Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement

The subtitle of my upcoming book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy (taken from PETA's Ingrid Newkirk's most famous quote), is The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. That cost is both real and harmful, as evidenced by a story of important research on anthrax not being conducted for fear of animal rights terrorism. From the story:
Last week a commotion erupted over a canceled anthrax project at Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater. The National Institutes of Health had agreed to fund the study, which involved creating an animal model of anthrax infection in baboons, and the university's animal use and care committee had given it the green light. But OSU President Burns Hargis decided that the project would not be allowed on campus, for reasons that weren't immediately clear.

Hargis made the decision based on several factors, OSU's vice president for research and technology transfer, Stephen McKeever, told ScienceInsider on Friday. "The issue he was mostly concerned about was that he really did not want to attract controversy from the violent elements of various animal rights groups. He did not want to put OSU in that spotlight and so unnecessarily distract from or interfere with current research." Although McKeever says no specific attacks or threats against OSU factored in the decision, attacks by animal rights extremists have been on the rise in the United States in recent years.

That's the point of terrorism, to use fear as a cudgel to affect policy. This is just one example of the harm being done by animal rights terrorism, about which the general movement--with notable exceptions, such as Gary Francione--remains mostly silent or tacitly in support. That is why I no longer think of animal rights as a peaceable movement.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Threat of Lawyers to Animal Research

P. Michael Conn, co-author of The Animal Research War, warns about the plan to use the law to undermine--and eventually destroy--animal research in a column in The Scientist. This isn't alarmism. These law clinics at universities like Harvard and Rutgers hope to set lawyers in motion to do just that. From his column:
Under current US law, things are either property or persons. Legal rights for animals require the establishment of personhood; property cannot have rights. US welfare laws view animals as property, but emphasize our responsibility to care for them humanely. The effort to ascribe "personhood" to animals is a central focus of animal rights supporters, since changing public perception of animals is one way to stop their use in food, clothing, entertainment, and research. In some jurisdictions, "pet owner" has been replaced by "animal guardian," ascribing a different status for the animal. References to animal researchers as "vivisectors" who "exploit" "sentient beings" and practice "torture" and "cruelty" (applied generally to research), also impact the public. In a poll earlier this year (May 7–10), only 57% felt that animal research was morally acceptable, down from 62% in 2004.

The future may see an attempt to recognize Aristotle's three categories: things, animals, and persons. Animals may not ultimately enjoy the rights of persons, but the law may become increasingly specific about our obligation to care for them. If, on the other hand, "personhood" for animals is achieved, this status is likely to be in conflict with animal research. Failure to address developments in the education of law students is likely to have a long-ranging impact on the ability to develop new treatments needed for human and animal well-being.
I discuss this matter at some length in my upcoming book A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy. The threat is real, ranging from obtaining the right for animals to sue--supported by Obama Regulations "Czar" Cass Sunstein and Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe--to having them declared "persons," a current such case involvling a chimp now in front of the European Court of Human Rights. We ignore Conn's warning at great peril to scientific advancement and the alleviation of human suffering.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Rats Die That Premature Babies Might Live

There are two themes in animal rights activism involving medical research. One has integrity. It states that even though we receive clear benefits from animal experimentation it shouldn't be done for ethical reasons. I disagree with that, but it is a moral argument that can be respectfully engaged.

Then there is the mendacity--that not only do humans receive no benefit from animal research, but it actually causes us harm. Unless one is totally blinded by ideological zeal, this meme is untenable from a factual perspective. And now, here's another story illustrating the benefit we receive from animal experimentation. Rats have shown that adult stem cell research may be able to save the lives of prematurely born babies. From the story in Science Daily:
An international team of scientists led by Dr. Thébaud has demonstrated for the first time that stem cells protect and repair the lungs of newborn rats. "The really exciting thing that we discovered was that stem cells are like little factories, pumping out healing factors," says Dr. Thébaud, an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Clinical Scholar. "That healing liquid seems to boost the power of the healthy lung cells and helps them to repair the lungs." In this study, Thébaud's team simulated the conditions of prematurity -- giving the newborn rats oxygen. The scientists then took stem cells, derived from bone marrow, and injected them into the rats' airways. Two weeks later, the rats treated with stem cells were able to run twice as far, and had better survival rates. When Thébaud's team looked at the lungs, they found the stem cells had repaired the lungs, and prevented further damage.
Rats died that premature babies might one day live. That's a fair trade any way you look at it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NASA Wrong to Irradiate Monkeys

I support necessary medical and scientific experimentation on animals. But I don't think this experiment is necessary. From the story:
NASA is to expose squirrel monkeys to daily radiation doses to help them understand the effects of long space trips on humans. It will be Nasa's first experiment on primates in decades.

If a manned mission to Mars ever takes place, the human pilots will be outside Earth’s protective magnetic field for several months, unprotected from solar radiation. Little research has been done on this sort of long-term exposure to low doses of radiation. Rats and mice have been exposed to this sort of radiation before, but that gives only a hint of what the effects would be on humans. Eleanor Blakely, a biophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said: "Obviously, the closer we get to man, the better."

