Animal cruelty-free testing methods will be tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“Animal testing is considered unnecessarily cruel by many, especially since new methods are being developed to take its place. The most promising are organ-chips that contain human cells and imitate the complexity of particular organs. Now they are on their way to being commonly used. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office has just entered into an agreement last Tuesday with the company Emulate that creates ‘organs-on-chips’ to develop and test the technology.

“Using these organ-chips could eliminate the need to test drugs or cosmetics on animals. These chips are much more accurate than animal testing, which is good for animals and for us. The chip is the size of an AA battery. It is transparent and made out of flexible polymers. The chip contains little channels filled with tens of thousands of human cells and fluid that imitate human functions and reproduce blood and air flow similarly to in the body. Therefore, chips can recreate breathing motions and muscle contractions.
“‘We are excited to begin this relationship with FDA as a potential first step toward accelerating the adoption of our Human Emulation System for broad application as a new testing platform for a wide range of products that are reviewed and approved by regulatory authorities to protect and improve human health.’– Geraldine A. Hamilton, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Emulate.”

Isn’t this epic? A fantastic breakthrough – not even so much the technology which has been around for a while, but the fact that Emulate has been able to forge this agreement with the FDA.

Though no-one knows exact numbers, it is reckoned that every year more than 100 million animals in the US alone, are subjected to chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests, as well as medical training exercises and experiments at universities. And that’s without including mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals, which actually make up more than 99 percent of animals used in experiments, but because they are not covered by even the limited protections of America’s Animal Welfare Act, go uncounted

Cruelty Free International tells us:

  • The USA heads the list of the top 10 animal testing countries in the world, which include Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil.
  • Animal experiments are sadly not in decline, and in many parts of the world are on the increase  (e.g. China) or remain at the same level as they were in the 1980s or 1990s (e.g. the UK, Europe).
Whatever, one animal being tortured in a lab – and it always is torture – is one too many.

The US Department of Agriculture is responsible for monitoring the application of animal welfare legislation for animals in labs. It’s not exactly renowned for the rigour of its oversight at the best of times. Then two months ago this headline appeared in The Washington Post:

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.”

So this latest news from Emulate and the FDA is all the more welcome – and surprising, considering the state of play in Washington DC right now.

Where the US leads, others are swift to follow. Let us hope this will indeed be the beginning of the end of animal suffering in laboratories.

Meanwhile, here are 10 animal research petitions you can sign, all on one page: Care2 Animal Research petitions

And urge the European Commission and the European Parliament for a moratorium on animal experimentation here

And read more about the new cooperation between Emulate and the FDA here.

Read more about biomedical research in the US here.

Other sources

Animal Testing 101

Facts and figures on animal testing

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

Related posts

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Futurology Promises More Hopes than Fears for the Animals & the Planet

Futurology says you really can have too many bees!

Even the most indifferent to environmental issues and our native flora and fauna would have to be blind and deaf not to have registered the torrent of bad news about the dramatic and worrying decline in bee population numbers over the last few years.

So how could you possibly have too many bees?

We know of course that bee colonies are trucked all over the USA to pollinate crops as each comes into flower each year.

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But until I came to write this post, I for one was completely unaware that right now millions of bees are being shipped around the globe to work their pollination magic. Here in the UK it seems we import 40,000-50,000 colonies each year. And global bee commerce continues to expand.

This is a problem for at least two reasons:

  • The colonies – provided by a handful of global suppliers – are screened for diseases and parasites, but that screening is not foolproof. And the imported bees hosting pathogens can and do spread their unwanted ‘guests’ to the local populations with disastrous results. “The effects include killing bees outright, or harming their ability to learn, which is crucial in finding food. In Argentina, imported parasites are driving native species to extinction.”¹ As the trade exports the industrious little insects to ever more locations, the danger of harmful effects on native bees and food security increases.
  • As well as putting their local cousins at risk, the imported bees, by pollinating invasive non-native plant species, are likely to accelerate their dispersion with unknowable effects on local biodiversity.

So I guess the problem isn’t exactly having too many bees per se, but too many bees on the move carrying pathogens to all corners of the world. It’s ironic but perturbing that an industry that’s mushroomed in response to an ever-widening pollinator shortage, will likely itself exacerbate the downward trend.

A big conservation problem then. One of five recently identified as global environmental risks by an international team of experts in science communication, research and horizon scanning. Horizon scanning (otherwise known as Futurology or Future Studies) is a collaborative process of assembling all available data in a particular field to identify future trends, both positive and negative.

While in an ideal world the crystal ball would reveal zero future environmental risks, it’s good to know at least that this particular expert team – undertaking their horizon-scanning in the field of species and ecosystems pinpointed just 5 key risks, but twice as many hopeful opportunities. And as I’m keen to make this week a week of hope, I’ll list the remaining 4 risks in brief so we can get on to the good stuff.

1   Sand scarcity I don’t know about you, but this is one possible problem I wouldn’t have imagined. “Sand is used in a diverse range of industries and as the human population increases so does the demand for sand. Impacts of sand mining include loss of species, degradation of habitats and social conflict”.

2  Border fences affecting wild animals The impenetrable wall between the USA and Mexico promised by President Trump would adversely affect desert bighorn sheep, the endangered North American jaguar, the ocelot – now down to the last 50 in southern Texas and the cougar (pictured here).cougar-718092_960_720

In total it’s estimated that 111 endangered species could suffer as a result of Trump’s wall, as well as 108 species of migratory birds.” Sadly the trend is not confined to the USA. The increased use of border fencing in Europe and elsewhere will have similar detrimental effects on the movement, migration and survival of wild animal species.²

3  Changes in waste management affecting wild animals Another trend that wouldn’t spring immediately to mind – closing or covering rubbish dumps. That might sound like a positive, but will be bad news for wildlife scavengers habituated to this ready food supply.

4  Wind speeds at the sea surface are increasing data indicates, and so is the frequency of gales. The effect on seabirds and migrating marine animals is an unknown, but unlikely to be beneficial.

Bad news is always unwelcome I know. But even the bad can have its good side. If it throws the spotlight on to a problem, we can start looking for solutions. Take science’s revelation about the damage to marine life from plastic microbeads. The data that surfaced in 2010 was troubling to say the least, but bringing it to light did bring about quite speedy international action in the form of bans on their use.

Now that’s out the way we can, as promised, get to the good stuff – 10 new conservation opportunities opened up to us by advances in science and technology:

1  A new biological discovery: strains of Symbodinium (unicellular algae) found in coral reefs are resistant to heat and could hopefully be manipulated to protect reefs from the bleaching effect of rising temperatures in the ocean.

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2  An underwater robot called COTSbot has been very successful at controlling the crown-of-thorn starfish responsible for 40% of the damage to the Great Barrier Reef in the last 30 years. Robotics offer the prospect of more environmental wins. Watch COTSbot in action below.

3  The portable 3D-printed electronic ‘dogs’ nose, bizarre as it sounds, works even better than the real thing. It will provide a major new asset for sniffing out illegal wildlife goods, especially at border crossings, and offers the potential to disrupt major black market trade routes. That would be huge.

