There’s an infection called Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which is common among young children and is caused by a virus. Lately, there seems to be another illness, Foot-in-mouth disease, that’s been going viral, at least socially. The main difference between these diseases is that the latter seems to affect mostly adults, and more specifically, adult male scientists.
The most recent victim of this Foot-in-mouth disease is Tim Hunt, a 2001 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine, for his comment about women in the lab.
Fact: The CIA’s torture program was directly inspired by animal experiments.
In the 1960s, dogs were subjected to random electric shocks from which they could not escape. Eventually the dogs gave up trying to avoid the painful shocks, not even escaping when a path to escape was finally presented to them.
From the New York Times:
The dogs wouldn’t jump. All they had to do to avoid electric shocks was leap over a small barrier, but there they sat in boxes in a lab… passive and whining.
As we now know, these “learned helplessness” experiments on dogs and other animals became the foundation for brutal CIA torture techniques, such as waterboarding.
What concerns me most as a medical doctor is the fact that two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, directed these human torture experiments. The psychologists were curious about whether the theories of animal “learned helplessness” might work on humans.
Here’s my list of five headline-grabbing stories in 2014 that show just how connected human health and animal protection are:
1. Chris Christie Sells Out Humans and Animals
After reports of his bridge scandal, the New Jersey Governor’s 2016 presidential ambitions took a nosedive. That’s why many see his recent veto of a bill that would have banned gestation crates as an attempt to win back influential voters. Pork industry groups — especially the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council — opposed the bill. Christie’s veto was made as a concession to Iowa’s primary voters. But Christie sold out both animals and humans for campaign favors.
The following is a typical case illustrating the linkage between child abuse and animal abuse. One morning, an Atlanta contractor pulled up to a house where he was to perform some work. As he got out of his truck, he heard a dog screaming from the house next door, went over to investigate and saw through an open garage door a dog dragging his back legs and a woman standing beside him. The contractor intervened and took the dog to a veterinarian, whose suspicions about the incident were confirmed. The dog could not be saved and an autopsy revealed that the dog was paralyzed from having been beaten so badly. The incident was reported to the police. When the police went to the woman’s house to make an arrest for abusing the dog, they found a badly bruised boy. Both parents were arrested for child abuse.
Companion animals are increasingly viewed as family members with inherent worth. More than 70 per cent of US households with young children have companion animals. In one study, seven-to-ten-year-old children named on average two companion animals each when listing the ten most important individuals in their lives. When asked ‘Whom do you turn to when you are feeling sad, angry, happy or wanting to share a secret?, nearly half of the five-year-old children in another study mentioned their companion animals. Harm to companion animals can cause tremendous grief and anxiety in those who care for them. Unfortunately, their status as family member renders companion animals vulnerable to abuse, often as a means to exert control and intimidation over other humans. For example, an abusive father may hurt the family dog in order to scare his spouse or children into submission. Threats toward and actual abuse of animals in domestic violence situations occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- to confirm power and control over the family;
- to perpetuate an environment of violence and fear;
- to coerce the victim or prevent him or her from leaving;
- to force the victim into silence;
- to punish the victim;
- to further degrade the victim by forcing his or her participation in animal cruelty acts.
In a survey of 107 battered women, 47 per cent of those with companion animals reported that their abusers threatened or harmed the animals. Additionally, more than half of these women said their companion animals were important sources of emotional support and 40 per cent had delayed seeking shelter out of concern for the animals’ welfare. Once in the shelters, many of the women continued to worry about the animals’ safety. That concern is not unfounded. Several cases reveal the horrific cruelty inflicted on animals by batterers: a pet cockatiel was beheaded because he was ‘singing too much,’ a cat was hung by a leash, another cat was put into a microwave and other animals have been kicked, stabbed, shot or thrown. In another study of battered women, 71 per cent of those with animal companions reported that their partners had been violent to the animals. The women reported that their partners abused animals for revenge or to psychologically control them. Quinlisk reported findings of a survey conducted as part of a domestic violence intervention program. Of the 58 female victims of domestic violence who had companion animals, 68 per cent reported violence directed toward their companion animals. In 88 per cent of cases, the violence was committed in their presence. In 76 per cent of these cases, their children also witnessed the animal cruelty. In other cases, women reported receiving threats either to kill or give away the animals.
In my last article, I introduced the notion that there is a strong connection between human and animal welfare. This connection is particularly evident in domestic violence.
Last month, in Lake Charles, LA, a man was arrested for beating his girlfriend, Tiffany Nocosia, and killing her dog. The girlfriend described the horrific scene:
“He grabs my dog and slings her across the room against a wall. I go to pick her up … she still is breathing and twitching so I started to try and revive her. He comes and says I’m going to make sure that dog is dead and continues to throw her against the wall,” said Nocosia. “A four-pound little innocent dog. She then defecates and he rubs it in my face.”
Sadly, incidents like this one are far from isolated, instead occurring in homes across the U.S., and worse yet, these crimes appear to increase during holidays like Valentines’ Day. So as Valentine’s Day approaches, we should be vigilant for any signs of domestic violence.