Nancyeclark's Blog


LONG DARK NIGHT

I can’t stop crying…and it is from a sadness and despair so profound, so deep, it has loosened my foundations like an earthquake. Everything I cherish and love and find beautiful in this world is being destroyed..by us. I cry in pain, and despair…and in the darkness of a soul that feels its connections withering into dust. My long dark night has begun.

I have seen the cruelty of humans. Active, intentional cruelty to children, to animals, to each other. And I have seen the neglect, the unintentional cruelty…the cruelty of not caring, of ignorance. Now I see, a cruelty, a neglect that comes, I believe from a deeper, more sinister place…and on a much more massive scale. We may say we are not aware…but if we stop to think, we must know the consequences of our actions…we are the smartest animal on the planet after all, and for years now it has been warned of, been in the news. “Activists”  and “environmentalists” and “scientists” have been issuing warnings for years. (I use the quotation marks because these folks have always been seen as alarmists and not quite with the mainstream.) We did not listen because we are too greedy and too busy to heed the warnings. There is a picture floating around the internet for shark week that I find revealing…(thanks to Ocean Defenders for the image)

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We have so polluted and corrupted our planet…our mother, our home…our only place to survive, that it may never recover and become whole again. And the cruelty isn’t just to our fellow creatures, it is to ourselves. If we create a place so toxic and unwelcoming to other species…why can we not see that it is toxic and unwelcoming to us as well?

We have spewed out so many greenhouse gases that we have changed our climate forever. Even if we stopped right this second…the damage has been done and the erosion of our atmosphere will continue apace because there isn’t any way to remove what we have already released into our air…and because the rise in temperatures we have already seen will continue to thaw the permafrost and release more gases into the mix.

We have cleared so much forest and rainforest, to satisfy our hunger and greed…our planet is like a smoker with stage 4 lung cancer…our planets lungs are not just sick, not just less able to breathe…they are going to die and everything within them die too. With the trees, plants and grasses go the animals that depend on them…and so go we. Maybe not today..but soon. Our remaining time on earth is looking less and less long term. People worry about how to live better now, how to leave something for their kids and give them a better future…we should be worrying about having a future at all.

And it scares me silly that we might explore and expand one day onto other planets. What will we do there? Create more garbage and more problems. Movies show us big bad aliens showing up on Earth and trying to kill us. Maybe the reason is the fear of us figuring out how to colonize other planets. If I were a species from another planet, I would be very worried about us Earthlings showing up and killing them…not with bigger weapons…but with our garbage, toxins, pollution and greed. It might take longer to wipe them out than the apocalypses seen in the movies, but it would happen just the same. I would find humans showing up very scary indeed. Have we not left our refuse everywhere we have been? The moon, space, our own backyards?

doesnt matter how much money we have1148943_604889226218606_512838833_n

We have so polluted our oceans that thousands of miles from any continent…we are still killing in the most horrible and cruel way with just the detritus of our unthinking, greedy, ignorant lifestyles. Tossing garbage out of our cars, off our boats…dumping waste into our rivers and into the oceans…there are huge rafts of plastic floating around the world’s oceans. There is oil and god knows what spilled and leaching into the waters off every coast. That bottle you did not recycle, that hypodermic you tossed into the trash, those 6 pack rings…all of them are deadly.

On the island of Midway…far off in the pacific…look, if your stomach can take it,…at what we have done.

A warning here…the video is graphic and disturbing…and so it should be!

Midway

I am speechless with grief and horror at the reach of the death we mete out to the planet’s other inhabitants without even being present or aware of what we are doing.

I have heard my whole life how smart we humans are and how we can put our minds to anything…to technology and advance it leaps and bounds…to create the internet, robotics, weapons, move into space exploration. How we create language and art and so are far and away more advanced and wonderful and precious than other creatures…we call ourselves Homo Sapiens or “wise man” after all.

I have to say I am more convinced now than ever before that we are the most stupid of creatures, because we have never been able to see the impact of our actions quite so clearly as we do now, and yet we refuse to countenance our complicity in the extinction of species, destruction of habitat and rape and pillage of the planet that sustains us.

Worse than any Mongol Horde, any plague are we…through our lack of insight, our greed and ignorance, our refusal to believe that we are part of the ecosystems we study…that we are somehow above being a species reliant on the Earth’s biosphere. Are we so damn blind?