4  As a result of advances in genetic screening and engineering bacteria and fungi can now be used for biological pest control and growth stimulation treatments, averting the need to use artificial chemicals that harm biodiversity.

5  Ah, we’ve hit a snag. With this one it seems like risks and opportunities might be fairly equally balanced. We’re talking floating wind farms. Right now the biggest in the world is being constructed off the coast of Scotland. Though more efficient in supplying green energy than land-based, and good for fish seeking a refuge, they would be no better than their land-based counterparts at avoiding collateral damage to birds in flight. Plus there’s a chance they could entangle marine mammals.

6  The bionic leaf that makes fuel out of sunlight and water. Forget fitting solar panels to your roof. Just get your bionic leaf and make your own ready-to-use biomass. Watch the video to find out how.

7  Lithium-air batteries. Yet another technology entirely new to me. If produced commercially, these batteries could revolutionise the clean energy industry by enabling electric cars to run on a battery a fifth of the cost and a fifth of the weight of batteries currently on the market. This means you could travel from London to Edinburgh – just over 400 miles – on a single charge. Right now an electric car can only drive between 50 and 80 miles per charge. If you’re interested in the science, click here.

8  Reverse photosynthesis uses the sun’s energy to break down rather than build up plant material. It’s potential? To transform the production of biofuels and plastics and reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.

9  Carbon capture involves dissolving the carbon dioxide in water and injecting it into basalt rock, which is plentiful all around the globe. Once in the rock it undergoes a natural process. The basalts (volcanic rock) react with the gas-in-solution to form carbonate minerals. Hey presto, limestone! In the Iceland Carbfix project it took just two years for the  solution to solidify. Compare that with the hundreds or even thousands of years that was predicted. Only the lack of political will is holding this one back. Grrr.

10  bitcoin-1813507__340Blockchain technologyBy allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.”

In the environmental field, these could be: “establishing a currency market for trading carbon credits, improving supply chain traceability (e.g. for sustainable fish) and tracking illegal wildlife trade.”

Which all goes to prove there are few conservation issues for which science and technology cannot find an answer. Futurology is right to see the almost limitless opportunities they offer.

But it’s not human ingenuity that is ever in question. Humankind’s will to implement preventions and solutions most certainly is, both at political and individual level.

The good news is, we have the power in our hands to act at both levels. In politics we can use our vote for the planet. We can also throw your support behind organisations actively engaged in protecting nature and lobbying governments or challenging them in courts of law.

In the USA for example, we have the altogether wonderful Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club amongst others.

Here in the UK, we can support the Wildlife Trusts. We can be sure they will do all in their power to keep our government in line with the National Ecosystem Asessment. We can also join the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. They greatly value individuals’ input.

On a purely individual level Friends of the Earth has a wealth of ideas and tips for living an eco-friendly life which is well worth exploring.

It is so beyond time to stop ravaging the Earth in the pursuit of our own selfish interests. We are currently pursuing a path that is not only irresponsible and disrespectful, but ultimately self-defeating. The real interests of the human race lie not in the rape and pillage of our precious planet and all the life in it, but in due reverence, regaining a sense of wonder, and careful loving stewardship. We can do it.

After all, there is only one Earth.

“I will not dishonor my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
I will honor all life,
wherever and in whatever form it may dwell,
on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.”

– Diane Ackerman

Read about last year’s projections here

¹Imported bees pose risk to UK’s wild and honeybee population – The Guardian

²Building Walls – Purr and Roar. Excellent post on this topic I would heartily recommend. Also Border Fences Aimed at Stopping Immigrants are Killing Wildlife – Take Part

 

Source

15 risks and opportunities to global conservation – Fauna & Flora International

Related posts

Hope for the Animals & the Planet?

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Kids, Dogs, & Bob Marley

Kids can love dogs more than their siblings, & dogs love Bob Marley, studies show.


If your dog thinks you’re the best, don’t seek a second opinion. So says the magnet on my fridge.
And that affirmation is pretty much what kids are getting from their furry friends, finds a new study coming out of Cambridge University.  It seems kids often feel closer to their pet than to their siblings – especially if that pet is a canine. Not really so surprising is it, when dogs do unconditional love so much better than people.

For kids a pet, especially a dog, is always eager to hang out with you, play with you, always has time for you, is always there to listen to your woes.

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True, confiding in your doggy pal is something of a one-way conversation. He may not get much of what you’re saying and you’re unlikely to get a reply. But isn’t that a good thing? He will know how you feel, and he’ll never laugh at you, never mock, never say, “serves you right”, and most importantly, never tell on you to the grownups. He’ll just gaze at you adoringly, because after all, You Are The Best.

Pets in general improve kids’ quality of life and have “a positive effect on children’s social skills and emotional health.” And “the social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life.”

Furthermore, the study reveals that households with dogs are more peaceable, with “lower overall levels of conflict and greater owner satisfaction compared to other kinds of pets.”

No surprises there.

It really is impossible to exaggerate how good it is for kids to grow up with a pet in the family, especially a pup. Or the joy a mutt brings to its ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, its ‘Mum’ and Dad’.

feel-sorry-for-those-with-no-dog

But if all that good stuff makes you want to rush out and get yourself a pet, press the pause button a minute. And please,

ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.

Just look at these sad statistics:

  • The Daily Mail reported that the number of stray or abandoned dogs in the UK reached 110,000 in 2013, and that 21 are put down every single day.
  • The RSPCA rescued and collected 118,994 animals of all kinds in 2015 in the UK, and were only able to rehome 47,651 of those.
  • The ASPCA tells us that in the USA approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  • And that each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats)

These are awful, unimaginable figures. All those loving hearts just crying out for a loving home. #AdoptDontShop

On a more cheerful note

In Scotland at least, shelter dogs’ days are about to look up – with music. The Scottish SPCA announced on its website, “In the future, every center will be able to offer our four-footed friends a canine-approved playlist with the view to extending this … to other species in the charity’s care.” The idea is to create a relaxed atmosphere for the ‘guests’ and reduce their stress.

bob-marley-1888509__340The announcement stems from another piece of research, this time from Glasgow University, looking into how playing different kinds of music to shelter dogs affects their stress levels. Would you believe, Bob Marley and John Denver appear to have the edge over Motown in the mutts’ musical preferences.

For the research, “Shelter dogs listened to a wide range of music from Spotify playlists. The genres varied from day to day, with the furry residents listening to classical, reggae, soft rock, pop and Motown in a series of experiments.

While each genre was playing, the researchers measured the dogs’ stress levels by monitoring their heart rate variability and cortisol levels. They also kept track of whether the dogs were lying down or barking while the music was on.

The researchers found that regardless of what type of music was playing, the dogs were generally “less stressed” with music vs. without. They spent significantly more time lying down (versus standing) when any type of music was playing. They also seemed to show a slight preference for reggae and soft rock, with Motown coming in last, but not by much.”

It did appear though that one pooch’s musical meat is another pooch’s poison. Dogs are just like us – for them music is a matter of individual taste. But every dog will have his day because to avoid that oh-no-not-again feeling, the SPCA intend to continue rotating the musical genres each day. Anything that helps these fur babies to relax and so increase their chances of adoption has to be a good thing. Because they have so much to give.

