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Tag: u.s.

Britain looks at outlawing eating dog

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Prime Minister Theresa May is looking into banning the eating of dogs in Britain after reports that the practice could be increasing.

Officials announced the prime minister is looking closely” at outlawing eating dog amid reports that the practice could spread to the UK and across Europe, due to immigration from the Far East.

The prime minister’s spokesman said that even though the commercial trade in dog meat in the UK is illegal, it’s taking a look at legislation being submitted next month in the U.S. to explicity ban killing dogs and eating their meat, The Sun reported.

Legislation calling for a similar ban is expected to be introduced in the U.S. next month.

“Britain is a nation of animal lovers and we continue to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. We wish to maintain that,” the spokesman said.

Neither killing dogs to eat nor consuming their meat is illegal in Britain.

The chair of the All-party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group, Lisa Cameron, said the development was “fantastic news … I’m sure the ban will have overwhelming cross party support.”

Dr Cameron says there has been a rise in the consumption of dog meat in the UK, but two animal welfare organisations say that they don’t have evidence for this, BBC reported.

Humane Society International says it has “never come across any evidence to suggest that dog meat is being consumed in the UK”.

The World Dog Alliance says it doesn’t know if there are people in the UK who eat dog meat – but still wants it to be made illegal.

An estimated 30 million dogs a year are slaughtered to be eaten across China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan has also spoken out in favor of a total ban on eating dog meat, calling it a “disgusting habit” and adding, “We should nip it in the bud now.”

The World Dog Alliance (WDA) is set to launch a campaign in the UK for a full ban on any activity relating to the eating of dogs.

The WDA’s Kike Yuen told The Sun: “In the U.S., people who eat dog meat are mainly immigrants from Asia. With three million immigrants from East Asia in the UK, we cannot deny this situation exists here too.

“We also believe legislation against dog meat in the UK would provide us with strength to continue our work in Asia, as the UK could influence other countries to stop dog meat consumption,” Yuen added.

(Photo: Dogs headed to slaughter in China; from World Dog Alliance)

Dogs in space: China reveals it tried it too

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Back in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, the race to space featured two main players — the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Both, in preparation for manned space flight, were experimenting with animals first — in the Soviet Union’s case, most notably dogs, the most famous of which was Laika, who died during the 1957 Sputnik 2 mission, but not until after becoming the first Earth creature to enter outer space.

Now it has been revealed that China was sending dogs into space, too, though its attempts were shrouded in secrecy.

In 1966 at a secret military base in southeast China, a small dog called Little Leopard was chosen from more than 100 other “volunteers” to be launched into orbit. Orbit wasn’t achieved, but at least Little Leopard survived.

The previously unknown details of China’s secret program to launch dogs into space more than half a century ago were revealed last week in an article published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The academy said that, to usher in the Year of the Dog, it wanted to “commemorate their legendary journey into the sky,” according to the South China Morning Post

Little Leopard was chosen from more than 100 puppies bred for the task, all the offspring of performers in an animal circus.

“They were chosen for their looks – the scientists insisted they had to be ‘cute’ — and put through a series of tests that included being shut in a room and subjected to noise at more than 100 decibels to see whether they could tolerate the sound of a rocket blast,” the article says.

Little Leopard and a three-year-old dog named Shan Shan — both mixed-breeds — were selected as the toughest and most intelligent of the group.

But one thing was overlooked by the scientists, and it became apparent soon after Little Leopard was hoisted to the rocket in a basket. He was afraid of heights.

The scientists struggled to get him in the hatch of the 20-story high rocket for take-off.

Once inside, he was attached to equipment to monitor his breathing, circulation, heart rate and body temperature at various stages of the flight. A sensor was inserted in the main artery of his neck to get precise readings of the blood supply to his brain.

Strapped tight inside the capsule, the article says, he “endured unspeakable pain and deafening noise in the 20 minutes that followed. The force of acceleration was up to 12 times the pull of gravity, causing pressure, or G-force, that prevented the dog’s heart from pumping enough blood to his head.”

While that monitoring equipment worked just fine, the rocket didn’t — not entirely. It failed to reach orbit.

chinapsacedogs2As it neared earth, the capsule was ejected and parachute-landed on a mountain not far from the launch site, where Little Leopard was fetched by a helicopter. A crowd gathered at the launch site to welcome his return, according to the academy.

Shan Shan’s journey into space, two weeks later, was even more problematic. It never reached orbit, either, and the equipment that was monitoring her vital signs malfunctioned.

Little Leopard and Shan Shan were the first and only large animals used by China to gather biological data for the human space flight program.

After the experiment, the Chinese space authorities decided to stop sending animals into space.

Both dogs were returned to Beijing where government officials presented them with honorary awards. It’s not known what happened to the dogs after that, and the Chinese space program bit the dust during the chaos and violence of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

(Photos: Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Group seeks to ban shock collars in England

shockThe Dogs Trust has launched a campaign to end the use of shock collars in England.

