Science and Slaughter: Are Dissections A Waste?

Do educational institutions face a dilemma in the way animal anatomy is taught in school?

By Michael Kohlberg

Do educational institutions face a dilemma in the way animal anatomy is taught in school? Should animal dissections and vivisections be conducted in Science classes at all? LaGuardia Community College, a CUNY school, says no to cat cadavers, instead replacing them with clay models of humans. It seems, that the areas of debate, lie in 3 main ethical questions which I will describe in this article.

The first is the question of respecting animal rights as they relate to dissections and vivisections. Then comes the question, is animal experimentation necessary for understanding anatomy? In other words, do students learn best by dissecting? Are alternatives like virtual dissections comparable or even superior learning tools?  Finally, I will briefly explore broad Sustainability Issues that dissections pose to Society.

America has acknowledged the value in respecting basic animal rights as shown by the Animal Welfare Act, a Federal Act passed by Congress in 1966. In general, this reflects the idea that our Society has adopted some moral standard for respecting the rights of animals. The United States Department of Agriculture puts it best, calling the Animal Welfare Act a “minimum, accepted, standard” of animal treatment “in research, exhibition, and transport”. However, many educated animal lovers believe that this minimum standard is set too low and that not enough is done to enforce existing federal laws.

In Biology classrooms, the animal rights argument is clear. Many of us have pets and therefore very personal and emotional connections with dogs, cats, and maybe even frogs, snakes, or mice. Performing dissections and vivisections on these types of animals can pose moral dilemmas for students taking part. Studies show that many students feel a moral dilemma when taking part in animal dissections. One study, by Arnold Arluke and Frederic Hafferty, interviewed 40 Pre-Medical students about how they felt before, during, and after using a dog as a test subject in the lab. They found that prior to the experiment, there was “widespread uneasiness” regarding moral implications, but during and after, students were able to “neutralize the moral dirty-work”.

This study not only suggests that many feel innately compassionate towards animals, but it suggests that humans have the capacity to subdue that compassion and “learn” desensitization. This raises the question, what do dissections really teach students?Along with anatomy, are our educational institutions teaching humans a lack of compassion for animals? Are we prepared to change our way of thinking about animal dissections if the answer to the previous question is true?

That leads us to our next question. Do today’s students actually learn better by dissecting, or do they learn better by using technology they are familiar with already, such as the computer? Do virtual dissections and vivisections compare as as educational tools? Many students and teachers say yes and site other benefits as well. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is an animal rights organization that among other things, provides practical knowledge in dissection or vivisection alternatives. Their website has a page with resources dedicated to just this subject. According to the document “Cutting Out Dissections”, studies have shown that computer-based teaching methods saved academic and nonacademic staff time … were considered to be less expensive and an effective and enjoyable mode of student learning [and] … contributed to a significant reduction in animal use” (PETA 2013).

Also, teachers in the United States have been advocating for few dissections. Ten years ago, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) amended its official position statement to acknowledge the educational effectiveness of non-animal teaching methods and to support teachers’ decisions to use them as complete replacements for animal dissection (NSTA 2005).

Another example of how effective non-animal anatomy learning can be is the example of LaGuardia Community College. The Cuny Newswire reported that “LaGuardia is one of the first community colleges in the nation where its students will be learning the muscles of the human body not by dissecting cat specimens but by applying clay muscles to a [human] skeletal mannequin.”

“Studying human muscles is one of the hardest and most difficult areas,” said Professor Carol Haspel, “so we are always trying to find ways, mechanisms and pedagogical techniques that assist our students in learning the basics that they need to know.  The clay models are a key factor in helping them.” (LaGuardia Community College 2011)

Animal dissections may actually pose a barrier to students’ learning. As researchers find out that more and more students are morally against dissections, the issue becomes worrying for education itself. One study done by Theodora Capaldo on the psychological effects of reluctant, obligated dissection participants indicates that “cognitive abilities may become impaired, resulting in less learning”. The study concludes that their findings, “present a compelling argument for the 100% replacement of the harmful use of animals in education.” (Capaldo 2004)

To shift gears, let’s examine some of the Economic Sustainability issues. In order to asses whether the school would be better off, the costs of dissections must logically be compared to the costs of alternatives, which could vary depending on the type and manner in which they are implemented.