Let’s give the last word on that to the wonderful writer Milan Kundera:

“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”

Sources

Children can become closer to pets than to siblings, study finds – ZME Science

Stressed dogs prefer reggae and soft rock – MNN

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The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Cover pic from Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Two news items clicked together in the brain one week last year: one on the surface at least quite frivolous, and the other of such profound significance it has the potential to throw a bomb into life-as-we-know-it and blast us into utterly uncharted terrain.

Let’s start with the harebrained one. Do you remember when designer dogs first became the must-have accessory? Or maybe they always were. But a few years ago, someone came up with the bright idea of taking established breeds and cross-breeding them with each other in the search for the cutest combo-pup. Nowadays, puggles, goldendoodles, labskys and cockerpoos are everywhere. There was, and still is, good money to be made and breeders are cashing in.

Of course, this is nothing new. Humans have been interfering with natural selection for centuries, cross-breeding both animals and plants in the worlds of farming and horticulture, in search of desired ‘improvements’: more productive milk cows; heavier meatier livestock; disease-resistant crops; or just prettier flowers.

But cross-breeding as a way of getting what you want, is so yesterday. Make way for CRISPR.

CRISPR is not a typo, as one might be excused for thinking, describing how omnivores like their breakfast bacon. It is, apparently, the acronym for

Clustered   Regularly   Interspaced   Short   Palindromic   Repeats

Gene-editing to you and me. In the simplest of terms that I can understand, it means cutting out a section of the DNA double helix (see below) with something called Cas9 – biological scissors, in effect – and replacing the removed section with a new piece of DNA- which can be just about anything the scientists want it to be.

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

What has made this biotechnology possible are the huge strides in genome mapping over the last couple of decades. Because of course, you don’t want to just cut out any old piece of DNA. Now, because each bit of the double helix can be identified, you can target the exact piece you want to remove, and replace it with the piece of your choice.

So your new designer dog can now be gene-edited any way you want. No more need for crossbreeding, lots more scope for innovation, and better control over results. Genetic-engineer James West has spotted the money-making potential. His Nashville-based firm AgGenetics engineered Angus cattle to have white coats instead of black or brown, to make them more heat-tolerant, thus doubling beef production. (And milk cows are already being gene-edited to be born without horns, so they no longer have to be burned off.)

Inevitably, it didn’t take Mr West long to realise that the change-the-coat-colour technique could be applied to other animals too. He tested his idea on mice, and produced poor little newborns sporting their little fur coats patterned with squares, stripes and spots.

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Maybe soon he will be taking orders for the customer’s choice of novelty designer dog picked from an online catalogue. There are so far four colourways: red, brown, yellow and black. And would you prefer squares or stripes, Sir/Madam?

Ludicrous as it sounds, gene-editing for striped dogs provokes serious questions. Who knows where it could lead, and what the implications could be – and not just for dogs?

And the designer stripey dog is one thing, but how about wiping out an entire species at will?

We ran across this even more worrying application for CRISPR earlier this year, in Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth? With CRISPR it’s possible, for instance, to delete the mosquito DNA involved in reproduction and replace that section of the sequence with DNA that makes the insect sterile. This ‘permanent solution’ for mosquitoes is being researched for obvious reasons – these insects carry malaria, zika and dengue fever, and by transmitting malaria in particular, have probably killed more than half the humans that have ever lived.

This seems to be the default human mindset: how can we use this new technology for the benefit of our own species before and above all others?

With CRISPR, humanity now holds in its hands the power of god, the power to gene-edit Nature. I’ll say it again,

Man now has the power to gene-edit life itself

And that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

In 2011 a group of geologists called for the recognition of a new era in the history of the Earth – the Anthropocene, to acknowledge the impact of humans on the planet. How much more apt now than it was just five short years ago.

So when we ask that question, how can these new technologies be used to further our own interests, there are other, and even more important questions that need to be addressed: Should we be doing this? What are the ethics controlling our ever-increasing powers? And who gets to decide?

This is what natural scientist and poet Melanie Challenger has to say about the new power we have, to deliberately wipe out a target species if we so choose (as opposed to accidentally wiping out random species which tragically, we’re proving spectacularly successful at)

If we start getting cavalier about the existence of a living being, if we start to think it’s OK to eradicate something because it’s a threat to us, we put other ideas about the sanctity of life in question”

Striped dogs, a world without mosquitoes, can it get any more bizarre and perturbing? Well yes it can – the Chimaera (chimera in the USA), already here. In Greek myth the Chimaera was a monstrous fire-breeding hybrid, a goat-headed lion with a serpent-head tail. These days, we’re more familiar with the electro-petroleum kind of hybrid on four wheels. But the very latest kind of Chimaera hybrid has more in common with the one of Greek myth – it’s a nightmarish combination of human and pig.

So what would you say to Organ Farms?

A while ago I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel ‘Never Let Me Go’. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it)  As you turn the pages you start to realise the horrible truth, that the young people we are getting to know as they grow up, are in fact clones. Then an even more disturbing truth is revealed – the characters have been created solely for their organs and will undergo a cycle of ‘donations’ until their bodies and their lives are consumed.

Well, reality is catching up with fiction once again. Only, as is always the case in the real world, it’s the infinitely useful nonhuman animal that humans deploy for the task. The unfortunate ‘donors’ will not be human but porcine. Pigs have drawn the short straw because their organs are about the size and weight of human organs. Not that they will be using the animals’ own organs though, because pig organs would be rejected by the human body. So what’s needed for the sick people on the long waiting list for transplants are proper healthy human organs.

No cloning here though – just CRISPR and the new Chimaera. This is what you do. You get a brand new pig embryo in your lab. You delete the genes responsible for the formation of, say, the pancreas. You introduce the appropriate human genes. You implant the genetically-engineered embryo into a female pig on your Organ Farm, and hey presto, there will be a lovely human pancreas ready to transplant into a human recipient in need. Farms of pigs incubating clean healthy human organs, and on demand.

images

Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, but that is where the research is heading. And it will happen. As the title of last night’s Panorama proclaimed, “Medicine’s Big Breakthrough”. The scientists are excited by CRISPR’s potential. So are the medical professionals. And who can blame those once considered incurably ill for holding on to such promise of a complete cure.

But what about the animals? And what about the planet? The waves in the wake of this technology could sink us before climate change gets a chance to.Just a final note to send you to bed with nightmares: there’s a guy in San Francisco selling Do-It-Yourself CRISPR kits online out of his garage, so everyone can do their own gene-editing at home. He calls it the democratisation of science. Sweet dreams.
Time now for an update

Above piece posted June 7th 2016, but there have been developments.

Gene-edited organs are on their way. Just last week (on the 26th January 2017) scientists in California were excited to announce a world first – Chimaera lives. They have indeed succeeded in making embryos containing both pig and human cells.

These so-called human-pig chimeras (which contained only a small number of human cells) were allowed to develop for several weeks in female pigs before the pregnancies were terminated, according to a new study.

