The Silent Ark
16: The End
There is a sense of society having reached a watershed. Disenchantment
with politicians is almost absolute and few people have any belief
in their ability to be truthful or to solve the overwhelming problems
which confront us, some of which I have written about in this book.
We in the West have had two centuries or more of raping the rest
of the world in order to bolster our way of life. We are surrounded
by the legacy of that conduct. The centres of our large cities are
places where brutality is squeezing out hope and where aspirations
are being smothered at birth. Sub-cultures of disinterest and despair
blossom where hope has been extinguished. The quest for knowledge
and understanding has been subverted into a production line of industrial
and commercial fodder.
With the exception of a privileged minority, which has a vested
interest in wealth and power, it is almost impossible to find anyone
who believes that we have discovered any answers to the questions
of survival. Our continuance on this globe is in doubt because of
greed, but still the only philosophy on offer is one of selfishness
As a consequence, an armoury of laws and military tactics has
been prepared for use against those who will never be amongst the
favoured; to control those who express their frustrations in anger
on the streets.
This is why the protesters against live exports offer encouragement
to all of us. There is not one shred of self-interest in their actions,
simply a heart-felt cry to place concern and care above the right
to make profits. It is an eddy of hope in the middle of a powerful
tide bearing us all towards an increasingly unsustainable future.
Part of this future is the new ‘salvation’ of genetic
engineering. It is the latest in a long line of ‘miracles’
- nuclear energy, antibiotics, the green revolution - and just as
all these had a dramatic downside, so will engineering experimentation.
It’s just that no one is prepared to admit it.
The first acknowledgement of genetic ‘success’ was
the granting of the very first patent for a life form at Harvard
University in 1992. It was the oncomouse. This little creature was
bred to develop cancer after only six weeks of life and immediately
became a commodity for sale to vivisection laboratories, saving
them the task of having to induce cancer in their own mice.
A whole string of similar experiments is taking place across the
world. I’ve already mentioned the Belgian Blue cow (see page
84). Meanwhile, in the Swiss Brown cow, a gene has been deliberately
activated to trigger a brain disease to which they’re susceptible.
The reason is that cows which suffer from the disease naturally
tend to have an increased milk yield. The US Department of Agriculture
produced transgenic lambs with added growth hormone. Their fate
was to develop degeneration of the liver and kidneys which was believed
to have been caused by a form of diabetes. Other experimenters repeated
the process with almost the same results. All the lambs involved
in the experiment died of their diseases before they were 12 months
Experiments are also taking place to introduce a tobacco gene
into sheep to act as an insect repellent and ward off blowfly strike.
Perhaps the most repellent experiment which has so far come to
light took place in 1985 in the US when human growth hormones were
introduced into a pig - the Beltsville pig. This poor creature was
stricken with arthritis and when it tried to walk it could only
crawl around on its knees. Most of the time it simply lay still,
obviously stressed and in pain, incapable of fighting off a whole
range of diseases which afflicted it. Despite this travesty, the
Beltsville pig was capable of reproduction - but so far we have
not been told what happened to its offspring.
The same National Cancer Institute, producer of the Beltsville
pig, is still at it, playing creator with a range of animals, the
latest of which is the supermouse. Cancer manifests itself by the
uncontrolled growth of cells and they have used this fatal tendency
to try and produce faster-growing food animals. Using a human gene
which is linked to the growth of cancerous cells, they have, they
claim, produced a mouse which grows to twice the normal size. They
have not revealed their failures.
This gene is now being tried in pigs and although the results
are secret, the BBC2 documentary Meat, transmitted in May 1995,
indicated that the creatures suffer severe muscle wasting. In order
to forestall public concern about the use of a cancer gene in human
food, it has been renamed a ‘growth’ gene.
The same TV documentary revealed that in Israel, they have identified
the gene which causes chickens’ necks to be scraggy and featherless
and the one responsible for causing feathers to curl. By combining
the two in experimental chickens they have produced a near-bald
bird, its bare flesh exposed by the remaining curly feathers. And
all so they can build broiler sheds in the inhospitable heat of
the Negev desert.
All across the world, multinational agribusinesses have spent
billions on developing animal and vegetable products and thousands
of patents are pending. We know nothing of these corporations’
work, its failures and implications, but the products are on the
way. They will come onto the market and be bought by an unsuspecting
public, for the British Government, for one, has no intention of
requiring labelling. So far in the UK only the Co-op has broken
ranks and intends to label the food it sells as having been ‘genetically
Experimenters are playing with the 100 or so genes they have managed
to map in complex animals which contain millions of genes, most
of which are a total mystery to them. They have no idea what will
be the result of mixing, matching and introducing entirely foreign
So we can look forward to a future in which animals, including
humans, will be the players in a huge improvised drama with no script
and no known ending. The cast could include hairless pigs, sheep
with even hairier coats, hibernating sheep, asexual cattle, pigs
with cat leukaemia genes and vegetables with fish genes. The encore
might well be vegetables that produce meat-like substances from
animal genes - at least that is the intention.
The West’s stranglehold on the developing world will strengthen
with the production of seeds that can only be grown with specific
pesticides, ensuring even greater control over others’ agriculture
None of this, of course, has anything to do with feeding the starving
of the world. Companies cloak their experiments with expressions
of hope for the developing world, but these are the same people
who could end world famine today if they so wished. Instead, the
huge development expenditure will be recouped through high prices,
ensuring that the products are placed out of reach of those who
need feeding the most. Anyway, who needs a six-legged chicken which
tastes of asparagus or an 80kg cauliflower that can whistle?
Around the globe, the conditions for warfare have been created
as land, water and food, the basic requirements of life, start to
diminish. And the only solution on offer is the policy which created
these conditions. A restrospective view of the last few decades
should send a chill running through us all because our path into
the future will be charted from the same stars, the twinklings of
an imploding society. The people who have made such a mess claim
the right, the perception and the ability to solve the world’s
problems. It’s like giving the National Front responsibility
for race relations.
Perhaps the simplest and most easily understood indicator that
our current leaders have got it wrong is their insistence that we
are all motivated by our wallets. There are hundreds of millions
of vegetarians in the world and not one is motivated by money. Some
are concerned about health, others are appalled by the squalid exploitation
and slaughter of animals, for some it is the environment which is
the main issue and for the others the exploitation of developing
countries. For most, it is a mixture of all these reasons.
Certainly the protesters who blockaded the ports of Brightlingsea,
Dover and Shoreham and Coventry airport in all weathers did not
first feel for their wallets; neither do the Viva! supporters who
stand handing out leaflets and rattling tins for hours on end in
high streets across the country; neither do the children who have
flocked to our nationwide marches and spoken words to fill our eyes
with tears and our hearts with hope.
This might be the start of a great movement for change. Certainly,
such a simple and effective choice has rarely confronted people.
By changing your diet you can take the first step in allowing the
planet to breathe again, allowing the healing process to start.
There is nothing else under your control that can immediately ease
the destruction of the environment and begin to correct the impoverishment
of the world’s poor. There is nothing else that can so effectively
improve your own health and there is certainly nothing else that
will have such an influence on ending the barbarous existence to
which so many animals are subjected.
Compassion is one of the greatest human traits and it has been
diminished to the point of frailty. If our children are to grow
and prosper then we must reassert it and we must be aware that it
is incompatible with our present society. Changing the world has
to start with first changing ourselves and then the system under
which we live.