Calling the collars “unnecessary and cruel,” the organization is working to immediately ban their sale.

It is urging members of the public to tweet their representatives in Parliament using the hashtag #ShockinglyLegal.

As part of the campaign, they also plan to hold a “reception” — how civilized! — at the House of Commons where they will ask members of Parliament to sign a letter to the secretary of state backing the proposal.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is already on board, pledging his support to bring an end to a practice he compared to caning a child, the Daily Mail reported.

The Dogs Trust said it conducted a poll that showed most members of the public knew the collars caused dogs pain. Almost a third wrongly thought that the collars, which can continuously shock a dog for 11 seconds, were already banned. Only about 13 percent said they would ever use them.

“The sad reality is that they are still readily available to buy at the click of a button, the organization said. “These torturous devices can send between 100 to 6000 volts to a dog’s neck, and have the capacity to continuously shock a dog for up to 11 terrifying seconds at a time.”

“It is both unnecessary and cruel to resort to the use of these collars on dogs,” said Rachel Casey, director of canine behavior and research at the Dogs Trust.

“This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical well-being,” she added. “A dog can’t understand when or why it’s being shocked and this can cause it immense distress, with many dogs exhibiting signs of anxiety and worsened behavior as a result.”

Wales, Quebec and parts of Australia — have banned shock collars. There’s a growing chorus of voices trying to prohibit — or at least regulate — the collars in the United States, as well. While no legislation has been passed on the state level, an ordinance in Alexandria, Va., limits their use on public property.

Therapy dog comforts Dr. Nassar’s victims

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There’s a dog sitting outside the Michigan courtroom where 144 victims of former Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar are reading statements on how they were impacted by the sexual abuse they say he put them through.

The 2-year-old Labrador retriever’s job? To bring those victims some comfort before and after their testimony.

Preston, a therapy dog, sits in the hallway of the Ingram County Circuit Court in Lansing and makes himself available to the victims, ABC News reported.

“Having Preston here has just been a joy,” said Samantha Ursch, 29, who testified last week about abuse by Nassar in 2011 while she was a gymnast at Central Michigan University. “He is a comfort, especially for a lot of us that have pets at home,” she added. “I’m away from my two dogs so having him here has been amazing and comforting.”

nassarleashes1The statements are part of a sentencing hearing for Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct in Ingham County.

Nassar, who worked at Michigan State University, faces a sentence of 40 to 125 years.

He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges.

Preston usually has permission to sit inside Ingham County courtrooms when the prosecutor or family of victims request his presence. Usually he sits at the side of children or adults victimized by sexual abuse as they testify.

In the Nassar sentencing hearing, because the courtroom is so crowded with spectators, he is sitting in the hallway.

“This is the first time we’ve taken the approach of being in the hallway,” his handler, Ashley Vance said of the high-profile Nassar case. “It’s a really nice break for people to come out and have that comfort and support …I’ve seen people just kind of swarming him. [He offers] silent, nonjudgmental support and it’s just calming.”

aly-raismanleashes1Vance said the state’s attorney general’s office requested Preston’s presence during the hearing.

The dog works for the Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center in Lansing, where he began as a therapy dog in September 2016. He works both in courtrooms and at the children’s advocacy center, where children are interviewed by police and prosecutors after reports of abuse.

“Preston is providing a lot of unconditional love and comfort to some people who really need it right now,” said Alex Brace, executive director of Small Talk. “It’s very much about healing and providing hope to survivors of sexual assault and physical abuse.”

The statements from victims continued all day yesterday as they sometimes tearfully, sometimes angrily described the impact he had on their lives. Aly Raisman, one of the multiple Olympic gymnasts who say they were molested by Nassar, delivered her statement in court last week.

(Top photo by Chris Haxel / Lansing State Journal; photos of Nassar, Raisman by Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

Say what, AlphaPup?

A toy that’s supposed to help kids learn the alphabet may be teaching them a dirty word.

At least that’s how a couple in the UK is hearing it.

Stuart and Diane Gravenell from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, bought the Leap Frog AlphaPup toy for their 18-month-old granddaughter, Iris.

alphapupThe singing dog helps teach young children the alphabet and phonics, and features three educational songs, one of which the Gravenells say, includes a word that sounds a whole lot like something a dog would never say. It sounds a whole lot like f***.

(F*** is generally how us old-fashioned types write “fuck,” but if a baby toy is saying it now, why should we hold back?)

The Gravenells told the Daily Mail their daughter, Jessica Sollars, took the toy out of the box for her granddaughter and turned it on, playing some of the songs.

In one, the dog sang, “One, two, chew on a shoe, three, four, bark at the door.” But instead of “bark,” it sounded like f*** to the parents and grandparents.

gravenell“When Jessica heard it she phoned us up and asked, ‘Is this some kind of joke?'” Gravenell said. “And then when she played it to us we both heard it and I just thought, ‘oh my God!’… These things are supposed to teach children to speak properly, so you’d think they would over-enunciate correctly.”

