge of his long intimate relationship with Ned Kalin or the nature of their twenty-five year collaboration into the neurobiology of fearful young monkeys' brains.

It seems to me that if someone peddling a way to be more compassionate is hurting and frightening young monkeys who they have identified as having "excessively fearful dispositions," is publishing reports on the invasive surgeries on the monkeys, is comfortable isolating newborn infant monkeys in order to induce heightened anxiety and depression, that this is proof that their claim of being able to teach someone how to be more compassionate is probably nonsense and at least suspicious.

I've written thousands of words about Davidson already, so I won't go on. If you are interested in learning more here are some resources in (almost) no particular order:

"Compassion." Chapter 11 in "We All Operate in the Same Way."

June 22, 2008 Primate research at the University of Wisconsin. Host Neil Heinen moderates the discussion on this 22, 2008 episode of For the Record, WISC-TV.

June 24, 2008 Looking at Richard Davidson's Assertions

April 13, 2008 Richard Davidson's Mushy-Headedness

Tuesday, March 6, 2007 Could You Recognize Evil if It Stared You in the Face? (Will the anti-Christ come wearing a t-shirt saying I'm the anti-Christ?)

February 3, 2009 Richard Davidson's Choices Are Evidence That Thinking Good Thoughts Won’t Make You a Good Person

November 27, 2007 A minimal amount of suffering

October 24, 2007 Compassion and Kindness Redefined

May 9, 2010 The Dalai Lama is Coming Back to Madison, or "'Callooh! Callay!' He chortled in his joy."

April 25, 2010 Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

March 20, 2009 Richard Davidson

September 3, 2010 Monsters: Lojong

And, if you want to know even more about Davidson's use of monkeys, this is a current bibliography of a his work in this area: A selected Davidson bibliography. Reports on his experimental use of monkeys:

Heightened extended amygdala metabolism following threat characterizes the early phenotypic risk to develop anxiety-related psychopathology. Shackman AJ, Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2017.

Connectivity between the central nucleus of the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in the non-human primate: neuronal tract tracing and developmental neuroimaging studies. Oler, Jonathan A., Do PM Tromp, Andrew S. Fox, Rothem Kovner, Richard J. Davidson, Andrew L. Alexander, Daniel R. McFarlin et al. Brain Structure and Function. 2017.

Intergenerational neural mediators of early-life anxious temperament. Fox AS, Oler JA, Shackman AJ, Shelton SE, Raveendran M, McKay DR, Converse AK, Alexander A, Davidson RJ, Blangero J, Rogers J, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015.

Extreme early-life anxiety is associated with an evolutionarily conserved reduction in the strength of intrinsic functional connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the central nucleus of the amygdala.mBirn RM, Shackman AJ, Oler JA, Williams LE, McFarlin DR, Rogers GM, Shelton SE, Alexander AL, Pine DS, Slattery MJ, Davidson RJ, Fox AS, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2014.

Evolutionarily conserved prefrontal-amygdalar dysfunction in early-life anxiety. Birn RM, Shackman AJ, Oler JA, Williams LE, McFarlin DR, Rogers GM, Shelton SE, Alexander AL, Pine DS, Slattery MJ, Davidson RJ, Fox AS, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2014.

Neuropeptide Y receptor gene expression in the primate amygdala predicts anxious temperament and brain metabolism. Roseboom PH, Nanda SA, Fox AS, Oler JA, Shackman AJ, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Biol Psychiatry. 2014.

Neural mechanisms underlying heterogeneity in the presentation of anxious temperament. Shackman AJ, Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013.

CRHR1 genotypes, neural circuits and the diathesis for anxiety and depression. Rogers J, Raveendran M, Fawcett GL, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oler JA, Cheverud J, Muzny DM, Gibbs RA, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Mol Psychiatry. 2013.

Central amygdala nucleus (Ce) gene expression linked to increased trait-like Ce metabolism and anxious temperament in young primates. Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Nanda SA, Davidson RJ, Roseboom PH, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012.

