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May 1996
Editorial: There Are Cats and Then There Are Cats

By Martin Rowe

When a mother cat returned over and over again to rescue each one of her kittens from a burning building recently, the North Shore Animal League received thousands of offers of homes and support for her and hers. As newscast after newscast and commentator after commentator opined: such devotion showed more than animal instinct; it was true mothering [read, human mothering) that made the mother cat risk death each time.

In the same month, the March of Dimes held another walkathon — WalkAmerica — which over 25 years has taken in nearly $700 million for research into human birth defects. Some 10% of the funding raised does not go directly to human research. It is used to test on a number of animals — including primates, dogs, rabbits, pigs, hamsters, ferrets, guinea pigs, sheep, birds, and, yes... cats. I will spare the more squeamish of you the details of these experiments, the cost of which, according to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), total several millions of dollars. Some experiments involve exposing pregnant rats to prenatal nicotine (even though a report has just been issued which collates many studies of the effect of smoking on human fetuses and, surprise surprise, suggests that it is harmful). Others involve transferring organs between species, as well as experiments on fetuses in monkeys.

As to the cats: one study involved suturing a cat’s eye shut for a year and rearing kittens in the dark from birth to three to five months, after which they were killed. Experimenters found that, according to PCRM, "an antigen on cells in an area of the brain that carries visual pathways (lateral geniculate nucleus)" decreased in level after the suturing and deliberate blindness. This somewhat unremarkable conclusion was one of a series of experiments that took three years and cost about $225,000.

Whatever your opinion about the scientific value to be gained from experimentation on animals, you will no doubt recognize the cognitive dissonance all of us should feel, if we have any ability to make connections, between the outpouring of sympathy for the cat in the burning building and the silence which continues to greet the suturing and light starvation of the kittens whose mother couldn’t release them from certain death even if she wanted to.

People walk in good faith in WalkAmerica — if they were informed, honestly, about what goes on, I believe they would be more careful about where their money was pledged. I also believe that March of Dimes believes honorably in what it is trying to do — which is prevent suffering and avoid defective babies. But that is what the mother cat was also trying to do; and we humans could learn a great deal about mothering (read non-human animal mothering) from her. And you don’t need one eye sewn shut to see it.

If Theodore J. Kaczynski is the Unabomber, as the media already seems to have concluded, prepare for more of the kind of crime (and not just guilt) by association that has already been suggested by ABC World News Tonight. This robust channel of truth indicated that Mr. K was a member of Earth First! and went on to link Earth First! with violently destructive acts against people and property. This will be just the first salvo in criminalizing through innuendo all those who question our pellmell pursuit of a capitalist, technological utopia and who are trying to stop the larger violence against this planet. Satya does not support any activity which threatens or endangers the life of any animal — human or non-human. The Unabomber was wrong to kill and maim and he or she should be locked up. But all of his or her ideas shouldn’t be locked up as well. Let’s discuss.



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