The researchers are to pay particular attention to the effects on the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviour. The monkeys, previously trained to perform a variety of tasks, will be tested to see how the exposure affects their performance. Jack Bergman, a behavioral pharmacologist at Harvard Medical School's McLean Hospital in Boston, said: "We realized there was a need for this kind of work. There's a long-standing commitment on the part of NASA to deep space travel and with that commitment comes a need for knowing what kinds of adverse effects deep space travel might have, what are the risks to astronauts. That's not been well assessed."
This experiment seems wildly premature to me. We are probably decades from being able to technologically support--much less afford--manned trips to Mars. Indeed, we may not conduct such missions in our lifetimes. If and when we get closer to actually doing these missions, these experiments might be necessary, and they can be conducted with a better understanding of the actual conditions the astronauts would face based on the technology of the time.

True: We have had people in space for months at a time in the space station. Surely, they were exposed to continual radiation and their health should be monitored over the coming years. But until and unless extended space missions become plausible, I see no reason to put these monkey through the potentially painful consequences of being exposed to radiation. There may be a time, as I said, to conduct such studies. But that time is not now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

HSUS: Preaching That Old Time Animal Rights Religion

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the smartest and richest animal rights group around. Unlike PETA, it doesn't openly proselytize that old animal rights religion, e.g., sentience gives moral value, "a rat, is a pig, is a dog, is a boy," the quote from Ingrid Newkirk and title of a certain author's soon to be published book. This strategy has been very effective, allowing HSUS a level of mainstream respectability that other animal rights groups can't match.

But make no mistake, HSUS is about animal rights--eventually ending all animal husbandry and human hegemony over fauna--and its head, Wayne Pacelle, is a hard core evangelist. He has a piece on Michael Vick today, that, I think, unconsciously reflects the explicit religious nature of animal rights advocacy. It is about fall, repentance, redemption, and altar calls--indeed, it is permeated with a subtle, but distinctly Christian, narrative. From his piece:
A person who committed an awful crime against animals is found out. Prosecutors take the case seriously, and the perpetrator eventually pleads guilty. The judge metes out a stern penalty, given the sentencing guidelines at the time.
Man falls. Of course, Vick acted abominably, but follow me on this. He is convicted of his wrongdoing, confesses, and suffers just punishment. But there is redemption and a public confession of faith:
And then, upon release from prison, the perpetrator comes knocking on the door of the largest animal protection group and says he wants to sign up to do community service for the anti-cruelty team. He makes the pledge public so there is accountability.
You think I am reading too much into this? Then, get the ending:
In a civil society, there must be accountability for grievous actions. But there also must be an embrace of people who are willing and ready to change - even in tough cases, like Michael Vick. We are all sinners when it comes to animals, and we can all do better.
We have all sinned against animals? Substitute God for animals in this piece, and you have a classic Christian message. Yup. animal rights is religion and Wayne Pacelle a high priest of the faith. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Animal Researcher Worries About Murder

Dario Ringach, formerly of UCLA, usedmonkeys to research whether an optical implant in the brain and attached to glasses could help the blind to see. But he was driven out of his work by terrorists who cared more for the monkeys than the blind, and were willing to terrify a family of law abiding citizens to get their way. Based on my research for A Rat, is a Pig, is a Dog, is a Boy, I know some of the details of what he experienced, and there is no question in my mind that Ringach had abundant reason to fear for the safety of his family.

After years of silence, Ringach is now speaking out, urging society to defend animal researchers. Why? For the most important of reasons. From an interview in Nature News:
After being quiet for so long, what made you speak up?

What's changed is I think we're getting awfully close to the situation where somebody may be killed. There is a general trend toward polarization in our society, from the debates on health care to abortion; we had an abortion doctor killed not too long ago. I think all these events are catalyzing the possibility that a scientist might be killed. The situation has changed a lot since my decision. At the time, it was me and a handful of investigators facing these groups alone. Things have changed, and universities such as UCLA are doing more to make sure these investigators are safe.

The take-home message from my own personal experience is: don't leave people alone to confront these issues. They need the support of their institutions and their colleagues. I hope that nobody else will have to face this decision. That's why I have decided to speak up. I thought I had to start speaking up in the hope that first, these attacks will stop, and second, that the public will understand we are open to dialogue but we can only do so in an environment where we know that we will not be attacked when we go back home.
Murder is the Rubicon, and some, like Jerry Vlasak, have all but called for it. Steven Best declares that animal rightists are at war with animal industries. PETA winks, and in the past, some of its leaders have had more than a passing acquaintance with animal rights criminals. Ringach has every reason to be worried that the river will be crossed. I am, too.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Research on Rats May Result in Paralyzed People Walking

Another example of the need to research on animals. Rats, whose spinal cords had been severed, were able to walk again with the use of an experimental medical procedure. From the story:
Consistent electrical stimulation and drugs enabled the rats to walk on their hind legs on a treadmill -- bearing the full weight of the body -- within a week of being paralysed. With the addition of physical therapy, the rodents were able after several weeks to walk and run without stumbling for up to 30 minutes, reported the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Paralysed rats whose spinal cords had been severed from their brains were made to run again using a technique that scientists say can work for people, according to a study released Sunday.
This is an experiment that could not be done on humans because it would paralyze able bodied people. So once again the choice is clear: Use able bodied people, animals, or don't try to develop the technology. The choice is that simple and that stark.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Grave Robbing in the Name of "Animal Rights"


This is the kind of action that PETA and many other "mainstream" animal rights groups refuse to condemn. The vacation home of a drug company executive was torched and his mother's ashes stolen. From the story:
British animal rights activists have been accused of burning down a holiday home of one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical bosses and stealing his mother's ashes. Daniel Vasella, the CEO of Novartis, has been targeted by militants because of the Swiss company's ties with the controversial British animal testing company, Huntington Life Sciences (HLS).

