The UK should be ashamed of its dogmatic, morally disasterous approach to the use of primates in scientific research.

Last week Chinese researchers created genetically modified autistic monkeys. These ethically criminal experiments are not confined to international laboratories. The UK continues to experiment on thousands of monkeys each year.

The last remaining chimpanzees in US research laboratories are preparing to embark on their retirement in sanctuaries across the country. The chimps’ planned release was announced by The US National Institute of Health in November last year. The NIH concluded there was no further justification to hold these primates for biomedical research.

Chimpanzees are human’s closest living relative and the most intelligent primate, sharing 98% of our DNA. Primatologist Jane Goodall famously discovered chimpanzees’ ability to use tools in the 1960s. It now seems that Chimps might even share our penchant for a Sunday crossword. A 2013 study published by the Zoological Society of London showed that these emotionally receptive creatures engage in puzzle solving for fun.

It is partly this high level of sentience that caused the UK to ban the use of chimpanzees, along with all great apes, in medical research nearly two decades ago.

In 2010 the European Union followed the Britain’s example, also announcing a ban on experiments using great apes.

However, other primate species are still used in research across the globe. In the UK, around 3,000 macaque and marmoset monkeys are experimented on each year. Continue reading

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Why are foxes still topping the news agenda?

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It’s officially begun, Cameron is making swift work of destroying a rare political victory for animal rights activists, Britain’s decade old hunting ban. The decision to have a parliamentary vote on whether to ‘relax’ the ban next week has left critics accusing Cameron of trying to sneak hunting in ‘through the back door’. There has been nothing under the radar about this announcement and it would be naïve to think that Cameron didn’t foresee this. This fresh news on the hotly contested fox hunting debate is creeping up on the Budget for the top spot on the political news agenda.

In terms of public political debate there is something so refreshingly simple about blasting countryside toffs for killing foxes or being a countryside toff defending your right to kill foxes. This is a public issue that has such prominence that it merited the implementation of the rarely used Parliamentary act which pushed through its ban in 2005. This puts it right up there with matters such as trying Nazis for war crimes and realigning the sexual offenses act to make the age of consent the same for same sex and inter sex couples.

So what is it about fox hunting that creates such a wave of emotion and indignation amongst the British public? Continue reading

Who killed compassion?

Charlotte's Web

You are 5 years old and you are sobbing uncontrollably baffled, devastated, horrified that something so cruel could be happening. The ground is covered in snow, the birds are singing a chirpy little tune and then all of a sudden your world is torn apart… Bambi the talking deer’s Mum has been shot dead by a hunter.

PETA provide a list of films that teach children to be compassionate towards animals. I doubt whoever compiled this list had a particularly difficult task. Family friendly films seem to almost primarily teach compassion and empathy, especially towards animals. Who can forget that heartbreaking, stomach sinking moment in Charlotte’s Web when Wibur realizes he will one day be made into bacon? Or poor little Babe’s naive faith that Farmer Hoggett would never dream of eating him. Or Chicken Run; even though they were just a bunch of talking cartoon chickens that didn’t look a whole lot like chickens I think we’d have all liked to think they were just ‘going on the holidays’ when the farmer picked them off one by one to be made into pie.

And then there’s the time Nemo gets stolen from his Dad or when Dumbo’s Mum the circus elephant gets beaten for trying to protect her baby. Then there’s Watership Down, The Fox and the Hound, 101 Dalmations, Madagascar… all seemingly demonstrating the same ethos: animals are worthy of human compassion.

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Is it irresponsible to raise vegan children?

‘Is veganism child abuse?’. This is one of the many headlines to emerge after Florida mum Sarah Anne Markham, 23, was found guilty of child abuse after refusing to feed her dehydrated 12 month old baby boy with the formula prescribed by her pediatrician. Sarah was scared the formula may contain animal by-products and this would go against her vegan beliefs. The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail and countless bloggers have jumped on the band wagon of claiming that this case represented wider concerns in regards to raising children on a ‘restricted’ vegan diet.

‘This controversy is a non-issue’ insists Amanda Baker, senior advocacy officer at The Vegan Society. ‘The public uproar is fuelled by ignorance of good dietetics and poor journalism in the main.’ There are estimated to be around 150,000 vegans living in the UK. This relatively marginalized group advocates a diet that avoids all animal products, that means no meat, no cheese, no eggs, no milk. This can seem gruelingly restrictive however Amanda says that anyone making this claim should ‘do their homework on dietetics and nutrition, as well as the far more numerous cases of child nutrition neglect by non-vegans.’

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‘Vegan in Vogue’ A feature on veganism as a trend

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Images from ‘clairesdeli’ and  ‘mmmoky_’  on instagram

The perception of vegans has evolved in recent years, the typical vegan is no longer adorned with clumpy sandals and excess body hair or followed by a vague stench of patchouli. Vegans are gaining a new status as a pertinent group in society who are following a progressive and trendy lifestyle. The increased popularity for the diet, last year, led Forbes.com to describe veganism as one of the food trends of 2013. Vegans commonly fall into one of three categories or ‘type’ these are: ethical, environmental or dietary. Ethical vegans avoid the use of animal products entirely for animal rights reasons. Environmental vegans also avoid the use of all animal products but are motivated by conservation rather than animal rights. Finally, dietary vegans simply avoid eating any animal products for health reasons. Vegans following the lifestyle for dietary reasons are getting the most elite representation. Bill Clinton and pop culture royalty, Beyonce and Jay-Z, have recently trialed the vegan diet. Some vegan advocate groups contest whether celebrity uptake of the vegan diet is useful in raising awareness of the moral reasons behind the vegan lifestyle. Kylie Fackrell and Laura Edwards, co-founders of TeenVGN (a group set up as a social and advisory group for young vegans), are skeptical of this trend. ‘I don’t really think that it has made much of a difference. As most celebrities only do it as a fad or a very short period of time.’ Kylie and Laura go on to explain that ‘when celebrities go vegan for diet, I believe that they aren’t advocating either, so it’s not so noticeable to receive good attention. Especially if they continue wearing fur etc’. This is perhaps in reference to Beyonce’s somewhat careless blunder of wearing a fur collar to a vegan restaurant in LA last month.

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