This is why I can’t stop crying…and it is from a sadness and despair so profound, so deep, it has loosened my foundations like an earthquake. Everything I cherish and love and find beautiful in this world is being destroyed..by us. I cry in pain, and despair…and in the darkness of a soul that feels its connections withering into dust. My long dark night has begun. And so has ours as a species, unless we can make big changes to the way we see ourselves and our place in the grand scheme and loosen the grip consumerism has on our minds and hearts. The darkness we face only mirrors the darkness within.

Welcome to the long, dark night.



Musing on moggies

Fostering cats is one of the most rewarding, wonderful, loving and heartbreaking things you can do with your time, love and effort.

You take in a Mum cat, perhaps, about to give birth. Sometimes you are lucky and get a few days to get to know each other and establish a bond…sometimes she goes into labour in the carrier on the way home and the babies appear before you have even been introduced!!

Occasionally, Mum has already had her babies and you take them home with you when they are a day or two old or somewhere in that newborn to 12 week old area.

And then there are the orphan kittens, singles or litters, that need to be bottle fed…or if they are old enough, introduced to soft solid food. A very messy business!

No matter how they arrive…they are your responsibility and yours to love and care for. They demand attention…warmth…food…fresh water…litter & litter training…playtime…cuddles & snuggle-time…manners…socialization…all the things they need to be wonderful adoptable kittens and cats…because Mum will need a home too, when the babies are old enough. There will be visits to the vet, shots, de-worming…hopefully no viruses, parasites or other problems. They will all need to learn to use scratching posts and have their claws clipped. They will turn out to be the kind of cat they are, depending on their personality, but you do have some influence on their manners.

Fostering is a commitment that should not be taken lightly, because the goal is to find homes, forever homes for everybody…so we have to do our level best to keep them healthy, happy, well mannered and sociable. And we have to be able to let them go at the end of their foster time! Time and love are the big things in fostering. Time is the only one that is hard to find sometimes…the love comes when you look into their faces and you turn to mush. One of my very favourite things is a purring, contented Mum nursing her purring, contented babies…the next best thing is a tiny body on my lap, latched onto a nipple or syringe and getting that wonderful ear waggle going that means they are getting the nourishment they need. And kitten kisses, don’t forget kitten kisses…soft kisses and soft paws touching your nose…then kittens on a tear around the room or the house…full of life and fun and mischief. So really there are lots of favourite things about kittens.

I work hard at fostering…because I have to also make sure my own kitties do not suffer any loss of attention when there are kittens demanding playtime and snuggles. Luckily I have a wonderful family, and a wonderful family of cats who are amazingly patient at having their tails played with, their food stolen and their naps disrupted by kittens running over them and into them. They also understand when I disappear before their breakfast is put out, to feed the newest ones who get theirs first.

Upstairs in my studio I had a foster family…Phoebe and her 3 babies…Yogi, Archie and Zoe. Oops! Sorry…4 babies! The family increased to 4, because an orphan kitten around the same age as Phoebe’s family was brought in and we carried her home to see if Phoebe would take her on. I wrapped the new one in a towel that had just been replaced in the babies bin, so it smelled nicely like them…gave her a hot water bottle wrapped in towels for 15 minutes to warm her up and make her feel hungry…then introduced her to Phoebe. Calleigh, as she became, let out a tiny cry of hunger and Phoebe’s head whipped upright…she stared hard for about 2 seconds…leaned over…sniffed deeply, then licked Calleigh from stem to stern and scooped her in towards her tummy and the other babies. In the space of about 10 seconds, Calleigh had a new family and Phoebe had a new daughter! The ability of cats to accept a kitten not their own is a truly loving and wonderful thing. Not all will do it…but many will gladly take on an extra body or more.

Calleigh got some supplemental feeding…because even with Phoebe giving her extra alone time nursing…the other kittens were just that little bit older and bigger so that Calleigh got knocked off her nipple sometimes…she took in about an extra two tablespoons a day…spread out over several feedings. Soon she was as fat and roly-poly as the others. She was such a feisty little thing…such an odd face and darling personality.

Calleigh day 1…making sure she gets a meal. Calleigh is the little white kitten.