Police have launched an investigation after his Austrian holiday villa in the small Tyrolean village of Bach was set on fire on Monday..."It was a criminal act," a Novartis spokesman said, adding there was "no doubt" that the notorious activist group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) was behind the arson.

The alleged attack came a week after the grave of Dr Vasella's parents was targeted. An urn containing the ashes of his mother, who died in 2001, was stolen in the eastern Swiss city of Chur. A message was spray-painted on the gravestone in red letters saying: "Drop HLS Now."
This is an example of "tertiary targeting," that is, attacking businesses that do business with HLS. Moreover, it isn't the first time that animal rights activists have caused intense emotional distress to people they dislike by grave robbing. Readers of SHS and my other work on this issue will recall that the owner of a farm in the UK, targeted by terrorists for raising guinea pigs--faced the heartbreak of having a loved one's body stolen out of her grave and buried in a forest.

Will animal rights activists generally, and the movement's leaders specifically, condemn this action, both the arson and the stealing of loved one's remains? Don't hold your breath or you will turn very blue.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Animals are Property: Veterinarian Negligence Not Grounds for Damages for Emotional Distress

The California Court of Appeals has ruled that a veterinarian is not liable for the emotional distress caused when professional negligence leads to the loss of a beloved pet. From the story:
A veterinarian whose malpractice causes the loss of a beloved dog doesn't have to pay damages to the owner for emotional distress or loss of companionship because the law considers pets to be property, says a state appeals court. In a ruling Friday on a San Francisco attorney's suit against an Orange County veterinarian, the Fourth District Court of Appeal acknowledged that "the love and loyalty a dog provides creates a strong emotional bond between the owner and his or her dog."

But the court noted that a parent whose child is killed by medical negligence can't sue the doctor for emotional distress or loss of the child's companionship. By the same token, California law allows a pet owner, in some cases, to seek compensation for loss of the animal's "unique economic value" but not for its "sentimental or emotional value," the court said.
This is right, I think. Otherwise, the status of animals would be raised in an unwarranted way, and the flood of emotional distress lawsuits would overwhelm the court system.

Please note that I am not denigrating or dismissing the intense emotional ties we develop with our pets. Nor am I in any way suggesting that the death of a beloved pet isn't traumatic. Moreover, I am certainly not stating that if someone intentionally kills or injures a pet in order to cause emotional distress to the owner, that liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress should not fully apply. It should, and in spades, as should criminal sanctions for such a terrible wrong.

More Proof of Need to Research on Primates in Limited Cases

So we have the Great Ape Project, passed in Spain, that says humans and gorillas are part of a "community of equals," and that none can be "tortured," e.g., used in medical experiments. In this country, we have legislati0n pending that would outlaw all medical experiments on apes and chimps. But what are supporters of such bans to do with this news? A new strain of deadly HIV has apparently passed from gorillas to humans in Africa. From the story:
A new strain of the virus that causes AIDS has been discovered in a woman from the African nation of Cameroon. It differs from the three known strains of human immunodeficiency virus and appears to be closely related to a form of simian virus recently discovered in wild gorillas, researchers report in Monday's edition of the journal Nature Medicine. The finding "highlights the continuing need to watch closely for the emergence for new HIV variants, particularly in western central Africa," said the researchers, led by Jean-Christophe Plantier of the University of Rouen, France.

The three previously known HIV strains are related to the simian virus that occurs in chimpanzees. The most likely explanation for the new find is gorilla-to-human transmission, Plantier's team said. But they added they cannot rule out the possibility that the new strain started in chimpanzees and moved into gorillas and then humans, or moved directly from chimpanzees to both gorillas and humans.
If we are going to understand this new strain, if we are going to be able to fight it, if we are going--hopefully--to one day find a vaccine, it seems to me we have to be able to conduct properly planned and humanely conducted experiments using gorillas and other animals--of at least the option needs to be available to scientists. No one like it. But it is either that or not do our best to save human lives from this terrible scourge.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights and Vegetarianism at The Corner

I participated in a conversation on animal rights over at The Corner about vegetarianism. Here was my point.

Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights [Wesley J. Smith]

Eating meat is a natural human activity — that is, we are biologically omnivorous. In my view, this makes it entirely moral for human beings to eat meat. How that meat is obtained is important. Human exceptionalism — a concept denied in animal-rights ideology — holds that we have a duty to treat animals humanely. Arguments can certainly be made that factory farms are not humane, although they do provide important human benefits of inexpensive and nutritious food. Many opponents of factory farms don’t have to worry about food prices when feeding their families. Still, there is “humane meat,” advocated by Matthew Scully in Dominion, which is more expensive but is raised on Old McDonald–type farms with humane methods of slaughter.

I consider vegetarianism for moral reasons akin to a vow of chastity by monastics: It eschews a normal human activity for higher moral purposes. That is to be admired. But no monastic would or should say that his vow of chastity makes him morally superior to married married people who have sex. Similarly, vegetarians’ decision to refrain from eating meat does not make them morally superior to people who do eat meat.

In Dominion, Scully does indeed come at his advocacy from an animal-welfare (as opposed to an animal-rights) perspective. But he is barely on the right side of the line because he is indifferent to the human good derived from animal industries and animal use.