“The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that,” study researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, California, said in a statement. “This is an important first step.” LiveScience

I don’t know about you but I find this deeply disturbing, and their triumphant announcement poses more ethical questions for me than it answers:

  • How exactly were the pregnancies terminated?
  • Did the sows give their consent? Silly question
  • What happened to the sows post-abortion?
  • Do we know the physical and emotional effect on the sows?

Scientists would dismiss such questions as irrelevant but that is exactly where the problem lies. Not only do they feel entirely justified in their research, but any thought that something could be horribly wrong here would never even come near to entering their heads.

How did the Nazis square their conscience over the barbaric experimentation they conducted on gypsies, Poles, Russian POWs, Jews, and even Germans if they were unlucky enough to be disabled? They were brainwashed by propaganda that created in their minds a ‘them and us’. Their victims were ‘other’, of a different and lesser order. They de-personalised them, designated them vermin. And of course, as we all know, nonhumans only exist for human use, human benefit, and ‘vermin’ are at the very bottom of the heap. For ‘vermin’, anything goes.

Last week the BBC news highlighted the terrible shortage of donor organs in the UK. Patients in need of transplants are going to Pakistan where they can buy an organ from the poorest, people in dire need of the money. And even worse, criminals are cashing in, lining their pockets trafficking people to harvest their organs by force.

The scientists at La Jolla are looking to forcibly harvest organs from the pigs. True, they’re not exploiting living beings for illegal personal gain like the traffickers. They would say they are doing it for science, for medicine, and indeed out of humanity. It is sanctioned by society. But only because society has also been indoctrinated into arbitrarily dividing animals into ‘them and us’, making the nonhuman animals other and lesser than the human animal, declaring, “We are not animals.” But we are. Bestowing on ourselves like gods the power over life and death. Holding the fate of those ‘others’ in the palm of our hands.

But cruelty, coercion and exploitation are always cruelty, coercion and exploitation. The end does not justify the means.

You might say to me, what if it was your son’s, your daughter’s life in the balance waiting for a transplant? A hard question to answer. But two things I can say:

  • There should be far better ways to increase the supply of donor organs. For instance, Wales now has an ‘opt-out’ system. If you don’t register as not wanting to donate your organs, you will automatically be considered as having no objection. Isn’t that preferable to harvesting organs for humans by violating pigs?
  • And secondly, are the sow’s powerful maternal feelings worth less consideration than ours? And isn’t hijacking her reproductive cycle in this way, as with dairy cows, as with laying hens, both sexist and speciesist?

Are we to accept any horror perpetrated on nonhuman animals if it is in human’s interests? Surely it is more than time to acknowledge that

“We are one species among many who share a common ancestry with all other species in the animal kingdom. The false dichotomy between us and them pits humans against the rest of the animal kingdom and reinforces the myth that humans are so superior from the other animals that it’s practically blasphemous to even suggest that other animals possess lives that matter to them in the way our human lives matter to us.” Robert Grillo

 eyes_collage

Postscript This is a huge topic with more ramifications than it is possible to imagine. I don’t pretend to any expertise and my descriptions of the science are just my way of getting my head around it a little bit. This is just skimming the surface of a technology of infinite significance that is surely ushering in the next Age of Life on Earth.

APOLOGIES – WORDPRESS HAS DONE SOMETHING WEIRD TO THE LAYOUT & I CAN’T SEEM TO CORRECT IT.

Update

23rd February 2017 – CRISPR promises a better way to stop mosquitoes spreading malaria, and without the need to render the insect extinct. Tony James from the University of California is “using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to create a ‘gene drive’ system that spreads an anti-malaria gene inside the mosquito population. The gene basically destroys malaria, and then spreads on to the next generations.”

It sounds like a very promising approach, but it’s early days and the strategy would not be without its problems. Find out more from ZME Science.

Sources

Quote & pic Free from Harm

Let’s Not Buy Into Genetically Modified Fur – Care2 Causes

Medicine’s Big Breakthrough – Editing Your Genes – Panorama

Human/Nonhuman Chimera – Do We Really Want to Go There? – The Kimmela Centre

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Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth

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The 3D-Printed Dog’s Nose that’s Even Better than the Real Thing

All of us who share our lives with a canine who spends what feels like hours deciphering all the gossip on the local lamppost, know firsthand just how much our bff is led by his/her nose. A dog’s sense of smell is apparently from 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours. Imagine that amount of odour-info bombarding your little doggy brain.

When humans pick up on spectacular abilities in nonhumans we could never match, we are quick to enrol them into our service, almost always, sadly, to the detriment of the animal involved. Dogs’ nasal capabilities are no exception. Sniffer dogs, mostly deployed in law enforcement of one sort or another, get sent into frighteningly perilous situations – better lose a dog than a man/woman, right? At least, that’s the culturally accepted view.

“Of course, the downside [of dogs’ amazing sense of smell] is that while saving human lives, sniffing out explosives is extremely dangerous for the dogs.”

Laura Goldman 

unknown392 days ago today a beautiful Belgian shepherd dog fell victim to man’s inhumanity to man, and yes, to man’s sense of entitlement over Planet Earth and all nonhumans on it. Last November, in a raid on the Paris bombers’ flat, the French police sent their service dog on ahead to sniff out explosives. She never made it through the door. She was shot dead by a terrorist. And she was just 7 years old. Remember Diesel?

Well, there’s nothing so passé as yesterday’s news, and Diesel was soon forgotten.

But this week’s good news brings the lovely girl to mind once again. It’s heartening, but at the same time utterly sad for Diesel that today there would no longer be a ‘need’ to expose her to such danger. Wind the clock forward 392 days and she would still be alive to enjoy all the years of life Father Time intended for her.

How so? Because scientists at America’s National Institute of Standards and Technology have perfected a 3D-printed model of a dog’s snout. And unbelievably, it is even better than the real thing.

If dogs only knew – perhaps they do, who knows – they would pity our pathetic sense of smell. Birds of prey would despise our feeble eyesight – “Can’t you even spot a rabbit 3 miles away from a height of 15,000 ft? Good grief.” And the immortal jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula would surely be thinking, “What do you mean, you die? You just cease to exist? What’s wrong with you!”

But one thing we humans are reasonably good at is sussing out exactly how clever creatures do the astounding things they do. Sometimes. Our biomimicry skills do draw the line at immortality.

The new artificial dog’s nose is far from being the first payoff from our ‘industrial espionage’ on the animals.

In the 2008 Olympics, gold medallist Michael Phelps created quite a splash with his go-faster swimwear mimicking sharkskin. (Now banned in major competitions.) Sharks’ skin under a microscope reveals countless tiny overlapping scales called dermal denticles, which disrupt turbulence and make for smoother faster gliding through the water. Reproduced in Phelp’s speedos.

And architect Mick Pearce’s lightbulb moment came from contemplating, of all things, termite mounds and the ventilation ‘chimneys’ the little insects form for internal temperature control. The result? His groundbreaking design for a green shopping centre/office block in Zimbabwe. The Eastgate Centre has no conventional air-conditioning or heating but thanks to Mick’s piracy of the termites’ know-how, the eco building maintains a constant comfortable temperature.

Nor is The Nose the only example of 3D printing to copy animal features or abilities.