From fostering and from working with feral or community cats, I have learned that mum cats are amazing creatures. In the colony I have been working with most recently, the mum cats share nursing duties and care of the kittens…they share hunting responsibilities and discipline of the kittens too. When, unfortunately, one of the young mum cats disappeared forever (and I wish we knew what had happened) the other 2 mum cats took over her babies and raised them. Having been a step-mum, I know how precious someone else’s babies are and how wonderful it is to be part of their life…but a lot of human blended families don’t work that cooperatively. Cats seem to see it differently. At least this group of cats. They are amazing animals…wild and nervous of humans…but the little ones, caught between 8 weeks and 6 months of age…have socialized beautifully. We believe they simply have the “friendly gene”…as even though some took a long time to trust…they have all become lovely cats. The adults in the colony have been spayed and neutered…the 2 new males that have wandered in looking for food (so skinny we believe they are strays) are on the list to neuter very shortly.

Fostering encompasses so many things and so many situations…babies…mums and babies…socializing community cats (feral cats)…caring for sick or injured cats…it really runs the gamut. It breaks my heart every time I have to adopt one out…but it is also pure joy to know they have a home and family to love them. I have been very lucky that many of the adopters have kept in touch…just to send a picture or two of the cats/babies in their new homes being loved and being happy. What could be better than that?



I Loathe a Rainy Night

With deepest apologies to Eddie Rabbitt.

“Well, I love a rainy night
I love to hear the thunder
Watch the lightning
When it lights up the sky
You know it makes me feel good
Well, I love a rainy night
It’s such a beautiful sight
I love to feel the rain
On my face
Taste the rain on my lips
In the moonlight shadow
Showers washed
All my cares away”

I used to feel the way Eddie’s song goes. I do love thunder and lightning and rain pounding on the roof. I love going to watch a storm march across the lake and the lightning all around me. My fantasy vacation is heading to Tornado Alley to watch storms, wind, rain, clouds and lightning…with or without tornados.

But now I loathe a rainy night. All because of tailless, hopping Anura. Frogs. Peepers. Leopards. I don’t know what kind exactly…but mostly dead.

I loathe a rainy night and driving in the rain because rain…or mist or just the promise of rain…brings out the frogs. By the hundreds. Even thousands. Sitting, gulping, hopping out on the road in the rain…getting shmushed by the hundreds and thousands too.

Driving parts of the roads and highways in this area is like driving through a minefield…full of small, squishy, living, hopping mines. I slow down and swerve a lot…but in most cases there is traffic or too many of them to avoid.

So, I find myself driving to avoid as many as possible with my body tense, teeth clenched and saying over and over and over again “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry” and mentally apologizing to god and the frogs for killing or maiming the ones I cannot avoid. Best case scenario is my husband driving while I close my eyes and apologize until we get home. Sort of the same way I drive over the bridge to the States at Ivy Lea…eyes closed and praying we don’t fall off or get hit by a gust of wind!

Poor frogs. So happy they are to feel the rain. Hopping out onto the dark, wet pavement. Sitting, gulping, blissfully unaware of approaching mayhem…little faces raised to the rain…saying to themselves…”Wow! This feels so goo………..SPLAT!!

How unfair!

I have always wondered why they do this. Why rush out from their homes in the marshes and wetlands to sit in the wet & dark…communing with each other? Praising the gods of rain? Looking for moths and worms? Mating?

Here are 3 of the internets answers…and it seems I wasn’t far off with my theories…

1. -“Frog are cold blooded, or ectothermic animals, which means that they do not produce internal body heat. They go to the warm pavement during rain to maintain their temperatures.”

2. “For sex = to find a mate”

3. =During rainy nights drivers may have noticed dozens or even hundreds of frogs crossing roads in the area despite the danger of being hit.
Tarr said frogs travel out onto the pavement at this time because moist nights make for good amphibian travel weather."They breathe through their skin so they are susceptible to drying out when the sun is out. When it’s rainy they can go wherever they want and not worry about it. They tend to be the most active at night," Tarr said.
Mike Marchand, a wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game, said frogs can be seen on the roads throughout the year during storms.
"When they move, it’s typically in the rain," said Marchand, adding the first big spring rainfall tends to bring them out of hibernation.
Experts say many frogs travel across pavement from their winter hibernating spots to get to wetlands where they can breed.
Tarr said the road also provides warmth as it holds the heat from the day better than the ground. Frogs also find things like worms and insects on the pavement to feast on, he added.
UNH Cooperative Extension officials are concerned about roads that run through wetlands because frogs and other amphibians are often run over more often during their travels.
Tarr said frogs and toads are remarkably adapted to their environment with features like camouflage and toxic chemicals that can be excreted to make them the last thing on the menu for many animals.
However, he said they certainly aren’t aware of the danger of vehicles.
"Most of the time the first time they are being educated about a car they are being squashed," Tarr said.
Marchand said the road is certainly a "risky" place for frogs to be considering that many motorists don’t even see them.
"There is certainly a high mortality rate on nights when it’s raining. When I drive I’m cringing and slowing down," Marchand said.”

