Chimps one step closer to full protection

The National Institute of Health has decided that most Chimpanzee research is unnecessary and should be phased out.

The rationale?

From the NIH press release:

However, new methods and technologies developed by the biomedical community have provided alternatives to the use of chimpanzees in several areas of research.

CBS News explains the scope of the new rules:

Collins also announced the NIH temporarily barred new government-funded studies involving chimps as his agency began implementing the new limits. The NIH will also decide whether to phase out about 37 ongoing projects, half of which Collins said probably don’t meet the new standards.

The rule changes only apply to government-funded experiments, not private research. Nonetheless, it’s nice to codify the sentiment that chimpanzee research is generally unethical, even if there are exceptions seen today in practice. I’m not at all sure (yet) about chimp research, but in general animal testing is conducted in the U.S. almost solely because it is required for FDA certification of new drugs. That requirement is generally considered outdated by the scientific community, something added after research is basically complete. Note that places in the world with more stringent rules and bans on animal research also tend to create and certify new drugs years ahead of U.S. schedules.

Some researchers want to use chimps in medical research is because they are like us biologically and mentally. That sounds like a macabre rationale to me. Destroying something or someone doesn’t become more ethical because it’s like an activity most people would label criminally violent.


laxatives in wine?:
“Do consumers need to be told about the substances that go into wine production?” Lee [the Wine Institute’s general counsel] asked. “I’m not sure there’s a lot of useful information in that.”

Winemakers are notorious for failing to disclose enough information for vegetarians to know whether they’re willing to drink a particular wine. Apparently they don’t care whether consumers like it or not.

Wednesday ~ December 7, 2011 by b

Posted in dining,veg | Comments Off on wining |


“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” — Margaret Mead

I think some may not understand that “vegan” describes the general concept of life without exploitation of animals. Without reliance on animal agriculture. Most vegan groups describe being vegan as attempting to realize an ideal thru practical actions. The idea of compromising to live in the real universe has always been a defining part of being vegan. It’s the reason for the phrase “as far as is possible and practical”, not a technicality.

The word “veganism”denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

That doesn’t mean the end decision is any different, as The Vegan Lightbulb pointed out.

Abolishing animal killing and slavery (known as abolitionism) requires a steady, committed hand. Luckily, that’s how human minds actually like to work, as it lets us form these things called “habits” that we spend the vast majority of our life doing. The process lets humans be both committed to a line of action and on autopilot without thinking “omgwtffbqq must be vegan” 24/7. It lets us do things like drive, get ready in the morning before fully awake, keep pets alive, take medications daily, eat at similar times every day… the list just goes on to describe much of what we do. Basically, we can be vegan because we are human. But frankly, a few weeks of being vegan pretty much means one is a vegan & can treat it as “normal” or habitual.

I know points when I will compromise. I don’t ask if my injections were grown in chicken eggs, or refuse them if tested on animals, or any other medical choice when there is no vegan alternative. Most vegans I’ve met seem to feel very similarly and none have condemned anyone for making use of any medical products. In my mind this is not even compromising, as it’s implied by the definition of “vegan” being those things which are practical. The point is to prove that many, many non-vegan things can be done in a vegan but practical way. The trappings of cults are conspicuously absent.

But what about the leftovers? Not just the family turkey dinner (“don’t make so much next time, then”), but also things like the leather jacket or even hotpants, the shoes, the leather trim and upholstery that people seem to like against their own bodies (ew, that’s just nasty in a bad way), the wool sweaters, the 20-yo coat with “fur” trim that might not be real… the list goes on as long as any evangelical anti-vegan can stand to talk. There’s no list in the mind of a vegan, so it’s not exactly an exercise in how consistently a vegan thinks. A vegan is human, and therefore must be inconsistent at some point. We’re in the habit of eating meat, but it’s a habit and not a requirement. We are not slaves.

It simply blows minds, apparently, to conceive of an ethical systems that intentionally has guidelines with individual interpretations rather than strict rules. The differences are intentional and might stir useful debate, not something to divisively fight over. Just as much as it blows minds that an ethical framework won’t answer other questions & even cooperates with other frameworks (like religion or social politics). Again, this is another source of compromise when it comes to being vegan.