Since animal specimens are expensive for many Biology Departments, we might ask the question will a school that bans dissections and vivisections all together be better off financially? To make sense of this question let’s use a real life example. One specimen retailer, Bio Corporation, sells a class set of 15 cat corpses for $373. Theoretically, if you have 20 lab classes per semester at a University and replace specimens each semester, the cost would be $7,460 per semester on cats alone. That number does not even include any auxiliary equipment, like proper protection, tools, et cetera.

PETA’s informational pamphlet entitled, “ Animal Dissection and Interactive Anatomy Software” factors in many of the auxiliary costs which they total at an additional $759 per five year period accounting for 30 students. In the event that a school keeps their cat specimens for 5 years, PETA calculates a grand total of $3906.05 for a class of 30 students. In the same article, PETA compares the costs of virtual cat dissection, which amounts to $800 per 5 year period of 30 students. Obviously, a university like Brooklyn College has a much higher dissecting student body than 30, so the costs would be significantly higher.

From the data found, it seems that the long run economic viability of switching from perpetual spending, (in our hypothetical example that is $7,460/ Semester) to more fixed spending like dissection software or clay molds, would be a cunning financial move for the Brooklyn College school board to consider.

In Conclusion, the economic costs associated with animal dissections that most students and faculty members might not be aware of are high. Furthermore, the documented psychological stress that many students undergo while performing obligational dissections has led psychological researchers to believe that the practice of dissections and vivisections does not promote learning(Capaldo 2004). Students and teachers have repeatedly advocated for bans on dissections and vivisections since 2005. And basic marginal benefit analysis of switching to dissection alternatives has suggested that the change would be more than cost effective.

Would it not, in theory at least, be more practical, for all, to ban dissections all together?

Caution: Yellow is Not the New Green

512px-Caution_sign_used_on_roads_pngBy Mikey Kohlberg

Greetings! You may be surprised to find out that McDonald’s is cutting down on its use of antibiotic rich chicken meat. It would seem like things are changing for the better after reading the press release posted by the NRDC, the National Resource Defense Council. In reality though, McDonald’s is just cutting down on some chicken drugs, the medicinal antibiotics, that are used in commercial poultry operations. Their chicken dishes, if you can call them that, will still contain dangerous growth hormones and a wonderful cocktail of very questionable substances that fall under the category of “food additives”. For a list of what is in McDonald’s chicken nuggets check out this link.

Some people call these types of moves PR Campaigns, or deceptive marketing.

Unfortunately, it seems that moves like these work to hush any resistance against industrialized agriculture and the food science experiment industry known as “fast food”. Many people might be confused into missing the real fact; McDonald’s is just cutting medical antibiotics from their chicken, not all meat. Their chicken still has growth hormones and other harmful additives. I sincerely hope in writing this that many of us avoid becoming self-righteous and self-satisfied and thinking that it is morally justified to eat McDonald’s because they project the image that they are saving the earth and making healthy food because they love Americans.

I understand that for low income families fast food is cheap and easy. I understand that if people have to feed a few kids on 7 or 8 dollars per hour and are working 12+ hours a day, that they don’t have time to make or eat healthy food. So, if healthy food seems like it might break your wallet, you might be right. America kind of screws a lot of people on their good food options. That is why it is impossible for me to preach changing America’s unhealthy food choices when these realities exist. Grassroots food activists need to step up and help low income communities grow their own food, so as to have an alternative to fast food. If more community gardens and community based agriculture exists, more people of all races and classes would be able to access healthy, nutrient dense food. I may dedicate another blog in the future to community gardens and community organizing, but for now, I must stop here.

By Charles Caster-Dudzick

The American middle class, if that even exists anymore, needs to wake up and smell the coffee. No, not the McCafe or whatever McDonald’s serves. The real coffee, preferably organically and fair trade certified to ensure no chemical use and a fair price for the farmer. But for those who can afford it, please don’t be fooled by Ronald McLiar if he tells you his chicken is healthy. It is not, and the less drugged up food society buys, the more pressure there is on fast food joints like McDonald’s to clean up their act. The solution is to boycott. Again, for those who can, please boycott fast food places like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and all processed food for that matter. This is one small thing people who have some luxury can start doing. If you don’t have the luxury, hopefully you can find some way to eat healthy food. You can check out some tips for cutting organic food costs in my blog that I wrote last time.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our upcoming shows!

