Letters for January 11, 2001

Which comes first?

Re “Neigh Sayers” by Amy Yannello (SN&R, Dec. 28):

Horse activist Helen Sudal bemoans the mistreatment of thousands of horses to produce the drug Premarin. At the same time, she shows no concern for the billions of chickens who are treated inhumanely and slaughtered for food each year in the United States: “When you start talking about not eating chickens … you lose credibility in my book.”

Sudal’s choose-your-favorite-mammal brand of animal advocacy is exactly the kind of flaky, inconsistent moralizing that her opponents can rightly seize on. Her philosophically bankrupt remarks make it clear that the best reason she can offer for protecting horses, but not chickens and other “food animals,” is that she happens to feel all warm and fuzzy about horses. Her own reasoning would allow me to argue that if I feel warm and fuzzy about chickens, but not horses, there’s no reason to get all worked up about harming horses to make Premarin.

In fairness, Sudal does offer one “reason” for permitting the pain and slaughtering of chickens: “They’re stupid birds.” Putting aside the empirical question of just how “stupid” chickens are, Sudal apparently fails to grasp the absurd implications of using intelligence as the criterion for deciding when it’s morally justifiable to inflict suffering on a sentient creature. There is nothing to stop her opponents from agreeing with her criterion—and using it to exclude horses from moral consideration. After all, horses, compared with humans, are “stupid.” Finally, with intelligence being her criterion, one shudders to think how humans who are newborn, senile, insane, severely retarded or brain-damaged would fare under Sudal’s ethical “philosophy.”

David Graham

Save the horses and the fat

Re “Neigh Sayers” by Amy Yannello (SN&R, Dec. 28):

Thank you so much for the cover story about Premarin and Prempro, and how horses are suffering and dying to produce these hormones that are prescribed to women daily.

I stopped taking Premarin years ago when my friend, a horse enthusiast, pointed this same issue out to me. I cannot and will not be responsible for the suffering of other creatures. I now use a plant-based estrogen patch. Thank you for pointing out that the estrogen in patches by Climara, Vivelle etc., is not gleaned from suffering horses, but comes from plant sources.

A nice bonus is that preliminary studies suggest that “the patch” does not cause the fatty weight gain associated with taking oral estrogens (see “The New England Journal of Medicine”, Letters to the Editor, Winter, 1995).

Lorna Snell

Felt pain

Re “Last Words” by Steven T. Jones (SN&R, Dec. 21):

I began work in a clerical office with [the UC system] in 1977 and was happy as a clam. At that time I felt appreciated and received many benefits not available in private industry. By 1989, with new management at the upper levels, positions were eliminated and not filled again. I was forced to leave my position because of stress and depression.

When I returned five years later (because I had already invested 12 years in the retirement system), I found a totally uncaring [UC system]. One that put money and growth ahead of the well-being of its workforce, with reduced benefits, pay far below equivalent work outside of the system and a lack of respect coming down from President Atkinson and directed towards the Chancellors, Deans, etc.

What happened with Ms. McDaniel is far from a rare occurrence within the UC system. Thank you for taking the time to look into and research this, and the courage to report it.

Rita Skinner
Riverside, CA

Fight the burnout

Re “Last Words” by Steven T. Jones (SN&R, Dec. 21):

I was quite distressed after reading Mr. Jones’ article regarding the tragic death of Donna McDaniel. His investigation into Donna McDaniel’s suicide brought about by a history of job stress and ill treatment while working at the University of California at Davis campus is correct.

I am currently employed as a Hospital Unit Service Coordinator at UC Davis Medical Center here in Sacramento. It’s a position that is high stress with little acknowledgement. I applaud Mr. Jones and his diligent research concerning this tragic story. I wish I could say that Donna McDaniel’s story is unique, but it isn’t.

The coalition of unions at the UC campus and medical center have begun a campaign to increase public and legislative awareness concerning patient and employee safety, use and misuse of taxpayer’s money, and respect and proper treatment in the workplace.

I was surprised to see a similar line in the article that was told to me during my recent evaluation, “I would like to see you be more proactive in your thinking and your actions.” I was totally shocked to find out that no other paper made the crucial connection between UC Davis burnout and Donna’s suicide except SN&R. I would be very interested to find out why other papers did not cover this connection. I also hope that Mr. Jones will continue this story as the employees continue the struggle against UC Davis burnout.

Don Schorn

Nationalistic elitism

Re “Political Survivor” by Steven Hill (SN&R Guest Comment, Dec. 28):

What do you mean, Steven Hill, when you give, as an “extreme” example, that “even Brazil has computer voting machines”? Do you think it’s outrageous and shameful that a South American country can surpass the United States in terms of modern technology and democracy?

It is sad to realize that even well-meaning liberal Americans slip so easily into prejudice and conservatism when it comes to believing in the United States’ superiority over other countries. Perhaps it is due to their ignorance on those issues since schools and news journalism in the U.S. are so poor in giving information on international culture, politics and economics. But I still hope that America will turn its eyes to Brazil and other so-called third world countries in search of important lessons, not only about election systems, but more about modesty and tolerance.

Leila Couceiro

Helmet therapy remolds

Re “Bless the Child and Pass the Scalpel” by R.V. Scheide, (SN&R, Dec. 14):

I also have a child, my third, born with craniosynostosis. She was finally diagnosed correctly at six months old and doctors insisted on a full craniectomy. Unlike the Armstrongs, we fought against that procedure because of the risks. We instead found Dr. David Jimenez (on the Internet and also featured in the July ’99 issue of Parents Magazine) at the University of Columbia who removed the closed suture. What made our surgery a success (besides the fact that he and his partner Dr. Constance Barrone are brilliant surgeons), was that Dr. Jimenez’s patients go thru “helmet” therapy. To remold the child’s head into the correct shape, our baby wears a specially made helmet approximately 22 hours a day. Our baby was in the hospital for one night, with no blood transfusion and minimal swelling. We are thrilled with her appearance and her continued progress, without the horrific surgery the Armstrongs’ baby went through.

I was so sad to hear that the original surgeon who operated on their baby in Colorado Springs did not take the simple step of helmet therapy. A baby’s brain grows the most during the first six months of life, which is the best chance for complete re-shaping of the head through helmet therapy. The Armstrongs’ baby probably would have had no need for additional surgery since the suture was re-opened at 12 weeks. None of Dr. Jimenez’s patients so far have required a second surgery.

Kimberly Frost
Los Angeles

This is a non-hostile headline

Re “Radioactivity is safe, sissies!” (SN&R Letters, Dec. 28):

I don’t quite know if it’s hostility, sarcasm, facetiousness or simple stupidity that motivated the subject caption to my letter that appeared in the Dec. 28 issue of your paper. It’s probably all of the above. Let me set the record straight. Radioactivity is extremely dangerous—even deadly, which is why the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission lays out in excruciating detail the precise manner in which radioactive substances need to be shielded to protect the public. And they have been doing a superb job of it. The record simply speaks for itself.

The spin you put on my letter demonstrates that you really do have a bias. Your refusal to accept my offer to write an article in opposition to “Still Glowing” by J.A. Savage (SN&R, Dec. 7) is further evidence of this bias. In view of the severe shortages of fossil fuels that the next generation will face, the level of atmospheric pollution that will [be] dumped on us [as well as] the prospect of global warming, is a combination that will have a devastating effect upon human civilization. It is sheer irresponsibility to deny your readers access to the alternate view of the necessity of nuclear power. By not giving your readers both sides of the story, one can only conclude that what you publish is not journalism, but blatant propaganda.

Martin W. Schwartz