To me, I’ll sacrifice (indirectly) the well-being of another animal when it’s required to avoid permanent harm to another human being. I will not forget my vegan ethics for something that I feel would personally be purely an issue of convenince for me. I will try new vegan products that I don’t need or like, simply to be an authority if anyone asks me about them.

So I came up with a list of “compromises” I make, when most people might think I’m not being the Best Vegan Possible.

always compromise:

  • medical care
  • elections
  • gray (situational):

  • pets (mine aren’t vegan)
  • tobacco
  • refined sugar
  • old non-vegan clothing
  • dyes
  • places I won’t settle (I’ll reliably send these back to the producer):

  • honey
  • basic meals
  • restaurants
  • zoos
  • seafood
  • insects
  • new clothing, even gifts
  • luxury goods
  • upholstery (even rented, where possible)
  • I do have guiding principles that help me to define my preferences and frame situations inside a vegan ethic.

    As for which animals are on & off limits… basically most things in the animal kingdom. I don’t need to split hairs about which are “ok”, so I won’t. Life’s too short to be that complex. In practice that means no products from seafood or insects.

    I’ll always choose vegan when there’s a choice presented as a matter of taste or preference. After seeing videos of sheep shearing and animal slaughter and a billion other instances of animal agriculture in video and in-person, I’m pretty sure that I don’t want non-vegan things. Interestingly, most non-vegans agree with me on this point. The vast majority don’t like being reminded of that agreement.

    I will not sacrifice my immediate, acute health for the sake of a vegan ethic. I am an animal, too. I have a right to self-defense that is above judgment from others who do not fully understand my viewpoint. Only a very few, rare individuals can’t relate and say similarly.

    I will base my choices on reality, not obscure and irrelevant hypothetical situations designed to see what’s vegan… in obscure and irrelevant situations unrelated to meaningful science or ethics. No one really knows if they’d eat an already-dead wild boar if absolutely required to survive on a barren desert island. I’ve never heard of a child beginning to support animal rights because of a zoo, or supported their propaganda. I don’t have a choice between cancer treatments designed from animal tests and those designed from statistical analysis (which is actually scientific). I’ve never pretended to be better. I’m not better. That’s part of the point. I wouldn’t voluntarily face the choice, anyway. But I do voluntarily go to restaurants.

    I accept that any system or even body of rules has limits which require common sense and practical experience above dogma, a point where things break down at the edge. Somehow many anti-vegans find this stance more offensive than making a dish creamier by killing someone smarter than any family pet that they’ve taken care of. Apparently this rationale for killing is acceptable when planned in advance of the animal’s birth.

    Friday ~ October 14, 2011 by b

    Posted in advocacy,veg | Comments Off on compromises |

    new rule

    You can only call a fetus an “unborn baby” if you seriously call yourself an “undead human”.

    Friday ~ July 29, 2011 by b

    Posted in humor,poli | Comments Off on new rule |

    ending an era

    The final Space Shuttle mission, sts-135, successfully launched and currently flies above. For me, and perhaps most people younger who cared to notice space exploration, the space shuttle has been the definition of “space shot”. Actually, the vast majority of manned space launches of any sort have been Space Shuttle launches.

    I’ve got mixed feelings. First, the Shuttle is a mix of aging (read: tested) and cutting edge (read: we just figured out how to the make the tools required) technologies. But at the end of the day, the Shuttle is no safer, statistically, than Apollo. About 2% of the launches end in catastrophic failure, and about 4% of the astronauts who suit up die as a result. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Shuttle was put on NASA’s plate during the Nixon administration, that it was allegedly “designed by committee” (read: the engineers sucked at basic tact and barely got along), that the fraction of parts thrown away each launch would label any airplane as “more disposable than a paper airplane”, and that it’s been described as being a flying u-haul even after considering the aerodynamics. Actually the phrase “flying brick” is more often used when describing its aerodynamics.

    Yet even with all of its drawbacks, it was a flying success. The sheer volume of launches was astounding, even if ratcheted far, far down from original expectations. The science it carried out convinced many people (including hardened astronomers) that manned space exploration offers advantages unlike anything else.