Evidence for coordinated functional activity within the extended amygdala of non-human and human primates. Oler JA, Birn RM, Patriat R, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Burghy CA, Stodola DE, Essex MJ, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Neuroimage. 2012.

Amygdalar and hippocampal substrates of anxious temperament differ in their heritability. Oler JA, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Rogers J, Dyer TD, Davidson RJ, Shelledy W, Oakes TR, Blangero J, Kalin NH. Nature. 2010.

Orbitofrontal cortex lesions alter anxiety-related activity in the primate bed nucleus of stria terminalis. Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Converse AK, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. J Neurosci. 2010.

Subgenual prefrontal cortex activity predicts individual differences in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity across different contexts. Jahn AL, Fox AS, Abercrombie HC, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Biol Psychiatry. 2010.

Serotonin transporter binding and genotype in the nonhuman primate brain using [C-11]DASB PET. Christian BT, Fox AS, Oler JA, Vandehey NT, Murali D, Rogers J, Oakes TR, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Neuroimage. 2009.

Serotonin transporter availability in the amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis predicts anxious temperament and brain glucose metabolic activity. Oler JA, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Christian BT, Murali D, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. J Neurosci. 2009.

The distribution of D2/D3 receptor binding in the adolescent rhesus monkey using small animal PET imaging. Christian BT, Vandehey NT, Fox AS, Murali D, Oakes TR, Converse AK, Nickles RJ, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Neuroimage. 2009.

Trait-like brain activity during adolescence predicts anxious temperament in primates. Fox AS, Shelton SE, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. PLoS One. 2008 .

Automatic physiological waveform processing for FMRI noise correction and analysis. Kelley DJ, Oakes TR, Greischar LL, Chung MK, Ollinger JM, Alexander AL, Shelton SE, Kalin NH, Davidson RJ.PLoS ONE. 2008.

The serotonin transporter genotype is associated with intermediate brain phenotypes that depend on the context of eliciting stressor. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Fox AS, Rogers J, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ. Mol Psychiatry. 2008.

Automatic physiological waveform processing for FMRI noise correction and analysis. Kelley DJ, Oakes TR, Greischar LL, Chung MK, Ollinger JM, Alexander AL, Shelton SE, Kalin NH, Davidson RJ. PLoS One. 2008.

Role of the Primate Orbitofrontal Cortex in Mediating Anxious Temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2007.

Brain Regions Associated with the Expression and Contextual Regulation of Anxiety in Primates. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Fox AS, Oakes TR, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2005.

Calling for help is independently modulated by brain systems underlying goal-directed behavior and threat perception. Fox AS, Oakes TR, Shelton SE, Converse AK, Davidson RJ, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005.

The role of the central nucleus of the amygdala in mediating fear and anxiety in the primate. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. J Neurosci. 2004.

The primate amygdala mediates acute fear but not the behavioral and physiological components of anxious temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Kelley AE. Related Articles, J Neurosci. 2001.

Cerebrospinal fluid corticotropin-releasing hormone levels are elevated in monkeys with patterns of brain activity associated with fearful temperament. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Biol Psychiatry. 2000

Asymmetric frontal brain activity, cortisol, and behavior associated with fearful temperament in rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Larson C, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Behav Neurosci. 1998.

Individual differences in freezing and cortisol in infant and mother rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Rickman M, Davidson RJ. Behav Neurosci. 1998.

A new method for aversive Pavlovian conditioning of heart rate in rhesus monkeys. Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ, Lynn DE. Physiol Behav. 1996.

Lateralized response to diazepam predicts temperamental style in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Behav Neurosci. 1993.

Lateralized effects of diazepam on frontal brain electrical asymmetries in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Biol Psychiatry. 1992.

Monday, December 25, 2017

This Little Mutant Pig Might be Seriously Impaired

Wisconsin miniature pigs, an image used in both articles mentioned below.

