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World Day for Laboratory Animals marked across globe

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Monkey Experiment by Ed Schipul via Flickr

Horrific monkey experiments exposed in UK and Europe

In the countdown to World Day for Laboratory Animals on April 24th the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) has released shocking details of primate experiments and their failure.   The animal suffering in the experiments is clear and NAVS, the world’s oldest anti-vivisection organisation, describes them as “unreliable, unethical, unnecessary.”

Around 6,000 primates are used in European laboratories each year, 2,466 in the UK. Over half are subjected to a barrage of regulatory safety tests.  Our closest relatives in the animal kingdom are restrained, force-fed and injected with drugs and other substances to measure their toxic effects. Despite advanced alternatives like microdosing, which enable more accurate earlier study, many of these tests continue to be driven by outdated regulations.  The NAVS reveals:

  • A vaginal gel tested on female monkeys – despite a similar product being examined in women.
  • Monkeys being electrically masturbated during tests of a cancer drug.
  • Bolts and chambers screwed into the heads of monkeys.
  • The gums of monkeys cut into and cavities created in teeth to test dental filling materials – the researchers noted that the inflammation process was different in humans.
  • Monkeys suffering fever, lethargy and severe damage to the liver, spleen and lungs after being forced to inhale bacteria by the Ministry of Defence.

National Anti-Vivisection Society Campaigns Director Tim Phillips says: “Thousands of primates are subjected to horrific experiments in the UK and Europe each year. It is to our shame that we continue to use our closest relatives in tests where there are technologically advanced, humane methods available that give reliable human-based data.  It is almost a decade since the European Parliament called on the European Commission to set a timetable to replace these tests, yet there has been little progress.”

Monkeys were used in vaginal HIV tests alongside a clinical trial in women.
Fourteen female macaque monkeys were used for an HIV study conducted at St George’s, University of London and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Sir Joseph Hotung Trust.  During pre-clinical tests for an intravaginal gel, the primates had an HIV protein and the gel inserted into their vaginas under sedation. Every 2-3 days the procedure was repeated, a total of nine times, with some animals undergoing three cycles of treatment. At the end of the experiment the animals were killed. The researchers admit the repeated sedation may have influenced immune responsiveness.

A similar topical gel had already shown “great promise against vaginal HIV transmission” in women.   NAVS asks, why are monkey tests continuing when far more reliable data must be coming from the human studies?

Monkeys were subjected to eletroejaculation for tests on a drug being used at the same time in cancer patients.  In a test by GSK Vaccines, every two weeks six monkeys were injected with the compound a total of eight times, while two monkeys received saline injections. To evaluate sperm formation, the monkeys underwent electroejaculation while fully conscious, a total of nine times every three weeks. The procedure commonly involves restraining the animal and wrapping defibrillator pads and lubricating gel around the penis, applying increasing voltage until ejaculation occurs. The animals were killed at the end of the experiment. Conducted at CiToxLAB in France, the primates had been imported from Mauritian primate supplier Noveprim Europe’s distribution hub in Spain. The NAVS has exposed animals at the facility being brutally handled by staff and confined in small cages. The dealer is also known to take primates from the wild to replenish its breeding stocks.

For 40 years experiments have been conducted on the brains of monkeys at the Institute of Neurology in London. In one such study funded by The Wellcome Trust, the National Centre for the 3Rs, and theBiotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council the heads of three monkeys were cut open to implant a recording chamber, a restraint head piece fixed, and electrodes were implanted into their brains. The monkeys were required to grasp different objects for a food reward, their brain activity recorded with and without the delivery of an electrical current to their brain. At the end of the experiments two of the animals were killed.

This was another example of monkeys being invasively experimented upon when humane studies of patients were also being undertaken.  Despite acknowledging this and the availability of such data, the same group went on to publish a similar study two years later. Twenty years ago, in 1996, an NAVS investigation inside the Institute of Neurology revealed monkeys being used in such procedures.

Despite a number of previous animal and human studies, researchers at the National Veterinary School of Lyon simulated human periodontal disease in 8 macaque monkeys to study dental cavity material effects on healing. Funded by manufacturer Dentsply, the monkeys were subjected to multiple surgeries, involving cutting into their gums to expose the roots of the teeth and jaw bones. Eight cavities were created in each monkey and inflammation of the gums deliberately induced. Then various substances were used to fill in the damaged teeth. After twelve weeks the monkeys were killed and examined. Highlighting a fundamental flaw of the research, it was noted “the induced inflammation…..is different from the inflammation caused by [human] periodontal diseases”.

The Ministry of Defence implanted monitoring devices into 26 marmoset monkeys, gave them daily injections, and forced 16 of the monkeys to inhale the meliodosis bacteria.  The bacteria is responsible for respiratory disease suffered by people who have had contact with infected soil and water in parts of Asia and Australia.  Symptoms the animals endured included fever, lethargy and severe damage to the liver, spleen and lungs. All were killed at the end of the experiment. The MOD claimed they were seeking a therapy, yet there are already a number of human therapies to treat meliodosis, which commonly incubates over more than two months compared to just hours in marmosets.

Almost ten years ago, in 2007, Members of the European Parliament instructed (in Written Declaration WD40/2007) the European Commission to set a timetable to phase out experiments on monkeys.  Sadly little progress has been made.

Aside from the ethical considerations, there are fundamental differences at the cellular, genetic and immune system level, making data from primate tests unreliable for humans – as shown in the cases of TGN1412 and BIA 10-2474. Outcomes can also be affected by factors including stress and the animal’s age, diet and sex.

In the coming week, as the suffering of laboratory animals is marked all over the globe on World Day for the Laboratory Animals, the NAVS is calling for action to end cruel experiments on monkeys.

Find out more: https://worlddayforlaboratoryanimals.org/

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Environment

Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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