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Scale of animal suffering in British laboratories finally revealed

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The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) has condemned the number of severe animal experiments taking place in Britain which have been revealed for the first time today. Please note readers might find some of the content distressing.

Government figures released today show that over 3.8 million experiments were carried out on animals last year, of which over 180,000 were “severe”, causing the highest level of pain, suffering and distress. The vast majority of animals are killed at the end of the experiment. A ban also comes into effect today for household products, but will do little to spare animals from unnecessary tests.

Jan Creamer, President of the National Anti-Vivisection Society said, “The level of suffering animals are experiencing in Britain’s laboratories is shameful. Until now, the pain and distress these animals were forced to endure was unknown; the research industry’s dirty secret. There is an urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in animal research, so these extreme tests can be reviewed and replaced with advanced non-animal methods.”

The Home Office figures reveal:

– Over 700,000 experiments forced animals to suffer severely (184,240) or moderately (557,707). ‘Severe’ suffering can include collapsed lung, internal bleeding, heart failure, nerve damage and infection – all symptoms anticipated to be experienced by 6,500 GM mice during a five-year heart failure experiment. ‘Moderate’ suffering can include implanting a device into monkeys’ skulls, with common adverse effects including wound infections. This was planned for 40 monkeys for stroke research, even though a human volunteer study was being conducted at the same centre. Almost 2 million animals endured ‘mild’ experiments which incredibly includes “Removing the heads of the [newborn] mice with a sharp scalpel” which was carried out as part of the GM mouse study.

– 2,742 dogs were used ‘for the first time’ in tests which can involve force-feeding compounds such as agricultural chemicals, or having toxic substances pumped into their veins which can make them so sick that they die in agony. A controversial beagle breeding facility which was rejected planning permission on several occasions has now been authorised by the government and will be built in Yorkshire. NAVS warns that it is likely to fuel demand in the UK and EU, reversing the downward trend in the use of dogs.

– 2,466 monkeys were used ‘for the first time’ in experiments. Monkeys are used mainly to test drugs and typically endure force-feeding or injections of experimental compounds; full body immobilization in restraint chairs whilst they are experimented on. NAVS is calling on politicians to implement the principles of a hugely popular written declaration adopted by the European Parliament in 2007. Written Declaration 40 calls for an end to the use of wild-caught primates and a timetable for replacing the use of all primates in scientific experiments.

– Almost a third of experiments (32%, 618,389) were on genetically modified animals. Many hundreds of thousands more suffer during the creation and maintenance of animals with genetic modifications, who can suffer from deformed limbs, fused bones and painful swellings. There has been an explosion in animal genetic modification over the past decades, yet little evidence that results have benefitted human health because GM animals remain fundamentally different from humans, making them poor ‘models’ for studying human disease.

In 2013, the number of animals experimented on in Britain surpassed 4 million, the highest on modern record. Following the adoption of EU rules, changes have been made to the way the figures have been compiled, with actual severity of procedures published for the first time and use of animals reported at the end of the project, rather than the beginning as previously.

Despite previously pledging to ban the use of all household product testing on animals for ingredients and finished products, the government has instead brought in a “qualified ban” today which will still permit tests to be conducted. For ingredients that may be used for other purposes, a system of “retrospective notification” has been introduced, while an application to use animals for solely household product ingredients tests can also be approved if considered of innovative benefit.

Over a year has passed since the government consulted on the ‘secrecy clause’, Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. The clause places a blanket ban on the release of details about animal experiments which prevents public and scientific scrutiny. There is strong and growing support for reform, supported by NAVS, in line with the government’s commitment to increased openness.

For further information, please see www.NAVS.org.uk. Through its Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research, the NAVS funds non-animal scientific and medical research, including projects looking at cancer, and neuroscience.

 

Picture credit: Beagle Camry – Ruth Ellison – Flickr

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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