He also claims that the ideology doesn’t matter in this debate. That is absolutely wrong. Animal-welfare philosophy supports human exceptionalism; animal-rights philosophy disdains that approach and rejects human exceptionalism as “speciesist.” There is a huge difference between the two. Whether we believe human beings have a unique moral status in the world has tremendous implications for human rights and human flourishing. Indeed, it could be the most important ethical and moral issue of the 21st century.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Draft Book Cover

A book is put together like a puzzle. The first piece is the proposal that gets you the gig. Then the research. Writing 80.000 words comes next. Then editing. My upcoming book has passed these hurdles.

We now have a rough of the book cover, reproduced on your left. This is not necessarily the final look, but I think it fairly represents where we will be taking it.

Pub date: January 19, 2010. Or, you can pre order at Amazon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Animal Research Update: Malaria Vaccine 100% Effective in Mice

A vaccine has been found that is 100 percent effective in preventing malaria in mice. From the story:
A new malaria vaccine has been shown to provide 100% protection in mice. If it can approach that level in people, it could slash the toll from one of the world's worst scourges, according to Stefan Kappe of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI). "We're shooting for 90%-plus protection," said Kappe, who is the leader of the international collaboration behind the vaccine. "I am extremely optimistic this will work. The initial trials on Kappe's vaccine are tentatively scheduled to start in January at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is required.

Many experimental drugs falter in the leap from mouse to human. And even if all goes well, it will be nearly 10 years before the new vaccine would be ready to roll out, Kappe estimated. The $17-million project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $1 billion into the fight against malaria in the developing world.

If potentially saving millions of children's lives isn't worth the sacrifice of these mice, than the sun doesn't rise in the East. We have duties to treat animal humanely. And they are important. But sometimes our duties to suffering humanity must come first. This is one of those times.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Still Need Chimps in Medical Research

A bill in Congress would outlaw invasive medical research on chimpanzees. This is folly. Chimps are highly intelligent and social creatures, and we should not use them in research blithely. But chimps are the closest genetically to humans in the natural world, meaning that in limited circumstances where the potential human benefit is most pronounced, we still need to be able to use them in research.

A story today illustrates the point. It turns out that, contrary to what was previously thought, chimps do die from HIV infections. From the story:

A team of scientists, including two from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, have discovered chimpanzees in Tanzania falling ill and dying from an AIDS-like disease, a surprising finding that researchers hope could lead to new insights into the disease process and ultimately to a vaccine. The team's study, to be published in Thursday's edition of the British research journal Nature, showed that chimps infected by certain strains of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, a precursor to HIV, died 10 to 16 times more frequently than uninfected chimps during a 9-year study.

Could there be a more urgent cause in reducing human suffering and death than finding a vaccine or cure for AIDS?

PETA's alpha wolf Ingrid Newkirk once said that she would rather see AIDS remain uncured than see animals used in research. Ponder that when you think you might support animal rights because those really are the stakes in the research debate. And it turns out, we still need to use chimps in the most urgent areas of medical research. Unless, we prefer to permit millions suffer and die from AIDS rather than use chimps in medical research.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Animal Research News

Boy, let us hope this works out! Scientists have discovered that adult stem cells may be able to help restore memory lost to Alzheimer's dementia. From the story:
Researchers have shown for the first time that neural stem cells can rescue memory destroyed by advanced Alzheimer's disease, leading to hopes for a treatment for the condition.
American scientists at the University of California have shown for the first time that stem cells injected into the brain can rescue memory in mice, rebuilding neurons and memory. "Essentially, the cells were producing fertiliser for the brain," said Professor Frank LaFerla, director of the university's Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders. They examined the mouse brains after the injection and found six per cent of the stem cells had turned into neurons with the majority becoming other types of brain cells which aided growth. The stem cells were found to have secreted a protein called brain-derived neurotropic factor, or BDNF which caused existing tissue to sprout new neuritis – the connections between neurons.
More proof of the utter need for animals in medical research.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Good Example of the Need for Animal Research

Most animal rights activists insist that humans receive no benefit from animal research. I make a big point of rebutting this in my upcoming book, which I think convincingly demonstrates that biological science would be materially impeded if animals could no longer be used. One such area is basic research in which scientists learn about biological processes or are able to test hypotheses regarding potential areas of future research. Sometimes, this work can be done with computer models, cell lines, or other non animal studies. But sometimes you need an intact, operating biological organism, which either means animals or humans.

Here's a good example: Scientists have learned a way to interfere with the workings of the gene that causes muscular dystrophy in mouse studies. From the story:
U.S. researchers have found a way to block the genetic flaw that causes a common form of muscular dystrophy, the team reported on Thursday. Mice injected with a compound that neutralizes faulty gene activity regained the use of muscles frozen by myotonic dystrophy, the researchers said. "We haven't corrected the underlying gene abnormality," said Dr. Charles Thornton of the University of Rochester in New York, whose study appears in the journal Science. "What we've done is made it behave in a more mannerly fashion," Thornton said in a telephone interview.
Will this turn into a treatment for the human disease? There is no way to tell at this point. But the success of these experiments--which involved the taking of the lives of many mice--pointed scientists into a potentially fecund area of research into this and other genetic-caused diseases.

It is too bad that a defense of animal research needs to be mounted--but it does. This is how science moves forward. Animal rights activists would stifle such activities and choke off many efficacious approaches to alleviating human suffering.

PETA Will Save Beach if Named "Sea Kitten State Park"

PETA is a publicity junky. Whether negative, positive, or just plain loopy, if it will get them in the news, PETA is there.