The most telling part of what I found was this…"Most of the time, the first time they are being educated about a car, they are being squashed”.

So do we need to educate the frogs? Do we need frog tunnels? Signs warning drivers about frogs…like the signs for deer, turtles and other species?

Because it seems to me with all the talk about frogs being an indicator species…with their numbers dropping dramatically due to toxins and pollution, habitat destruction and climate change…we also need to take a look at the carnage on the roads.

So, when next you drive on a rainy night near wetlands…be aware of the little things on the road…they might look like detritus or leaves lying there…but if you really look…they are happy little creatures about to be annihilated…

and if you see a car ahead of you acting strangely…it’s probably me…because I love frogs and loathe rainy nights!



waste not,want not…A food rant

That proverb, waste not, want not means If we don’t waste what we have, we’ll still have it in the future and will not lack or want it.

I learned this from my grandmother. My grandmother lived through the depression and was a farmer’s wife; she knew how to take care of precious things so they would last into the next generation. She knew how to re-use and recycle. She knew that helping your neighbour was the right thing to do and that if you had food you were lucky and if you had more than you needed, you shared it with those that didn’t. She is the reason I have boxes of all sizes in my closet, why I keep a collection of used ribbon and wrapping paper, why I have recycling embedded in my soul and leftovers in the fridge. She is the reason I do not like throwing anything out and feel so out of step with today’s world where everything seems disposable; appliances, pets, people and food.

My grandmother would be appalled at the waste in our world. When she grew up, things like oranges were special because they only appeared in the store once a year, and if her Mum & Dad were doing well enough, she would enjoy one in her Christmas stocking. You ate seasonally…the things you grew or the things in the store that were available during growing season.

Now we have food from all over the world  and in huge piles in our stores. If you could see how much of that food is wasted, you would understand my pain.

Hundreds of pounds of meat, cheese, frozen food, produce, thrown into dumpsters every day. Produce that isn’t perfect, so it is not saleable…food close or at it’s expiry date…things like bananas or meat someone decided they did not want partway through their shopping and so left it in the cereal aisle to rot. There is more food in our stores than they can actually sell…it is to produce an effect, a display of plenty…to make you buy.

“Studies have shown that 63 percent of the average supermarket’s waste is food. . In California alone, more than six million tons of food products are dumped annually. An estimated $20 billion worth of food is thrown away each year by supermarkets. Stores in the U.S. waste twice as much food annually as those in Europe, and a recent U.N. report found that total American food waste—including what we pitch from our refrigerators—is worth $48 billion each year.
Although federal and state laws protect grocers from liability, many stores expressed concerns that donated food could sicken recipients, even if it has yet to reach its expiration date. While some major chains donate food, others do not. Major retail grocery chains are more likely to throw away fruits, vegetables and even entire hams and roasts than donate to distribution centers.”

But it is not just stores…40 % of food waste occurred in our homes.

“Every month, residents in the city of Toronto (Canada), toss out 17.5 million kilograms of food. A recent British study determined that about one-third of food purchased in the UK is thrown out every year. This equates to £10bn (about CDN$19.5 billion). A 1997 U.S. study found that 27 per cent of edible food is never eaten. In Toronto, the picture is not all that different: single-family households produce an average of 275 kilograms of food waste each year. Twenty-five per cent of this food goes into the garbage. Most of it edible. Much of it still in its original packaging.” Worldvision

The problem is, that we are consumers and wasters of food, and yet we allow so many in our world to go hungry. And there are rules and standards that sometimes prevent us from helping. At a fundraiser I attended a while back, there was a large amount of food left over, good, well made, nutritious food…enough to give to the local food bank for several family’s meals…untouched food, but the containers had been opened, although not used. Because they had been opened…we were not allowed to give the food away, it had to be thrown away. It killed me to see so much food go to waste. I suppose I understand the concerns over opened containers, but we all knew it had not been touched or spoiled or contaminated in any way, and it hurt, physically hurt, to know it was wasted.

It hurts me to think about wasted food…and hungry people right here, in my backyard.

It hurts to know there are people dying from the lack of decent, nutritious food the world over…particularly in the Horn of Africa…one of the worst hit places by famine on our planet.