To help kids battling a rare disease, scientists forge a genetic link between people and pigs []
December 19, 2017 By Kelly April Tyrrell

This is a recent PR piece from UW-Madison. If you don't read it very carefully, you will come away with the belief that creating mutant pigs has in some way helped children suffering from a rare genetic disease. But a careful reader will learn that no children have been helped. The article is the same sort hype that has filled newspapers ever since the mid 1930s as a result of the wildly successful fundraising for polio, the first commercialization of medical research. (See Polio: An American Story. David M. Oshinsky. Oxford University Press. 2005.)

The author, a UW-Madison news writer (aka propagandist) is a past mouse vivisector, so it makes some sense she gets giddy about "advances" in the scientific use of animals. In this article she describes symptoms children with neurofibromatosis type 1, or NF1, can experience; she makes no mention of the symptoms in the pigs.

Oddly, perhaps not, a version of the article was published in The Atlantic a week earlier: "Turning Piglets Into Personalized Avatars for Sick Kids." The author was Ed Yong, he also left out any description of the disease in the pigs.

It may be that neither author plagiarized the other. They are after all telling the same story, but the parallels are suggestive, For instance:

Ed Yong: "... Once Mason’s diagnosis was in, [Charles “Chuck” Konsitzke, Mason's father] started asking around about NF-1 research. In particular, he wanted to know where the bottlenecks are. What was the single thing he could do that would most accelerate research into his son’s condition? And the answer that he kept hearing was: Find better animals to experiment on."

Kelly April Tyrrell: "Upon Mason’s diagnosis [Charles “Chuck” Konsitzke, Mason's father] began to delve into published NF1 research. He wanted to know where it was happening, who was doing it and how he might be able to help. He sought opinions from experts, wondering how the field could be improved. Many identified the same bottleneck: the lack of a good research model."

Ed Yong: "When studying diseases, scientists often turn to laboratory animals like mice and zebrafish. They can use these so-called model organisms to work out how mutations cause diseases, and to find and test possible treatments. But the usual lab animals aren’t a good fit for NF-1. They’re too small, and they don’t react in the same way to the mutations that cause the disease in humans. For example, studies in mice suggested that a drug called lovastatin might help to address the learning and attentional problems that accompany NF-1. But when the drug was tested on actual children, in a large clinical trial, it did nothing.

"To better understand NF-1, Konsitzke learned, you need a species that’s closer in both size and biology to a person, and yet is still relatively easy to raise and study. That is, you need pigs. “Pigs closely represent humans,” says Neha Patel, who directs the UW neurofibromatosis clinic. “People with NF-1 have varied cognitive deficits, from severe learning issues to subtle problems. If you imagine studying those in a rat, you’d only get a crude picture of how that translates to humans. But pigs are intellectual animals."

Kelly April Tyrrell: "In biology, research models are animals, cells, plants, microbes and other living things that allow scientists to study biological processes and recreate diseases in order to better understand them. Good models yield information relevant to humans, but the right model can sometimes be difficult to find.

"NF1 is especially complex, affects many systems of the body and touches many areas of scientific inquiry, from cancer research to neurobiology. Chuck began to search for a better model and in 2013, when Mason was 3, he settled on pigs. Pigs are similar to humans in many ways that other common research animals, such as mice and flies, are not. That includes their size, which means drugs and devices that work on humans can also be tested on pigs. They have a robust immune system, which rodents lack. And they’re intelligent, so scientists can study changes to their cognition."

In any case, there at least seem to be some prepared talking points that both authors heard from some of the people they interviewed.

One thing that caught my eye in both articles was the bit about Charles “Chuck” Konsitzke being told that no one was making progress on treating the disease because their was not a good animal model. Ed Yong describes Konsitzke as an "administrator at the University of Wisconsin’s Biotechnology Center." Kelly April Tyrrell is less vague, she notes that he is the associate director of universit’s Biotechnology Center, "a sort of one-stop shop for scientists in need of DNA sequencing, genome editing and other services."

Konsitzke may have gotten a different answer to his questions if he had spoken with someone outside the animal research bubble. The Biotechnology Center he helps direct is deeply involved in promoting and facilitating animal use. His intimate involvement in this part of the university helps explain the talking points repeated in both articles.

