Wednesday, October 10, 2018

So-Called Progress

A Facebook friend recently shared an article from Global Meat News reporting that Maple Leaf Foods' is investing in "world class" animal welfare technology.

I snarkily quipped, "So enlightened!"
They answered, "I want the production of animals for meat to end, but, in the meantime, I want animals to suffer less in the process."
I replied, "I think things like this slow progress because they lull public concern. To the degree they do, they cause many more animals to suffer in the long term."
To which they said, "What is the evidence for that position? People are becoming vegan/vegetarian/reducitarian at the same time incremental steps towards more humane animal slaughter are being taken, with more being debated."

I like being challenged; it makes me look more carefully at what I believe and why I believe it. In this case, the first thing that came to mind as I wondered about my reaction was the history of animal welfare in the labs. It is my studied opinion that vivisectors' and their institutions' claims of humane care are fraudulent and entirely self-serving. It appears to me that their claims of humane care are used only to deflect public concern. Their secrecy supports this notion. My twenty-plus years of observation make me doubt the claims made by those who say the harms they inflict and the deaths they cause are achieved humanely.

From its website, it seems that Maple Leaf Foods is genuinely trying to treat the animals it raises and kills more humanely. My friend, and probably many others, says that is a good thing.

This is what the company says:
Maple Leaf Foods has strong values that define our culture and have a direct relationship on how we treat the animals we raise or source.

As the largest value-added meat protein company in Canada, we must be a leader in animal care. Animal welfare is an integral part of our culture and business. Our commitment to animal care focuses on progress in all of these areas:
Minimize or eliminate the use of antibiotics in animal care
Transition sows from confining gestation crates to open housing
Build a world-class animal care program that will be the foundation of a strong animal careculture
We are committed to enhancing our animal wellness practices in a manner that advances the Five Freedoms – the most widely accepted global standard for responsible animal care.

It may seem matter-of-fact and obvious that any reduction in suffering is a good thing. But reality is often complex. As I wondered about my intuitive aversion to the use of humane care as a marketing tool, I thought about examples from history. I wondered whether there might be examples that supported my worry that soft-peddling harm might, in fact, cause greater harm.

The electric chair came to mind. Prior to its invention and adoption as the preferred method of execution, most people condemned to death were hanged. The electric chair was promoted as a more humane method of killing, and it probably is.

One sad and interesting thing I learned is that electrocution was primarily developed using dogs, though other animals were also used. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_chair.

In any case, it appears, at least in the short term, that the development of a more humane way to execute people led to an increase, a large increase, in the number of people executed. The chart below is from https://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004087#V.



Between 1850-1899, 58 people were electrocuted and 3,781 were hanged. Between 1900 and 1949, 3,564 people were electrocuted and 2,677 people were hanged. It looks to me, from this data, that the number of executions increased because there was a purportedly humane way to kill people.

This isn't definitive, but it reinforces my impression that telling people that some terrible thing we are doing to others is now being done humanely promotes or at least sustains those practices.

It appears to me that the embrace of "humane" practices is a result of suppliers worrying about the public's increasing embrace of the idea that animals have rights. So, while these changes are good in a sense, they should more accurately be seen as rear-guard ploys to maintain and sustain the livelihoods of those who depend on hurting and killing others.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Another Day, Another Dire Warning. Or, How the Experts and Our Leading Institutions Continue to Fail Us.

The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say “There is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the body found.

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change. (The Washington Post. October 7, 2018)

It's pretty clear that most of the scientists in decision-making roles at the National Institutes of Health, at the the Department of Agriculture, and at our large universities don't believe this. They might give lip service to the idea of climate change when they want or need to appear informed, but actions always speak louder than words.

There are numerous things the average person can do to combat our plant's warming. We can use low energy consuming light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, and low volume toilets. We can wash clothes in cold water, and turn off their lights, appliances and electronics not in use. And all told, those things will make a smidgen of a difference. But only a smidgen.

Even driving a high-efficiency car like a Prius will help, but even if we all drove one, we'd still be careening toward the cliff.

At the very top of the list of things the average person can do to slow global warming is not have children. Humans are the engine of climate change. There are just too many of us. Moreover, every child is likely to have children, and so on in turn, all of them contributing to poisoning the planet. There is nothing with as large a positive impact as not having children.