5 Ways to Slash Your Organic Food Costs

Photo courtesy of Olivia Ramirez

By Mikey Kohlberg

Today, I will be discussing how to cheaply feed yourself and your family without skimping on food and endangering everyone and the environment. If you have kids, you may have thought about feeding them wholesome and chemical-free food, but it is not always the cheapest or easiest lifestyle to live. However, there are cheap and easy alternatives to certain overpriced organic products. I will draw mostly from my personal experience eating budgeted organic food in order to break down some simple steps to cutting organic food costs.

1. Join a Buying Club

No, this is not only for restaurants and retail grocery stores. Individual people can pool together in order to buy wholesale organic food that is much cheaper than what you can purchase at the store. Check out UNFI’s buying club and sign up for one today. Plus, this is a great way to get to know your organic and local food eating community.

2a. DIY Organic Rice Milk

If you are lactose intolerant or just enjoy a non-dairy alternative to milk, this could help you slash your organic food expenses. For a reference point, a 32 oz. carton of Rice Dream would normally cost you around $3.22. You can easily find Lundberg’s Short Grain Brown Rice for about $2.30/lb in the bulk section of most health food stores, and this will yield much more than 32 oz. of rice milk. Believe it or not, that is pretty much all you need for quality rice milk. There are many recipes out there and I encourage you to check them out. Also, have no fear of being creative and adding new flavours or sweeteners to suit your needs. I like this recipe a lot because toasting the brown rice adds a nice touch to the end product. Enjoy!

2b. DIY Organic Tortillas

Photo courtesy of Olivia Ramirez

Now, if you are someone who buys packs of tortillas at a time, you may be surprised to know that you could be getting an organic version of this product for a pretty low price. Although companies like Mi Rachito have nearly perfected the art of packaged organic tortillas for around $3.00/bag, each containing around 7-12 tortillas, nothing beats the price and flavour of homemade corn tortillas. You can buy Organic Masa Harina to make your own for anywhere between $3-7.00/lb depending on purchasing quantity. One pound of masa harina will yield anywhere between 15-20 tortillas. So, if you want to impress your friends (or yourself) and make delicious, low cost organic tortillas, make your own with a recipe like this one!

3. Buy “Secondary Cuts” from Local Butcher

Instead of buying pre-cut chicken breast or thighs, save money by buying the whole carcass. It is not hard to take the extra 30 seconds to cut off the wings or breast yourself. Plus, you can  explore making soups and stocks with leftover bones and undesirable parts of the animal. For Secondary red meat cuts, check out this link for more info.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Ramirez

4. Use your Freezer/Pickle Things

If you have extra food that may go bad, freeze it. Also, if you have produce that might not be disgusting pickled, learn how to pickle it. It may be a fun activity for family or friends.

5. Buy in Bulk/Buy Local

This should be obvious to everyone, but I will explain it anyway. Usually, the more of something you buy, the cheaper per pound it will be, so you can save there.

Also, try to buy seasonal vegetables, nuts and fruit in bulk as well.  Often times, especially in the summer, certain crops like heirloom tomatoes will be significantly cheaper than they are in the winter since they thrive in the heat and don’t have to be grown indoors or shipped across the globe to get to you. Stock up on those items while they are in season if you like saving money and eating nutritious, earth-friendly food. You can always make something out of excess seasonal food and freeze it for later or for winter.

I hope this helps some of you slash your organic food bill. If you have comments or questions, please let us know! Until next time. Stay Green!


Victory or Failure at Lima COP 20?

lima_cop2By Mikey Kohlberg

There is no time to waste on Climate Change, so I will dive right into this week’s post! According to this United Nations Press Release, the COP 20 climate talks held in Lima, Peru earlier this December were intended to “Build on New York City’s UN Climate Summit of September of 2014” after the #PeoplesClimateMarch. The talks that center around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDG’s, seem simple enough when you take a look (Please check them out!). However, they are ideals that run into real world complications from corporate and political interests which often compete with environmental and humanitarian needs. My goal in blogging to you, dear reader, is to summarize how some of these complications relate to 2014’s COP 20 results and the future of international climate negotiation.

According to the UN Press Release, there have been concrete accomplishments that set the stage for next year’s Climate Summit in Paris. Naturally, the UN is going to say positive things about their own conference, so their boastings need to be taken with a few grains of salt.