A significant difference between The Atlantic and the UW-Madison articles is that the university article implies that individual children's disease will be modeled by a group of pigs with the gene defect from the child, and that the course of the disease in the pigs will inform doctors about the disease course in the children. The Atlantic article quotes the researchers saying that ethical problems might arise if they do do that, so the researchers might blind themselves to the source of the pigs' mutations, which eliminates one potential benefit claimed in the university article.

Missing from both articles was mention of the need for genetic counseling for couples intending to have children. The prudent course would be to forego breeding in cases with a likelihood of producing children with genetic illnesses. I suspect most readers will come away from the articles thinking that making pigs sick is a good thing.

And who knew that UW-Madison has a 1,500-pig research facility? I learn new things every day.

Monday, December 18, 2017

APHIS-AC, the Vivisectors' New Confessor

Oversight and enforcement of compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (Title 7 – Agriculture. Chapter 54 – Transportation, Sale, and Handling of Certain Animals Sections 2131 - 2159) is largely the responsibility of a unit of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, named Animal Care. The usual abbreviation in the literature is APHIS-AC. AWA is shorthand for the Animal Welfare Act.

APHIS-AC has become a sort of guard dog for those who use animals, an version of what is known as regulatory capture, defined by Wikipedia as a form of corruption:
Specifically, it is a government failure which occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.

Over the years, the agency has removed evidence of AWA violations and then grudgingly restored the records only when forced to do so by threats of lawsuits or legal settlements. The records have typically been restored in a significantly degraded form.

Over the years, the agency has occasionally taken steps to impede the public’s access to the records it has been forced to provide. Today, on the agency’s web page, “AWA Inspection and Annual Reports,” one can review a limited set of records. The agency has been captured by those it is supposed to be regulating.

The agency did at one time seem to honor its responsibility to the public. Now, not so much. It hasn’t always been like this. At one time the records were kept for years and easily searched. Why should purportedly public records be password protected and non-searchable? Moreover, available electronic data storage space is now essentially unlimited. And yet, APHIS-AC deletes records after only three years. Some animals in labs are used for decades; repeated violations that cause them harm are expunged. This is not much different than police destroying records of child abuse to protect the abusing parents. Records demonstrating a pattern of federal law violations are routinely destroyed.

Over the years, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General has evaluated APHIS-AC’s enforcement of the AWA. The OIG has reported that the agency does a very poor job of monitoring and enforcing the AWA. See:

1/1995 - APHIS Animal Care Program Inspection and Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.
(Report No. 33600-1-Ch.)

10/20/2005 - APHIS Animal Care Program Inspection and Enforcement Activities.
(Report No: 33002-03-SF.)

05/25/2010 - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Care Program, Inspections of Problematic Dealers.
(Report No: 33002-4-SF.)

12/18/2014 - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Oversight of Research Facilities.
(Report No. 33601-0001-41.)

06/02/2017 - APHIS: Animal Welfare Act - Marine Mammals (Cetaceans).
(Report No. 33601-0001-31.)

The NIH Office of Laboratory Welfare (OLAW) is responsible for overseeing and enforcing compliance with the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Enforcement is pro forma. OLAW almost never inspects a lab or verifies claims made by NIH-funded institutions. When the local oversight committee, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) discovers a violation of the policy, it is reported in a letter or phone call to OLAW along with a statement briefly explaining what the institution is doing to avoid a repeat violation. OLAW seems to always say, “Sounds good.” And that’s the end of it.

Not too long ago, it was discovered that OLAW was not sharing this information with APHIS-AC. A well-known watchdog organization began using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of OLAW’s correspondence with the labs and then filing complaints about the violations with APHIS-AC which is legally required to investigate allegations of violations of the AWA. And, when they did, they found records of the violations which in turn required them to cite the institutions. This did not sit well with the vivisectors or APHIS-AC. The agency was unhappy at being forced to do its job.

A couple interagency agreements resulted, but still, the labs’ animal welfare violations were at risk of public exposure. Now, APHIS seems to have come up with a plan to better shield the labs; they call it: “Incentives for Identifying, Reporting, Correcting, and Preventing Noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act.”