One of the most improbable has to be synthetic rhino horn which, amazingly, is said to be indistinguishable from the real thing. The intention of making this seemingly bizarre product is to flood the market, bring down the sky-high price the horn commands, and by making the trade a lot less profitable for the black marketeers, reduce the incidence of poaching.

That would benefit a whole species, but 3D printing is also being used to benefit individual animals. The technology makes it possible to produce tailor-made prosthetics, like a shell for Cleopatra the tortoise, genetically unable to form her own, and a new beak for Grecia the toucan – the one he was born with was smashed by a gang of youths.

How heartwarming it is to see examples like these, developed purely in the interests of the nonhumans, rather than is so much more often the case, for human convenience.

But back to The Nose.

How would you even go about making a ‘fake’ dog’s nose that works? It sounds about as far-fetched as fake rhino horn. But it’s for real.

It’s all about the unique shape of dogs’ nostrils it seems, and the way that affects the fluid dynamics of the breathed air  – a felicitous benefit of evolution with which my canine companion tests my patience to the limit on a daily basis. Mechanical engineer Matthew Staymates outlines the science for us in this brilliant brief video:

This is The Nose that will rapidly propel Diesel’s bomb-sniffing canine colleagues straight into happy retirement, we hope.

I just wish it had come in time to save that beautiful girl too.

 

Source

3D-Printed Bomb-Sniffing Dog Noses Could Replace The Real Thing – Care2 Causes

Related posts

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Helping Animals

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My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

Hanna,  passionately vegan for nearly 50 years, is  founder and coordinator of the Global Vegan Registry, just one of her many achievements

Q:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Hanna. Let’s start with your earliest memories?  Where were you born? Did you have a passion for animals in your childhood?

A:  I, Hanna Golan, was born in Communist Poland in 1951 to a pair of Holocaust survivors, and that is where my vegan inclinations began to sprout.  The following are a number of evident scenarios:

1  At about 4 years of age, I recall accompanying my mother to the market where I spotted a caged dog.  I immediately broke into tears and begged to take the “jailed puppy” home.  Instead, my mother guided me to the fishmonger.  There she selected and paid for a live carp that, gasping and writhing, was tightly wrapped in a few layers of newspaper.  I cried all the way home.  As soon as we entered the front door I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the largest container I could find and filled it with tap water.  I then demanded that my mother release the fish and she obliged.  Once the poor creature revived, I became its instant guardian – feeding it bread crumbs, singing to it and vigilantly observing its every move.  Tragically, the next morning my mother fished my swimming charge out of the water, hit it hard over the head and proceeding to prepare it for dinner.  Needless to say, I would never again eat fish!

2  My father was off work one morning and both my parents took me for a walk down the street.  Suddenly we witnessed a horse-pulled carriage tipping over and trapping the horse under one of its wheels.  My screams for someone, anyone to help save the horse were met on deaf ears as people rushed to the driver while the horse was being ignored.

I loved being taken to the nearby park where, admiring flowers, butterflies and bees, I tiptoed gingerly lest I trample an innocent bug.

Q:  Can you tell us more about your family? Clearly you weren’t brought up vegetarian or vegan

A:  By the time I was 6 (1957), my parents and I emigrated to Israel to get away from the ever-growing antisemitism in Poland.  Sincerely believing that milk and eggs were healthy for a growing girl like me, my parents took me to a working farm where they attempted to nourish me with fresh produce.  All those years ago, I did not appreciate the exploitation behind eggs and dairy but I refused them because no one bothered to ask the hens for permission to take their eggs and, likewise, no one got permission from the cows to take their milk.  It just seemed like those were stolen goods.  Thus, I never consumed eggs or dairy ever again.

Q:  Was there a particular event that made you decide to be vegan?

A:  I continued eating and enjoying poultry and beef until at the age of about 10, when my mother accidentally cut her finger and my father exclaimed, “it looks like raw meat.”  That did it!  That is the moment I made the connection that meat (poultry or beef) comes from live animals and that I had no business eating them!  Unfortunately, when I refused meat my parents had a fit, “You won’t eat fish, you won’t eat eggs or cheese, you won’t drink milk.  Now you don’t want to eat meat?!  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to die?”  Being the good girl that I was and not wishing to upset my parents, I continued eating flesh for another 6 years.

At the age of 12 (1963), my parents and I moved to the United State – Los Angeles, California, to be exact.  I continued my struggle over my mother’s cooking but it wasn’t until 1968 (age 16) when I could no longer tolerate living that way.  I packed a bag of my school books and a few bits of clothing and moved out from under my parents’ roof.  I knew nothing about veganism back then but I was certain that I could never eat animal products again.  By then I also understood that leather, wool, silk and down feathers were products of cruelty and avoided them at all cost.  I relocated from one friend’s apartment to another while still going to school fulltime.  On top of it all, I had to get a job that would sustain me.

Q:  What was it like being vegan in 1968? Veganism was a very little known concept back then, wasn’t it?

A:  It took years before I met anyone as weird as me and before I learned the true meaning of veganism with its ramification of a holistic and all-encompassing plant-based lifestyle.  I couldn’t care less whether this was good for me, I just knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t contribute to the exploitation and abuse of animals.  I subsisted on real food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) back then because all the vegan alternatives that are so readily available today hadn’t yet been invented.

Still on my own, in 1969 I graduated high school with honors and transferred to UCLA to earn my Bachelor’s Degrees in biochemistry and mathematics.  I decided to do my postgraduate work in Israel where I got my Master’s in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science and my Master’s in mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  I fully intended to continue on to medical school but that was aborted by marriage and motherhood.

Q:  What sort of difficulties did you experience, practical, social, emotional? Did you ever waver?

A:  My parents and everyone else, including myself, my husband and my children, always considered me to be a nut-case, an oddball, an eccentric but none of that dissuaded me from my intended ethical path.  Except for mild chiding and teasing, people were mostly curious about what I’m doing and why and I was never shy or hesitant about giving them an earful.  As you might guess, I was a conversation piece at every gathering.  It wasn’t always easy or fun but I never wavered because I knew that this was what the Universe wanted me to do and who am I to argue with the Universe? Years later, by the way, my parents stopped eating meat and eggs although they still had some dairy.

In 1986, accompanied by my husband (whom I divorced since) and children, I moved back to Los Angeles County where I’m still living today.

Q:  You’re self-employed. Can you tell us about your work?

A:  Wanting to incorporate veganism more tightly into my professional life, I changed careers by becoming a freelance writer and graphic designer.  As of today, I’ve written and published:

  • vegan and veggie related books under my penname Hanna Getty (link here Amazon)
  • children’s books about animals under my penname Maya Lee Shye (link here Amazon)
  • and one book under my own name, Hanna Golan (link here Amazon)

I currently have 5 more vegan-related manuscripts that are awaiting publication.

Q:  What other vegan-related activities are you/have you been involved with?

A:  Attempting to spread the vegan message far and wide across the globe, I am very active on Facebook and manage multiple pages:

Hanna V. Golan
Sprout A Vegan
Vegan Blogger  & also here
Global Vegan Registry
Vegans in San Fernando Valley
Antelope Valley Vegans

In my spare time, I volunteer for a local rescue organization 2 to 3 times a week, I occasionally foster dogs and I host monthly vegan potlucks.