And yet, the National Institutes of Health spends gazillions trying to find ways for women with reproductive problems to get pregnant. For instance, Anna Krueger Allen, at Howard University received $388,397 to study reproduction in tiny worms.(Project Number: 1R15HD084253-01A1) She explained her main reasons for doing so:
Despite fantastic advancement made in reproductive technologies within the last few decades, approximately 10% of reproductive age couples in the United States still remain infertile. Unfortunately the existing assisted reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, are not the cure-all answer to this significant societal problem.
She must believe that women not being able to get pregnant is a more pressing problem than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization.

Institutions dedicated to overcoming infertility and birthing problems are paid for with tax dollars; one example is the Magee-Womens Research Institute [sic] in Pittsburg. I'm sure they do some good work, but they must not believe that our burgeoning population is the largest factor in the pending calamity that climate scientists keep pointing to. They either don't believe the experts or don't care or, and this is the most likely reason, the money they are paid makes them deaf and blind to the warnings.

One example: Since 2014, Kyle Orwig (Project 5P01HD075795-05) has received almost $7 million to find a way for men who have undergone radiation for testicular cancer to father children. He says:
Applying our discoveries on stem cell activity and niche quality in mouse and rat testes, it is now possible to restore fertility in infertile males by transplanting spermatogonial stem cells. ... Men or boys who receive chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer have few options to safeguard their fertility. Spermatogonial stem cell transplantation provides a potential therapeutic avenue. We recently demonstrated that transplanted spermatogonial stem cells could regenerate spermatogenesis and produce functional sperm in infertile male primates rendered infertile by chemotherapy treatment (Hermann et al., 2012). Ongoing studies will systematically evaluate the feasibility and safety of the stem cell transplant technology to preserve and restore the fertility of men or boys who will be rendered infertile due to disease or medical treatment.
He hopes that those men and boys will have children. But we should be encouraging people to not have children. We ought not be spending millions of tax dollars helping infertile women or couples have children. Orwig and his staff must believe that men unable to father children is a more pressing problem than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization.

These are just a couple examples among very many that appear to demonstrate NIH-funded scientists' distrust or frank denial of the repeated warnings from the climate scientists. This proceed-as-if-everything-is-fine mentality permeates science. The journals plow ahead publishing papers on subjects far afield from the problems others point to on the fast-approaching horizon.

This helps explain the sliver of coverage global warming receives in the daily news shows, and until the local news and daily papers start regularly reporting on a problem, it isn't on most people's radar.

Second only to not having children, going vegan will have a greater positive impact than anything else the average person can do. And yet, USDA actively promotes meat eating. So, it seems reasonable to suppose that they don't believe the climate scientists either. Or, they must think that short-term financial gain for meat, egg, and dairy producers is more important than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization. I don't see another way to explain USDA's efforts.

And it's not just NIH and USDA. Many colleges and universities promote animal agriculture. Many universities have large programs dedicated to teaching and promoting the production of meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal derived foods and products. The professors teaching those classes, indeed, the university chancellors and regents and donors must all dismiss the concerns raised by the climate scientists; how else to explain their proceed-as-if-everything-is-fine mentality except, perhaps, by greed and a complete disregard for those who will have to deal with future events?

And it isn't just NIH, the colleges and university, the media, and the USDA, many politicians don't seem to believe the climate scientists either. Tammy Baldwin, one of Wisconsin's U.S. Senators, introduced a bill to outlaw the use of the words milk, yogurt, and cheese in the names of plant-based products. But we should be encouraging people to stop eating the animal derived products because animal agriculture is repeatedly pointed to by climate scientists as a significant factor in global warming. So, Baldwin must not believe the climate scientists either, or else, as I have said above, she must believe that short-term financial gain for meat, egg, and dairy producers is more important than ecological collapse, the displacement of millions of people, and the existential threat to civilization. I don't see another way to explain her position and her "DAIRY PRIDE Act."

Given the fact that so many scientists, scientific institutions, colleges and universities, government agencies, media outlets, and politicians don't seem to place much if any weight on the fears of those who study climate, it seems that we will be putting their scientific claims to the test in a real-world experiment.

