We have all seen video from inside the terrifying, “industry standard” chicken housing facilities, where hens are caged with 6-8 adult birds on floor space equivalent to a standard piece of typing paper. This, however, is some of the first video I’ve seen from a “free range” facility, and I thought I would share. This is still an astonishing number of chickens, but they all appear to have all their feathers, nobody is fighting and they can move, jump, extend their wings, and hunt bugs (if there’s a single bug left in those pastures after 50,000 chickens run through them).
(Recall that the USDA definition of “free range” only actually requires that chickens “have access to the outside”, so not all “free range” chickens live like this — for comparison, here is a video from a “free range” egg farm in Canada, which neither mentions nor shows the birds going outside.)
My Facebook feed, like those of most people I know, is filled with videos of animals being cute in various ways, often without context. I have seen baby chimps feeding baby tigers, the infamous “mama tiger with piglets” photo, and many others. I try not to forward these videos and images, because the lack of context often conceals terrible things. Today I saw another example: the “slow loris being tickled” video, excerpted in the gif at right.
In fact, the arms-raised posture you see in this video is a defensive one used when a loris is frightened. This intimidated loris is feeling uncomfortable and is raising its arms for better access to the brachial glands in its armpits. It can lick these areas to create a “venom” which can damage other lorises and cause a serious reaction in humans.
Lorises do not make good pets. They, like most wild animals, are not designed to live in human habitations and they do not enjoy being handled. The (illegal) pet trade (along with the trade in “traditional medicine“) is decimating the populations of wild lorises. “Pet” lorises often have their teeth forcibly removed to reduce their ability to produce a venomous bite. They often die of stress even before being sold as pets. Reposting the above video without context only reinforces the message that lorises make good pets, encouraging more people to buy them, and fueling the trade.
What can you do to help? Before reposting a cute video of an exotic animal doing something cute, do a simple google search to try to get some context. Do not repost videos or pictures of exotic animals being treated as pets. Instead, point out why they do not reflect reality and/or proper treatment of the animals involved. Don’t just be a link in the reposting chain — break it.
For contrast, here is a video of a domestic kitten genuinely enjoying a playful interaction with a human. As a domesticated animal, this kitten is descended from generations of animals used to coexisting with humans, and makes a great pet. Instead of reposting a video like the loris video, consider posting a video like this one.
On the one hand, I completely understand wanting to find new ways to fix people who have been severely damaged. Much of this research is, obviously, going to support our troops, a noble goal, and as you can see in the publication archives, a lot of the research is being done to help children. I have absolutely nothing against these goals, and the scientific part of me completely understands that, in order to help some people who really need it, sometimes we have to do things which seem impossibly horrible. On the other hand, every single one of these experiments starts, essentially, by whacking a couple dozen (sedated) rats on the head to induce brain injury, or essentially draining all the blood out of several (also sedated) pigs to induce cardiac arrest. (If you are looking to cure traumatic injury, Step One in your experimental protocols is to create traumatic injury.)
There is something about this which is, to me, unspeakably twisted, but damned if I know an immediate solution to it. Using only consenting human subjects as they appear by random chance would set the research back years, and if my child were struck by a car I know I would want all the research going into knowing how to sew my child’s head back on; on the other hand, if I were struck by a car, would I want to know that 2,000 rats died so that they could sew my head back on? 20,000? Is there a minimum or maximum number of rats(/pigs/dogs/monkeys) that my life is worth? I know it’s worth a lot of rats to me, but am I the governing authority here? Cosmically, am I worth more or less than a rat? Ten rats? Is my contribution to society worth 2,000 lifetimes spent languishing in a little plastic tub in a research lab? Would I want to meet those rats? Explain it to them? Would I want to explain it to the pigs? The dogs?
No solutions here, alas — just a note to the world that this stuff is still happening. No idea how to make it right, but, somewhere, this stuff went seriously wrong.
There is a very real possibility that the squid was alive for this “experiment”. There’s no indication in the video itself, and I can’t find research by the lab (run by Roger Hanlon at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA) which describes its preparation of squid fins for such video, but here is another video by the same lab, which purports to be of “live squid skin closeups” and shows extremely similar footage. Is anyone else watching the “Insane” video and seeing a live squid being electrocuted so that someone can watch pretty colors dance to Cypress Hill?
I’m all for teaching kids science! Learning is valuable and education is vital, and hands-on experiments are great for getting kids involved and interested. But…surely there is some other way to demonstrate this phenomenon? Even if the insects are, as the authors claim, anesthetized, and the hands-on research really does “increase understanding of neuroscience concepts“, what is this teaching kids about treating animals as things whose needs do not matter compared to ours? How long until little Bobby wonders if the cat also twitches when you wire him up?
Favorite sentence: “It’s very important to avoid anthropomorphizing the cockroach with thoughts like ‘If I do not want my own leg cut off, then the cockroach does not want its leg cut off.'”
That makes it all terribly convenient, doesn’t it? The cockroach doesn’t care about the loss of a leg in a way it can communicate to us (or in a way that we care to receive), therefore it just doesn’t care, and therefore we can just lop the leg off a cockroach whenever we like, to show kids things about nerve conductivity. Even if it is valuable science — maybe we could just do this once and then share the video? We could set it to Cypress Hill.
–noun Law. The performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust).
I have more than twenty years' experience working with animals, and have always thought them worthy of consideration and respect. Imagine, then, my surprise when introduced to the field of animal research. From there I investigated meat production and other large-scale animal production processes. It's a scary world out there.