Latest example, PETA seeks to take advantage of California's financial implosion, in which our state parks might have to close for lack of maintenance funds. From the story:

PETA sent a letter to California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman on Wednesday offering to pay to keep Pescadero State Beach open, but only if it is renamed Sea Kitten State Beach. Pescadero State Beach is among the 219 state parks slated for closure under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to close a $26.3 billion deficit.

The term "sea kitten" is an effort to evoke the same sympathy for fish that people feel for cats and dogs, according to PETA Manager of Campaigns Lindsay Rajt. "Pescadero means 'the place to fish,' so we thought by renaming it 'Sea Kitten State Beach' we could make it the place for fish instead of fishing," she said.
PETA clearly doesn't care about keeping the open space available for the people of California. It is just using our misery to get itself in the news. How compassionate.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Smith on Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna is one of my favorite radio hosts. A political conservative, she plies her trade over the airwaves of Madison and Milwuakee. Vicki has energy, vivaciousness, a great radio voice--and she likes me! I was on her show "Upfront With Vicki McKenna" yesterday on WIBA Newstalk 1310 about Cass Sunstein wanting animals to have the right to sue their owners. I think you will enjoy the show. We also get into GE partnering with Geron to create embryonic stem cell lines to avoid using animals in research and the Great Ape Project. Here's the link.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Whales Are Not Trying to "Tell" Us Anything

This isn't explicitly an animal rights post, but it is closely related.

Popular science writers have fallen in love with their subjects, leading to blatant anthropomorphizing of animals--to the detriment of their work and credibility. Barely a week goes by these days without some writer pushing the meme that animals are really people too.

Latest example, "Watching Whales Watching Us," by Charles Siebert in the New York Times Magazine. From the article:
Somehow the more we learn about whales, the more we're coming to appreciate the sublimely discomfiting reality that a kind of parallel "us" has long been out there roaming the oceans' depths, succumbing to our assaults. Indeed, when that baby gray calf bobbed up out of the sea and held there that first morning, staring at me with his huge, slow-blinking eye, it felt to me as if he were taking one impossibly long and quizzical look in the mirror.
Oh, please: When a writer rockets that far over the top, I lose trust in the entire article. Siebert is clearly smitten. It's a romance. And when one is emotionally involved with the subject, yearning for something to be true, one will tend to interpret events to make them appear to be for which one hopes. (Just ask any man who has fallen in love with the wrong woman.)

And I hate to tell Siebert, but that whale who gave him the eye was unquestionably a magnificent animal who may have been curious. But the writer's deeply romantic yearning to transform whales into huge versions of us notwithstanding, was quite indifferent to his existence.

What are whales trying to tell us? Not a blessed thing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why "The Lawyers" Support Animals Being Allowed to Sue

You just knew "the lawyers" would jump right on the animals-being-allowed-to-sue bandwagon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When Animals Sue

As promised last week, my extended piece on Cass Sunstein supporting granting animals "standing" to sue in their own names, is now out in the Weekly Standard. From the column:
Imagine you are a cattle rancher looking for liability insurance. You meet with your broker, who, as expected, asks a series of questions to gauge your suitability for coverage:
Have you ever been sued by your cattle?

If the answer is yes, what was the outcome of that suit?

Have you received any correspondence or other communication from your herd's legal representatives threatening suit or seeking to redress any legal grievance?

If you think that's a ridiculous scenario, that animals suing their owners could never happen, think again. For years, the animal rights movement has quietly agitated to enact laws, convince the government to promulgate regulations, or obtain a court ruling granting animals the "legal standing" to drag their owners (and others) into court.
Animals suing is often laughed at as one of those things that "can't happen here." (Anyone who says that line just hasn't been paying attention for the last 20 years.)

Of course, the real litigants would be animal rights ideologues who would use the courtroom to destroy animal industries:
Animals are not (yet) legal persons or rights-bearing beings, hence, they lack standing to go to court to seek legal redress. That procedural impediment prevents animal rights activists from attacking animal industries "from within," as, for example, by representing lab rats in class action lawsuits against research labs. This lack of legal standing forces attorneys in the burgeoning field of animal law--who are dedicated to impeding, and eventually destroying, all animal industries--to find other legal pretexts by which to bring their targets directly into court.
With Cass Sunstein--a high Friend of Obama and on board for "animal standing," and others of that visibility and prestige backing the project, this issue is could unquestionably be implemented:
In a 2004 book which he edited, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Sunstein wrote:
It seems possible .  .  . that before long, Congress will grant standing to animals to protect their own rights and interests. .  .  . Congress might grant standing to animals in their own right, partly to increase the number of private monitors of illegality, and partly to bypass complex inquiries into whether prospective human plaintiffs have injuries in fact [required to attain standing]. Indeed, I believe that in some circumstances, Congress should do exactly that, to provide a supplement to limited public enforcement efforts.
Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe has also supported the concept--and I provide the quote.