“The world produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child on earth. Hunger and malnutrition therefore are not due to lack of food alone, but are also the consequences of poverty, inequality and misplaced priorities.” – UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Kul C. Gautam

And yet, 30,000 children have died in the last 3 months in the Horn of Africa.

And yet, famine exists….what is famine?

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Reference Table (the standard used by the UN), famine occurs when the first three of the following conditions occur:

  • 20 percent of population has fewer than 2,100 kilocalories of food a day
  • 30 percent of children are acutely malnourished
  • Two deaths per 10,000 people, or four deaths per 10,000 children per day
  • Pandemic illness
  • Access to less than four liters of water per day
  • Large-scale displacement
  • Civil strife
  • Complete loss of assets and source of income

There are places still on this earth, where famine and drought exist, where the first three conditions exist, where all conditions exist, and people are dying from lack of food and clean water. It is obscene, when so many have so much, that so many have nothing.

The F Word

We see the bounty (and so much waste) in our stores and are bombarded by advertising for fast food and we do not know what it is like to be hungry, homeless and constantly at risk…we send food aid to countries without realizing that much of what we send is nutritionally deficient, particularly for children. We saddle poorer countries with so much debt they can never get out from under. We can and do so many good things…but there is so much more a species so intelligent and creative could carry out…needs to accomplish. We need to reconnect with our planet and the people on it, or we will never care enough to bring about the changes that must be made to save ourselves from ourselves.

Canada sends food aid around the world…so do many other countries…and that is a good thing…partly. So much of what we send is doing so little for the children who are starving, because what we send is nutritionally deficient and even with our help, children are malnourished and face the effects of that immediately and throughout their lives.

“Diets that do not provide the right blend of high-quality protein, essential fats, carbohydrates,vitamins and minerals can impair growth and development, increase the risk of death from common childhood illness, or result in life-long health consequences. Yet the cereal-based fortified flours donated as food aid do not meet these basic nutritional standards.

The Starved for Attention campaign hopes to rewrite the story of malnutrition, by convincing governments to ensure food aid also targets the specific needs of young children with adequate nutritional products.”

MSF, Medecins sans Frontieres or  Doctors Without Borders has launched a campaign, Starved for Attention, to try to ensure that world food aid actually nourishes and helps children who are starving. You can find out more at their website…

MSF Doctors Without Borders

Famine is obscene…so is the massive waste of food in richer countries.We need to do so much more for hungry people, here in our own country, on our own doorstep, and in our “global village”. We are responsible on every level, from what we buy and where we shop and what we waste right through to our neighbours and neighbouring countries to those who live a world away…they are on our global doorstep after all.

I really do think one of the reasons for humankind’s lack of stewardship of our planet, our technological advancement at the cost of something deeper and more meaningful, the problems we face as a species, are brought on, partly at least, by the continued urbanization of and lack of connection with nature. We live more and more, in places where you cannot see the stars, where you cannot truly see and feel the seasons, where foods are available year round from far, far away instead of being seasonal and local, where children do not know where their food comes from, what growing vegetables look like, who have never met a cow. We isolate ourselves further and further from our own world, the planet that nurtures us and which we rape and pillage daily. If we grow up knowing only that food comes from a store, how do we care about what it costs to produce it, how do we care about the loss of the family farm to huge conglomerates, how do we care about the death of honey bees, or the cruelty to the animals we eat or the underpaid workers who harvest our coffee and other crops. If gas just comes from a pump…how do we care about a faraway oil spill, the toxic waste in Alberta or Ecuador…the cost to our oceans and marine life…to our air and climate?

Even with the internet and television there are too many people who do not seem to care that children are dying from hunger and thirst in a world that has more than enough food and water for all. We demand that our food be available at all times and in huge supply and not too expensive. We consume far too much of the world’s supply of food, resources, and water. It is time to re-think our ways.

Take a moment or two today (and every day) to assess your own habits, to open your eyes to the plight of the hungry. Follow a link, read about hunger…look at the faces of the children…and of the parents who would provide if they could, but instead see their children starve. Sign a petition…write a letter…make a donation.

Waste is obscene. Famine is obscene…allow yourself to be disgusted…and then add your voice to all those hungering for change…and help.

Please get involved. Now, before it is too late for one more child.



They clone horses don’t they?

