Tag Archives: science

NIH Spends Our Money to Torture Animals for No Good Reason

Originally published on Care2

Tens of millions of animals are prisoners in research labs where scientists conduct experiments on them. Some experiments are lethal; the subjects of others live to see another day — and another experiment. Much of this research is not only cruel, it is useless and even silly.

The federal National Institutes of Health likely spends well over a billion dollars on vivisection every year. It is supposed to fund research that will help extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability (for humans). But a significant portion of its grant money goes towards research that doesn’t serve NIH’s mission at all.

Many people resign themselves to or even champion animal research as an indispensable tool for saving human lives, but alternatives exist, and there would be more of them if the federal administration did what Congress told it to do.

NIH has turned its back on a Congressional mandate that it reduce the number of animals labs use and fund the development of experimental methods that don’t involve animals. Instead it continues to fund the confinement, torture, and killing of animals for no good reason, uses taxpayer dollars to do it, and ignores its own mission.

You be the judge: here is In Defense of Animals’ list of last year’s most ludicrous experiments.

Top 10 Most Ridiculous Research on Animals for 2011

10. DRUG-INDUCED ARTHRITIS IN RATS MAKES EXERCISE HARDER

9. RATS WHO RUN AROUND MORE APPEAR TO BE MORE ANXIOUS

8. PRAIRIE VOLES STUDY SUGGESTS SINGLE MOMS RAISE LESS LOVING CHILDREN

7. DIETING HAMSTERS CHOOSE FOOD OVER SEX

6. RAT BITTER-TASTE NERVES APPEAR TO WORK

5. CONTAGIOUS YAWNING IN CHIMPANZEES IS EMPATHETIC

4. ALLIGATORS’ SOUNDS AND ANATOMY DIFFER FROM HUMANS’

3. LEMON-FRESH SCENT CAN INDUCE ERECTIONS IN MONKEYS

2. RATS FIND MILES DAVIS IS BETTER WITH COCAINE

1. LABS ARE STRESSFUL PLACES FOR MONKEYS

Wow — arthritis makes exercise harder. Who knew? Well, at last count, pretty much everyone. And how about that groundbreaking insight that alligators are different from humans!

This list made it even harder than usual to write that check to the IRS this year.

Photo credit: howzey

 

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Superbug Meat: Factory Farms Weaken Antibiotics

Originally published on Care2; Open Salon Editor’s Pick

We’ve all heard about the antibiotic crisis: overuse has led to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, opening the door to superbugs for which we have no cure. Those superbugs cause infections that are fatal in 30-60 percent of cases.

What we haven’t heard as much is that the biggest abuser of antibiotics isn’t human patients and their doctors: it is factory farms, which are responsible for 80 percent of antibiotic use. They spike livestock feed with the medications to make “meat animals” grow faster. Seven million pounds of antibiotics are sold for human use every year, while 28.8 million pounds go into cows, pigs, turkeys, sheep and chickens.

Lawsuit Against the FDA

Recently the government moved a couple steps closer to ending this lunacy. First, in a lawsuit called Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. vs. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, federal Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz ordered the FDA to reintroduce a draft rule it first proposed 35 years ago but never acted on.

The rule would require that “an antibacterial drug fed…to animals must be shown not to promote increased resistance to antibacterials used in human medicine.” The rule would not prohibit giving animals medication to treat disease. The Court’s order would obligate the FDA only to give the public (i.e. agribusiness) a chance to contribute its two cents (i.e. big fat political donations) on whether the proposed rule should be adopted. Legally, the Court can’t make the administration adopt the rule.

The FDA Asks Agribusiness, Pretty Please, to Take Antibiotics Out of Feed Voluntarily

Second, the FDA announced after Magistrate Judge Katz’s ruling that it is “proposing a voluntary initiative” to end the use of antibiotics to speed the growth of animals raised for meat, while permitting the use of the medications to treat disease under a veterinarian’s supervision.