Senator Saxby Chambliss( R-GA) has put a hold on Sunstein's nomination over the issue because of harm it would do to family farms and ranches. (No kidding!) But that isn't all: Animal standing would be profoundly subversive to human exceptionalism:
But animal standing would do more than just plunge the entire animal industry sector into chaos. In one fell swoop, it would both undermine the status of animals as property and elevate them with the force of law toward legal personhood. On an existential level, the perceived exceptional importance of human life would suffer a staggering body blow by erasing one of the clear legal boundaries that distinguishes people from animals. This is precisely the future for which animal rights/liberationists devoutly yearn.
This stuff could not be more seroius. I even quote a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision stating that animal standing would be constitutional.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

An Explicit Illustration of the Anti-Humanism of "Animal RIghts"

Animal rights is both explicitly and implicitly anti human. The movement often tries to obfuscate this view, but occasionally, a liberationist makes the agenda explicit. Such is the case of a screed by an associate of the the violence promoting Jerry Vlasak named Jason Miller. From his column:

Despite the nearly unanimous anthropocentric belief that we human animals are superior to nonhuman animals, we are equal-AT BEST. In fact, our collective malevolence, greed, apathy, belligerence, arrogance, selfishness and tendency to dominate, exploit, and mutilate the Earth and its other inhabitants, have me convinced that we are inferior to other animals, both morally and, in a perverse way, intellectually...

Nonhuman animals are sentient, and an increasingly impressive body of peer-reviewed research scientifically legitimizes the empirical, common sense observations that many other animals are also 'subjects of a life' in that they lead relatively rich and complex intellectual, emotional, and social lives. Intentionally killing them is as much murder as it is to kill a human being.

No it's not, and anyone who thinks it is has no business preaching morality to anyone. But it gets worse:
[I]f our cravings for flesh consumption, our desires to wear the skin of another, our cowardly compulsions to stalk defenseless creatures and riddle them with bullets or pierce them with arrows, or our perceived need to subject other animals to heinous torture to "advance our science and medicine" are too strong to overcome, we need to put human flesh on the menu, stock the store shelves with shoes and coats fashioned of human skin, turn our hunting rifles on human targets, and fill our research laboratories with human subjects. After all, if we're going to use, abuse, and slaughter sentient beings to please our palates, enhance our lives, and vivisect, in order to restore justice and to put an end to abject hypocrisy, we need to include our own species in these activities.
And then comes the thinly veiled threat of murder:

If the corporatists and their faithful flock can shoot, trap, slash, cage, enslave, cut, gut, slit, slaughter, butcher, burn, shock, inject, beat, stomp, rape, wear, eat, and brutally murder voiceless sentient beings, how can we anti-speciesists, in good conscience, allow them to operate unchallenged and with impunity?...We needn't worry about maintaining the moral high ground. Dante wrote an unpublished addendum to the Inferno that includes a Tenth Circle–just for our opposition.

In the corporatist state's legal system, which principally serves to protect profit and property, an activist who killed a factory "farmer," a vivisector or a hunter would be punished as a murderer. Yet in the court of nature's higher laws, those who didn't engage in some form of activism (be it direct or indirect, violent or non-violent) to defend nonhuman animals would be tried as accomplices to murder. Apathy is complicity. With whom do you want to ally? Thanatos or Gaia?
Understand this: These people mean what they say. They are anti human and appear to be coming closer to lethally lashing out. The only people who can stop the pot from boiling over are other animal rights believers. But they are quite as church mice.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ingrid Newkirk Lies to Laura Ingraham

I am listening to the Laura Ingraham radio show and PETA alpha wolf Ingrid Newkirk is the guest. Ingraham asked her if having a leather belt or leather shoes meant that one was engaging in cruelty. Newkirk said, and this is close to a quote, “No! That is not what we claim.” Like heck it isn’t!

Recall the “Holocaust on Your Plate Campaign?” that PETA ran for about two years all over the world. Here’s a quote:

Like the Jews murdered in concentration camps, animals are terrorized when they are housed in huge filthy warehouses and rounded up for shipment to slaughter. The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps

If a couch is akin to the Holocaust, so too are leather belts and shoes.

Newkirk later apologized for a “insensitive” comparison, a classic non apology, apology, as I reported here.

Newkirk and PETA’s ability to obfuscate and game play is extraordinary. They are master propagandists, perhaps the best around. The one thing we do know is that Newkirk is not a candid truth teller.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Obama Appointee Wants Animals to Be Able To Sue Owners in Court

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R=GA) has put a "hold" on the nomination of Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein to be what is sometimes called the "regulations czar." And for a very good reason: Sunstein wants animals to have the right to sue their owners in court. From the story:
Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) has blocked President Obama’s candidate for regulation czar, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein, because Sunstein has argued that animals should have the right to sue humans in court. Obama has picked Sunstein, his adviser and longtime friend, to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an office that has power to review and assess all draft regulations proposed within the administration.

But Chambliss worries that Sunstein's innovative legal views may someday lead to a farmer having to defend himself in court against a lawsuit filed on behalf of his chickens or pigs. Chambliss told The Hill that he has blocked Sunstein’s nomination because the law professor "has said that animals ought to have the right to sue folks." Indeed, in his 2004 book, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Sunstein wrote: "I will suggest that animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law." More specifically, he wrote: "Laws designed to protect animals against cruelty and abuse should be amended or interpreted to give a private cause of action against those who violate them, so as to allow private people to supplement the efforts of public prosecutors."
As I explain in my forthcoming book, this issue is known as "animal standing," and it could not be more important--or more alarming that a high Obama appointee believes in it--because if it were ever to be implemented, it could destroy animal industries. That, of course, is the point

The animal standing controversy is rarely discussed outside of animal rights and animal law literature. We'll soon change that. I will have a more extensive exposition about this most important matter soon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Animal Rights Terrorism Drives Research Lab Underground

This is what it is coming to; having to build an animal research lab underground as a security measure: From the story:
The University of Iowa has gotten the green light to build a subterranean vivarium that will house experimental animals to be used in biomedical research and offer an extra measure of protection from animal rights extremists.