“If scientific discovery has not been an unalloyed blessing, if it has conferred on mankind the power not only to create but also to annihilate, it has at the same time provided humanity with a supreme challenge and a supreme testing”  John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“Science by itself has no moral dimension. But it does seek to establish truth. And upon this truth morality can be built”  Dr. William H. Masters

“Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man’s power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.”  Madame de Stael

I would like to begin this page by saying I am not a scientist in any way shape or form and if I get my facts wrong, am totally open to correction.

I just read a disturbing report about Sue Wallis, an American politician from Wyoming who is trying to set up a slaughterhouse for horses in her state, and an organization called the UOH, of which she is Executive Director. UOH, The United Organization of the Horse. Please do not be fooled by the rather innocuous, seemingly pro-horse title of this organization. It sounds like a group working for the good of horses…but what it actually is, is a  trade/lobbying group who takes contributions from horse slaughter interests, from the U.S Export Meat Federation, livestock and cattlemen organizations and from the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which is the lobbying arm of cloning and genetic engineering companies like Monsanto and ViaGen (who are actively cloning horses). They say they are concerned about the large numbers of ‘unwanted horses’ in the U.S….if so why would they be talking about cloning horses for slaughter, while killing off the natural ones? Real or cloned, slaughtering horses for food is a moral and ethical issue that has not got the support of the majority of North Americans. And cloning is another issue that raises its own moral and ethical questions.

Cloning occurs naturally in plants and some insects and has been used in horticulture for centuries. But I have found myself wanting to learn more about cloning, the kind of cloning that raises those moral and ethical questions for a lot of people, something that was in the news a lot, but has not been covered too much lately. As I understand it, cloning is a word that encompasses several different processes for “duplicating biological material” . There are  apparently three main types;  recombinant DNA cloning, therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. When I read about cloning, when there is talk about cloning horses for slaughter, or for breeding, they are usually talking about reproductive cloning.

As I understand it, recombinant DNA cloning has been around for years and is often used to  make multiple copies of the same gene for scientists to study and use in gene therapy, genetic engineering, and sequencing genomes.    

Therapeutic cloning is when they grow human embryos for use in research and to harvest stem cells. They are not creating cloned human beings, but remove the stem cells from the embryos to study and to use in treating diseases like cancer. Stem cells are removed from the egg after it has divided for 5 days…killing the embryo, which raises ethical and moral concerns for many people and has a lot of opposition.  

Reproductive cloning is the one I am really interested in. It is the type of cloning which first gave us a cloned tadpole in 1952 and it gave us Dolly, the Finn Dorset sheep, the first mammal to be cloned. The product of reproductive cloning is an animal that has the same nuclear DNA as another animal, but it is not identical, because some of its genes come from elsewhere in the egg and are not ‘reprogrammed’ the same way. Genes from the nucleus of a donor cell are transferred to an egg whose nucleus has been removed. The  egg is then treated to encourage cell division. Once it reaches the right stage, it is implanted into the womb of a surrogate to continue growing naturally until it is born. These clones will not be identical duplicates…only their chromosomal/nuclear DNA is the same. Some of the clones genetic materials come from the mitochondria in the egg. Mitochondria contain their own little bits of DNA and “acquired mutations in mitochondrial DNA are believed to play an important role in the aging process” and some scientists believe that “ errors or incompleteness in the reprogramming process cause the high rates of death, deformity, and disability often  seen among animal clones.”  Also unknown in this process is the effect of the surrogate that carries the baby and is so closely connected to it.

Another part of the problem with cloning is the low success rate; Dolly  was the only success out of 276 tries.  Prometea, the first cloned horse (born in 2003) came from 841 male and female embryos out of which only 8 male and 14 females developed to the blastocyst stage ( 5 days of cell division). Only 17 embryos were able to be implanted, and only 4 pregnancies came from those and Prometea was the only one out of all those to survive. Reproductive cloning, it is hoped, can dependably and constantly reproduce animals who are special or have special qualities. In the case of horses, ViaGen  (among others) is actively cloning Quarter horses and others to preserve bloodlines and to extend the breeding life of stallions and mares by creating newer duplicates. Reproductive cloning can probably be used to help endangered species, such as the gaur which was, in 2001, the first clone of an endangered wild animal to be born (it died from infection shortly after birth). In the same year,  Italian scientists reported cloning a mouflon, an endangered wild sheep.  I cannot find enough information on what would happen if clones breed. They can if bred with a non clone.