The new initiative, being voluntary, is toothless. The Center for Science in the Public Interest called it “tragically flawed” because it relies “too heavily on the drug industry and animal producers to act voluntarily in the best interest of consumers.”

The FDA practically boasted in its press release that it had worked “to ensure that the voices of livestock producers across the country were taken into account.” These are the same producers who have dictated the government’s non-action on this issue for three decades and it is no surprise that they are still running the show.

Agribusiness Pretends to Play Along; Nobody Buys It

Agribusiness is trying to ward off meaningful government intervention with a charade that it is voluntarily slashing its use of antibiotics. For instance, as Reuters reports, “the poultry industry [says] it already has ratcheted down ‘by a large margin’ its use of antibiotics.” But agribusiness has been on notice since 1977 that the government disapproved of its massive overconsumption of antibiotics and didn’t try to fix the problem until now. It is awfully convenient to claim that it can self-regulate just when a federal lawsuit shines a light on its long-term failure to do just that.

The same Reuters article reports that the “director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, noted voluntary efforts to reduce antibiotic use and said, ‘We believe additional steps are necessary to have a real impact on this problem.’” In other words, the FDA admits that agribusiness is not and will not do enough to solve the problem voluntarily. Still, it chose to address the problem with a brand new voluntary initiative. That is an agency working hard to have no impact on anything.

The Science Says: Global Public Health Crisis

Contrast this sluggish inaction with the magnitude of the problem: the FDA itself told the Court that antibiotic resistance is “a mounting public health problem of global significance” and that dosing livestock with antibiotics “for production purposes…is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health.”

There is no doubt that factory farms’ use of antibiotics is directly causing the rise of superbugs. The science is clear that feeding animals antibiotics just to make them grow larger faster threatens human health. In 1997, for example, the World Health Organization recommended a ban on feeding animals antibiotics for growth if the same antibiotics are used to treat humans. In 2010, the FDA reviewed this and other studies and concluded, as it had back in the ’70s, that factory farms shouldn’t feed antibiotics to animals. And just like in the ’70s, the FDA once again didn’t do a thing about it.

Why it has been necessary to sue the FDA to make them do what they already know they should do is a mystery. And this lawsuit isn’t even the first effort to roust the administration to action. In 2009 and subsequent years, as reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “hundreds of…health, consumer, environmental, agricultural, and humane organizations” supported a bill in Congress to address the problem. It didn’t pass.

Doctors Want to Protect Antibiotics

Doctors are on the front lines of the battle against antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and they have taken sides in the struggle to get antibiotics out of factory farm feed. Three antibiotics doctors commonly prescribe, penicillin and two forms of tetracycline, are at issue in the lawsuit. The American Medical Association endorsed the 2009 bill to reduce the amount of these medications fed to animals raised for meat.

The AMA’s newspaper quoted Dr. Brad Spellberg, associate professor of medicine at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, as saying, “I’ve seen patients die of treatable infections. I’ve told their family, ‘I have no medicine to use.’ This is a catastrophic public health crisis. I don’t know how else to put it.

Our health is far more important than some extra profit for factory farming conglomerates. Please help convince our government of that by signing the petition to the Obama administration calling for an end to agribusiness’s abuse of antibiotics.

Photo Credit: NDSU Ag Comm

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What Doesn’t Separate Us From Animals 5

A new study described in The New York Times found that ravens can recognize the voices of old friends after years of separation. Current Biology reports that a group of birds lived together for three years, then were separated for three years. Researchers recorded the calls of some of the separated birds towards the end of the three-year separation (during which time their calls may have changed) and played them to the other birds, who responded with friendly calls.

The birds’ friendly response demonstrated that they recognized their friends, because they responded differently to birds they didn’t like. Lead researcher Markus Böckle of the University of Vienna explained that when ravens answer calls from others they don’t like, they use deeper voices. The birds could also distinguish birds they did not know.

Ravens have friends and foes and remember them for years. Yet one more characteristic that does not distinguish humans from animals.

 Photo credit: Sergey Yeliseev

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