Q:  Are you ‘parent’ to any companion animals?

A:  I am a single parent to 4 special needs rescue animals (2 dogs and 2 cats).

Q:  Do you have hopes and dreams for the future?

A:  My dream is to establish a vegan outreach program that will be based out of an all-vegan, self-sufficient community that will strengthen vegan presence as well as increase awareness in the general public.

Q:  Finally, what would you hope to leave behind you as your legacy on this earth?

A:  The legacy that I wish to leave behind me is a world that is predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by humans who choose compassion over cruelty.

Thank you again Hanna for agreeing to share something of your life with us. Yours is an amazing story. You are a truly remarkable advocate for compassionate living, and an inspiration to your fellow vegans.

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Join the Global Vegan Registry here

Related posts – interviews with other remarkable vegans

A Picture of Compassion Chantal Poulin Durocher

Ama’s Story

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Ryan Phillips – Ambassador for the Animals Extraordinaire

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

Dale Vince – Vegan Tycoon of Unwavering Vision

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Together Forever

Who shares your home? Who shares your life? If the answer has four legs and a tail, or even two and a beak, my guess is you likely love that critter-person more than you love most human-people. Am I right? I speak from experience. Let’s face it, most animals are just nicer than most people.

There is just one problem with critter-people, and it’s a big one. Unless your critter-person happens to be a tortoise, he or she most likely won’t stick around for as long as you. They have this horrible tendency to leave us behind before we are ready to say goodbye, with a broken heart and a huge hole in our life.

I am trying right now, without success, to put back together my own broken pieces. I walked into Manchester Dogs’ Home 16 years ago, and an hour later walked back out leading a sweet friendly pup.

Here is my darling girl Holly, on holiday with us in Cornwall.

Kynance Cove – Version 2

I hope you won’t agree with the kid in the park that said, “That dog looks like a hyena.” I had to put my hands over Hols’ ears! No offence, hyenas. Of course you’re beautiful too in a hyena sort of way. Holpops’ vet did wonder if she would ever grow into those ears – and no, she never did.

Anyway the point is, from that day at the dogs’ home in 2001 until that heartbreaking Tuesday just 6 weeks ago, she and I spent every waking moment together. She would have slept in my bed too if the husband had allowed it. She did if he wasn’t around! There is nowhere I have been in those 16 years where she wasn’t by my side.

That Tuesday, as the final anaesthetic eased my beautiful baby into her journey over the rainbow bridge, I heard myself howling

“Don’t leave me!”

And so I joined the ranks of all of you who have gone through this searing grief.

 

p1030176
“Together Forever’ – the rose we planted in her memory

Did you know –  I didn’t until today – UK law permits us to make arrangements to have our darlings’ cremains included in our own burial? Or even, as in one Cornwall cemetery, have our loved ones interred and when our time comes, be laid to rest right alongside them. So it is possible for us to be together forever with our fur-&-feather babies.

Nothing could mark better the depth, the height, the strength of that bond we have with our beloved companions. How comforting it is to have that possibility.

Together in life. Together ever after.

“For many, the grieving process for a pet is no different to losing a member of the family”*

If you live in America, don’t fret. The U.S. is catching up. Just last month Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on Bill SO2582 that allows New Yorkers to include companion animals with them in their burial. Great news.

“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” said Governor Cuomo. Assemblyman James F Brennan agreed, “The pet/caregiver relationship is a very special one and I am happy that this relationship will finally be honored.”

And so am I. Isn’t it wonderful that something as hard and impersonal as the law can actually find a space for our deepest feelings?

That makes NY the fifth state after Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia to write this into the statute book. (But don’t worry if you live elsewhere in the States. It’s not unusual for funeral directors to sneak companion animals’ cremains into the casket with their carer.)

A law like this strikes me as momentous, and not just because it’s a comfort to us human-people. (Though that is huge.)

It’s significant because surely it must bring nonhuman animals a step closer to being recognised in law as persons. Anyone who has been close to an individual of another species knows that is what they are. This could take us a big step closer to recovering for all nonhuman animals, not just our companions, the rights that are innately theirs, just by virtue of their being a life.

As the good governor says, our companion animals are members of the family. And all members of a family have rights, even newborn babes. Even the unborn. So should, so must nonhuman family members too. And indeed all creatures – members equally with us of Earth’s great family.

If you agree, please sign the Declaration of Animal Rights here

And please share. It needs a lot more signatures.

*Vet Elaine Pendlebury

Sources

Owners pay to be buried with their pets – The Telegraph

New Yorkers can now be buried with their pets – Care2

 

One Lovely Blog Award

A million thanks to the Switch Sisters who together make up owl machine, for nominating Animalista Untamed for the One Lovely Blog Award. And especially for their kind and very generous words about my posts and this blog.

Do go take a look at owl machine. Their specialty is Disney movies, fantasy and kids’ lit, with a little Animal Rights thrown in for good measure. The style is so quirkily entertaining that I find their posts a joy, even when I haven’t seen the movie or read the book myself!

So, as the rules of the Award dictate, I have to say –

Seven Things to Know About Me

1 I’m an islander. I come from the little island of Guernsey in the Channel Isles, a beautiful place to grow up. But I left my island long ago, and I get homesick a lot.

2 I’m a frustrated activist. Would love to be out there with the badger patrols and the Earthlings Experiences, but personal circumstances don’t allow. So I write, share and tweet instead. It is my job.

3 My idea of heaven would be caring for animals in my own animal sanctuary.

4 No, strike that out. My idea of heaven would be a world with no slaughterhouses, no zoos, no trophy hunting, no blood sports, no poaching, no horse- or greyhound racing, no culling of innocent creatures, no fur farms. A world where everyone is vegan, and wildlife habitat is strictly protected. A world where ALL animals – grudgingly even humans – have equal rights.

5 For the last six weeks I’ve been grieving the loss of my beloved rescue girl Holly, who came to me from Manchester Lost Dogs’ Centre 15 years 4 months ago at the age of 7 months. For those whole 15+ years she and I were together every waking second of the day. She even came to work with me. There is nowhere I have been where she wasn’t by my side. I never knew my heart could hurt so much. I love you Hols, and always will – till we’re together again.

6 I’m a grandma. That’s a pretty amazing thing to be. The sweetness of seeing through a small child’s eyes, when they only know the world as kind and good, and every little thing is a cause for wonder.

7 My favourite historic figure is St Francis of Assisi – who else?

Nominations

DirtNKids This is Shannon’s latest and gorgeous post about Autumn. If you love nature, the simple things in life, gardening, nice natural photos and yes, dirt and kids, you will love this blog.

Violet’s Veg*n e-Comics  A fabulous colourful blog of books, comics and poems for kids – and bigger kids like me! I’ve been loving the serialised adventures of intrepid animal-protector Luke Walker. This is a must-visit blog.

Rantings from a Virtual Soapbox Human and animal rights, environmental issues, painstakingly researched and reliable, usually with links for action we can take. Really making a difference.