Those incentives? Not being cited in writing. It appears that the agency has come up with a plan to collude with the industry to make it even harder for the public to find out what is happening to the animals. A friend likened the new system to the Catholic confessional -- what’s said remains confidential and absolution is all but certain.

It seems to work like this: A lab official learns that a violation has occurred. A call is made to APHIS, just as a call will be made to OLAW. APHIS makes a record of the call without mentioning the name of the facility. The violation will not show up on an inspection report. When an annual inspection occurs, a violation will not be mentioned in the inspection report if there was no mention of a violation in the last inspection report and the lab had previously self-reported it.

Additionally, apparently, unless the inspector witnesses the violation during the actual inspection, the violation will not be recorded in the inspection report.

One thing is clear: the animal welfare records of the labs are going to show improvement, it will be much more difficult to recognize a pattern of violations, and the apparent reduction of recorded violations will make APHIS look like it is doing a better job. Yes sir, its win-win for everyone except the few people who take the time to try and find out what’s really going on in the labs and the animals.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Making Waves, or, How Dickheads are Everyone’s Fault but Women Have the Largest Role to Play in Fixing the Problem

I’ve always spoken up about unfairness and injustice, and it has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion. (I was once arrested twice in one day for having the temerity to defy the authorities. A sense of moral responsibility can be a burden.) I’ll keep doing so.

As an elementary school teacher and an animal rights activist, and coincidentally in other realms, the large majority of my relationships have been with women, both as a superior and as an employee, as a leader and as a follower, and in most cases, as a collaborator. It galls me now to be told that I ought not voice my opinion on the spate of examples coming to light of women being taken advantage of or otherwise harmed by men, because I am a man. But, I’m not a dog, a monkey, or a chicken, and I speak up for them, so I’ll keep voicing my opinions on whatever injustice, unfairness, or misleading claims I think I see, and making suggestions about how to fix the problems; I am after all, a man.

Most recently, I agreed with a man who commented on a FB post that to him it did not appear that Al Franken was actually groping Los Angeles morning TV host Leeann Tweeden. It does not look to me like he is actually touching her. He seem to be miming a grope. If he did touch her after the photo was snapped, then he did. But the photo does not seem to me to show him groping her.

I was chastised for saying this, even though I said that his behavior was inappropriate or juvenile. I was told that if Ms. Tweeden felt like she was being groped then we should just accept that she was. Who was I to question her? I was told to stop defending Franken, even though I commented only on the photo. Franken says he is sorry for having taken advantage of her.

This was the second time that I commented on a FB post related to the rash of women speaking up about their previous experiences with men’s sexual predation. In both cases, I was told that because I am a man, I can’t really know what it would be like to be one of those women, and thus, I can’t have a valid opinion on the subject. But that’s like saying that I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a monkey strapped in a chair and having someone experimenting on my eye. I think I can.

All that aside, here I am writing mostly to affix blame and offer suggestions for how to fix this ugly problem.

Gentlemen, stop being dickheads; treat everyone like you would want to be treated if you were them. If you see or hear about someone acting wrongly, abusing their power, speak up. Tell someone. If something isn’t done about it, yell louder. Make them stop. Do all you can to fix it. Intervene. Don’t be a dickhead.

Ladies, the same thing goes for you. Because you are so often the victims, the burden on you is much heavier, but you must speak up because if you don’t, you may be allowing it to happen to someone else. This isn’t fair, but much in life isn’t. Further, whether we like it or not, essentially every man who treats women or anyone else in their power unkindly, unfairly, or disrespectfully, was raised primarily by a woman. This means that men’s behavior and mores can be changed by the group from which the greatest number of victims come. Fathers, uncles, brothers, or male friends also have a responsibility to instill an ethic of fairness and compassion, but the weight of the solution to the problem again rests more squarely on women’s shoulders.

I wish life was a lot more fair than it is. I’m working on it. I am, after all, a man.

I stand with all the victims, no matter their color, creed, species, gender, sex, or any other damn thing. I will not stand mute. And, finally, if you, dear reader, don’t want to read comments you disagree with about the things you post to FB, well, tough. Want to stay in your bubble? It’s easy to un-friend someone.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"What would happen if all Americans went vegan?"