Reproductive cloning is still expensive and not terribly successful, although success rates are better now than they were when Dolly and Promotea were born. More than 1000 nuclear transfers could be required to produce between 1-3 viable clones. Cloned animals sometimes have weakened immune systems and suffer more infections and  tumours, and other problems such as LOS or large organ syndrome, which can cause unnaturally large babies or babies with organs too large for their bodies. Many clones just haven’t lived long enough for us to know how they age, because being healthy as babies does not adumbrate life-long health or even simple survival. Problems may come from ‘programming errors’ in the genetic material from a donor cell. When an embryo is created by natural means (the old fashioned way) from the union of sperm and egg, it gets copies of most genes from both its parents. Something called “imprinting” chemically marks the DNA from the mother and father so that only one copy of a gene is ‘turned on’. Defects in the genetic ‘imprint’ of DNA from a single donor cell may lead to some of the abnormalities of cloned animals, because we  program which ones turn on, not nature, and we may not get it right.

So, cloning is being done, but the success rates are still prohibitive. As is the cost. You can find ads for companies that will clone your horse for you in equine magazines and there are those who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to clone their pets. (Why anyone would do that is beyond me, discovering love with a new friend is so much better, even if you grieve forever for your lost pet.) Farmers have cloned hundreds of cows and the offspring of these cloned animals have already entered the food supply.

The following came from an article in Newsweek Magazine….(the bits in parentheses are mine)….

“Should consumers be afraid? There is some evidence that cloned animals show a higher propensity for developmental problems, such as mental retardation. That would be tragic in a human, but the milk from a retarded cow is not necessarily any different from the milk from a smarter than average cow. Indeed, the European scientists found no compositional or nutritional differences in the milk or meat derived from clones, and “no evidence of any abnormal effects” in the progeny of cloned animals. (most studies only studied 5 or 6 animals…not exactly exhaustive)

New research about genetics may be indirectly fueling fears about cloning. Scientists have learned in recent years that what goes on in the cell’s molecular machinery is far more complicated than they used to think. Epigeneticists have begun to enumerate ways in which traits can be passed from one generation to the next that have nothing to do with DNA. This raises the theoretical possibility that cloning may have unintended effects even though a cloned animal is an exact DNA replica of the original. “Although successful clones may appear normal, the possibility remains that some may harbor subtle genetic defects that could impair their health or make them unsafe for consumption,” said the Union of Concerned Scientists in a statement. Most anticloning groups use similar reasoning in calling for more time and more studies before cloned meat and milk are allowed to be sold as food. “If you don’t get all the details, you don’t know your subject,” says Sonja Van Tichelen, director of the Eurogroup for Animals.

The problem with epigenetic effects is that nobody knows what they might be, or even if, in the case of cloned livestock, they would have any effect worth noting. The safety authorities in the United States and Europe have apparently reasoned that a theoretical possibility is not reason enough to ban the practice.”

(Are these the same people who said cattle and pigs could eat dead cattle and pigs and that that would be safe? Remember Creutzfeld-Jacob disease and the Mad Cow Mess? Mad Cow is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy…a prion disease that may sometimes come from a genetically mutated prion. )

Why then are there those talking about cloning any animal for any reason? Even for preserving bloodlines? The companies involved in the technology do, of course, they stand to make money, but there are many concerns about cloning. Many racetracks and, I believe, the Jockey Club, have banned clones from racing, and cloned meat has not been proven safe to eat…nor has it been proven unsafe…there is simply not enough data.  There are also concerns about the welfare of the animals involved and the further commodification (if that is a word) of animals when so many people worldwide are trying to change the way animals are treated now.

 

“The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) provided an opinion on ethical aspects of animal cloning for food supply in January 2008. This complements EFSA’s work because EFSA does not have a mandate to consider ethical, moral or other societal issues beyond its scientific remit.
The EGE opinion concludes that “considering the current level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams and animal clones, the EGE has doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified. Whether this applies also to offspring is open to further scientific research. At present, the EGE does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring.” The EGE also identifies requirements for future action should food from animal clones be introduced into Europe in the future.” from the EFSA site (European Food Safety Authority)

I believe we should be concerned that if cloning humans is not morally and ethically acceptable, why is it okay to do this, to cause suffering, to destroy countless embryos, to species other than ourselves, who have no say in the matter at all. There are so many instances of mankind doing what we think is the right thing, biologically speaking, only to find out down the road, that we have royally screwed things up, for the species involved and for ourselves. Cloning for the sake of cloning may be the wrong decision. Perhaps using a technology just because we can is not the best way forward. A step or two back, and a lot more thought, might be a very good idea. Greed is not the best impetus or guide to what we as humans should allow in business or in life.