In the Shadow of the Wolf Another wonderfully researched and reliable blog doing fantastic work for that beautiful but much persecuted creature, the wolf. Join the Tweetstorm for Norway’s wolves now!

And finally –

Here are the rules for accepting your One Lovely Blog Award nomination:

  1. Write a blog post accepting your nomination.
  2. Show the blogger who nominated you how much you love them by thanking them in the post and linking to their blog.
  3. Tell us seven things about yourself.
  4. Nominate other blogs that you think are totally rad.
  5. Let the bloggers you’ve nominated know they’ve received an award.
  6. Post the rules again to let those bloggers know how it works.

 

 

 

Doctor Dog – the Power of Loving Licks

When I read about a team of therapy dogs sent to comfort victims, survivors and families after the tragic Orlando massacre, I felt a warm glow inside. This story had THE biggest feel-good factor. Twelve golden retrievers right there with those in need to offer their therapeutic doggy affection, of which they have oodles and more to spare. The twelve are just a few of the one hundred and twenty dogs the American Lutheran Church has in its Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs team which has been helping human victims through difficult times for the best part of 20 years.

“Just the simple act of talking to the dogs is where the real therapy comes. People dealing with tragedy and grief in their life want somebody to talk to and need someone who will listen to them without any form of judgement – and dogs are the perfect listeners. As the victims tell their stories and let out all their anguish, they can gently stroke the comfort dog and that’s when the healing takes place.”

Tim Hetzner president of the charity explains “The dogs help provide a feeling of security to the victims they visit. Many of the people who stroke the dogs break down, having a moment of vulnerability, which is vital during these devastating situations.”

“Dogs show unconditional love”

Four words that say it all.

The dog’s best-friend status with humans reaches back into the far mists of time, but the first person recorded putting the bf concept into words was 18th century King Frederick of Prussia who apparently described one of his Italian greyhounds as his “best friend”. Wise man. And his contemporary, French philosopher Voltaire wrote that the dog, “C’est le meilleur ami que puisse avoir l’homme” – the best friend man could have.

It’s so true. No-one needs to tell a doggie’s human that they are the most loyal, devoted, loving, trusting, forgiving and patient of creatures. They shower you with excited doggy kisses when you walk through the door. They never get out of bed the wrong side and they’re always happy to see you, which is more than can be said of most humans. They are known to reduce anxiety and depression in their human companions, bring down blood pressure, lower heart rate, relieve symptoms of PTSD, and induce the release of oxytocin, the love hormone, in both human and dog. Dog-love comes with no strings attached.

That’s why they’ve proved so beneficial for the sick, the dying, the traumatised and the lonely. “People dealing with tragedy in their lives need this more than anything: uncomplicated affection.”

golden-retriever-1342252__180Ideally, the dog/human relationship is symbiotic – they get as much out of their relationship with us as we do with them. Which is quite unlike our relationship with most other animals whom generally speaking, we make useful to us, while we are harmful to them in varying degrees.

The Lutheran Church’s comfort dogs are called K-9s, because they are ‘service dogs’ used for a particular task that benefits humans. K-9 service dogs are trained as K-9s so that humans can use them for some specific task they want done, but that may not necessarily be in the canines’ best interests.

They are given a wide variety of tasks to perform in the service of man, and many of those tasks are dangerous: guarding people, property and places; attacking and subduing offenders; searching and rescuing; sniffing for drugs and explosives, for live people and for dead people.

Service K-9s are known as ‘partners’ by their human handlers, and on the whole they are loved and well-cared for, though sadly not always. Their ‘working life’ is however only 6-9 years, and then they are retired – if they are still alive, that is. What happens to them then? The Daily Mail reported that the UK police destroyed at least 84 of their ‘retired’ dogs in the three years leading up to 2013, in spite of a long list of people waiting to adopt them. One was just a pup, only 4 months old. And the Ministry of Defence destroyed 288 service dogs in the ten years to 2013, including two RAF dogs that guarded Prince William, Brus and Blade, who were destroyed just days after he quit the service.

UnknownThe point is, service dogs have no say in their ‘working life’, or what happens to them after, any more than do greyhounds or foxhounds who are just fodder for human ‘sport’, dispensable and replaceable commodities. Yet K-9s are routinely put in harm’s way by their human handlers. They are being used against the best interests of their own lives.* We know all too well from the sad story of beautiful Diesel the French police K-9 (pictured here) who was shot by a terrorist in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, what can happen to these trusting and utterly trustworthy animals. It’s just hypocrisy to award them medals for ‘bravery’, and heap praise on them after they’ve been killed ‘in the line of duty’.

So, as always when it comes to the human/animal interface, it’s still all about humans using animals for human purposes. It comes from an assumption that animals’ lives have little or no intrinsic value, and exist for human use. Those lovely golden retrievers deployed to Orlando are being used by humans for humans. Hopefully, they do benefit from their work themselves, if not as much as the humans on whom they lavish their love. Hopefully they have a good doggy life. Compared with most animals being used by humans, they are privileged. But is it stressful for them being shipped wherever their services are needed, all over the States? Is it stressful for them constantly being taken into strange places to meet strange people? We don’t even know if and how they themselves are affected by the emotional distress of the people they go to heal.

And there is another issue. Have these dogs been bred, or purchased from breeders for this task they have been set to? Judging from their webpage all the Lutheran Church’s comfort dogs are golden retrievers. Are any of them rescue dogs? It seems unlikely. How sad is that, when thousands upon thousands of wonderful loving dogs are languishing in rescue centres, and many get put down because there’s no space.

golden-retriever-744045__180

I started to have doubts about that warm glow I experienced reading the ‘dog doctors’ heartwarming story. Should they be ‘working’ for us at all? Should they be used, even if in a seemingly benign way? Is it right, or is it wrong? I don’t know.

Post Script 

The very first time dogs were used by the police here in the UK was in the hunt for Jack the Ripper in the 19th century. Sir Charles Warren then Commissioner of the Met, was being savaged in the press for failing over and over again to catch the serial killer. So hoping to silence the hostile press, he made the decision to get two bloodhounds trained up, and use them to track the murderer from the scene of his latest crime. Unluckily for him, it didn’t quite go to plan. Not only did the hounds fail to find the Ripper, one of them, less than lovingly, bit the Commissioner himself. Then both ran off. They had to launch a police search to find their own dogs. Oops! I imagine Sir Charles was less than eager to open the morning papers over his breakfast toast after that little debacle.

*Neck-break police dog Nero home from hospital  German Shepherd Nero jumped over railings in Watford which, unknown to his handler, had a 12ft (3.5m) drop on the other side. His neck was broken in two places. Glad to say, he is recovering well.

