Search This Blog

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Let’s disenfranchise men.

“For thirteen days in October 1962 the world waited—seemingly on the brink of nuclear war—and hoped for a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis. In October 1962, an American U-2 spy plane secretly photographed nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union on the island of Cuba.” JFK Library. Web-retrieved 3/23/2023.

I was 9 years old. We were living in Houston. My parents stockpiled food and water; we had a plan for huddling in the hallway and putting our mattresses against the walls. A futile hopeless plan, but it made the tension very real. At school, we had recurring drills; we got under our desks and covered our eyes and the back of our necks and prayed for the all-clear bell; prayed that it really was just a drill.

My father had told me in a very serious talk, that if I thought it was the real thing, that I should ignore the teacher and run home as fast as I could. All largely because of Allen Dulles, John F. Kennedy, and a few other men.

There’s a common factor lurking there; it’s stamped into just about every war, violent crime, and cruelty throughout history. The crimes, wars, and cruelty are overwhelmingly carried out by men. Men are the problem. Let’s disenfranchise them.

I’ll wager that a world governed by women would be a better place for just about everyone. No matter the activity, if it involves harming others, men dominate.

80% of the US armed forces are men. 90% of inmates in federal prisons are men. The U.S. Dept. of Justice reports that only 14% of violent offenders are women.

According the Alaska Dispatch News, only 21% of hunting licenses are purchased by women. Hunting is very popular in Alaska.

Data is spotty, but one source reports that 40% of animal scientists are women.

Even in the kitchen, only 25% of chefs are women, but 79% of vegans are women. More female chefs could lead to kinder kitchens.

The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has 3,000 members throughout the United States & Canada; the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has “nearly 7,000 members.”

More women in every field would mean less harm and a better life for everyone.

Let’s disenfranchise men.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Invent Ways to Hurt Animals and Become a Millionaire.

One of the news feeds I subscribe to sends me scientific papers written by researchers experimenting on monkeys. A recent one was titled "A Rhesus Monkey Model of Non-suicidal Self-Injury." It was written by Melinda Novak and Jerrold S. Meyer. Meyer: "Much of our recent work has involved the use of a rat model to determine the mechanisms of cocaine action on the developing brain and the neurochemical and behavioral consequences of chronic prenatal cocaine exposure...". What a dick.

It caught my eye, not only for the title, but also because Melinda Novak was one of Harry Harlow's last PhD students, and I am somewhat familiar with one of their co-authored publications. Many of her papers are indexed here, here, and here.

Her career has largely been a study of the damaging impacts to monkeys from being kept alone in a cage and being hurt and frightened throughout their lives. None of her work seems to have benefited the monkeys in the labs, let alone any abused human children. It is estimated that self-injurious behavior "in the form of self-biting is observed in approximately 5–15% of individually housed rhesus monkeys."

She has brought in the big bucks. Her NIH-funded project SELF INJURIOUS BEHAVIOR AND PRIMATE WELL BEING (Project Number1R24RR011122-01) received $7,863,045 in taxpayer dollars from 1996 to 2006.

Data is hard to find, but the 2016 paper, Survey of 2014 Behavioral Management Programs for Laboratory Primates in the United States, reported that of 59,636 primates in the 27 facilities they surveyed, 83% were socially housed. So, 17% weren't. That means that more than 10,000 monkeys in U.S. labs are probably being kept in conditions widely acknowledged to cause multiple psychiatric maladies.

Novak is now claiming that further study of these mentally ill monkeys might lead to some benefit to adolescents and young adults manifestiong non-suicidal self-injury. But the study of monkeys raised in environmentally deprived conditions has never led to a benefit to human children or adults. Her claim that even more study is called for is particularly odious.

I'm particularly disgusted by her claim because of her history with Harry Harlow. They, probably her -- some research suggests that university professors commonly attach their names to their graduate student's research papers -- invented a device intended to terrify young monkeys. It is likely that they were already disabled as a result of their isolation.

[Unless otherwise noted, the passages quoted below are from "Isolation", Chapter 5 of "We All Operate in the Same Way." The Use of Animals at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Rick Bogle. Virginia Smith Books: 2017. See too: Harlow, Harry F.; Novak, Melinda A. (1973). Psychopathological Perspectives.
Harlow and Novak reported on the use of a novel device they designed and characterized as "diabolical" and intended to "produce turmoil and terror." The apparatus had two main parts, a small cage positioned above a larger unit. The larger lower unit was divided into two parts. The small cage could be lowered between them so that the monkey inside the cage was more or less surrounded by them. Harlow said it was like an elevator. The idea was to put frightening objects in the two bottom parts and then lower the monkey so that he or she was confronted on both sides by the objects. They write:
... and after a 1-minute delay [the monkey] was lowered into the fear apparatus to face the assault of arm-flapping, light-flashing, buzzing, or shrieking monsters -- one on each side of him. They say that the device was "extremely successful in producing terror in monkeys," and report that several of the monkeys clung to the top of the cage for as long as 15 minutes. They reported that monkeys balled up in the bottom of the cage. Others, they say "many," screamed the entire time they were in the apparatus, "... or until they became hoarse from the violence of their vocalization." They reported that all the monkeys developed intense phobias.