One such area of contention that seems to be sugar coated is the global commitment to financing the mitigation of climate change. Apparently for the first time ever, total assets of the Green Climate Fund were measured at around $10.2 billion US dollars. This is in response to the pledge of industrialized nations to raise $100bn by 2020 for “concrete mitigation actions“, which was agreed upon in the Cancun Conferences of 2010. Although this sounds like good news, it is still unclear if these industrialized nations are taking mitigation steps seriously. Are they just an effort to look good in front of the World? Is the money really being promised with a legitimate effort at mitigating climate change?

Ahmed Sareer, negotiator for the Maldives, voices his concern in a Guardian article saying, “There has been a clear commitment of $100bn a year but how are we really being offered? Even when they make those pledges how do we know how much is going to materialise? There is no point of knowing that behind the wall there is a big source of funds available unless we can reach it. We are told it is there in a nice showcase, but we don’t get to meet it. We don’t get to access it. These are difficult issues for us.”

Also, the Environment Minister of India, Prakash Javadekar, expressed his disappointment towards the developed nations pledge of $100 billion by 2020:

We are upset that 2011, 2012, 2013 – three consecutive years – the developed world provided $10bn each year for climate action support to the developing world, but now they have reduced it. Now they are saying $10bn is for four years, so it is $2.5bn”

Although some aspects of the conference seem to be positive at a first glance, many times with UN Climate Conferences there is more to the story. Another self-proclaimed achievement of the COP 20 in Lima notes that many Latin American countries have submitted their carbon emissions measurements. The UN says this data would encourage funding for UN programs like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and allow them to sell off undeveloped forest regions for carbon offsetting. And although REDD is widely supported- even by Jane Goodall, who is seen as one of the world’s leading environmental activists- as a good solution to deforestation, there is serious controversy as to whether the organization helps to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions.

Anne Peterson, from the Global Justice Ecology Project, reveals in a Democracy Now! interview that ,“REDD is really — has been designed as a way for — and is being pushed by the United States — as a way for industries and Northern countries, industrialized nations, to avoid actually reducing their emissions at the source. So, countries and companies can continue polluting by saying that they’re protecting forests somewhere else that will supposedly sequester the carbon that they’re putting out into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no credible science behind the notion of offsets. So, in fact, what’s going to happen is, because they’re not reducing their pollution, because they’re not reducing their carbon emissions, global warming will continue, which will inevitably damage, destroy and completely eliminate forests.”

But proponents of REDD’s implementation say that it reduces emissions while respecting indigenous rights. Steve Zwick writes in his article in The AnthropoZine that “Indigenous people have traditionally been the best stewards of the forest, and well-run REDD Projects aim to harness this stewardship by partnering with them.”

Others disagree. Chief Ninawa Huni Kui, president of the Federation of the Huni Kui and an indigenous rights activist in Brazil, traveled to Lima for the COP 20 to voice the opposition of 10,400 indigenous Brazilians in 90 villages. In Amy Goodman’s interview, he says, “We are saying that the climate change proposals that the government is tabling here at the United Nations are false solutions to climate change. Specifically, we are here to denounce REDD—R-E-D-D, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.” He states in the same interview that, “The impacts (of REDD) are the following: The community is no longer to fish in their own land, to cultivate food, to practice agriculture. All of these activities are banned and have been declared illegal, and people are jailed if they participate in agriculture or go fishing.”

So basically, the holistic goodness of REDD remains a controversy that is intricately woven with indigenous rights and international policy. Perhaps I will cover this controversy in depth at a later date, so until then, stayed tuned! I hope my words here spark your interest and participation in these climate change debates because they are shaping our future. The climate crisis is dire and needs real action. We at TMSOG want all the good-hearted people in the world to be informed so that hopefully we can have a unified political voice aimed at making the world a slightly better place to live in, if not for us, then for our grandchildren. As Dr. Emanuel Bronner, the magic soap creator, preached, “We are all One, or None!

The Green Stream: Beware of US Food Politics

Green-Strem-Blog-The-Many-Shades-of-GreenBy Mikey Kohlberg

The need is greater than ever to be involved in the growing sustainability and food movement. The threats that our agriculture industry pose on climate change and human survival are blatantly obvious at this point, yet it seems that many US politicians have forsaken their duty as representatives of the common good of America while instead succumbing to the pressures of politics and corporate interest. For the sake of being concise, I won’t get into the details of the destruction that Monsanto Company and similar operations are causing to humanity and to nature. For a summary of these details, click here.