Petition to sign: Stop redeploying war dogs for profit

Petition to sign for justice for Totti two year old yellow lab K-9, left in hot car to die by her handler

Support IFAW’s caimpaign for Finn’s Law. Sign message to your MP – Police dog Finn stabbed multiple times in course of duty

Update

30th November 2016 Interesting article about protecting therapy animal welfare, but nothing about their rights. Should Canadian unions take up the cause for working animals? – The Current

Sources and quotes

One Green Planet feature by Lauren Kearney on the K-9 Comfort Dogs

Man’s Best Friend Wiki

Police Dogs Wiki

Charities for retired K-9s

In the UK:

FiresideK9.org

In the US:

Retired Paws

Saveavet for retired military dogs

Mission K9 Rescue for private sector service dogs

Related posts

RIP Diesel

Diesel Makes the News Again

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The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Two news items clicked together in the brain this week: one on the surface at least quite frivolous, and the other of such profound significance it has the potential to throw a bomb into life-as-we-know-it and blast us into utterly uncharted terrain.

Let’s start with the harebrained one. Do you remember when designer dogs first became the must-have accessory? Or maybe they always were. But a few years ago, someone came up with the bright idea of taking established breeds and cross-breeding them with each other in the search for the cutest combo-pup. Nowadays, puggles, goldendoodles, labskys and cockerpoos are everywhere. There was, and still is, good money to be made and breeders are cashing in.

Of course, this is nothing new. Humans have been interfering with natural selection for centuries, cross-breeding both animals and plants in the worlds of farming and horticulture, in search of desired ‘improvements’: more productive milk cows; heavier meatier livestock; disease-resistant crops; or just prettier flowers.

But cross-breeding as a way of getting what you want, is so yesterday. Make way for CRISPR.

CRISPR is not a typo, as one might be excused for thinking, describing how omnivores like their breakfast bacon. It is, apparently, the acronym for

Clustered   Regularly   Interspaced   Short   Palindromic   Repeats

Gene-editing to you and me. In the simplest of terms that I can understand, it means cutting out a section of the DNA double helix (see below) with something called Cas9 – biological scissors, in effect – and replacing the removed section with a new piece of DNA- which can be just about anything the scientists want it to be.

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

What has made this biotechnology possible are the huge strides in genome mapping over the last couple of decades. Because of course, you don’t want to just cut out any old piece of DNA. Now, because each bit of the double helix can be identified, you can target the exact piece you want to remove, and replace it with the piece of your choice.

So your new designer dog can now be gene-edited any way you want. No more need for crossbreeding, lots more scope for innovation, and better control over results. Genetic-engineer James West has spotted the money-making potential. His Nashville-based firm AgGenetics engineered Angus cattle to have white coats instead of black or brown, to make them more heat-tolerant, thus doubling beef production. (And milk cows are already being gene-edited to be born without horns, so they no longer have to be burned off.)

Inevitably, it didn’t take Mr West long to realise that the change-the-coat-colour technique could be applied to other animals too. He tested his idea on mice, and produced poor little newborns sporting their little fur coats patterned with squares, stripes and spots. Maybe soon he will be taking orders for the customer’s choice of novelty designer dog picked from an online catalogue. There are so far four colourways: red, brown, yellow and black. And would you prefer squares or stripes, Sir/Madam?

Ludicrous as it sounds, gene-editing for striped dogs provokes serious questions. Who knows where it could lead, and what the implications could be – and not just for dogs?

And the designer stripey dog is one thing, but how about wiping out an entire species at will?

We ran across this even more worrying application for CRISPR earlier this year, in Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth? With CRISPR it’s possible, for instance, to delete the mosquito DNA involved in reproduction and replace that section of the sequence with DNA that makes the insect sterile. This ‘permanent solution’ for mosquitoes is being researched for obvious reasons – these insects carry malaria, zika and dengue fever, and by transmitting malaria in particular, have probably killed more than half the humans that have ever lived.

This seems to be the default human mindset: how can we use this new technology for the benefit of our own species before and above all others?

With CRISPR, humanity now holds in its hands the power of god, the power to gene-edit Nature. I’ll say it again,

MAN  NOW HAS THE POWER TO GENE-EDIT LIFE ITSELF

And that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

In 2011 a group of geologists called for the recognition of a new era in the history of the Earth – the Anthropocene, to acknowledge the impact of humans on the planet. How much more apt now than it was just five short years ago.

So when we ask that question, how can these new technologies be used to further our own interests, there are other, and even more important questions that need to be addressed: Should we be doing this? What are the ethics controlling our ever-increasing powers? And who gets to decide?

This is what natural scientist and poet Melanie Challenger has to say about the new power we have, to deliberately wipe out a target species if we so choose (as opposed to accidentally wiping out random species which tragically, we’re proving spectacularly successful at)

If we start getting cavalier about the existence of a living being, if we start to think it’s OK to eradicate something because it’s a threat to us, we put other ideas about the sanctity of life in question

Striped dogs, a world without mosquitoes, can it get any more bizarre and perturbing? Well yes it can – the Chimaera, already here. In Greek myth the Chimaera was a monstrous fire-breeding hybrid, a goat-headed lion with a serpent-head tail. These days, we’re more familiar with the electro-petroleum kind of hybrid on four wheels. But the very latest kind of Chimaera hybrid has more in common with the one of Greek myth – it’s a nightmarish combination of human and pig.

So what would you say to Organ Farms?

A while ago I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel ‘Never Let Me Go’. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it)  As you turn the pages you start to realise the horrible truth, that the young people we are getting to know as they grow up, are in fact clones. Then an even more disturbing truth is revealed – the characters have been created solely for their organs and will undergo a cycle of ‘donations’ until their bodies and their lives are consumed.

Well, reality is catching up with fiction once again. Only, as is always the case in the real world, it’s the infinitely useful nonhuman animal that humans deploy for the task. The unfortunate ‘donors’ will not be human but porcine. Pigs have drawn the short straw because their organs are about the size and weight of human organs. Not that they will be using the animals’ own organs though, because pig organs would be rejected by the human body. So what’s needed for the sick people on the long waiting list for transplants are proper healthy human organs.

No cloning here though – just CRISPR and the new Chimaera. This is what you do. You get a brand new pig embryo in your lab. You delete the genes responsible for the formation of, say, the pancreas. You introduce the appropriate human genes. You implant the genetically-engineered embryo into a female pig on your Organ Farm, and hey presto, there will be a lovely human pancreas ready to transplant into a human recipient in need. Farms of pigs incubating clean healthy human organs, and on demand.

Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, but that is where the research is heading. And it will happen. As the title of last night’s Panorama proclaimed, “Medicine’s Big Breakthrough”. The scientists are excited by CRISPR’s potential. So are the medical professionals. And who can blame those once considered incurably ill for holding on to such promise of a complete cure.

But what about the animals? And what about the planet? The waves in the wake of this technology could sink us before climate change gets a chance to.

Just a final note to send you to bed with nightmares: there’s a guy in San Francisco selling Do-It-Yourself CRISPR kits online out of his garage, so everyone can do their own gene-editing at home. He calls it the democratisation of science. Sweet dreams.

 

Panorama: Medicine’s Big Breakthrough – Editing Your Genes

Source: Let’s Not Buy Into Genetically Modified Fur | Care2 Causes

Postscript This is a huge topic with more ramifications than it is possible to imagine. I don’t pretend to any expertise and my descriptions of the science are just my way of getting my head around it a little bit. This is just skimming the surface of a technology of infinite significance that is surely ushering in the next Age of Life on Earth.