Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the many uses for "purpose bred animals"

I recently read this article in the Willamette Week about the controversy surrounding OHSU's primate research facility. After discussing the article with a friend, we came to the conclusion that while certain scientific research on animals (such as hair products or cosmetics) is absolutely unacceptable, other research has played a heavy role in our current understanding and treatment of many illnesses. I don't like any of it, personally, but I can't deny that people dying of cancer should have access to the most effective scientific scientific research possible. When my grandmother had cancer her most effective treatment at M.D. Anderson was a study that injected tumors into rats and then used different methods of chemotherapy and radiation to see what would decrease the size of the tumor. Even now, how could I side with a rat over my grandmother, the kindest, most wonderful person I have ever known? over anyone's grandmother?

One of the problems I had with the WWeek article, which was essentially an interview with the Animal Scientists, was that they referred to the animals not as macaques or even monkeys, but as 'purpose bred animals'. Yes, it is probably easier to perform operations on unnamed generic animals, but to me this term implies a lack of respect for the creature that is essentially donating its life to science. It is also a pathetic way to avoid inciting the public, who would probably flinch at the thought of performing operations on monkeys. If you believe in what you are doing, then stand behind it.

I also didn't like one of the scientists' avoidance of the subject of pain. When the interviewer asks her if by minimizing costs, she means the animals pain or discomfort, she replies that pain is tricky because there are very few studies actually studying pain. So we need to study the effects of pain on animals in order to recognize that it is there? She does add that the animals undergo the same process of anesthesia as a human would before surgery is performed. At least they aren't awake.

Anyway, I understand the need to use monkeys (primates), specifically, for some areas of scientific research (although I do not agree with using animals for fertility studies, as they do currently at OHSU). However, are there not times when anything substituted for a human being is going to lead to incredibly flawed results? I came across this article in the New York Times / Science Blog, describing a study that was recently done with the macaque population at OHSU:

PORTLAND, Ore -- Newly-published research by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University demonstrates that simply reducing caloric intake is not enough to promote significant weight loss. This appears to be due to a natural compensatory mechanism that reduces a person's physical activity in response to a reduction in calories. The research is published in the April edition of the American Journal of Physiology -- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

Beyond the question of whether any of these findings are relevant (and if so, how much so), considering they are being performed on monkeys and applied to humans - yes, it is a closer connection that snakes, but still - is the question of whether it is truly ethical to use captive monkeys for this type of study, which could easily be performed on a human being. Yes, it is more difficult to keep a person in a completely controlled environment where their food intake, exercise, sleep, bodily functions, etc... could all be monitored, but this study is not really giving us any information that can save humanity. We already know that the healthiest lifestyle involves both a nutritious diet as well as exercise. We don't need a study on monkeys to tell us that.

Finally, this brings me to the real subject of this post, which is if course a book I'm reading, In Defense of Food - An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan. It's the one where he says "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.," which I was hesitant to pick up because I thought it might be a continuation or a summary of the already incredibly long Omnivore's Dilemma. In fact, it is a quick and easy read that gives a brief history of the development of the processed food as a staple in our diet and the rise of "Nutritionism" and Americans' unhealthy obsession with being healthy. More on this later when i finish the book!

Have a lovely day!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why the Republicans Have Their Panties in a Twist

Supposedly it's about health care reform, but this article makes a really great point about what some of this underlying anger (which is turning into truly destructive outrage) is really stemming from. The reality is, our demographics as a country are changing. Obama and much of his staff exemplify this fact and our nation's conservative, white population is up in arms to stop them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

An incredibly scary thought...

Right wing conservative Christian fundamentalists from Texas are controlling what goes into grade school text books. And yes, I did mean to use that many adjectives in a sentence because I think that each one is essential to the horror I felt upon reading this article (watch the video as well).

It makes me want to become a teacher, just so that I can make a difference in a few kids' lives, teach them to think critically and not take what they are being told at face value. I don't remember any of my high school teachers ever once mentioning to us that what we were being taught was in some cases extremely one sided. Sure, there was some vague notion of history being written by the winners, but that doesn't mean we ever heard the losers' story.

I definitely think we need to be more selective about who gets to decide what makes history and what doesn't. The problem is, there are so many of these crazy people out there! And they tend to vote a lot more rigorously for school board officials and such than other groups. I think that religious fundamentalism is seriously damaging our country. We lose respect from other nations (I found this was often the case when I was abroad) and we are doing our children a disservice by not teaching them the things they should obviously be learning about (i.e. evolution and sex ed.). Just for the record, I am not talking about religious people in general, but about the Christian fundamentalists who hold so much sway over our nation. It is truly disturbing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

puppy love? or puppy porn?

