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|Let Sleeping Hogs Lie|
|Written by Joni Coleman, Illustrated by Mia Balashova|
|Saturday, 06 November 2010 13:53|
“Hey... I think I need to bury my pig...”
It sounds like the world’s worst chat-up line, but for the medical researchers of Bolzano Emergency Medical Centre, Italy, and Innsbruck University, Austria, a mass burial of sedated pigs was a deadly serious issue, seeking to increase their understanding of the nature of air pockets under avalanches. Unfortunately for Hermann Brugger and his team, their attempt to conduct research that, they hoped, would improve the success of mountain rescue (or, at worst, provide them with 29 frozen hog-roasts for the Innsbruck May Ball), was prevented by animal rights groups, who condemned the “bizarre and macabre” experiment to the trough of history through the power of the complaint.
This issue dominates the public perception of science. On one hand, the potential gain of this experiment is clear – everyone loves bacon, including those people who are unfortunate enough to be trapped in an avalanche, but fortunate enough to be near an air pocket. Such people make up 20% of avalanche victims every year, and this research could have led to a greater understanding of how to save them. On the other hand (and because, whilst Weevil is a rag-tag group of hardy science nerds, laughing in the face of fear, I dislike being firebombed), it seems more than a little harsh to the pigs. After all, they are people too – well, mammals – and even though they would have been asleep and contributing to the improvement of life-saving techniques, they probably didn’t sign a consent form.
This leaves the world with a dilemma: how to analyse the effect of air pockets on trapped humans, without using living, feeling beings, or, failing that, Oxford University students. The animal rights protestors suggested using human subjects (the researchers themselves), which seems contrary to the nature of their argument for compassion; besides, no journal is going to accept a paper written by a pig on the effects of air pockets on researchers. If they do, it’s going to cost a lot to translate.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 06 November 2010 18:53|