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On Pigs, Primate Use and Anonymity

First let me say that The Compassionate Carnivore has arrived at my local library. I have five extra people in my house starting today, and I’m not sure I’ll get to reading it this week. I know, I know, you’re on the edge of our seat. I’m pretty sure you can wait another week, though. You’ve made it this long.

Next, a comment about a CNN story yesterday. In Minnesota, a piglet fell off of a truck and a trucker picked her up and called the Humane Society. The video for the segment on CNN was of a veterinarian examining the piglet. The male anchor says, "And once she is well enough, they will look for a farm, where she will become breakfast."

The female anchor whines, "Oh, no, no."

"Come on, you know that’s what’s gonna happen. That’s what happens."

As if it just magically happens and there’s no reason behind it, like the two people we’re looking at on the television eat pigs (and I think it’s clear at least one of them does).

Of course, it is bizarre to examine the piglet and treat her so she can be slaughtered. The article linked to above says she will be put up for adoption by a farm. I’m not sure what that means, but I hope a sanctuary is in the piglet’s future. I suggest calling the Humane Society of Minnesota, which is in St. Paul at (651-665-9311), to see if they know anything. I’m sure if they don’t they can send us to whoever does.

Though she’s just one piglet, I’m also just one person, and I’m nevertheless still kind of attached to staying alive and not being enslaved and slaughtered. Maybe if slaughter was slated to be in her future, we can do something about that.

Finally, Elaine directed me to the almost-unbelievable "Caring or cruel? Inside the primate laboratory" by James Randerson.

Let’s deconstruct:

  • Here’s a clue to the title’s question: If your name isn’t being
    revealed (for your protection), the odds are that "cruel" is the word
    that describes what goes on "Inside the primate laboratory."
  • If you want to present what you’re doing as "caring," you don’t
    allow anyone to publish the kind of photo that accompanies the article.
  • Jane Goodall does some wonderful jedi-mind-trickery with: "We
    should admit that the infliction of suffering on beings who are capable
    of feeling is ethically problematic and that the amazing human brain
    should set to work to find new ways of testing and experimenting that
    will not involve the use of live, sentient beings." Human
    exceptionalism is turned around. We’re so great that we’re above this.
  • Here’s my favorite sentence, directly following the one that
    describes the cages, where the monkeys, who are bred at the facility,
    live and die: "What we try to do is, as closely as possible, give them
    all the opportunities they would have in the wild," said Peter, the
    lab’s animal welfare officer.

My question to
Peter is: Assuming one is in a cage for her entire life, even if that
cage is 9-feet tall, how is it exactly that the experience of being
caged, to say nothing of having part of her brain destroyed in order to
produce a disorder of the human brain, is anything–anything–like
being in the wild? Then again, Peter’s sense of logic is seriously in
question as he later says "This may sound strange, but I work here
because I love animals. It’s as simple as that." It sounds strange to
him for a reason, and I think it’s very telling that he admits to his
cognitive dissonance, although I doubt he would have the same
interpretation of what he said.

  • There’s all this talk about whether or not the monkeys are starved as part of the research. And to that I say: That’s the least of the monkeys’ problems! If no water or food is withheld from them, that doesn’t make me feel better about where they are and what is being done to them.
  • Then there’s a big push for primate exceptionalism with:

those who oppose primate research though, even the best welfare
conditions entail suffering. "We know that the heightened sentience,
intelligence and emotional needs of monkeys make even day-to-day life
in a laboratory cage a grave animal welfare issue – quite aside from
the horrifying suffering that can be caused by invasive brain studies
or protracted poisoning tests," said the BUAV spokesperson.

this is the crunch point for many people uneasy about experimenting on
the brains of creatures so close in evolutionary terms to ourselves.

course, many other people are uneasy about experimenting on sentient
nonhumans, period, and don’t care about where they sit on the
evolutionary tree.

  • Jessica, one of the scientists, says: "No scientist would choose to work on animals unless there was no alternative." I think not. She
    continues: "You need to do something for this huge number of people who
    suffer from these really debilitating psychiatric disorders. We can’t
    do that unless we understand how the brain controls our behaviour."

Just like the assumption that the piglet will become somebody’s
breakfast, there’s an assumption that we have to experiment on animals
in order to help people. I recommend Dr. Ray Greek’s books to activists (particularly in the US as the books are US-centric) wishing to hone their skills at discussing the
deeply-embedded myth that we must experiment on sentient nonhumans.

UPDATE: "Sabrina the rescued pig gets a new home" includes (in the video) the fact that the people who rescued her tried to catch up to the truck she fell from!

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for writing about the "Caring or Cruel" article. I think it's pretty clear it's not about caring, though they try pretty hard to make it seem like it is.

    I have a feeling scientists like these hope they'll go down in history as being the person who discovered something important about human diseases, but instead they will go down in history as barbaric mad scientists who torture animals.

    June 30, 2008
  2. Kati #

    Quote: "I suggest calling the Humane Society of Minnesota, which is in St. Paul at (561-665-9311), to see if they know anything. I'm sure if they don't they can send us to whoever does."

    Comment: The area code should read 651.

    July 8, 2008
  3. KATI!
    So how self-involved, not to mention perhaps dyslexic, am I to put my own area code! Thanks! I'm gonna call and check up. And alter the original post.

    July 9, 2008
  4. Wow,
    Lucky I wasn't holding my breath calling the Humane Society. They have nine options, none of which includes a live person, and after a maddening 15 minutes I brilliantly remembered the Internet exists and found the update.

    July 9, 2008

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