Today, I am focusing more on the dilemma of Michael R. Taylor slithering his way from atop multiple powerful positions working for Monsanto Company to holding America’s health in the palm of his hand as head honcho of the FDA. And last but not least, I hope to begin to show you all how gravely this affects us all.

To start off I want to ask a question. When did it become acceptable in this country to let someone switch so freely between the position of corporate lobbyist/lawyer and policy maker in the same field? That is what FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food and Veterinary Medicine Michael R.Taylor did. Also, do me a quick favor and google the relationship he has had with King & Spalding, a law firm that has a history of representing Monsanto. This, my friends has been called by Marion Nestle, who wrote Food Politics, “a classic example of the revolving door.”

There are those who argue for Taylor’s innocence however. Bill Marler who wrote Mike Taylor and the Myth of the Monsanto Man, claims that after knowing of him (not directly knowing him) for nearly 20 years, he is convinced Taylor is non-partial to Monsanto. Taylor himself is quoted in the article saying, “The government has clear rules about what a person can and cannot work on under those circumstances (potential partiality to an industry),” Marler then establishes his line that Taylor “follows those rules very carefully.” Marler continues to explain that when Taylor held the Deputy Commissioner for Policy (FDA) in the mid-’90s, the FDA Ethics Counsel said that he could work on general policy matters, such as policies for food labeling, but that he was precluded from any involvement in specific product approvals of interest to Monsanto. HOLD ON!

Seeing as one of the biggest US food policy issues right now is the requirement of food companies to label GMO foods, this seems like an issue that former Monsanto lawyer and VP of public policy at the largest GMO company in the world should not be engaging in! American health is at stake!

Also, according to PF Louis in his article Biotech industry at war over GMOs; millions of dollars funneled to lawmakers, “Monsanto Mike (Taylor) was able to influence the approval of rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone), which forces cows to yield more milk while causing infections that require antibiotics. So many milk and other dairy products became contaminated with the synthetic hormone rBGH, antibiotics, and infected cow blood and puss.” If you are unaware of the futility that over antibiotic use in factory farms is causing modern medicine please check out some of these links. I encourage you to explore the topic in more detail.

Farmers-market-foodLong story short, America’s reckless agricultural techniques and lack of quality governmental oversight has created a situation in which Americans are falsely assured by their own government about the safety of their food. It is a situation that still has its solutions though. What we need is mass education which will contribute to a snowballing in consumer awareness about the importance of the local and sustainable food movement. It has started to take hold around the world but with EVERONE’S help, we will begin to change. Their have been sparks of change so far, but we need to keep the passion strong to get the fire roaring. As we eat locally and buy from small farms, food becomes much healthier, less mysterious, and more tasty. While food transportation costs and emissions are reduced, air becomes cleaner in cities and communities become stronger through community farms and other CSA projects. If you take away one thing from this blog, let it be to buy food that comes from within 100 miles of where you live!

I want to end this Green Stream blog with a note of optimism, because although there are many problems with our current food regulatory system and agricultural sector, there is much we all can do.

Buy local and Stay Green!

Find out more info about eating clean and stayed tuned for The Many Shades of Green’s interview with Ashley Spivak from Clean Plates!

The Green Stream: Welcome to The Green Stream

Mikey-Kohlberg-The-Many-Shades-of-GreenHello and welcome to The Green Stream, a blog brought to you by The Many Shades of Green. Here’s some info about your author, Michael (Mikey) Kohlberg!

I was born and raised in San Diego, California and grew up speaking Spanglish by the ocean and the waves. I have always loved food, environmental justice and sustainability because I think it is the only way for the human race to start checking ourselves before we completely wreck ourselves. I work at a sustainable farm in Westchester, NY and enjoy music more than anything in the world. I am a drummer and percussionist, who enjoys listening to all music but especially Afro-Cuban and World styles! I like learning about the functions of music around the world, instead of just focusing on the sounds that come out of my speakers…

This blog will be covering a wide range of topics like Environmental, Social, and Food Justice issues and how to begin solving them. I want to encourage a classroom discussion type setting on Facebook and Twitter in order to fully incorporate the grassroots educational philosophy of The Many Shades of Green. I will be sharing my knowledge of how to combat climate change, ignorance, and most importantly injustice in the world. I hope you stay tuned each week for my new releases, and please like the blog on Facebook and Twitter!

Many minds are more than one, so comment as much as you can. It’s fun!