I guess it trumps dying a horrible death (but not by much)
April 10, 2002 5:13 PM   Subscribe

I guess it trumps dying a horrible death (but not by much)... "A young calf has his belly shaved. Many slashes are made in the skin. A prior batch of smallpox vaccine is dropped into the slashes and allowed to fester over a period of days. During this period of time, the calf stands in a head stall so that he can’t lick his belly. The calf is led out of the stock to a table where he is strapped down. His belly scabs and pus are scraped off and ground into a powder. The powder is the next batch of smallpox vaccine." (Excerpt from Vaccines : A Second Opinion, and link swiped wholesale from Randomwalks.)
posted by crunchland (34 comments total)
Argh! Apparently I don't know what "trumps" means.
posted by crunchland at 5:17 PM on April 10, 2002

This vegetarian has no problem with that scenario.
posted by NortonDC at 5:18 PM on April 10, 2002

the jury is still out for this one! X(
posted by mcsweetie at 5:26 PM on April 10, 2002

As long as they used shaving cream. You don't want to give him razor burn!
posted by adampsyche at 5:34 PM on April 10, 2002

"A prior batch of smallpox vaccine is dropped into the slashes and allowed to fester over a period of days...The powder is the next batch of smallpox vaccine."

So, how was the first batch of smallpox vaccine made?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:42 PM on April 10, 2002

[So, how was the first batch of smallpox vaccine made?]

Jenner, Edward. 1749-1823.
British physician and vaccination pioneer. He found that smallpox could be prevented by inoculation with the substance from cowpox lesions.

He even has his own museum.
posted by lampshade at 5:55 PM on April 10, 2002

I would personally kill a herd of dew-eyed calves if it meant sparing one human from the horrible ravages of smallpox.
posted by evanizer at 6:21 PM on April 10, 2002

I couldn't.
posted by kv at 7:14 PM on April 10, 2002

There's no doubt about it, smallpox is beyond awful. It's a shame, however, that we haven't figured out a way to produce the vaccine without having to resort to the undeniable torture of animals.
posted by crunchland at 7:25 PM on April 10, 2002

damn... just reading that made me sick to my stomach. does it have to be so graphic? it reminds me of that damned movie that i found on some website where two pigs were burned for experimental burn treatments for american soldiers in ww2.
posted by Kafei at 7:38 PM on April 10, 2002

The site at which this is found is ridiculous, loaded with misinformation, FUD, outright lies, and a complete lack of any sense of medical history. The author is an alternative health entrepreneur.

A more objective description of issues regarding smallpox vaccine is found on the CDC website.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:42 PM on April 10, 2002

We each have our own pain and suffering to bear. That is the reality of life.

Unfortunately, there are those who run from reality. Unfortunately, there are those who use weaker beings as shields against a reality they cannot face. Unfortunately, there are those who do not care how much pain they produce in the world, just as long as their own pain is taken away.

Scott Peck once said mental illness results from an attempt to escape from legitimate suffering. I don't happen to subscribe completely to that view, but causing suffering in other sentient beings in order to relieve our own is no different from slavery, a great sickness which still festers, and from which humans are still recovering.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:09 PM on April 10, 2002

Such a shame that the calf is probably then discarded as unfit for consumption. Always a shame to waste good meat.
posted by HTuttle at 8:11 PM on April 10, 2002

fold: Wait, so what would you have us do? Save a suffering man (who has a 20-40% chance of dying from the disease) or injure a calf?

Its not a pretty world, but suggesting that we withhold treatment from suffering humans because we don't want to get calf blood on our hands seems somehow irrational.

And of course, what if it was your child/significant other/parent/etc.

I'm going back under my bridge now.
posted by bshort at 8:42 PM on April 10, 2002

Can we get this on tape? I'd pay the matinee rate to see it once, if that's any help.
posted by greyscale at 8:51 PM on April 10, 2002

fold_and_mutilate: Fierce defender of the downtrodden! Oppressed? Worry not, Foldy will be there for you, whether you're a bleating calf, a Palestinian or a refugee from a sovenir store on the Champs-Elysees!

I kid. Not.
posted by evanizer at 9:13 PM on April 10, 2002

Sithly_Tove, your own source corroborates the passage above for smallpox vaccine through 1984.

The only commercially approved smallpox vaccine available for limited use in the United States is Wyeth Dryvax. This vaccine is a lyophilized preparation of live Vaccinia virus (VACV), made by using strain New York City calf lymph (NYC_CL), derived from a seed virus of the New York City Board of Health (NYCBH) strain of VACV that underwent 22 to 28 heifer passages. The vaccine consists of lyophilized calf lymph containing VACV prepared from live calves. The animals were infected by scarification, and the skin containing viral lesions was physically removed by scraping. The lyophilized calf lymph type vaccine is reconstituted with a diluent containing 50% glycerin, 0.25% phenol, and 0.005% brilliant green. Vaccine prepared by this traditional manufacturing technique of harvesting VACV from the skin of cows (and sheep) was used in most regions of the world during the smallpox eradication campaign. The facilities, expertise, and infrastructure required for producing the virus in this way are no longer available. Wyeth Laboratories discontinued distribution of smallpox vaccine to civilians in 1983.

