- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2002

Of mice and men

As far as Sen. Jesse Helms is concerned, a rodent could do a heck of a lot worse than live out its life span in a medical-research facility.

Like suffocating in the chute of a pet snake, for instance, or succumbing to a painful death administered by a friendly neighborhood exterminator. (Where are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when a mouse really needs them?)

So the North Carolina senator has offered an amendment this week that would exclude rats, mice and birds from the definition of "animal" under the Animal Welfare Act. This way, life-saving medical research is not delayed, made more expensive, or otherwise compromised by what Mr. Helms calls new regulatory "shenanigans" of the Agriculture Department.

"The medical-research community was astonished the U.S. Department of Agriculture weary and browbeat into submission by numerous lawsuits and petitions by the so-called 'animal rights' crowd gave notice of its intent to add rats, mice and birds under the regulatory umbrella," Mr. Helms says.

Which means, among other burdens, additional reporting requirements and paperwork that could cost medical researchers up to $280 million annually. Instead of searching for cures for breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease and diabetes, the USDA would force researchers out of the laboratory to fill out myriad forms, even though researchers already treat animals in a professional and humane manner.

"I was surprised to learn," Mr. Helms says, "that 10 times as many rodents are raised and sold as food for reptiles as are used by the medical-research community. But nobody raises a point about that. I wonder if anyone in the chamber has seen a hungry python eat a mouse? If you have, then you know it is not a pretty picture for the mouse.

"Isn't it far better for the mouse," he reasons, "to be fed and watered in a clean laboratory than to end up as a tiny bulge being digested inside an enormous snake?"

And what about the millions of mice that take up residence many pregnant, hoping to start families in basements, bedrooms and boardrooms across America, only to be labeled "pests" worthy only of eviction by critter control?

"Alas," says Mr. Helms, "extermination remains the fate every year of hundreds of thousands of rodents that have not found the relative safety of a research facility."

Lamb drops

Since the United States is encountering numerous obstacles moving food to starving Afghans from inadequate roads to a lack of trucks and refrigeration, to name a few then why not let the food move itself?

"Most families in Afghanistan don't receive their meat on a Styrofoam platter in Saran wrap from the grocery store," says Sen. Michael B. Enzi, who instead is calling on the Wyoming National Guard which has the training in transporting livestock to drop live lambs into Afghanistan.

"The idea is very simple," the Wyoming Republican says. "We should ship live lamb to Afghanistan, not only to assist the numerous tribes in building their flocks of sheep, but to provide immediate protein to their diets."

The senator's proposal to study lamb drops passed on a voice vote this week.

Meathead surfaces

Hollywood actor and director Rob Reiner, who during the last presidential campaign was a self-described adviser to Al Gore, met with a representative of first lady Laura Bush at the White House this week on education issues … even though less than two years ago, Mr. Reiner savaged then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush as grossly unprepared for the job of president.

"The audacity of this man to steal the slogan of the Children's Defense Fund and say that 'we will leave no child behind' is hypocrisy of staggering proportions," Mr. Reiner said in 2000.

Mr. Reiner also met this week with Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on Capitol Hill, where he predicted that Democrats would take control of the House in November, and pick up additional gubernatorial seats as well.

Bombs and beans

The director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy says it was he, not former Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III, who botched the foundation's homeland-defense report we'd written about, misidentifying the location of a particularly horrifying scenario, in which a suicide bomber explodes a nuke outside of El Paso, Texas.

"Even more embarrassing," Mark Tapscott tells us, "I'm from Texas."

"Instead of saying the bomb exploded at the Eagle Pass border crossing across from Piedras Negras, it should have said the bomber detonated the device in Juarez, just west of El Paso," he says. "What can I say? I'll have to lay off those five-alarm chili breakfasts for a while."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide