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From the Editor

Animal health at Milken

- Wednesday, February 2, 2011

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Rachel Chistyakov

Voices Editor

Recently, many cases of animal abuse have been appearing all over the media. During the past few weeks, a video surfaced, depicting a teenage boy placing two kittens in a plastic bag and suffocating them with a vacuum cleaner. Another man was charged with animal cruelty after he threw his girlfriend’s kitten at a wall, killing it because it disconnected his video game. A few months ago, another video came up to show a Swedish girl throwing six puppies into a river while cheering as they whimpered. Even more recent, South Korea buried live, innocent pigs in order to prevent a disease from spreading.

Animal cruelty is not a recent trend; animals have been abused, killed, and publically disrespected for ages. As an animal activist, I know what’s going on in the world of animal advocacy and health, receiving daily emails from PETA and the ASPCA. But after these videos and news articles surfaced, I began to think about how the people I know personally treat animals. This led me to realize that, on a daily basis, Milken shows it’s support for animal care, health, and rights.

In Biology classes, many sophomores, juniors, and seniors had the experience of dissecting a rat, pig, or a worm. When I think of a dissection lab, my mind instantly goes to an episode of South Park in which a dissection lab went terribly wrong; the class accidently began to dissect endangered manatees that happened to still be living.

However, the atmosphere in Milken’s Biology classrooms was not one you would expect from a dissection lab- students were respectful to the animals and were asked not to take pictures or play around with the animals.

“Before the lab, my classes had a debate over bioethics in order to prepare for the lab and to learn to respect and understand the sanctity of life. Understanding this is part of a scientist’s responsibility to the world. I wanted the students to see the animals as things that were once living, not just as a science experiment. Out of respect, I didn’t want any of the students to take pictures of the dissection. I feel that we had to deal with these issues of bioethics, because a lot of students did have moral concerns about the lab,” Mr. Pavel Lieb, Biology teacher, said.

Besides the dissection, another exciting prospect that comes in the Biology lab is the fish tank, donated by Emily and Teddy Seidman. The fish have been at Milken for a couple of years, replacing a previous tank of fish. They are fed daily by all of the science teachers during breaks and are cleaned every Tuesday by Ed from Underwater Depot. Although the fish are mainly there for aesthetic purposes, the Biology teachers are incorporating a way to work the fish into their classes.

“The fish tanks have delicate ecosystems within them, and we use them to talk about ecology. Personally, I’m attached to the clown fish because she’s been here forever and I think she’s cool. She just sits in the anemone all day,” Dr. Damon Scoville, Chemistry and Biology teacher, said.

Since the fish are the only living animals on campus, some might consider the fish to be Milken’s school pet. The Biology teachers think otherwise.

“First of all, the fish are not Milken’s pet, they are the science department’s pet. Secondly, we don’t really think of them as pets; we don’t think about them at all outside of the classroom. But they are well taken care of and rotated out every now and then,” Scoville said.

Biology pets

Lieb and Scoville pose with their biology pets.

Even beyond the classroom, Milken does its part in helping animals. Vicky’s Lunchbox, the popular and delicious lunch service at Milken, has a vegetarian option, making it easy for students to live a vegetarian lifestyle. The Student Store moms have graciously installed a kosher meat microwave and a kosher dairy microwave for students who follow the rules of kashrut. Students at Milken who do not keep kosher also play their part by refraining from bringing non-kosher meat to school for lunch, respecting the students who follow a different lifestyle.

“No one is sharply critical of vegetarians, even though it’s harder to eat Vicki’s. We’re generally accepted at Milken,” Daniel Kort ’12 said.

Kort and his piscatarian girlfriend, Nina Castilla ’12, are one of the only (if not the only) non-meat eating couples at Milken. Attending Milken has not raised any food related problems in their relationship.

“We don’t have to worry about going on dates because the bagels at the student store are totally vegetarian. Only my parents are concerned about my eating habits; every one at Milken loves me!” Castilla admitted.

While the terms “Milken” and “animal health” don’t immediately click, these topics are undoubtedly linked and harmonious. Students, teachers, and administration members take part in keeping the animals (and animal lovers) on a campus that is safe and abuse-free.

Bagel

Kort and Castilla enjoy a bagel from the Student Store.


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3 Comments

  1. student says:

    THE FISH TANK IS SO DIRTY!!!!!! WHATS UP WITH THAT, ED !?!?

    • Ms. Dreyer says:

      Regarding the state of the fish tank, I would be curious to know what you think “dirty” means for a fish tank. Depending on the fish tank, certain algaes and other visually off-putting growths in aquariums can be desired. They sometimes can be beneficial to the ecostystem and the health of the fish. Often, aquarium owners clean the aquarium walls and decorative objects to preserve a pristine appearance. But the reality is that surfaces do not need to LOOK clean in order to BE clean. Many experienced hobbyists only scrape down the front side of the glass (to see the fish) and leave the other three walls natural, to promote the growth of good bacteria.

      As Rachel points out so well, we should all consider it our responsibility to look out for the welfare of all living things, including our fish on campus. However, I would encourage you, if you are genuinely concerned for the fish, to speak to the biology teachers and make sure that what you think is “dirty” is really cause for concern.

  2. David Kates says:

    This is an engaging discussion of animal welfare.

    I would recommend the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, which looks at the ethics of what we eat, particularly factory farmed animals. It is available at the Library.

    Also, Ms. Ordower pointed out January 25’s Torah portion commentary in The Jewish Journal by Rabbi Haim Ovadia, “Sustainable Judaism”: http://www.jewishjournal.com/torah_portion/article/sustainable_judaism_-_parashat_mishpatim_exodus_211-2418_20110125/

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