Earlier this week, I spoke to Drexel University's Dr MinJun Kim about his exciting foray into the field of insect cybernetics. During the interview
Dr Kim explained how he and his colleagues were able to use tiny electrodes to directly control the movements of rhinoceros beetles, thus allowing them to film the insects in minute detail during flight.
The news of this research evoked a mixed reaction within our editorial office. Some, like me, were excited by the prospect of 'flying pretties'. Others, meanwhile, were concerned about the welfare of the coerced insects. Whilst explaining that the beetles came to no physical harm helped to allay certain fears, there persisted a good deal of sympathy for the subjects.
Just because I didn't immediately think of the rhinoceros beetles' feelings, doesn't mean that others won't. Just because I want a remotely controlled rhinoceros beetle, doesn't mean that others do. It is therefore my mid-April resolution to be more considerate to my animal friends, and to my human friends with animal friends.
This reaction, somewhat surprisingly, surprised me. When I first read the phrase, 'remotely controlled beetles', my immediate response was childish wonderment, and I did not once consider the potential plight of the beetles involved. I still have no qualms about the part that they played in Dr Kim's research, but I have at least realised that not everybody thinks as I do.
Elsewhere on ScienceOmega.com
, Dr Penny Hawkins, Deputy Head of the RSPCA Research Animals Department, has outlined an upcoming EU directive that could change the landscape of animal experimentation. In her article
Dr Hawkins explains why she is optimistic that the new legislation will help to minimise the suffering of animals involved in scientific experimentation. She concluded by emphasising the RSPCA's commitment to reducing the number of animals experiencing severe suffering in research and testing.
It seems to me that it would be difficult – regardless of your side of the fence – to take umbrage with this ambition. Perhaps the 'fence' is illusory. I doubt that many animal rights campaigners believe that scientists are in favour of animal suffering, just as I doubt that many scientists believe that animal rights campaigners are motivated by anything other than their commitment to improving animal welfare. There is surely a sizable core of interested parties that would like to see the continued advancement of science in tandem with improvements to animal welfare.
And so to the valuable lesson that I have taken from another exciting fortnight at Omega Towers; a pinch of empathy can lead to a dollop of understanding. Just because I didn't immediately think of the rhinoceros beetles' feelings, doesn't mean that others won't. Just because I want a remotely controlled rhinoceros beetle*, doesn't mean that others do. It is therefore my mid-April resolution to be more considerate to my animal friends, and to my human friends with animal friends.
Now, I realise that I have come dangerously close to discussing a serious issue in my blog, and I feel that this mistake must be rectified immediately. Therefore, as the prospect of a remotely controlled rhinoceros beetle appeals to my inner child, I have been wondering about other critters that I would like to have in my corner. So, without further ado, here are my three most-wanted animal sidekicks.
At number three, I have chosen the noble tiger. Fearsome and beautiful, this big cat would make an excellent animal amigo. Having my own Bengal buddy would certainly get me noticed about town, and unwanted houseguests would be a thing of the past.
At number two I have picked the mischievous mosquito. Obviously, I am not interested in spreading malaria, so my mosquito** would have to be disease-free. However, having one of these little blood-suckers on my side would offer me the opportunity to inconspicuously annoy those who annoy me. Estate agents beware; traffic wardens take cover; run for the hills Jeremy Kyle!
Topping my list of most-wanted animal sidekicks is the incomparable orangutan. Our primate cousins are pretty darn close to us, physiologically speaking, and I could genuinely imagine us becoming good friends. Also, Clint seemed to be having an absolute hoot in Every Which Way But Loose
* Are you listening Santa?
** Named Monty
*** Get 'em Clyde!