New Things

I may or may not make it through this semester, but there is a strategy to surviving some things and it’s basically taking it one thing at a time.

I have some awesome sounding classes this time around. One being Natural History; it’s a science class basically about identifying different organisms and environments of those organisms. The teacher is awesome and seems to have similar beliefs, which is always fun because a lot of people just think I’m crazy, which is fine, but a bit boring at times. His teaching assistant, who teaches the labs is a peach and quite frankly a bit weird, but that’s why I like her. We’re going to get to watch squirrels. It doesn’t get much more interesting than that. Although, the safety presentation she gave us did sound a bit like we might die, but dying while watching squirrels couldn’t be the worst death ever, right?

My other favorite class, Environment and Society, is off to a fascinating start and I’ll give you a loose version of why.

On the syllabus, my professor states that we shouldn’t wear perfumes, lotion, cologne or other strong smelling, chemically stuff because he’s super sensitive to the chemicals. This is interesting to me because my grandmother, mother and I, less than the first two but it’ll probably get worse, are highly sensitive to those chemical things. Then he starts talking about site called Oak Ridge that became to site to build hydrogen bombs for the Manhattan Project in 1942. It went from hydrogen bombs to nuclear bombs. The whole town’s economy runs off this place. Around the ’70s, the managers kind of realized the mercury, 2.4 million pounds to be exact, used from their hydrogen bomb making days is unaccounted for. Basically, they had thrown it into the nearest creek and eventually won itself a spot on the Superfund list. The plant and government covered it up and it wasn’t until five or so years later when an intern started digging around and exposed it. Unfortunately, like most environmental problems, the people were in denial and they didn’t panic and the class discussed why that may of been, but that’s a different thing.

People were getting sick, cancer, ALS, to name a couple of things that were happening. A doctor had moved there and started connect the dots to poisoning from working in the plant. He was bullied by the plant and town, but he continued to help the patients that came to him. Eventually, he left with over $300,000 in legal fees. Some time later, my professor started to work there as an intern. In the middle of internship, he came into work and saw that he office had been taped off as radioactive. When he talked to the boss, the boss told him everything was fine and not to worry. Needless to say, he never went back to the office. Eventually, he had to start seeing the doctor had started uncovering the connection between the factory and health problems. My professor suffers from a variety of health issues, including his allergy to chemical smells, which includes cleaners and air fresheners and other things that are impossible to get away from, and a thyroid problem.

It’s all very interesting because I’ve never encountered someone else with the sensitivity to chemical smells and how he got them was also very interesting.

I’m thinking those two classes will keep me alive through the semester. I hope.


What We Can Do About Animal Testing

Did you know that there are actually alternatives to animal testing? Yep. There are alternatives to the pain and suffering of millions of animals, but…..we’re not using them.

Most of these replacements involve things that I don’t agree with. Most of them involve creating cells in a petri dish. I would be lying if I said my respect for humanity didn’t dwindle with just about every word that I read these days, but, for me, being able to grow life in a petri dish reinforces that idea. The creation of life isn’t anything short of a miracle and that’s something that we still had going for us, but science has made sure that we don’t even have that.

One way to replace animal use is to improve the use of information. This means that by using epidemiological studies and similar information, it may be possible to avoid animal testing in some instances. Using previously established information means that researchers can avoid repeating experiments. Also, mathematical and computer models can sometimes provide information that is sufficient enough to warrant avoidance of animal testing.

Another replacement method is to use plants and microbes instead of animals. As mentioned, in vitro methods can sometimes replace animal testing as well although they are more commonly used to reduce the number of animals used rather than as a total replacement for animal use.

Human studies can sometimes completely substitute animal use in an experiment. In particular, human studies have replaced animal testing for cosmetics development. In my opinion this should the first option. If we’re the ones who need it then we can be the ones it’s tested on.

Scientists are growing skin in the lab to test the effects of chemicals on skin. This still isn’t good enough for scientists because they have to see the effect of said chemical and diseases on a complete working system.

According to Health Canada, “It is often important to understand how the body as a whole functions under certain conditions, including how repair and defense mechanisms operate in the whole animal. In order to conduct studies in a living body, researchers must use animals whose systems closely resemble those of humans.”

