Genetic experiments and animal suffering, CIWF trust takes debate to schools
from EVU News, Issue 1 /1998
Science fact or science fiction?
Genetic experiments on sheep, calves and pigs are causing too much suffering for farm animals says Compassion in World Farming Trust (CIWF). On January 13, 1998, the Trust launched a new schools video spelling out the appalling cost to animal welfare of genetic engineering. The video 'Genetic Engineering and Farm Animal', information sheets and sheets for Classroom activities are aimed at stimulating debate among 14-18 year olds.
As a hapless pig struggles to stand on legs that can no longer carry it, the video outlines the development of the 'transgenic', or genetically manipulated animal. By implanting 'foreign'genes, from one type of animal, or from humans, into another animal species, the genetics industry hopes to create 'new animal' yielding more meat, more milk, or more wool. Some are being 'produced' to make medicines in milk which might be used to treat humans, others to grow organs that could work in the human body. But the first experiments have already led to failures, causing the death and suffering of many animals.
A young calf's muscles turned like jelly after it was given genetic material normally found in a chicken; salmon with added 'antifreeze' genes turned green; pigs given growth hormone genes from cows or humans suffered liver and kidney damage, lameness, loss of co-ordination, gastric ulcers and damaged vision. Lambs given cow growth hormone genes developed pneumonia and diabetes-like symptoms and died.
'Animals pay a high price for the genetics industry's race for high productivity, but it largely goes unrecognised', said John Callaghan, Educational Director of CIWF Trust. 'This video puts the animals' side of the story. It's designed to help students question the powerful influence genetic engineering will have on their futures and their food'.
It's not just the resulting 'transgenic' animal that suffers - along the route to producing it many animals are subjected to surgery or slaughter. It takes a whole flock of about 40 sheep to produce just one which successfully carries 'foreign' genes. Forty sheep are used in a production process which CIWF Trust likens to the factory production and modification of cars. 'If they don't like one model - geneticists will devise new models of animals for the market', says the video which describes the process.
The video also describes the cloning of sheep. The sheep are subjected to invasive surgery, in order to obtain egg cells and re-implant them following cloning. Sometimes, developing embryos are again cut out, so that they can be examined. Then they are surgically implanted into the eventual surrogate mother sheep while the intermediate mothers, having served their purpose, are killed after just a few days or weeks.
With supporting information and classroom activity worksheets, the new video asks students to think about the choices facing farming today: continued emphasis on factory farming; adopting the free-range approach, or using genetic engineering to create new forms of farm animals. It raises the questions 'Is genetic engineering necessary?'; 'Is it cruel', and 'Is this the future we want?'
Says Callaghan, 'It's vital that young Genetic experiments and animal suffering CIWF trust takes debatte to schools people think about this issue. If no-one questions the high-tech/ progress image of genetic engineering, the industry will continue inflicting animal suffering for the sake of profit. Unless the real costs of genetic engineering are brought into the open farm animals will forever be the victims of genetic experimentation'.
For further information please contact
John Callaghan, Joyce D'Silva or Dr Tim O'Brien
Compassion in World Farming Trust
Charles house, 5A Charles St. Petersfield, Hampshire,GU32 2EH, England
Tel: +44 (0) 1730 268070, Fax: +44 (0) 1730260791