I am responding here only to the article in Science announcing the publication of "Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. I've not read the original because it is not yet available to me. Assuming that Science's reporting is accurate, it just goes to show that dominant paradigms and financial interests are overwhelming confounds in the world of normal science. "The authors declare no conflict of interest," says PNAS.

But given the author's affiliations, it seems matter-of-factly otherwise. Robin R. White is an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, and and Mary Beth Hall is a scientist employed by the US Dairy Forage Research Center, US Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service. Her office is in the Animal Science Building at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In any case, from the Science article:
“Our logic was to start at the extreme scenario [and work backward from that],” says Robin White, the study’s lead author and an animal sciences researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She and fellow animal sciences researcher Mary Beth Hall, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, began by estimating the impact of converting all land now used by the livestock industry to cropland for human food.
What? They began by estimating the impact of converting all land now used by the livestock industry to cropland for human food. Why in the world would they have done that?

Consider this: "Some 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed ... And the vast majority of that land — about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat." (The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production. Time. 2013.)

So, we use about 10% of the world's land surface to grow all the non-animal food we eat. So, following the authors' methods, presumably, if we don't eat meat, dairy, etc., we will need four times the amount of everything else we eat. What? They must imagine a vegan diet as something akin to a county fair all-you-can-eat-contest. Maybe they think we eat out of a big bucket. My evening meal?

They also make the wild claim that even if we eat bucketfuls of nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables, that we will all have serious vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. You just can't be healthy on a vegan diet say these unbiased animal agriculture professionals:
Looking at the nutritional content of crops now produced, the team also found that a plant-only system wouldn’t be able to meet the U.S. population’s requirements for calcium, vitamins A and B12, and a few key fatty acids. “With carefully balanced rations, you can meet all of your nutrient requirements with a vegetarian diet,” White says. “But the types of foods that seem to do that, we don’t currently produce in sufficient quantities to make it a sustainable diet for the entire population.”
What? We don't currently produce sufficient quantities of brightly colored vegetables and dark leafy greens? Wow. And unexplainably ignorant of basic nutrition.

One of the claims that sounds on its face like it might be a real problem is the questiomn of fertilizer. The authors seem to believe that everyone is fertilizing their fields with manure. As if. Here's what Wikipedia says about the production of modern fertilizers: "Nitrogen fertilizers are made from ammonia (NH3), which is sometimes injected into the ground directly. The ammonia is produced by the Haber-Bosch process. In this energy-intensive process, natural gas (CH4) usually supplies the hydrogen, and the nitrogen (N2) is derived from the air. This ammonia is used as a feedstock for all other nitrogen fertilizers, such as anhydrous ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and urea (CO(NH2)2)." No cows or manure involved. Discomfort with the various costs of these processes was an impetus for the organic farming movement.

But if we all embraced a vegan diet and also wanted it to be organic, that wouldn't be an issue either. By freeing up so much land, crop rotation and fallow fields over-planted with nitrogen fixing legumes would easily supply more than the space and fertile soil needed to grow a bounty of foods. And, greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatically reduced, ground water pollution and runoff from feedlots and dairies, etc. would end, people would be much healthier, we would end the farmed animal holocaust. That's win, win, win, win, win.

That's what would happen if all Americans went vegan.

Friday, November 3, 2017

No one should have kids, not even vegans.

A friend asked me to respond to a blogger’s argument that vegans should have kids.

The author, the mother of twins, makes the same argument that most modern somewhat progressive parents who decide to have children rely on. Because they are good people, their children will grow up to be good people. There is at least some evidence that no one can say with much certainty just how their children will turn out.

