My (animal) Kingdom for a Horse… or bull

Many alternative medicines use parts from various animals, regardless of their actual effectiveness. Animals are also sacrificed for the sake of magic rituals, and there are always buyers somewhere. Unfortunately, that means that such pseudoscience is being funded at these animals’ expenses. We need animals. We eat them, wear them, keep them as pets, use them in medicines and cosmetics, and even stuff or skin them and call them art. This is the way of life most of us are used to, and I’m not going to preach the extremist PETA dogma or pass any judgment. The issue is about wasting limited resources. For example, as I mentioned before, killing a single alpha-male lion disrupts the entire pride, resulting in the death of the slain male’s cubs, as well as all those who try to protect them. So what makes the gradual extinction of multitudes of species truly deplorable is that the demand for these animal parts is highly driven by pseudoscience – the biggest waste of them all.

I wrote another article for the JREF blog, on the pseudoscience funded by the animal trade that’s resulting in various animal extinctions. For some reason it doesn’t appear on the main blog feed (which is why barely anyone has seen it) but it doesn’t matter. Only the content of the article matters. …Which is why I was a little disappointed that the only comment so far was about the title of the piece, saying “‘Pseudoscience: Brought to you by Extinction’ makes no sense to me.” Sure, that’s a little perplexing; the title I submitted was actually “Pseudoscience (Brought to you by: Extinction)” which makes sense in my head; but like I said, it really doesn’t matter what you call it – it’s the content that matters.

I’m a big supporter of animal testing and biomedical research, but only if the experiments have made it through an ethics board, and are based on science – not magical thinking, fuzzy logic, or “hunches.” In general, I don’t have a particularly strong opinion about the other uses of animal products I mentioned above, but pseudoscience is a blight on the collective knowledge that humans have worked so hard to understand, and wasting lives on it is a travesty.

…Well, I guess I also feel that mounting an animal’s head on your wall or skinning one for all to see is a pretty bizarre practice…

All though I must admit, this cute little critter just begs to be cuddled!

The illegal industry is so lucrative that police corruption is certainly not unheard of, and people participate from all over the world. Just a few days ago, one ton of elephant tusks were confiscated in Kenya; and in a separate case, 300 kilograms (661 lbs.) were confiscated in Vietnam. Also recently, some of the biggest loads of ivory ever smuggled were seized in China and Thailand by authorities. African elephants are projected by some experts to be extinct within 15 years (a statement that was made in 2009).

Of course, we now understand the magnitude of poaching and trading, and know that it will affect the animal and even human populations. However, what I really want to emphasize is that the pseudoscience made from this stuff doesn’t work. Traditional Chinese Medicines are the type of treatments that never stack up in randomized controlled trials. If such alternative medicines worked, they would be used in every hospital in the world.

We know enough about science and animal biology to know that even spending the time and money on researching these medicines is a waste – it simply doesn’t make sense that, for example, eating a tiger’s penis will make you have sex for longer. Yet people still talk about the supernatural as if it not only exists, but is superior to science. You often hear about supernatural phenomena on TV simply because people want to hear more about it. It makes for good TV to say “there is magic in the air,” rather than saying “Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are fake, and so is magic.” Really, the audience would change the channel before you could say “double-blind.”

Not exactly what I had in mind when I Googled it... but it'll do

I’ll leave you with a six minute National Geographic video that shows you the world of magic rituals in Mexico. Take note of the animals that appear early on – unless you’re squeamish. “Science doesn’t always conquer the supernatural,” it says, irresponsibly suggesting that in every instance where someone can’t explain something, there must be a supernatural explanation for it (which by the way, is odd considering that they give a scientific explanation anyway). Then they basically cut their own point down by saying “And for those who believe… witchcraft is all too real.”

Indeed, for those who believe, traveling too far will make you fall of the edge of the earth (which so happens to be flat). …but only if you believe! However, if you don’t believe, then maybe you subscribe to the reality that is known as “science.” This is the reality where we make informed decisions based on good evidence, and don’t jump to conclusions despite having doubts.

 

Owl Photo Credit: Abrar Ahmed
Double-blind Photo Credit
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This entry was posted in Activism, Culture, Legal Issues, Media, Medicine & Health, Pseudoscience, Skepticism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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