    And for more than a few young space geeks, the spaceshuttle program symbolized hope that shomehowhumankind is going to survive for a while… perhaps long enough to make it off this rock while we still have a chance. A chance to watch a big machine propel itself off the very planet at a deafening volume while creating an incredible amount of steam.

    We all know the score. Being a test pilot is usually considered one of the most 10 dangerous professions anytime some group decides to list them based on some criteria. All astronauts are test pilots, handling things like flying themselves to the launch site as just part of the package.

    Of course, our astronauts are all out of a job, so they’ll be going back to being engineers or piloting next decade’s war planes or whatever.

    Monday ~ July 11, 2011 by b

    Posted in General | Comments Off on ending an era |

    tornado alleyway

    Recently my home dodged a tornado by perhaps 100-200 ft.

    I wasn’t home at the time, so I didn’t see the twister. I came back later that day, early enough to see some of the damage in my neighborhood, but late enough that I did some work clearing the front yard after dark.

    I grew up in a town that sees hurricanes blow through every few years. I’ve walked outside in the calm after a hurricane to see half the trees on my street down, smashing plenty of cars and houses along their way. Trees are very heavy and moving fast when they collide with things. You could hit one with a truck and it wouldn’t topple over. On one instance, I saw a tree bisecting a volvo, with the underside resting on the asphalt. Hurricanes spawn tornadoes. Most of the storm was below the threshold for a minor hurricane, some shingles and things that could be caught in unusually strong gusts.

    When driving home, I passed what used to be a trailer park. Instead of trailers, there was a group of emergency services vehicles with lights on. In case it’s not obvious, never stay in a trailer or car during a tornado warning. Never. Lying face down in a ditch is far safer.

    Tornadoes have unusual damage. This time, the top of one tree was sheared off just higher than the level of nearby (intact) telephone poles. A tree 30 ft away was missing one side of its top, and the other was fine. The branches weren’t all broken in the same direction. A house down the street had damage like a missing chimney, and the trees in that side of that yard were blown down in several directions. A telephone pole was pointed almost directly at the side of the house with the outline of a chimney, as if the wind had changed 180 degrees in a few feet. At a nearby construction site, sheet metal was bent around the metal frame like saran wrap and twistie-ties. A tornado is like a blender inside-out, with a debris field as blades.

    This storm system was barely starting as I left on an hour-long drive south. Within 2 hours it was half-over.

    Thursday ~ April 28, 2011 by b

    Posted in General | Comments Off on tornado alleyway |


    From time to time, vegans decide that they’re going to pick back up the habit of eating meat. While I don’t condone or personally understand the reason, I understand that someone else has them. Trust me, I’ve heard a lot of them.

    So, yeah I used to be vegetarian, too. I was pescetarian during parts of the earlier veg years. I used to be laco-ovo.

    I used to be a meat eater.

    There. Now I’ve done it. I’ve thrown the gauntlet down. Like the vast majority of veggies, I used to habitually eat meat and then I stopped as a conscious decision. It’s amazingly like saying I used to smoke, especially if one is southern. Yet if I stand outside with friends having a cigarette, it would be bizarre to hear someone say they used to be an ex-smoker… and then try to give logical, rational arguments for sucking down cigarettes every few hours again.

    Thursday ~ April 7, 2011 by b

    Posted in veg | Comments Off on veganwasm |

    dinner story

    We sat down at the table, assuming our usual places.

    Dave (the redneck of the group) took a seat at the end, and looked thru the menu. Mary ordered a chef’s salad. John asked about the specials; he always liked the “freshest” dish, and claimed that the chef would promote “freshest” rather than “stock he’s trying to get rid of”.

    We’d filed in past a group of protesting Humanitarians coming in.

    “Self-righteous pricks. What gives them any right to tell me what to eat anyway? It’s my body.” mumbled Dave, with an over-emphasis on common sense.

    “They always kinda give me the creeps” said Mary. “Can’t they just go protest somewhere else?”

    “Hey now, they’re just speaking their conscience,” I chided. “I actually agree with their ideas, just not their methods.”