I am not completely anti-cloning. However, nothing I have heard or read over the years has convinced me yet that it is a good thing, a necessary thing. It seems to be a technology growing and developing because we can, not because of its inherent value. And I am very concerned that we do not know enough about what we are doing when we mess around with genes, and nature, and play God. I do believe in biological diversity and its importance in nature. I believe in wide and deep gene pools being the means of evolution, change and survival for our species and all the others we share this planet with. Wild horses are already at risk because of what the BLM is doing with their culling and roundups…they do not pay attention to family and bloodlines and the shrinking gene pool they leave behind. Cheetahs are suffering because there are not enough to breed with a gene selection broad enough to produce the healthiest, most viable babies. Tigers, one of the most critically endangered species on the planet are also at risk in terms of their health and their genes.

Biological diversity is a wondrous and beautiful thing. Who would ever want things to be or to look the same? The union of sperm and egg is miraculous and what it produces, unique. Yes we can selectively breed for special qualities, but when we let babies be produced the old fashioned way, we get a surprise, an individual, a unique creature, human or animal, and I truly believe it is the way we should remain committed to…not to the production of rows of chromosomally identical clones. Just because we can…should we? I leave you with some thoughts that I find helpful when pondering the future and the welfare of animals, ourselves and our planet…

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world-that is the myth of the atomic age-as in being able to remake ourselves”  Mahatma Gandhi

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”  Alice Walker

and finally, from Thomas Jefferson, “I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”



Cats, kittens, maus, moggies and more

I have too many cats. Yes, that is the consensus; Nancy is the crazy cat lady and she has too many cats. That, by the way, is not my opinion, but that of my family and friends.

 I think I’ve got a good number of cats. Let’s see; Belle is the baby at 4 months, then there is Smokey at 6 months, Scamp & Spook, both almost a year, Mouse is two, Jett is 3, Molly, we don’t know, Jack’s almost 4, Tucker and Buster are around 9 or 10…also Thomas, our cat sitting visitor(?) and the two foster babies, Billy and Joy, who are about 4 or 5 months old. I guess I am going to have to get another cat or find homes for the fosters pretty quickly…I just added it up and I have 13…not a good number if you are superstitious.

The cats certainly don’t think there are too many of them..they all coexist quite happily…they are well fed, have clean water, clean litter boxes, medical care when they need it, get their shots every year and are all spayed and neutered…and there are lots of toys to play with, beds to sleep on, they all cuddle and purr and sleep and play and mostly get along, although Mouse still has issues with Jack.

 There is nothing nicer in the winter than having a couple or two  tabbies or black and white kitties warming your toes and snuggling against you. Some folks need silence to fall asleep and some need the tv…I just need a small furry body purring gently beside me.

There are those with too many cats, where the people are overwhelmed and the cats are unhappy and sick and the living conditions for all concerned are unacceptable…hoarders do exist, and they don’t just hoard junk, but animals too. Luckily, hoarding is now recognized as a  psychiatric disorder and humane societies and the law are beginning to handle them differently than before, with more patience and respect, and often referrals to other services, recognizing that the animals are only part of the problem and that these folks need help in many ways.

 As I look to my right and see Smokey and Belle curled up together in a small grey pile of fur, I know how lucky I am to know so many lovely souls and have their love and companionship. I also notice that Thomas, asleep in the big chair, is, at 18 1/2 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than Belle who barely hits 3 pounds after a meal. That’s 15 pounds or another cat. In my life though, probably two.



February 14, 2010, 10:06 pm
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Here we are, just into 2010, the Vancouver Olympics have just begun, with a beautiful and awe-inspiring opening ceremony and also the death of a young Georgian athlete. His family are devastated and his fellow lugers and all the Olympians are at a loss to explain it and deal with the grief they feel and we all feel. All my best wishes and sympathy go to Nordars family, friends and to all who are hurting from this terrible accident.

Today is Valentines day, a day of roses and chocolate, of dinners and sweethearts, a day on which I choose not to spend a fortune, but simply to tell those closest to me that I love them, honour them and respect them, a day when I will try to heal the rifts which sometimes happen, to apologize for being unkind and to strengthen our bond.  The chocolate does appeal though…….I love chocolate….