January 1, 2008

"Killing Dogs in Training of Doctors Is to End"

UPDATE: Edited for syntax. Content unchanged.

From the NY Times:
By next month, all American medical schools will have abandoned a time-honored method of teaching cardiology: operating on dogs to examine their beating hearts, and disposing of them after the lesson.

Case Western Reserve School of Medicine was the last to use the method, but the dean, Dr. Pamela Davis, said it would no longer do so after this month.

On Nov. 19, New York Medical College in Valhalla joined New York’s 11 other medical schools and announced that it would close its dog laboratory.

Among the 126 American medical schools, 11 still sacrifice animals for teaching, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy group that tracks the practice. Other than Case, none of them use dogs.

Francis Belloni, a dean at New York Medical College, said his students now used echocardiograms to study heart function, and the subjects were live medical students rather than live dogs. Dr. Belloni said the use of animals was not done lightly and had value, but added that students would “become just as good doctors without it.”
Somewhere, I'm sure a blogger is posting this article with the headline changed to "Murdering Dogs..." Did he or she enjoy a nice factory-farmed ham for holiday dinner, I wonder. Not for me, thanks. I think about our American factory farms whenever someone gets on a soapbox about, say, those evil, dog-hating Chinese:
Factory meat production is an industrial rather than an agricultural enterprise. Animal husbandry is nonexistent. Industrial pork barons produce pork chops and bacon and the animals themselves are treated only as industrial production units. Genetic manipulation for meat production has produced hog breeds that are high strung and nervous. They live short miserable lives characterized by extreme cruelty and extreme terror.

By nature, pigs are active, inquisitive and intelligent, and they spend much of their time exploring ground cover and rooting for food. They are communal animals with a highly developed system of vocalization that they use in courtship, self defense and raising their young. The female pig, the sow, has a strong instinct to build a nest before giving birth. She will wean her young for several months and take care of them even longer.

In industrialized hog factories, pigs are raised in intensive confinement for their entire lives in huge windowless structures choked by their own foul stenches. Subject to disease from overcrowding and entirely deprived of exercise, sunlight, straw bedding, rooting opportunities and social interactions that are fundamental to their health, factory hogs are kept healthy only by constant doses of subtherapeutic antibiotics. Their growth rates are unnaturally sped-up by feed additives including antibiotics, hormones and toxic metals. Sows endure in tiny crates that are too small for them to turn around, giving birth on bare metal grate floors, their babies taken away after only three weeks of weaning. Driven by frustration and depression, sows continually gnaw on the metal bars of their crates. Severe restrictions on the pigs’ movement over a lifetime impede bone development frequently resulting in broken legs. Injured pigs are “culled” sometimes by being dumped alive into waste lagoons. There are many accounts of brutal treatment of these animals, including teeth pulling, castration without anesthesia, and beating disabled sows unable or too terror stricken to walk to slaughter. According to the U.S. Humane Society, one in five of all factory-raised pigs die prematurely, before reaching the slaughterhouse.

In 1999, Smithfield made a major foray into Poland. At the invitation of the Animal Welfare Institute, Andrzej Lepper, the President of Poland’s largest farmers’ union, came to the United States and toured Smithfield hog factories. Mr. Lepper later recounted that he was shocked by what he saw in the American hog factories which he referred to as “animal concentration camps.” He added that, “industrial husbandry methods of raising hogs are not in harmony with nature.”
Read the article that "deserves to be ranked with Schlosser’s [Fast Food Nation] in the annals of excellent food-chain investigative journalism." And you might want to avoid these products the next time you're at the market. More here: Wikipedia. Testimony before the Senate Committee on Government Affairs [source of the blockquote above]. And an alternative to factory meat production: yes, there are alternatives.


Anonymous said...

Nice post.

I don't have a problem with some forms of using animals. Frankly, finding medical cures is extremely important for all of us...and while it may be blasphemous is some circles to say it, if it takes testing on animals to find valuable vaccines, cures etc that can save thousands of lives (animal or human), I certainly am in favor of it. That said, if new technology allows students to have the same types of experiences without having to sacrice canine lives, then I'm CERTAINLY all for it.

Same with the factory farming vs the more natural, free range variety of farming. If there is a better alternative for the animals, I'm certainly all for it...and certainly have my local farms that I buy from.

Luisa said...

if it takes testing on animals to find valuable vaccines, cures etc that can save thousands of lives (animal or human), I certainly am in favor of it. That said, if new technology allows students to have the same types of experiences without having to sacrifice canine lives, then I'm CERTAINLY all for it.

I agree [and I love your blog -- you're now listed in the sidebar].