The toy is widely available in the UK and the U.S., where retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Toys R’Us offer it.

In the American version of the toy, the dog has no British accent, so “bark” doesn’t sound like f***.

The couple said their daughter has taken the toy away from Iris.

Said Gravenell, “It has been a naughty dog, so Jessica has put it into quarantine.”

(Photos and video from the Daily Mail)

HSI shutting down 200-dog farm in Korea

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Another massive rescue of Korean farm dogs is underway.

Activists on Tuesday freed 10 more dogs from a 200-dog farm in Wonju, 55 miles outside of Seoul, Reuters reported.

Dogs on such farms are raised to be slaughtered for their meat.

reuters1Humane Society International estimates it will take weeks for all the dogs on the farm to be removed, after which they will be transported to the U.S. for adoption at local animal shelters.

The farm, once it closes, will become the sixth shut down by local advocates and activists from HSI, who negotiate with dog farmers and assist them in getting started in different occupations.

HSI estimates there are 17,000 dog-meat farms in the country.

The removal of the dogs follows six months of negotiations, medical examinations and vaccinations. Because airline flights can only carry a limited number of dogs a day, it will take a couple of weeks for HSI to rescue all 200 of the dogs at the farm.

You can see a Reuters slideshow of the operation here.

reutersThe owner of this farm cited his poor health as the reason he was getting out of the business.

HSI officials expected the dogs will be quickly adopted once they arrive at shelters in the U.S.

“As soon as they’re ready for adoption, we find that there are line-ups of people – literally people would line up at shelters – in the U.S. to adopt these dogs because people are so engaged by their sad and compelling stories,” said Andrew Plumbly, another campaign manager for the HSI.

Plumbly said hygiene at the dog farm was “non-existent,” and that dogs spent most of their lives outside in rusty cages.

A minority of Koreans consume dog, and the consumption of dog meat is declining.

Humane Society International hopes bringing more attention to the issue will lead the government ban the breeding of meat dogs in South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics are being held.

(You can read more about Korean farm dogs, including mine, here.)

(Photos: Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

A modern day Dr. Frankenstein?

A controversial neurosurgeon in Italy said this week that he and his fellow researchers may be able to conduct the first human head transplant next year.

We suggest they start with their own.

Dr. Sergio Canavero has been compared to Dr. Frankenstein, and called a nut, but that hasn’t stopped him and members of his consortium — from China, South Korea and the U.S. — from severing the spinal cord of the beagle above (just so they could try to reattach it) and doing the same with numerous mice.

If that’s not weird enough, Canavero and team say that before they attempt a head transplant on a live human, they will conduct some experiments on human corpses, and then reanimate them with electricity to test his technique.

We can only assume they will do so in the basement laboratory of a castle, during a thunderstorm.

canaveroCanavero is director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group. He released three papers this week, and the video above, showing how he and his collaborators had successfully reattached the spinal cords of the dog and several mice.

Canavero also claims that researchers led by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University have already performed a head transplant on a monkey – connecting up the blood supply between the head and the new body.

Canavero’s short term goal is to successfully transplant a human head. His long term goal, he admits, “is immortality.”

What’s an acceptable number of dogs to torture in a quest of that nature?

We’d say none.

Canavero says the experiments on animals prove the technique used — known as GEMINI spinal cord fusion — incorporates a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to encourage neurons to grow toward each other and connect.

He suspects it will also work in humans to fuse two ends of a spinal cord together, or to connect a transplanted head to a donor body.

He made the claims in a series of papers published in the journal Surgical Neurology International.

The claims have been met with widespread skepticism, according to New Scientist.

Canavero first announced his plans to conduct a human head transplant in 2013 and established the ead Anastomosis Venture, or HEAVEN, project to develop the techniques needed to carry out such an operation.

His collaborator in South Korea is Dr. C-Yoon Kim, a neurosurgeon at Konkuk University in Seoul who partially severed and reattached the spinal cords of 16 mice. Five of the eight mice who received PEG regained some ability to move. The other three died — as did eight who were in a control group.

In another experiment the South Korean team nearly severed the spinal cord of a dog. While the dog was initially paralyzed, three days later the team reported it was able to move its limbs and wag its tail.

South Korea is also the birthplace of dog cloning and up until this summer — when an American company cloned a dog for a customer — it was the only country cloning dogs for profit.

It’s probably not too outlandish — given all the bizarre turns medical researchers are taking — to wonder if surplus canine clones in South Korea end up being used for other wacky experiments by mad (or at least overly zealous) scientists.

In fact, if you look at its history, creating dogs for medical research use was one markets mentioned by the developers and marketers of dog cloning.

Could it be that some of the ideas initially presented in science fiction might ought to remain in the realm of science fiction?

Canavero’s research papers don’t indicate how many more dogs might have their necks snapped or heads severed by his research team as they boldly and single-mindedly stride toward their goal.

But, again, we’d argue that — no matter what medical gains it could lead to for humans — it should be NONE.