    Dave made noises like a crying child loudly, that mutated into a loud snore. Then he stopped and deftly proclaimed “I’m just kidding you, GT. We all respect your opinion.”

    Mary relayed a story to me, an explanation that all of the feeder-babies would never have had good homes. That they got better treatment on the farm, perhaps even more attention. That they couldn’t survive in the wild because they’d been raised in captivity. That they were all slaughtered humanely. That Green Babies were available for anyone really concerned about farm conditions and not just gathering followers and donations. I had answers to these questions that ae well-known and obvious to most humanitarians, but I didn’t bother presenting them. This wasn’t a debate, however much it pretended to be one. It was about the carnivores feeling good about their actions despite having a humanitarian in their ranks. I was a prop, not a participant.

    Dave mumbled about how it wasn’t right to avoid eating babies. “They’ve got all the good nutrients. It’s natural to eat them.” also “Besides, GT, we ate at that humanitarian restaurant last Friday, so it’s all good. We’re just taking turns and it’s only fair that you come here more. There’s more of us”. Dave was very proud of this logic and became angry when it was questioned. Then he made gagging motions and complained about the taste of tofu.

    So I ordered a salad, no cheese, no dressing. I fully expected the waiter to simply move the smokey-toe flavored bbq sauce to the side, not realizing that it was made with smoked toes. I don’t even eat toes; I’m just that hardcore.

    Jane gave an exasperated sigh. “I don’t see how you live without cheese. I mean, I understand how theoretically it’s not nice to the mother to take the breast milk, but it’s not like she needs it anymore.” she added “I just don’t buy that it supports the babiest industry”. Jane dabbled in lacto-ovo Humanitarianism but never really was a radical who went all the way. “But I’m not like Dave; he’s just gross”. She helpfully finished off her point with “Besides, I can’t live without cheese”. I avoided pointing out that most mammals weaned long before puberty with little harm. Best to avoid disturbing anyone while they eat; they just get mad and ignore any logical points.

    Meanwhile, Dave ordered a newborn riblet with a side of fried brains and some sticky fingers w/ dipping sauce as an app. He calmly asked me for the 406th time how I’m Humanitarian but still pro-choice. It was a total contradiction in his world that most humanitarians in this country are pro-choice.

    As we continued on with lunch, I eventually steered the conversation away from discussion of humanitarianism.

    Thursday ~ March 10, 2011 by b

    Posted in advocacy,dining,humor,veg | Comments Off on dinner story |

    in praise of the comment box

    The comment box has long been a mainstay of American political discourse, one that is quickly leaving us. We should find a substitute for in, in the digital world we’re building. I brook no nostalgia about some pieces of dead trees nailed to form a slotted box, to accepted yet more slivers of dead tree conveying an opinion. It served (very roughly) a purpose similar to public mailboxes.

    A place where one is entitled to exercise free speech without proof of identity.

    The right to vote is not the right to bitch. Voting is anonymous, and everyone doing it has exactly the same voice… regardless of how they yell away from the polling center. It’s never about fine-grained choice, and no one really knows why anyone else made their choice. It’s like underwear in the free speech world. Everyone has it in their own style, yet inform very few people about it. Fewer want it seen or published, regardless of how common their type might be.

    In the world outside courthouses, we can say what we want. Regardless of whether we must give it to them, others may demand to know our identity before they will take us seriously. It can be damning evidence to not sign one’s name beside one’s cause. It might be considered weak or at least inexcusably impolite, perhaps a sign that one is not speaking truthfully with conviction. So the generally-admitted right to bitch may have one large caveat. Free speech places few demands upon the audience, by itself. That’s why we have far more than just the right to free speech when addressing our government.

    Signing our name to our complaint might be a very bad idea, however.

    It’s pointless to requiring a signed complaint of whistleblowers: we’ve learned that the people we want making complaints won’t do so when it seems unsafe for them. We want people making complaints to have common sense. We want the logical people who have a heart to be changing things. As a result, anonymity may be the only power that a specific complainant possesses. It may be the only power they can usefully wield.