I grew up reading science fiction and dystopian novels. It looks to me like I might get a chance to experience something akin to one of those stories. To paraphrase an old curse, it looks like we will be living through some interesting times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

NIH and misleading news about lifespan extension

On September 18, 2018, the National Institutes of Heath (NIH) published an article in their news-feed titled "Fasting increases health and lifespan in male mice."

I suspect the agency's regular reporting on what it deems discoveries and breakthroughs from experiments using mice might have something to do with NIH Director Francis Collins being a mouse vivisector.

Be that as it may, whenever I see a claim about the benefits of caloric reduction or fasting based on experiments on animals, I'm immediately suspicious. There is no doubt that obesity is associated with morbidity, but the claims from vivisectors about extending an animal's lifespan through a lifetime of hunger always turn out to be suspect.

The NIH provides a summary:
At a Glance

Long periods of fasting between meals helped male mice live longer and healthier lives, regardless of the content of their diets.

More studies are needed to confirm these results and understand how different fasting periods may impact health.
More studies are needed... of course.

The article's first brief paragraphs triggered my BS neurocircuit:
Studies have suggested potential health benefits from long-term calorie restriction. In long-term calorie restriction, average daily caloric intake is kept below what is typical or habitual, but without malnutrition or deprivation of essential nutrients. Calorie restriction can be achieved through simply eating less overall, or through specific periods of fasting.

One decades-long study in rhesus monkeys found an extension of lifespan with calorie restriction. However, another did not. Differences between those two studies—including the type of food used—made comparisons difficult.

Researchers from NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA), led by Dr. Rafael de Cabo, wanted to better understand if the type of food eaten, and when it is eaten, alters how calorie restriction affects the body. They divided almost 300 male mice into two diet groups. One group was given a diet low in sugar and based more on whole foods. The other group's diet was higher in sugar and more processed.

NIH can't get its story straight. The two monkey studies referred to are the one at UW-Madison, started in 1989, and the one at National Institute on Aging, started in 1987. Over the years, the Madison vivisectors reported frequently on the great benefits they were seeing in the calorie-restricted monkeys. Then the NIA reported that they saw no benefit in their study. No benefit.

They essentially said that the Madison scientists had no clothes.

As one might imagine, the Madison scientists were embarrassed. It turned out that the NIA monkeys -- both the caloric restricted group and the control group -- were fed a nutritionally decent diet, while the Madison monkeys were not. The NIA diet was 4% sucrose while the Wisconsin diet was 28.5% sucrose. The Wisconsin group had actually demonstrated that, like humans, obese sedentary monkeys on a high sugar diet were more likely to develop diabetes and other ailments than are monkeys who eat less of the poisonous diet. Additionally, and as shown repeatedly in Wisconsin's PR photos, the monkeys in the control group were morbidly obese.



Later, after laborious statistical contortions, authors of both studies reported in a joint paper that maybe there was some benefit to caloric restriction after all. Why the NIA group tried to save their Wisconsin colleagues reputations remains debatable; only they know the answer to that question.

It is worth noting that still today, as seen here, the NIH is saying that the two studies had different results. Indeed.

For much more on the colored history of this line of research in rodents and monkeys see Chapter 12, "Lo-Cal Immortality," in my book, "We All Operate the Same Way."

Thursday, August 23, 2018

We suck is a hard lesson.

Mrs. Trautwein (I’m not sure of the spelling) was my 7th grade English teacher at Johnston Jr. High in Houston. Her classroom was in what were referred to as one of the "temporary buildings," wooden buildings on pylons -- with two rooms sharing a common porch and set of steps. I failed English that year. I am forever in her debt.

She allowed me to write.

I didn’t write what she wanted me to. I was called up to her desk numerous times; the conversation was always the same.

When told to write, even when given a specific topic, I always found a way to twist my response in a way that allowed me to talk about our detrimental effect on the planet and its other inhabitants.

That was in 1965 or 66 (I’m not good with dates.)

She’d say, “Rick. Rick, Rick.”

She had very short hair. It was dark, maybe with a peppering of gray. Her face was round and pock-marked from acne. The hair on her face was a thick soft pelt; it’s funny the things we remember.

I don’t know how it got into my head. I recall reading lots of nature books -- or at least the captions -- and I’d been reading novels since I was ten. Mostly science fiction, so it’s likely some were dystopias.