The Mercury's BlogtownPDX posted a link to SSENSE (an artsy clothing line)'s risque photo series, involving a scantily clad model and a dog. As seen from the comments on these photos, the rich people who buy this clothing were more than a little disturbed. Personally, i don't see why it's a problem to let a dog lick your thigh (apparently they used carefully placed peanut butter) and there is absolutely nothing sexual (in the sense of actual sexual acts) going on between the dog and the human in these photos. These commenters are more disturbed by the perverse implications of the photographs than the art itself. Would it be any less offensive to them if it was a human being wearing that collar? They might claim that it would be, but I seriously doubt it. Just accept that the dog had a fun day in the studio, licking peanut butter off of a model, and leave it at that.

That said, there are definitely moral questions at stake here but these people are anthropomorphising the dog, believing that he feels shame or was somehow taken advantage of in this situation, when that is not the case. I think a lot about animal ethics and human beings' relationship to animals and I vehemently oppose not only animal cruelty, but the use of animals for our own pleasures (whether that be an exhilarating bull fight or a chicken nugget). However, I think it is equally important to consider these animals on their own terms. Thus my opinion that while these photographs are disturbing because they make us think about what could be happening, they are not actually committing any morally questionable acts.

What I do have a problem with, however, is when people use/abuse animals as a vehicle for abusing women (or children, people of color, LGBT persons, etc...) and vice versa. Like calling your dog a bitch "because it's true, hahahaha" or calling your wife a bitch (which implies she is a dog) or beating your wife's dog to show her who's boss. There are all kinds of fucked up things you can go into on that subject, and if you read some of the comments on the website, you will get a taste...


Posted by Jon Smallberries on January 11th, 2010 at 12:00pm

And this one is just funny...

60. im pretty sure no one was hurt during this shoot and the dog was chilling like a villian!!! its just weird looking at a dog get that close to a girls cooter!!!

Posted by boom boom on January 18th, 2010 at 00:12am

So yeah...if you want to get all animal rights on something, check out PETA's Meet Your Meat video or maybe think about the animals that had to die for your fancy clothes, but leave the photography out of it (at least in this case). Good art makes us think. Let's leave it at that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The New American Diet

Not surprisingly, the newest trend to try to get Americans to eat healthier is to package all the components of a healthy lifestyle into a set of rules that can be bound and sold for $39.95. Specifically, eating organic, avoiding pesticides and plasticides, and aiming for grass-fed meat is all part of the New American Diet, where "you can eat STEAK, BURGERS, CHOCOLATE, and ICE CREAM and still lose fat (starting with belly fat)!"

The New American Diet aside, this related article offers some specifics as to how natural and synthetic chemicals play a role in weight gain and what we can do to avoid these chemicals as much as possible. Some highlights:

The 12 fruits and vegetables you should always try to buy organic (they contain the highest levels of pesticides) listed from highest to lowest:
  • peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, and pears
The "clean fifteen" on the other hand have the lowest levels of pesticide residue:
  • onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwis, cabbages, eggplants, papayas, watermelons, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes
Other interesting points:
  • Natural EDC's (endocrine disrupting chemicals) are those hormones found naturally in soy. I'm no expert on this subject, but it seems to me that those estrogen producing chemicals in soy, frequently cited for reducing the risk of certain cancers, can also be a contributing factor in hormone disruption and therefore weight gain (among a ton of other side effects such as early development in girls). I'm sure that naturally and in moderate amounts, soy is probably really good for us, however, I'm wary of anything that a. the government has started subsidizing (i.e. corn) and b. we are likely ingesting in all kinds of invisible ways (through the meat that we eat and in numerous products where it has replaced high fructose corn syurp). Anyway, didn't mean to go off on soy, just found it to be an interesting, if underdeveloped, component in this article.
  • Don't ever heat up plastic and avoid drinking hot things out of plastic. Side note: my roommate, Missy, just took a class on natural cleaners and household poisons and she said that we get the highest amount of phthalates from our shower curtain. Apparently, high amounts of phthalates (another chemical found in plastic) have been shown to corrolate to disruptive behavior, a topic that is very dear to her heart as she is a pre-school teacher.
  • Finally, and I am sure I am being redundant to anyone who reads this blog regularly, try to avoid eating animals that have been given hormones during their lifetime or fed on diets of corn and soy. Instead, aim to eat grass-fed "organic" meat. Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup at all costs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

NYC strikes back with new public ad campaign!

For the full article, check it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


sisters. they are so beautiful and i love their photographs. this one is a slide show, for the full song click here.