The Iowa Board of Regents approved $11.2 million for the roughly 35,000 square foot facility -- which will lie under a grassy courtyard bordered by three research buildings -- last week. "Security is a huge issue with regard to biomedical research," the university's vice president for research, Jordan Cohen, told the regents, according to the Des Moines Register.

Paul Cooper, director of the university's Office of Animal Resources, told The Scientist that while protecting the facility against attacks from animal rights groups wasn't the primary impetus for putting the lab underground, its underground location "is an extra measure of security." In 2004, animal rights activists broke into animal research laboratories on the University of Iowa campus, destroying computers and laboratory equipment and stealing experimental animals. Damages
sustained during the attack, for which the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility, cost the university about $425,000.
This should be a bigger story. We still don't take the threat to the scientific enterprise from animal rights terrorists with sufficient seriousness.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another PETA Eye-Roller: Flies are "Curious"

The President made news by swatting a fly during an interivew recently, and ever the publicity hogs, PETA, decided to horn in on the act. True to form, it criticized Obama for killing the fly, but note how Bruce Friedrick, a PETA general, anthropomorphized the insect. From the story:
"We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. "We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals."
The fly wasn't curious. It wasn't saying to itself, "Hmm, I'll see what this new president is all about" only to be cruelly killed. It was attracted by a scent or whatever it is that attracts flies. It wasn't a thought-out act.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Making A Hero Out of an Animal Rights Criminal

Rodney Coronado, now in a penitentiary for teaching people how to make an explosive devise with the intent that someone commit a violent crime–and convicted previously of torching an animal research lab–a terrorist who admits he committed other crimes for which he was not caught, is the subject of a new biography. And the “Trade” reviews are almost as atwitter for Coronado as the MSM are for President Obama. From Kirkus “starred review” reprinted on Amazon.com:

Kuipers delivers a searing narrative on the fringe animal-activist movement. Despite his decades of experience covering the radical environmental movement, the author is careful to remain an objective narrator, presenting much contextual detail and allowing Coronado and his peers’ brimming passion to tell the story. A provocative and careful testament to the ever-changing definition of activism.

And here’s the Book List’s even more breathless “starred review”:

Passions run high when it comes to environmentalism, yet few condone the extreme tactics of such groups as the Animal Liberation Front. Los Angeles Times editor Kuipers, author of the counterculture saga Burning Rainbow Farm, focuses on eco warrior, some would say ecoterrorist, Ron Coronado as a key to the incendiary side of green activism. A Californian of Yaqui descent, Coronado began demonstrating in support of animal rights while still in grade school. He joined Sea Shepherd, a direct action anti-whaling group, instead of going to college, thus launching a life of illegal protest that turned him into a saboteur, arsonist, and fugitive; landed him in jail; and embroiled him in an infamous legal case that fuses freedom-of-speech issues with ramped-up domestic-terrorist laws. Coronado’s outlaw adventures for the cause are electrifying, from his covert videotaping of crimes against animals to his fiery destruction of fur farms and research labs, and his spiritual and moral struggles are equally compelling and genuinely instructive. As Kuipers meticulously tracks Coronado’s intense commitment to animals and eventual rejection of violence, he illuminates the tenets of deep ecology and animal rights and provides an invaluable history of radical environmentalism, a force that may gain momentum as mainstream society fails to respond to looming crises.”

Here’s a thought experiment: Replace the word “pro life” in each spot in which these reviewers used the term animal rights or referred to environmental activism: As in, “As Kuipers meticulously tracks Coronado’s intense commitment to unborn children…he illuminates the tenets of pro life ethics and provides an invaluable history of anti abortion advocacy, a force that may gain momentum as mainstream society fails to respond to the abortion Holocaust.”

Does anyone think these reviews would have so glowingly reviewed a biography of an equivalent pro life “warrior?” Of course not–nor should they. But if it is wrong–and it is–to engage in vandalism, arson, and personal attack in the name of stopping abortion, if a biography romanticizing the exploits of a pro life Ron Coronado would have been searingly condemned–and it would be–it is just as wrong to do it in causes of the Left like animal rights. But don’t expect our ideologically corrupted intellectual institutions to figure that out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

PETA Believes Even Dead Fish Have Rights

Whenever I get up to Seattle, I try and visit Pike Place Market. One of the attractions there is the fish stand, where the workers "throw" salmon to each other to the delight of the crowd.

Well, when a veterinary group wanted to have a demonstration at a convention, PETA yelled that something was fishy. From the story:

In a letter sent to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), PETA says fish are intelligent, sensitive animals. PETA writes: "You should know that people who care about animals are appalled that a veterinary organization, whose purpose is to represent the interests of those whose jobs involve protecting the well-being of animals, would promote an event in which animals are treated so disrespectfully and are handled as if they were toys." PETA says that according to studies, fish not only feel pain, but they learn tasks, have long-term memories and show affection.
The fish are dead! They aren't feeling any pain! And yes, of course the group caved.

I'll believe PETA really believes in animal rights when they start picketing seals.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Using Human Tissues to Reduce Need for Animal Research

After researching one chapter in Culture of Death and a whole book for A Rat Is A Pig Is A Dog Is A Boy, I am utterly convinced of the need for animal research in the quest to find treatments for disease and otherwise ameliorate human (and animal) suffering. But that doesn’t mean it is an activity we should relish. When and if we can obtain the needed information or knowledge without using animals, we should–so long as we don’t replace animal research with unethical investigations on human subjects--a potential problem I discussed regarding this story today over at Secondhand Smoke. Indeed, that is the point of the bioethical concept “The Three Rs,” an abbreviation for, “reduce, replace, refine.”