... in the case of Novak frightening monkeys in an effort to induce any sort of interesting behavioral aberration, she wanted to use monkeys similar to each other and who had had similar life experiences. So she first used four six-month-old monkeys who were all semi-isolates -- monkeys raised alone in a bare wire cage in a room with other individual monkeys in other bare wire cages -- and put them into the device, called by Harlow and Novak the "terror trap," for 15 minutes every day, for six weeks.
Now, 50 years later, she is still claiming that the study of profoundly emotionally damaged young monkeys will shed light on mental illness in humans. But why not? These claims, the willingness of scientific journals to publish these claims, the willingness of federal funding agencies and university's to support such cruelty, do, at the end of the day, pour more money into her bank account.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Again with Nussbaum

Her book, Justice For Animals, (Simon & Schuster, 2022) continues to irk me. It would not get a high mark if it were being graded. Consider this passage (p 180-181 passim):
More recently, Aysha Akhtar brings a growing body of scientific literature to bear on this question, arguing that we know for sure by now that a lot of animal-based research is unreliable and in that way imposes large costs on humans, through misguided treatments and the abandonment of others that might have proven superior.... In the same special issue [from 14 September 2015] ... Andrew Rowan concludes that the predictive value of animal testng is on average only 50 to 60 percent, but that in rodent studies it falls to below 50 percent, less accurate than a coin toss.

If this new line of argument is correct, research using animals does not pose a tragic dilemma, because nothing is gained from it. [my emphasis] But it seems unlikely that such a sweeping conclusion is correct.
Jeepers. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, maybe this is just a case of extremely poor editing. But the absence of scholarship displayed in the characterization of Akhtar's [important] documentation of the failures of animal models as a "new line of argument" exposes Nussbaum as simply an unread neophyte.

For instance, Henry Salt, in his 1894 Animals' Rights [Macmillan & C.] quotes Lawson Tait, "one of the most eminent surgeons of our time": "The conclusions of vivisection are absolutely worthless."

Antivivisection groups and independent scholars have challenged the purported science underpinning the use of animal models of human illness and drug response for well over a century; how could she, a lauded scholar, not know this? See too:

Friday, February 10, 2023

Justice For Animals, a review

Martha Nussbaum's new book, Justice For Animals, Our Collective Responsibility (Simon & Schuster 2022) has gotten some notice. It seems to be a gift of sorts to her recently deceased daughter who was active in the animal rights movement.

It's an interesting book with much to say about our treatment of animals. A considerable bit of it rubbed me the wrong way.

Suggestions about how we ought to treat animals from people who eat them have to be taken with a grain of salt. Nussbaum claims that she "tried" a vegan diet, but it made her tired. Poor her. It's like someone saying that they tried to give up pedophilia.

Another thing that really irks me is college/university faculty members like Nussbaum who voice some concern for animals yet don't serve on their institution's Animal Care and Use Committee(s), the legally required animal experimentation oversight committees. If they did, I don't think we'd see claims like Nusbaum's that the 3R's (reduction, refinement, and replacement) have "become the watchwords of all regulatory bodies." Even a cursory review of what's being done in the labs exposes the naivety of such claims. For instance, Nussbaum is a Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. At her institution, vivisectors are putting electrodes in monkeys' brains. These "watchwords" mean little to the animals in the labs. See:

The interplay between kinematic and force representations in motor and somatosensory cortices during reaching, grasping, and object transport Project Number 5R01NS125270-02 Contact PI/Project Leader HATSOPOULOS, NICHOLAS G Other PIs
Awardee Organization UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

She also challenges the use of arguments that point to the ethically salient similarities between us and other animals. She thinks that doing so appeals in some way to the scala naturae or Great Chain of Being. But no one pointing to the similarities between us (the only species with legal rights) and other species does so because they believe that there is some devine ordering of creation. Oddly, she, at times, makes this argument herself. Indeed, it can't be avoided when arguing on behalf of animals, just as I have done.

In spite of these and numerous other criticisms I have, her prominence might help draw some attention to the terrible things we do to other animals. The book is worth reading if for no other reason than to be able to talk about her claims with those who might read the book and want to talk about something she says.

PS: Another thing that really irked me was her use of Jonathan Balcombe and Peter Singer to defend her mixed-up position. In the case of Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows, she claims that he eats fish. He doesn't. She points to Singer's comment that experimenting on 100 monkeys to help 40,000 humans with Parkinson's could be justified. She makes these claims to defend her fish-eating and support for some animal research.