There is a scale of violence that can only be achieved by a civilized society.
Free people with simple tools are just not adequate for the realization of some tasks. Warriors can only do so much without the support of bureaucrats and the tip of a spear cannot reach as far as a predator drone.
Most helpful to achieve certain levels of violence is rigid hierarchy, wage or slave labor, complex technology, standardization, mass society, and a cool distance (physical or psychological) between assailant and victim. In short: people need to show up for work and the trains need to run on time. To the extent that these things are missing, the scale of violence will almost necessarily be diminished.
Enter Jackson Laboratory. They have achieved a scale of ongoing violence that is difficult to conceive. They provide a key part of the infrastructure of the animal experimentation industry.
A staggering number of the mice who fill the cages in animal laboratories around the world originate from JAX Mice & Services, a division of Jackson Laboratory based in Bar Harbor, Maine (with additional locations in Sacramento, California and Farmington, Connecticut). Approximately two-thirds of Jackson Laboratory’s $214 million 2011 operating budget was dedicated to JAX Mice & Services. From June 2010 through May 2011, JAX Mice distributed over 3 million mice to more than 900 institutions in 56 different countries. And more than 1 million live mice are held at the Bar Harbor headquarters.
But as The Connecticut Mirror has explained:
“[t]hese aren’t just any mice. These are the product of a sophisticated, highly controlled and protected mouse-breeding operation. They live in rooms designed to be impenetrable to the smallest unwelcome microbes, in cages stacked floor-to-ceiling and supplied with filtered air that changes once a minute. They’re cared for by handlers wearing protective suits, who know their inbred charges so well they can spot a potential genetic mutation that even a biologist might not notice.”
JAX Mice has over 7000 different genetic strains of mouse available for purchase by animal experimenters around the world. Many of the varieties have been bred specifically to exhibit particular pathologies or to develop various diseases. The “features”—or more accurately, ailments—of each genetic strain can be found by using the extensive JAX Mice online database. Using their advanced search, one can search for mice by “phenotype of interest” or “human disease of interest.” Their database can also be searched by “disease term
To begin to understand the full scope of what JAX Mice offers it is worth taking some time to explore their database. Here are a few examples of what can be found with even minimal effort:
- If you were looking for mice who would develop tumors with unusual frequency you would have over 200 strains from which to choose. You could then decide that your preference is for muscular tumors, skeletal tumors, tumors that develop on the eye, tumors that develop in the urinary system, the respiratory system, or the reproductive system.
- You can find mice with heads that are of an abnormal shape or size.
- You can find mice who have been bred to be obese.
- You can find mice who suffer from paralysis and can select a strain with either front or hindlimb paralysis.
- There are mice who age and/or die prematurely.
- There are mice who suffer from a very wide range of eye abnormalities.
- There are mice with abnormally high or abnormally low pain thresholds
Every one of these conditions—and countless others—is a deliberately inflicted injury. The people at Jackson Laboratory are literally selecting for illness; breeding for disease and pathology. They may often speak of finding cures but their routine activity is the deliberate imposition of suffering on millions of individual animals. Furthermore, this suffering is generally amplified once the mice arrive at their final destination and are used in experiments at other institutions which can be highly invasive and most often deadly.
So those are some of the mice…but what about the services referenced in JAX Mice & Services name? If mice are the raw material, services may be said to provide the “value added” portion of their operation.
The JAX Mice site has a page titled “JAX Surgical & Preconditioning Services”. Experimenters can order mice with diet induced obesity, mice of various ages, and/or pregnant mice timed to deliver pups after being sent through the mail.
There are also various surgical procedures that mice may be subjected to prior to being shipped out. There is a lengthy list of “standard surgeries” they will perform for a set fee. They are willing to remove various organs, insert microchips, or do a brain cannulation. The brain cannulation procedure is described on their site as follows:
The cannula implanted in mice consists of a guide cannula and a dummy cannula. The guide cannula is placed into the brain at predetermined coordinates through a hole drilled in the skull. The dummy cannula consists of a cap that screws onto the guide cannula and has a stylet that inserts into the guide cannula to prevent materials from entering it when it’s not being used.
JAX Mice & Services boasts that: “We can age JAX Mice to display one or more of a variety of disease phenotypes, such as Alzheimer’s, alopecia, cancer, diet-induced obesity (DIO), and diabetes.”
The possibility of inflicting debilitating injury on an individual prior even to birth—effectively imposing cradle-to-grave suffering—may initially seem odd when in fact it is has become commonplace. Human children are increasingly poisoned in the womb, being born with a heavy body burden of industrial chemicals. They are then nursed on breast milk that may contain “DDT (the banned but stubbornly persistent pesticide famous for nearly wiping out the bald eagle), PCB’s, dioxin, trichloroethylene, perchlorate, mercury, lead, benzene, arsenic…paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline byproducts, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides and flame retardants.” (This is not to question the prudence of breast feeding for both mother and child; in a toxic world, this rocket fuel laden diet seemingly remains the best option available.)
In sum, the mice at Jackson Laboratory are simply further along the same trajectory of domestication that we ourselves are on. If they are a paradigm example of what it means to be domesticated; we are nonetheless following the same path even if we have not received our Stock Numbers yet. Not surprisingly, there is a wide gulf dividing so-called laboratory mice and their wild counterparts; for example, research results on laboratory mice cannot be reliably extrapolated to apply to field mice. The former have been too thoroughly manipulated to shed light on the later. But there is reason to be hopeful and to believe that the project of domestication is never complete, that fissures remain like cracks in concrete.
In 2003, Manuel Berdoy, an animal behaviorist from Oxford University, released 75 thoroughly domesticated and docile rats into an open field. The rats who had never previously been outside very quickly began to engage in the wild behavior of their peers, behavior that was suppressed when they were confined to a laboratory. They developed natural social hierarchies, mapped paths through their new terrain, and found food that was radically different from the pellets that were provided in the cages they left behind. Berdoy has said that:
“This shows that while we can take the animal from the wild, we have not have taken the wild out of the animal,”
The wild remains in every one of us regardless of how long we have lived in a cage.
- Search JAX Mice Database
- JAX Mice & Services Catalog June 2012 – May 2013 (PDF)
- JAX Mice Price List June 2011 – May 2013 (PDF)
- “The Laboratory Rat: A Natural History” documentary by Manuel Berdoy
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