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77 responses to “What We Didn’t Blog Lately”

  1. Fran Barlow

    I made a comment the other day on dealing with the trade in rhino horn. I proposed attacking it by using counterfeit horn to destroy the market. Nobody has commented at this stage, AFAIK …

    I said:

    I was listening on Thursday to Fran Kelly’s RN Breakfast show — gosh I’m a sucker for punishment. Dr Joseph Okori, Head of WWF’s Rhino Program in Africa came on to discuss the escalating toll in rhino horn harvest in Africa. The practice not only threatens an endangered species but is cruel in its execution to the rhino, often leaving them to die a horrible death shortly after being butchered. I found it hard to listen to and very much shared Dr Okori’s hope that this egregious trade could be stamped out. As people will know, the rhino horn is believed (amongst other things but wrongly) to possess the capacity to secure remission from cancer. What we have here then is a situation in which criminals torturing to death animals to secure the feedstock to produce bogus medication to sell to ignorant fools.

    Currently, governments battling the poachers are enagged in something rather like a small-scale counter-insurgency in which human casualties are mounting. WWF is trying to put pressure on the governments of countries at the end of the provenance chain (mostly in South East Asia and China) to clamp down harder on the traffickers.

    I couldn’t but wonder though whether there might not be a more effective solution. What would happen if governments who supported efforts to break the rhino horn smugglers’ business model ( I knew I’d find a better use for that formulation) began releasing counterfeit rhino horn through informal channels, so that in the end, those dealing the actual product were able to source rival product at a slight discount to the going rate of the actual product? This could be a major revenue source to the governments and these funds could be used to intensify the crackdown on poachers and their networks. The laws of supply and demand would rapidly force down the price as the market was perpetually flooded with “cheap” rhino horn, but the governments could keep supplying until actual rhino horn simply couldn’t be harvested viably. As the proportion of actual rhino horn fell below about 10% there could be selective leaks of a massive scam in fake rhino horn, accompanied by an information campaign showing that the actual rhino horn could not deliver the benefits people imagined.

    I see no particular ethical problem with this, provided the counterfeit products were totally innocuous to end users or at any rate no worse than actual rhino horn. It’s not as if anyone was entitled to rely on getting what they fancied they were getting when buying this odious product.

  2. Russell

    Fran – what happens to belief that anything is what it is supposed to be, if it becomes OK for governments to ‘release’ counterfeit products on the market? It’s wrong. Better to spread the message that (much cheaper) buffalo horn will do the job if you take more of it.

  3. Fran Barlow

    Russell said:

    what happens to belief that anything is what it is supposed to be, if it becomes OK for governments to ‘release’ counterfeit products on the market?

    Nothing. It would be clear why this was being done — to smash the market, by destroying its integrity. Of course, you’d try to keep it secret as long as possible while selectively leaking that those selling actual rhino horn were the scammers. Disinformation is also power.

    Better to spread the message that (much cheaper) buffalo horn will do the job if you take more of it.

    No thanks. You’d have to lie to non-criminals if you did that. That would be stepping over the line.

  4. savvy

    @Fran
    “No thanks. You’d have to lie to non-criminals if you did that. That would be stepping over the line.”

    What lie would that be exactly?

  5. Russell

    Fran – we need to keep the government away from lying, hard enough at the best of times. What you propose is government dishonesty, what I propose isn’t.

  6. Occam's Blunt Razor

    I’d like to go hunting people who kill rhinos for their horns but there are laws against that.

  7. GregM

    .

    ts who supported efforts to break the rhino horn smugglers’ business model ( I knew I’d find a better use for that formulation) began releasing counterfeit rhino horn through informal channels, so that in the end, those dealing the actual product were able to source rival product at a slight discount to the going rate of the actual product?

    Fran, where would you get this counterfeit rhino horn from? Other rhinoes?

    Rhino horns are fairly distinctive in shape and I’d feel fairly confident that even if a rhino horn was ground down to a powder its potential buyers would soon develop a simple test, if they haven’t already done so, to determine if they were buying the real thing.

  8. Fran Barlow

    GregM said:

    I’d feel fairly confident that even if a rhino horn was ground down to a powder its potential buyers would soon develop a simple test, if they haven’t already done so, to determine if they were buying the real thing.

    I’d be confident that industrial chemists could come up with something that was both innocuous and would pass muster. Even if they couldn’t quite do it though, in the end, the sellers only need something plausible for the scam to work. It’s not as if the end users are going to know.

  9. Fran Barlow

    Savvy asked:

    What lie would that be exactly?

    That buffalo horn had therapeutic application for cataracts, cancer, was an aphrodisiac etc …

  10. Fran Barlow

    Russell

    What you propose is government dishonesty, what I propose isn’t.