    We know this and it’s woven into our society. There’s the ever-present suggestion box. Or the notion that one doesn’t need to give up their identity to return things. Or standardized tests that are graded without looking at someone’s name or identifying information. Or the fact that race is an optional requirement (nevermind that opting out labels one as a white male, a different discussion) on many forms. Or that so few things require a picture ID, even though nearly every adult citizen possesses a government-issued picture ID. Or that cash is always accepted, and accepted without identification for most things. Or that we consider it an encroachment of our rights (even if justified) to surrender our ID to government officials.

    The basic right to free speech does not include giving up one’s identity, as a matter of course. That’s to protect the speaker, and allows the speaker to effectively voice complaints about government and society without punishment. It’s how citizens enforce the right to free speech when it is jeopardized.

    On the internet, in general, it is not very difficult for a technically knowledgeable person to discover someone’s identity (or at least specific location down to the keyboard). The internet uses the equivalent of postcards with a return address to send all messages, only the government does not guarantee their sanctity as well as the postal service protects first-class mail. There are many instances documented of government intrusion, it’s not just a conspiracy theory.

    But that information must be sought out. It does not exist as a license plate that other laymen on the internet can peruse as they see fit. Just like in the physical world where people must trust others to allow their rights to continue. The pollster handing out ballots reads names, even if there are watchful eyes… but it’s questionable whether ID is required so much as a way to prevent double-voting. Collusion would negate the right to an anonymous vote. It’s been alleged to happen in nearly every US Presidential election. The suggestion box and physical bulletin board could be monitored, and we know that. The business could ask to see an ID when not legally required. Our participation in society might require we “voluntarily” give up some identifying information.

    There are many places where we give up our identity, the most immediately obvious being facebook. Sure, one can not give up one’s identity, but it’s against Facebook’s terms of usage. The Same with services like Twitter and Disqus (which exists solely for that purpose). Anything said while logged into one of those sites (including on other sites) is tagged with our identity. The suggestion box on the internet usually requires the equivalent of a picture ID. Imagine forking over an ID before going to customer service to make a simple complaint like “hey, your AC is broken”. Annoying, right? Now imagine need to do so before posting to college corkboards or to even discuss a company with other people. Kinda more than just annoying, it gets directly in the way of freely voicing an opinion without fear of retribution. Imagine not being able to talk about the news or protesting a business’ practices without giving them your ID. Kinda squelches out any chance that you might do so, to most people. With good reason.

    The bill of rights exists to protect us from government. But the principles it applies come from American society. The idea of everyone contributing to volunteer efforts as they see fit. The right to speak in public while ignoring people who say to shut up. Some might say no one has a right to tell someone else to shut up, when looking around society outside government. We have the legally protected right to not be discriminated against based on race, religion, etc. at a public business. Leaders are expected to step down and be replaced periodically. We have the right to peacefully defend ourselves, with restrictions no different when they are about government. The press shouldn’t be restricted by bias from above; doing so is considered corrupt and perhaps fraudulent. No one can tell an adult they can’t drink in their own home, as the rule not exception. We have exceptions to all of these. I’d argue that the fact we consider them ‘exceptions’ shows us the general rule prevails most of the time. Most rights have some limits and exceptions.

    The first response objections I usually get in return are telling: the right to vote is no long relavent, for some reason. Perhaps because the right to vote is purely held once a year or so, inside a box that the government invents for citizens as the limits of their acceptable opinion. As if a democracy somehow lives without a constant, living, influence. It exists and understands the will of the people, regardless of their understanding or level of acknowledged participation.

    fair & balanced… teamed up with knowledgeable & aware…

    From Fox News:

    The vice president post was empty when Mubarak tapped Suleiman for the job after the protests began. Suleiman would stand to take over as interim leader of Egypt in some of the proposals reportedly being considered for an expedited political transition.

    Fox News’ senior administration source expressed surprise that news of the assassination attempt was just now breaking, “because he is the transition plan … or at least one of them for the Egyptians.”

    Because no one looking to sow chaos would ever assassinate a leader in Egypt right now. Just like the incredibly unpopular (or popular, if you like secret police) head of Egyptian intelligence wouldn’t encounter any resistance after the announcement that he’s about to assume power.

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