Epidemiological studies, also known as population studies, look at the link between someone’s lifestyle – including factors such as diet, habits, and occupation – and disease. These studies help researchers connect cause-and-effect relationships between lifestyle and disease without doing specific testing, and can help scientists gain an understanding of diseases to help decrease the use of animals.

Computer models can be used to simulate diseases and to help scientists understand the way different substances can be used to treat disease. The models are based on existing information and data and can help researchers with information specifically relating to humans.

Cell and Tissue Culture (In Vitro Testing): Samples of human cells and tissues can be used in laboratories to test a substance in a certain type of cell or tissue. It is relatively low-cost and is beneficial because it provides researchers with information specifically relating to humans.

Cell and tissue cultures are grown outside of the living organism, creating an artificial environment for toxicology testing. However, using cell and tissue cultures does not allow a researcher to see the effect of a substance in a living body with all its complexities. This method is valuable for research and can help limit the use of animals, but can’t replace them entirely.

In an article written in 2008, the EPA, the National Toxicology Program, and the National Institutes of Health are trying to come up with new technologies that will result in the end of animal testing in the next 10 years. That was then. They have 6 more years left.

This what science is doing to help the problem, but what can we do?

Most animals are used for medical research. Contact medical schools to ask what their policies are for research. If it something that is on a level that you disagree with like live animal dissection, then ask them to stop and tell your reasons why.

Along with that is a need to live a healthier lifestyle. By eating and living healthy, you can avoid taking the medications that are tested on animals. Some complications can’t be totally avoided, but some could be with a healthier diet. Cutting out processed foods completely is the best way to do this. Click here or here to find out why.

Some of the companies that make the food that we eat everyday have even been tested on animals.

Let’s back up and look at that statement. They are putting stuff in our food and their not even sure if it’s safe or not? Yep, you read that right. And that is why people shouldn’t eat processed foods.

There is another option, but it comes with somewhat of a dilemma. Cruelty-free labeled products. It would be nice to believe it’s a black and white decision, but the simple fact is that people are full of lies. It’s a marketing ploy in a sense that they are willing to prey on poor people like you and I that want nothing more than to believe that we’re doing the right thing. Sometimes people are so relieved they just don’t bother to second guess. Luckily, I didn’t have to wander very much further before I found a rare honest soul out there to burst my bubble.

There are two situations in which this works. One, the ingredients have just been tested before on other animals. The particular company in question just uses previously acquired research for their information. To me, this is the most I could hope for from these people. I don’t think this is an entirely bad deal. I wish more companies would do this if they’re going to put poisons and toxins into their products. Do I wish that no animals were tested? Yes. But if they ‘must’ then having a company that used information from a test that was already done instead of doing a test again is a better deal. Another issue is that sometimes a company tests individual ingredients and label ‘finished product not tested on animals.’ No government agency is in charge of making an official definition for these terms.

Another way they can get around it is by selling their products in China. China doesn’t have animal testing regulations. Actually, the China government reserves the rights to do their own animal tests.

I think what peeves me the most, besides all the lying companies of course, is that most products out there cause health problems like cancer anyway. Why even bother to test it if you’re going to sell it no matter what the repercussions are?

So how do we know what we’re buying is the best that we can get? Well to be honest you can’t. You can’t trust labels, you can’t trust the companies, and you can’t trust the government. Who else is there?

PETA is known to have a fairly good list, but it is also known to have companies that do test on their do-not test list.

From what I’ve read, the Leaping Bunny is probably your best bet. It has a Corporate Standard of Compassion which requires a written statement from the company and its ingredient suppliers stating that it hasn’t used animal testing. As far as I can tell, there are no surprise visits or visits at all of these companies as part of this process, but you can sometimes double check against news related articles.

The last problem that, at least I have had, is that most of the cruelty free products that I can find are from really small companies and I can’t find any background information for their environmental accountability. Any that I could find information for was a bit disheartening for me because they’re ratings were extremely low in the environmental and even human safety ratings.

The bottom line is that probably the most important thing you can do is educate yourself on companies that use animal testing and ones that don’t.

Stop buying from the companies that do support and participate in animal testing. Write them letters telling them of reason for no longer supporting their products and to ask them to stop. Remind them who their selling to. Switch to buying products from a cruelty free company and write them a letter thanking them for their promise to be cruelty free.