My recurring unwavering theme in response to Miss. Trautwien’s many writing assignments was my worry that we would develop space travel. I did and do envision the possibility as strongly parallel to the biology of viruses; consuming our hosts and using them to scatter our spore; or in the case of us, scatter humans, to the detriment of our next host.

I wonder if she got it or just wrote it off as the angst of a twelve or thirteen-year-old boy?

In any case, I’m glad I had her as a teacher.

Recognizing Fake News

It can be hard for many of us to spot some fake news. This becomes even more difficult when the purveyor is believed to be honest and forthcoming. A case in point is the propensity of universities to publish statements and articles that are not true. I looked at numerous examples from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in my book "We All Operate in the Same Way."

Peta has recently been running bus ads and billboards pointing to the plain fact that vivisectors kill animals.





UW-Madison responded with a fake news blast. I'm copying it here because I don't trust them to change or delete it.
PETA bus ads target animal research

Posted on August 15, 2018

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers study animals, including monkeys like the one depicted in an advertisement on a Madison bus, to learn about human disease and to explore basic biological processes.

Alternatives to animals are always considered before research begins, and whenever possible methods without animals are used. However, animals remain the only way to study many vital aspects of human and animal health. UW–Madison scientists rely on animal studies to design new treatments and advance our knowledge of AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dangerous infections like influenza, many types of cancer and more.

All animal research on campus includes the attention of skilled veterinarians. All animal research is closely reviewed and regulated by our animal care and use committee and several federal agencies.

Everyone benefits from what scientists have learned from these studies. Where there is a better way, UW–Madison researchers use it. To exclude animals from research would leave us without the opportunity to answer many questions about the way our bodies work, and leave many people — and future generations — struggling with deadly and debilitating conditions without prospects for help.

That is why UW–Madison is committed to conducting responsible and ethical research with animals.

Learn more about animals in research and teaching at UW–Madison at animalresearch.wisc.edu.

Posted in UW News

Let's deconstruct this nonsense. Like all good propaganda, they start out with some facts. They use monkeys like the one seen in the ads. And they use animals in research on human diseases and biology. But from there, the truth quickly falls apart.

1. "Alternatives to animals are always considered before research begins, and whenever possible methods without animals are used."

In 2008, the British government reviewed the use of goats in research on rapid decompression, like that experienced in diving or submarine accidents. They reported that: "the remaining associated areas of uncertainty in submarine escape and rescue relate to events that are considered highly unlikely and do not therefore need to be addressed by means of animal testing."

And yet, the university refused to stop its horrifically cruel decompression experiments on sheep. (There was just too much money associated with it.) And that's just one example.

2. "However, animals remain the only way to study many vital aspects of human and animal health."

The misleading implication is that every terrible thing they do to animals is done only because there is no alternative. In fact, I don't think that is ever the case. One way to test this is to look at whatever it is that the vivisectors say they are studying and check the National Library of Medicine's database of research publications, PubMed, to see if there is research on the topic that was not a report on research using animals. I'll wager there is no human medical research topic at the university that isn't being explored somewhere with non-animal methods, vital or otherwise.

3. "UW–Madison scientists rely on animal studies to design new treatments and advance our knowledge of AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dangerous infections like influenza, many types of cancer and more."

This is straight-up fear-mongering. Why didn't they include trivial topics? For instance, Paul Kaufman's invasive experiments on monkeys to study presbyopia -- the age-related need for reading glasses. And just what are those "new treatments" for Alzheimer’s? Gibberish.

4. All animal research on campus includes the attention of skilled veterinarians.

This is like saying that all the experiments on people at Auschwitz had the attention of medical doctors. That's true, but that only added to the depravity. Likewise, the ranks of vivisectors claiming to be studying human disease are filled with veterinarians. A case in point is the attending veterinarian at the university's primate center, Saverio (Buddy) Capuano III. Capuano is a co-author of many papers reporting on the terminal course of monkeys infected with infectious diseases.

5. All animal research is closely reviewed and regulated by our animal care and use committee and several federal agencies.

In fact, veterinarian Capuano has argued during these committee meetings that the committee has no right to stop funded projects. He was outspoken on this point when Ned Kalin's plan to revive some of Harry Harlow's grotesque methods became public and the shit hit the fan.

