Monthly Archives: April 2013

Scientists’ View of Humane Science

Image by mensatic via morguefile.com

Image by mensatic via morguefile.com.

If you are interested in how scientists are currently viewing animal-based research, there is a free online course available, taught by employees of Johns Hopkins University (one of the big animal research “players”), Alan Goldberg and James Owiny.  The course is called Enhancing Humane Science – Improving Animal Research.  It is sponsored by the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, which sounds great until you realize it’s also part of Johns Hopkins.  This course is absolutely not in any way unbiased.  Johns Hopkins has a lot of big stakes in animal-based research.

I’ll admit I haven’t listened to the whole course yet, but it reeks of the stuff I had to read while working in animal research.  It appears to be a pretty accurate picture of the scientists’ point of view concerning animal welfare.

I’m not defending or attacking anybody here.  This mess, and my opinion of it, is too huge and complicated for me to summarize it in one journal post.  But if you were looking for a good introduction to how scientists look at animal research, and where they are coming from when they say, “But we are doing everything we can for the animals in our care,” this is where a lot of them are standing right now.  The jargon and the general attitudes are appropriate and seem pretty representative.

They aren’t cackling and rubbing their hands together, drooling over the prospect of thousands of dead mice.  On the other hand, these animals routinely undergo experiences we would not inflict on our pets.

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From Pasture To Plate In 0.06 Seconds

Popeye Explodes a Bull

I found this little gif interesting.  Is this humane slaughter?  It’s certainly extremely efficient.

Research to find the cartoon’s title tells me that this animation comes from an episode called “I Eats My Spinach”, which involves Popeye briefly engaging in a bullfight, with the ending pictured above.  However, the same research also leads to a synopsis of an episode called “Bulldozing the Bull” where Popeye refuses to attend a bullfight on ethical grounds — “It’s cruelty to aminals” — and later befriends the bull.

Nothing profound here, just a little glimpse of something.  Also, the one cut of kosher meat intrigues me.

From Pet to Plate: Guinea Pigs

Recent news articles have brought my attention to the farming of the guinea pig as an alternative meat animal.  Apparently it’s popular in South America, where it’s known as cuyes or cuy.  People eat them whole roasted, rather like tiny chickens, and the author of the NPR piece goes into entirely too much detail about eating the “fingery little hands”.  I am aware that humans will eat just about anything, so it’s not too much of a surprise that someone, somewhere, is eating guinea pig.

The guinea pig is supposed to be more “eco-friendly” than, say, beef — it’s more efficient at turning food into meat and it certainly takes up a lot less space.  Heifer International provides guinea pigs (amongst many other species) to people in developing countries to provide meat and income.  So there might be benefits to farming guinea pigs instead of cattle or pigs.

My immediate concern with the idea is this: it doesn’t really matter what animal you’re talking about — if you’re producing enough of them, they’re going to get factory farmed.  When you picture “guinea pig housing” right now, you’ve probably got a mental picture of something like this:

These are, of course, pet guinea pigs.  They’re in a pretty big space, with a couple of square feet per guinea pig.  Here, according to Google Images, anyway, is what “farmed” guinea pig housing looks like these days:

This is what it looks like when you move from “pet” to “farm” — much less space per animal, more animals in one room.  If guinea pig meat becomes popular, these little farms will want to — will need to, to keep up with demand — become even more “efficient”, cramming more animals in the same area.  What will an “efficient” guinea pig farming operation — capable of feeding several hundred thousand humans — look like?

Twin Easter Foals Born to Underweight Mom

I seem to be doing that “not post because I have nothing meaty to say” thing, so here’s something reasonably bite size:

Here is a cute “human interest” story about twin foals born on Easter Sunday.  It’s pretty nondescript, and the facts are more or less correct (twin foals are pretty rare, because most mares aren’t quite big enough to carry two full size fetuses to term).  I only got interested when I saw some screencaps from the video:

Twin Easter Foals, Tifton, GA

Twin Easter Foals, Tifton, GA

Why doesn’t anyone seem terribly concerned about that mare?  (Actually, people on forums are concernedbut why hasn’t even one of the hundreds of news feeds which have brainlessly reposted this article even wondered why they can see every rib on the mother?)  She looks like a 1 or 2 on the Henneke body condition scale — damn skinny, almost emaciated.  Yes, she’s been eating for three, and mares lose body condition when pregnant, especially with twins.  But let’s look at some other photos of new equine mothers of twins:

Premature foal twins return home Twin Foals Born at OSUTwin Shire Foals in Wales

EDIT: I feel better.  I’m not the only one that wondered.

I don’t think this is a post so much about this specific situation, even, as it is about this: The reporter and photographer visited the site and took pictures and video and didn’t see (or at least didn’t mention) the mare’s condition.  The primary editor at the TV station didn’t mention it, and neither did anyone else at the station which saw the story.  Many, many news feeds reposted this article without even appearing to do so much as glance at the photos.  What else are we missing, in other news articles on other topics?  Consider this article on a “black phase coyote” shot by a hunter.  What might the news outlets that covered this story have missed?  (Hint, kids: that’s a husky!)