I’m going to address the arguments she expressed here:
Adoption is often suggested as the solution to overpopulation. Here’s a good breakdown of why that’s probably not true. [linked in the original] Even if adoption were a winning solution to overpopulation, is overpopulation really a problem everywhere equally? In some countries, yes, it’s most certainly an issue; in other countries, the government is offering as many incentives as it can to motivate more couples to have babies. I have two biological children, and I will not be having any more. My husband and I have simply replaced ourselves, and we’re working hard to ensure that our replacements will be kind, thoughtful, compassionate people who choose to remain vegans as adults, who will influence others to do the same, and who will probably do more than I ever have to help animals, the planet, and other humans. I think you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel too guilty about that. I think the world would be a nicer place if more vegans would do the same.
The post she points to as evidence that adoption probably doesn’t help reduce population says clearly and a couple of times that the data is extremely unclear. There isn’t much evidence to draw on. The article is interesting but far from conclusive. (The author of that article has a passel of children -- her own and adopted -- and raises goats.)

In any case, adoption would help with the overpopulation problem if the people adopting would have had children if they hadn’t adopted. It isn’t adoption that reduces population growth, it is not having children that reduces it.

She asks, “... is overpopulation really a problem everywhere equally?” and then answers her question: “In some countries, yes, it’s most certainly an issue; in other countries, the government is offering as many incentives as it can to motivate more couples to have babies.”

But overpopulation is a problem everywhere. Equally. The rainforests in Indonesia are not being destroyed because of overpopulation in Indonesia. Polar bears and penguins are not starving to death because of overpopulation at the poles. Corals are not dying because of too many sailors. Life on earth is interconnected; the population of humans worldwide has created an unsustainable demand for the space and other resources other animals need in order to survive, let alone flourish.

The current U.S, government denies that climate change is caused by us; pointing to governments’ policies as evidence that a problem does not exist is an unwise appeal to authority.

The hope that one’s children will be better people and amount to more than oneself is probably natural and maybe even universal. All sorts of justifications are available to people who decide to have children. None of them are part of the solution to the harm we are causing. Humans are killing the other beings who live here. Fewer humans means less harm. No one should have kids, not even vegans.

Finally, though the best thing we can do for the planet’s other inhabitants is to not have children, once someone is born, a baby, a calf, a kitten, a chick, we have an absolute obligation to treat them as we want to be treated. Once they are here, they count and have rights.

Stand Up to Cancer.

Game 4, 2017 World Series

“Colon cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death in men and women combined, affecting people of all ages. Surgery is often an option for those patients whose cancer is caught early, but sadly, we have just a few lines of treatment for patients with advanced disease. The hope is that our research will one day develop better therapies for patients whose cancer is too advanced for surgery.” Nita Ahuja, M.D., and Nilo Azad, M.D. The State of the Fight: Colon Cancer. Stand up to Cancer. (Here’s some info on the drug they are testing: Griffiths, E. A., et al. "SGI-110: DNA methyltransferase inhibitor oncolytic." Drugs of the future 38.8 (2013): 535.

Eat more hotdogs.

The World Health Organizations classifies processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen. "This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans.

In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer."

Friday, March 28, 2014 Press Release from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council"
WASHINGTON, D.C.-It's a love affair that has spanned generations and baseball fans will once again make hot dogs their number one choice at the ballparks this summer. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) estimates that fans will eat a whopping 21,357,316 hot dogs and 5,508,887 sausages during the 2014 Major League season, enough hot dogs to stretch from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to Wrigley Field in Chicago....

This year's total includes a new single season record for most hot dogs at one stadium as the Los Angeles Dodgers anticipate fans will consume 3,077,537 hot dogs, a jump of more than 800,000 hot dogs from last year. That is enough to round the bases at Dodger Stadium 4,274 times and based on last year's attendance, means if everyone had just one, 82 percent of fans at every Dodger home game will eat a hot dog.
Meanwhile, disease mongers define prevention as early diagnosis. Money can be made from studying a disease but not from pointing to an avoidable cause. And there is enough money in "early detection" to motivate it's promotion. But there's not a dime in telling people to stop eating animals. There's no money in it for the pharmaceutical industry, the disease "charities," or the vivisectors and their universities. People can't be told to stop eating animals, the potential monetary costs to the meat industry are astronomical.

It's win-win for everyone but the people who get sick.