The referred to regulations are cursory and proforma. Worse, enforcement has become secretive and opaque to the public.

6. "Everyone benefits from what scientists have learned from these studies. Where there is a better way, UW–Madison researchers use it."

By "everyone" maybe they mean the people at the university whose salaries are tied to tax-payer-funded research. Certainly, most people, the overwhelming majority, will receive no benefit from killing sheep by means of decompression, staging fights between mice, raising birds in isolation, blinding monkeys, inventing more mutant rodents, or breeding dogs with genetic illnesses. And clearly, someone who has been getting paid for twenty years isn't about to change course.

7. "To exclude animals from research would leave us without the opportunity to answer many questions about the way our bodies work, and leave many people — and future generations — struggling with deadly and debilitating conditions without prospects for help."

Wow. Just wow. Talk about dissing one's colleagues. I suspect there is a clinical researcher or two who might think that their efforts might someday provide a prospect for help. In fact, their work is exactly where all advancements come from.

8. "That is why UW–Madison is committed to conducting responsible and ethical research with animals."

Well, at least they end with a joke! Everyone knows its all about money. Everyone knows how irresponsible it is. And no one but a fake news glutton could believe it is ethical.

Finally, there is something particularly ethically distasteful when those who the public is told to trust mislead them; and doubly so when they knowingly mislead them to benefit themselves. It's despicable. But then, this isn't even news.

"It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect for the sake of science will hesitate to lie about it afterwards...." -- George Bernard Shaw. "The Doctor's Dilemma." 1909.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."




The parallels between the way Catholic dioceses and the NIH and USDA deal with priests and vivisectors who harm those in their power are hard to miss. I wrote a little about this last year.

There is something in our nature that can make us turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of those we have a responsibility to supervise. The more intimate we are with those misdeeds, the more we relate to those committing them, the more likely we are to make excuses for them and to offer only mild rebukes.

The parallels between the two cases -- priests and vivisectors -- are not uniform. In the case of Catholic priests, there are no reports of them killing their victims or letting them die of hunger or thirst. Another difference is that there are probably many genuinely compassionate and kind priests.

One of the similarities that struck me is shuffling people around. If a priest becomes too obvious, his Bishop sometimes just moves him to a new parish. In the case of vivisectors, they sometimes find jobs elsewhere if too much noise is made over their abuses. It is likely that a good recommendation is common. Michele Basso is a case in point. Even UW-Madison's hardened staff had to admit that her brain experiments on monkeys were slipshod error-filled nightmares. And so, she moved to UCLA, got a promotion, and kept at it.

I couldn't help but notice too, that the universities, NIH, USDA, and the Catholic dioceses seem to share opinions on when to redact information in written records; particularly embarrassing facts that implicate specific people are held back. Though, in defense of the Catholics, this is much more common among the vivisectors.

A particular similarity between these parallel worlds of abuse is that confession is often sufficient for forgiveness. In the case of priests sodomizing children, asking for forgiveness results in a letter of sympathy for the stress the priest has endured in fighting his urges. In the case of a university reporting violations of animal welfare laws, a letter from NIH expresses their thanks for reporting the problem and the hope that it isn't reported again.

You can read the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report here: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/local/report-on-pennsylvania-church-sex-abuse/2319/

You can read about the Michelle Basso case and a host of other similar hideous examples in my book, "We All Operate in the Same Way."

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hurry up, lab grown meat!


Miss Virginia Smith -- Smitty -- on my back watching the deer. Circa 1996.

I'm 65 years old and (knock-wood) in good health. I suspect that my 46 years of veganism is a contributing factor. Living another 20 years is a mixed bag, what with climate change and the totalitarian direction of the country and world in general, but barring an accident, I think it reasonable to suppose that I'll be around for another twenty years.

I'd like to spend those years with a couple of cats. We don't have cats right now because of the ethical morass of feeding them. Maybe we should bite the bullet and feed them a taurine-fortified cat food, but I have doubts about the effects of those products on cats' long-term health.

Lab-grown meat, grown in a non-animal medium of some sort, has the potential of being win-win.

Hurry up lab grown meat people, I don't have forever.