Tag Archives: 2011

Cow Enters Rescue Group’s Monkeysphere

A little while ago I posted about the Monkeysphere, and how there is a maximum number (Dunbar’s number) of social relationships that social animals (including humans) can simultaneously maintain.  If a person (or animal) is outside your monkeysphere, you do not view him/her/it as a social companion, and may find it difficult to generate empathy for him/her/it.

Here’s an example of that happening now.  Bavaria (like other countries) sends, probably, hundreds of thousands of cows to the slaughterhouse annually, but here’s a group frantically trying to save one loose, wandering cow.

It’s not that I disagree with the idea — and, from a fundraising point of view, it makes a lot of sense.  Having a name and a face on your campaign will definitely help raise money.  “We’re trying to save Yvonne!” will get more people interested in your cause than “We’re trying to save 100,000 anonymous cows!”  It’s just a fascinating example of the Monkeysphere in action.  Yvonne entered these people’s monkeysphere, and suddenly they can see her as a social companion, and suddenly it becomes worth purchasing not only her, but a former “stall mate” of hers, as well as mobilizing search and rescue units on all-terrain vehicles, to rescue her.

The other cows in Yvonne’s herd?  Too many faces — won’t fit in the monkeysphere.  Off they go.

(Not saying anything bad or good here.  We all do our best with what we have.  The rescue certainly cannot take in 100,000 cows every year, and Yvonne will definitely help them with their mission, benefiting the other cows indirectly by being their “ambassador”.  There’s no right or wrong here.  Just…pausing to look at the world as it goes by.)

(On  a similar note, this article “introducing you to the truck driver you just flipped off” is trying to get you to add truck drivers, in general, to your monkeysphere in order to get you to empathize with them and reduce incidents of road rage.  Did it work?)

Glow F**k Yourself

Photo via http://kidsblogs.nationalgeographic.com/kidsnews/2009/05/glowing-animals-gallery.htmlI believe that, at this time, we have mastered the technology of making glow-in-the-dark animals.  First there were the glowing mice, then the rats, the commercially-available atrocity the “glo-fish“,  Alba, the glowing rabbit who was also an “art installation”, pigs, and a whole host of other critters, and now, apparently, we have the glow-in-the-dark beagle.

What our intrepid scientists are doing, really, is stuffing extra genes into an animal to see if they can.  (Yes, that’s apparently all the justification they need.  They probably put the word “cancer” in the grant application, though.  You never know, this might be it!)  When scientists want to swap a gene from one organism to another, they choose to transfer a gene which makes the target animal, which ordinarily does not glow, produce a glowing protein.  They do this because that kind of thing is really easy to spot and doesn’t require complicated blood testing to see if it’s taken hold.  If the resultant animal glows, voila! — you have successfully transplanted a gene.

Why do they feel that making more glowing animals is necessary at this time?  I think we’ve passed the point of “required replication” of that original first experiment and entered the world of “unnecessary duplication of results”.  We’ve been shuffling genes around for years, as evidenced by that impressive list above.  We’ve even done beagles before, in 2009.  I think we’ve certainly seen that “we can” make glowing animals.  Now that “we can”, what are we doing with this amazing new technology?

To quote from the beagle article:

“[ByeongChun] Lee said the genes injected to make the dog glow could be substituted with genes that trigger fatal diseases. He and his team would then be able to chart the course of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more, better understanding how such diseases develop.”

It is fascinating how that paragraph doesn’t say, “The creation of transgenic beagles will allow us to give laboratory dogs a whole host of genetic diseases they don’t normally get, so that we can study how those diseases affect dogs, as if that were somehow relevant to how they affect people!

Yes.  The whole point of this ludicrous enterprise is that eventually, we will have man-made “animal models” for diseases that animals don’t normally even get — as though studying how these transplanted diseases behave in their new, unnatural hosts will tell us a damn thing about how they behave in humans.  We have reams and reams of evidence — including some generated from actual scientists doing animal-related experiments — that animal and human systems are not identical, and therefore we cannot extrapolate directly from one to the other, and here these people are, wasting time, money, and animals on making more animals to chew through while flailing helplessly in circles blathering about how they can cure cancer if only they can grind up a few more mice.

Ever notice how none of the articles point that out?  None of them say, “This will allow us to kill hundreds, maybe thousands, more dogs every year while searching for cures for human diseases.”  It’s always “Ooh, look at this adorable puppy — which may be a cure for cancer!

Am I saying that we should never, ever investigate recombinant DNA?  No.  Am I saying that perhaps we should think about using our newfound power of shuffling genes about to create hardier or more fruitful food crops that could feed impoverished nations, rather than new “animal models”, “designer fish” and “art installations”?  Yes.  We do not need to learn to cure artificially-induced Alzheimer’s disease in dogs.  We need to learn to cure it as it occurs naturally in people.

“We have learned well how to treat cancer in mice and rats but we still can’t cure people.”

– Professor Colin Garner, quoted in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

I love science.  I love learning new things, and exploring new ideas.  I understand that we can learn things from animal research we cannot learn anywhere else.  This?  This is a grotesque parody of research.  This is an absolute waste of funds.  There are human-based studies at my local VA hospital desperate for funding to help wounded veterans overcome combat injuries.  There are developers who could really use grants to help design new prosthetic limbs.  Why are we wasting money on this?

But ooooh, lookit the cute glowing beagle!

Cruelty: Woman Ties Puppies To Fence

“HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) – An employee of the Southern Pines Animal Shelter arrived at work Monday morning and found 11 Shepard[sic] mix puppies tied to the gate.

Surveillance video at the shelter showed a woman taking two puppies at a time by the neck from her vehicle and using zip ties and baling wire to tie them to the fence. The zip ties had been tightened around their neck.”  (7/12/11)

The full article can be found here.

It’s possible that it simply did not occur to the woman that zip ties are, perhaps, a less than appropriate method for attaching puppies to a fence.  That sort of thing is what brings one to add the tags “puppies” and “ignorance” to the same article (and mourn the state of a world in which that happens).

However, ignorance of puppy-tying methods aside, this sort of behavior — breeding unwanted litters of puppies, abandoning the puppies at all, dropping them off at the shelter after hours to avoid hassles — is the kind of thing that happens when humans stop viewing animals as living things and begin viewing them as just things.

This is the kind of thing that we, as a culture, as a species, need to fight.  The ability to view another living creature (human or animal) as an object to which we owe no responsibility is behind, well, a lot of our problems.