Friday, May 16

TERRA-ISTS MUST BE STOPPED! warns that if you have "publicly protested some environmental or animal rights outrage" you may soon be classified as a terrorist, subject to all the niceties of constitutional suspension that word involves. Paying attention yet? Read up on the proposed "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act." Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights says that "the definitional sections of this legislation are so broad that they sweep within them basically every environmental and animal-rights organization in the country." First they came for the greens...


A woman is suing the Los Angeles Zoo for the pending separation of two female elephants, age 42 and 45, whose breakup she says threatens their welfare, and the Humane Society backs her up. I don't know the specifics of the relationship of these two elephants, but the way humans generally treat elephants doesn't lend much credence to the zoo's claim that they're just doing it for the elephant's own good.

One former circus worker confirms that elephants are universally mistreated within that institution, according to the Christian Science Monitor, "managed by the use of force and intimidation, controlled by bullhooks or worse and used where they will cause the greatest pain. Former animal trainers have admitted that muzzles, whips, electric prods, and even baseball bats are used to tame and train. Newly captured animals are tied down and beaten until they obey." Even then, they don't always perform as advertised: Circus animal trainer John Cuneo knows this as one of his elephants killed its handler in Hawaii and had to be killed by police. Now his farm is charged with 47 violations of the Animal Welfare Act and some are calling for elephants' removal from it. Meanwhile, just for context, in parts of Africa poachers are killing elephants left and right. the latest bunch "mowed down seven elephants including a baby" inside a Ugandan National Park. Africa is where the elephants like Ruby, the African elephant the L.A. Zoo wants to ship out, come from. Do we do them a favor by bringing them out of the fire and into the frying pan?

Thursday, May 15


When Japanese men move to the U.S. and start eating plenty of high-fat burgers and pizza and less soy, their risk of prostate cancer increases. But so far, much of this evidence has been anecdotal. A recent study compared genetically similar Japanese men in the US and Japan to examine why our prostate cancer rate is 10 times theirs. What it found was that "the Japanese-American men reported eating a diet substantially higher in animal fat. Not surprisingly, they also had a greater percentage of body fat and higher triglyceride levels in their blood."

UPDATE 5/16: Once again: Broccoli = Prostate Cancer Fighter

Wednesday, May 14


The assumption has always been that animals' lives have to be sacrificed to our understanding of medical issues, in everything from drug and cosmetics research to med-school dog labs. The tide is turning, but far too many tests are still being done because of inertia. In Britain, a Member of Parliament has officially urged the Government to reduce the use of animals for medical and scientific research, and at least one new test will accomplish that goal. Meanwhile, stateside, the Urbana-Champaign Senate approved a new dissection policy forcing instructors to provide alternatives to animal dissection in general courses, and giving principled upper-level students "the opportunity to appeal to the department if dissection alternatives are not offered." And just across the border, the USDA, of all agencies, is cracking down on "problems with Northwestern university's tracking and handling of research animals." It's a start. It's a start.

Tuesday, May 13


While no one seems willing to nail it down as fact, more and more reporters and commentators are addressing the probability that SARS arose from the animal trade in China. Laurie Garrett of Newsday says SARS linked to animal markets, while SFGate more elegantly mentions that SARS' origins may lie in China's exotic cuisine. A new AP story says SARS probably originated in animal, many experts say, and some op-ed writers are asking point-blank, "Did meat consumption cause SARS?" Meanwhile, as a reminder that it's not just one exotic disease, scientists at Edinburgh's Moredun Research Institute warn of a hidden risk of disease from animals: "Horses, cows, pigs ... are among other carriers of bacteria that pose an unknown risk to humans." Yep, it's all still unknown. But there sure are a lot of clues...

Monday, May 12


"Hog-farm-cesspool gases tied to nerve damage," blares this NY Times story (reprinted in the Charlotte Observer), explaining that toxic ammonia, hydrogen sulfide routinely escape from the lagoons holding the excess of animal feces and urine produced by factory farming. "22 times in April, the gases exceeded the state's recommended air standards of 15 parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide," the Times notes, adding that levels got higher than four times the cutoff point for dangerous emissions of this gas as well as 150 parts per billion of ammonia. This is "a level that would have exceeded the air standards for at least six other states." Good point. Everybody in other states arguing with county boards about large hog farms, please take note: NERVE DAMAGE, fer chrissakes.