Now, biotechnology may be finding ways to replace animal research with experiments on human tissues, thereby also promoting the reduce and refine aspects of the Three Rs. From the story:

The use of animal experiments could be replaced by research on “virtual human beings” and tests on banks of living cells within a generation, scientists say. Computer modelling and advances in cell biology will allow researchers to assess new drugs far more precisely and without the involvement of animals. One innovation is the development of “micro-lungs” — lung cells extracted from transplant tissue, grown in a laboratory culture and then tested with drops of toxicants such as cosmetics to assess the response. return false;

I doubt that we will ever be able to totally end animal research because sometimes, you need to study the impact on the entire organism, not just discreet parts of the animal. For example, animal research discovered that embryonic stem cells cause tumors when injected into the body. Merely injecting the cells into a mini lung might not have developed the same information.

Still, the Three Rs are important, an ongoing example of the moral duties that flow from human exceptionalism.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Animal Rights Terrorism on the Rise

Alas, threats, intimidation, violence and other terroristic actions continue to rise "in the name of those who can't speak for themselves." From the story:

In what law enforcement officials are calling a wave of militancy, groups like the Animal Liberation Front and another called The Justice Department are going after scientists personally, both at work and at home, and threatening the safety of their families. "There is an upswing," said Laura Eimiller, a FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles. "What's really concerning is the tactics that are being used. Previously it was non-violent, mostly harassment or vandalism. Now we're seeing the increased use of incendiary devices to target individuals."

Over the past 18 months, there have been at least 39 criminal actions undertaken in the name of animal rights, according to data compiled by the Foundation for Biomedical Research, an advocacy group for researchers. That represents a significant rise from 2006 and 2007, when there were only 25 incidents.

A huge part of the problem, it seems to me, is that the breadth and scope of the animal rights/liberation movement does little or nothing to rein in their crazier colleagues. As I have often written, PETA refuses to condemn criminality in the name of animal rights, and indeed, some leaders have actually extolled it. Until and unless the animal rights movement as a whole rises up to unequivocally oppose these actions--and cooperates with bringing the perpetrators to justice--animal rights cannot be deemed a peaceable movement.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why A Rat Is A Pig Is A Dog Is A Boy?

Welcome to my new blog: A Rat Is A Pig Is A Dog Is A Boy--or Rat Pig Dog Boy, for short, or to be even shorter, RPDB.

Why this blog? Clearly, I hope it will supplement, compliment, and boost my upcoming book carrying the same title currently set for release in January 2010.

Of course, that begs the question: Why the book? The answer to that is literally a book-length tale, but here is a brief section of the introduction that will give you an idea of why I am engaged in the animal rights debate:

It is not my purpose in this book to act as a defender of of animal industries. Rather, my goals are primarily to expose the anti-human ideology of animal rights/liberation, expose the movement's many deceptions, and warn against the sometimes violent tactics of the animal rights/liberation movement. I will also defend the propriety of using animals as necessary and proper to promoting human welfare, prosperity, and happiness. Finally, I will mount an unequivocal defense of the belief that human beings uniquely stand at the pinnacle of moral worth–a concept sometimes called human exceptionalism.

I am very well aware that these positions--once nearly universally accepted—have, in recent years, become intensely controversial. Indeed, few issues generate such intense emotionalism or fervent support by its adherents as does "animal rights." Thus, I want to make it very clear at the outset--as I will throughout the book--that I love animals and like most people, I wince when I see them in pain. Moreover, I believe strongly that as enlightened people, we have a profound moral and ethical obligation to treat animals humanely and with proper respect--a core obligation of human exceptionalism--and by all means, to never cause them to suffer for frivolous reasons. I also strongly support laws against cruelty to animals and support strengthening them when appropriate. Indeed, I believe that animal abuse is a terrible wrong, not only because it causes the victimized animal to suffer, but also because cruelty to animals diminishes our own humanity.

Now, consider why I felt it necessary to make such an unusual disclaimer: Over the past thirty years, the concept of "animal rights" has seeped deeply into the bone marrow of Western culture. (This is especially true among the young.) Part of this support is based on a very loose use of the term "animal rights" as about being nicer to animals. It isn't--although sometimes animal rights groups engage in animal welfare-type activism. Rather, animal rights is actually a belief system, an ideology, and for some even a quasi-religion that both implicitly and explicitly seeks to create a moral equivalency between the value of human lives and those of animals.

So what will we be doing between now and the release of the book? The same thing we will be doing afterward; thinking about, discussing, and from my perspective--exposing--the philosophy, foibles, fables, and anti-human agenda of animal rights/liberation. In fact, the human use of animals, its propriety, its controversy, and stories in the news about the animal rights and animal welfare will be the only subjects this blog will consider.

One final note: I believe very strongly in the open exchange of ideas. I do not censor comments--especially those that are critical of my views and work. But I do insist on decorum. So, no cussing, no name calling, no threats, no spamming. Other than that, let's have at it.

Oh, if you are also interested in other issues impacting on human exceptionalism such as assisted suicide, human cloning, bioethics, radical environmentalism, and all that jazz, be sure to check out my other blog: Secondhand Smoke: Your 24/7 Seminar on Bioethics and the Importance of Being Human.