A friend of mine from Taiwan had an SP vaccine and she was born in 1982, way after mass vaccination stopped in the US. I would assume that in the rest of the world the vaccine is made in the same manner, as the CDC page only indicates that newer vaccines are in clinical trials (as far as I can tell, I'm too lazy to read the whole thing in depth)

Anyway, thought they probably don't, they could give the calfs drugs to keep 'em 'happy' while doing this. And also, this has save a lot more then a few human lives, but tens of millions.

posted by delmoi at 11:01 PM on April 10, 2002

I agree with F&M: It isn't fair for innocent critters to be tortured to save their slavemasters. Condemed prisoners should do this instead. People on death row could be given an extra five years of life with free drugs and sex on weekends as reward for their help. It's a win-win thing.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:36 PM on April 10, 2002

Did they use strips of bacon to repair the damaged skin of the burned pigs?
posted by Frasermoo at 1:05 AM on April 11, 2002

delmoi: my point was not that the description of the plight of the calf was incorrect, but that the site itself was highly unreliable. For example:

Vaccines are suspensions of infectious agents [...] No. Some are, some aren't. DPT (diphtheria, pertussis [whooping cough], tetanus), rabies, and Hepatitis B vaccines aren't.

Vaccines produce disease or infection in an otherwise healthy person... They don't produce disease. Vaccines that contain only antigen don't produce infection.

The author's views, and those of the people he quotes, about the immune system are essentially mystical, not scientific. He ignores the fact that vaccines have wiped out smallpox, come close to wiping out polio (which now occurs in the US chiefly in the children of Christian Scientists), and are well on the way to wiping out measles. He ignores that thousands of children used to die of diphtheria and whooping cough before there was a vaccine for them. He is blind to all those deaths that didn't happen.

He is, in short, a crank.

The point CDC URL was that the procedure is recognized as outmoded, and that efforts to develop a cell-culture based vaccine are underway. More progress hasn't been made of the last decade because everyone thought smallpox was no longer a problem, and that issues related to vaccine production were moot.

BTW, Mack Twain, I know you're joking, but prison inmates were once allowed to participate in medical trials, which was supposed to reflect favorably on them during parole hearings. That's no longer allowed, because it is believed that prisoners can't give valid consent.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:08 AM on April 11, 2002

I'm with evanizer. Enough of this antropomorphism. A life of an animal is of lesser value than the life of a human being.
posted by cx at 1:11 AM on April 11, 2002

Why do you have to be such a tweak evanizer?

There's a reason smallpox would come back to haunt us. And that is man's inherent proclivity to be inhumane to fellow man. That inherent proclivity also explains a great many other things, such as why we have no problem painfully growing vaccine in the wounds of tied down cows and why I had no problem calling evanizer a tweak.

Ask me. I do care. About evanizer and cows. Why must people be so harsh to each other in reconciling with themselves how invariably harsh our very nature is?
posted by crasspastor at 4:38 AM on April 11, 2002

also think of the smallpox...
posted by kliuless at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2002

I'm with kliuless. Don't these little orthopoxviri have every right to live and not suffer?
posted by glenwood at 8:39 AM on April 11, 2002

I agree with F&M: It isn't fair for innocent critters to be tortured to save their slavemasters.

FAIR? Since when is anything fair? You sound like an 8 year old.

Welcome to the real world. Where if a calf selected for this purpose wasn't locked in a barn producing medicine for humans then it would be in a pasture being eaten alive by a cheetah. What's your point? Life sucks. Nothing's fair.

But if there's one to be had and the threat is for real, give my son the damn vaccine. Fuck a damn cow.
posted by glenwood at 8:42 AM on April 11, 2002

well, i kind of look at it as being grateful to the cow. like the eskimo who says a thank you to the whale he kills or the indian who prays for the buffalo he eats :) it's the circle of life!
posted by kliuless at 9:41 AM on April 11, 2002

Yes. I'm sure the lab technicians thank the cow before strapping them down to the table.

I was discussing this process with my wife this morning. She mentioned that she thought the disclosure of the process of making the vaccine was similar to the disclosure of the process of partial-birth abortions. That when you really get to see the repulsiveness of it all, even the staunchest pro-choice supporter might have pause.

And it probably does matter how you spin it... the idea of injecting the scabs and pus of a young cow is pretty disgusting, but not nearly as disgusting as dying of smallpox.

And like sausage and legislation, it's probably better not knowing how they are made.
posted by crunchland at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2002

well, they should :) i'm reminded of the ones who walked away from omelas. so disturbing!
posted by kliuless at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2002

it's the circle of life!

*triumphantly raises bewildered three-year-old son above head, allowing his radiance to permeate throughout the living room*
posted by adampsyche at 10:23 AM on April 11, 2002

It would have helped if there had been adequate supervision on the 'control' samples of smallpox dotted around the world, after the disease had been eradicated. Oh well.

And if it were a choice between cows and evanizer, I know I'd be backing the multi-stomached.
posted by riviera at 11:26 AM on April 11, 2002

Thanks, mate. The feeling's mutual. But I actually thought you might be of the bovine persuasion, since you seem to be very good at producing bullshit.
posted by evanizer at 12:34 PM on April 11, 2002

"It's a shame, however, that we haven't figured out a way to produce the vaccine without having to resort to the undeniable torture of animals."

It's an absolute tragedy that when humanity had the opportunity to completely eradicate the virus, we didn't.

Other creatures continue to suffer for our mistakes. If we were less comfortable with this situation, perhaps we would have had a greater impetus to solve this situation together and erradicate the virus when we had the opportunity.
posted by lucien at 12:56 PM on April 11, 2002

adampsyche! Watch the ceiling fan! Oh, too late. Now I'm covered with permeating radiance. Anyone got a towel?
posted by dwivian at 8:39 AM on April 12, 2002

I'm quite happy to claim that status, evanizer, because having lots of stomachs sure as hell beats not having any stomach at all.
posted by riviera at 12:45 PM on April 12, 2002

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