    1. Lying to an enemy in times of war is defencible

    2. You propose lying to people who are entitled to the truth, which act is not defencible.

  11. jumpy

    Fran, savvy may have wanted to say,
    “”"”Better to spread the message that (much cheaper) buffalo horn will do the(same) job, if you take more of it.”"”"

    That wouldn’t be a lie.

    Feel free to correct me savvy.

  12. GregM

    I’d be confident that industrial chemists could come up with something that was both innocuous and would pass muster. Even if they couldn’t quite do it though, in the end, the sellers only need something plausible for the scam to work. It’s not as if the end users are going to know.

    Fran you have a great and misplaced faith in industrial chemists. Rhino horn is the product of a living animal and its species. It carries the genetic traces of that. I am not aware of anything that suggests that industrial chemists are remotely close to simulating the distinctive DNA signatures of a species of animal. Perhaps you can point us to the research that suggests they can.

    And given the amount that the end users pay for rhino horn do you really think they are going to be as credulous as you suggest?

    This authoritative source suggests that rhino horn is worth more than gold.

    http://www.skynews.com.au/eco/article.aspx?id=650547&vId

    Why should we think that the end buyers, in China and elsewhere in East Asia, are going to be any less careful about the rhino horn they are buying than they are when they buy gold?

  13. Fran Barlow

    GregM said:

    Fran you have a great and misplaced faith in industrial chemists. Rhino horn is the product of a living animal and its species. It carries the genetic traces of that.

    I’m no kind of expert in the illegal trade in rhino horn, but if you are going to do this kind of testing, you are going to need not only labs, but chain of custody control since the incentives to cheat would be enormous.

    In the end, people who believe that rhino horn releives cataracts or cancer are unlikely to be able to tell fake rhino from real rhino. They aren’t going to have the nose for it. (pun intended)

  14. Fran Barlow

    {relieves}

  15. alfred venison

    dear Russell
    i too, for various reasons, couldn’t countenance selling a “bogus” endangered dead-animal traditional medicine product to deluded non-criminal dying people, but I could countenance selling deluded non-criminal dying people the “bogus” belief that a substitute non- endangered dead-animal traditional medicine product is just as good in double doses.

    in either case, you’re not going to cure them of their belief in the efficacy of dead-animal traditional medicine & both options involve lying to them about it.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  16. GregM

    @10 {defencible} twice.

    defensible. Both times.

    Sorry. Just being a pedant. A pedant’s lot is not a happy one.

  17. jumpy

    @16
    Touché .

  18. GregM

    I’m no kind of expert in the illegal trade in rhino horn, but if you are going to do this kind of testing, you are going to need not only labs, but chain of custody control since the incentives to cheat would be enormous.

    Which raises the question of how, if you are, according to your cunning plan, going to introduce counterfeit rhino horn into the market you are going to get away with it given these chains of custody control that you believe you would have to counterfeit in order to carry out your most excellent scam.

    In the end, people who believe that rhino horn releives cataracts or cancer are unlikely to be able to tell fake rhino from real rhino. They aren’t going to have the nose for it. (pun intended)

    What is the slightest evidence that you have for that? Leaving aside your own blind faith in your unsupported opinion?

  19. alfred venison

    dear anyone
    re defence or defense & their formations. this might amuse:-
    http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/BritishCanadianAmerican.htm
    strictly btw, telus is my sister’s isp.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  20. GregM

    Alfred

    Thank you for your contribution @18.

    Believe me, no literate Australian fails to understand that the spelling in Australian English is “defensible”.

  21. Russell

    Dear Alf,

    Please don’t repeat this calumny of Fran’s that I propose lying to anyone – I am claiming that in traditional Chinese medicine (of which I was the unwilling recipient back in my China days and I have to say it never worked for me) you can substitute one kind of horn with the other: buffalo horn isn’t as potent as rhino horn, but take enough of it and you will get the same result.

    I didn’t expect to find anything on this in PubMed, but being a librarian I naturally started there, and lo, read this

    There are Google-able sites which also mention the possibility of substitution: this one from the Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which says buffalo horn can substitute for rhino in treating jaundice.

    Here’s a recipe for Supreme Jewel Elixir (‘opens the orifices’) which calls for rhino horn or water buffalo horn

    This site says “A practice that is popular is the substitution of a similar species of animals or plants to replace the wildlife and endangered ones, such as buffalo horn replacing rhinoceros horn. This research was done as far back as the 1970s and the buffalo horn was officially listed in the Chinese Pharmaceutical Code”.

    I could go on, but can’t believe I’ve already wasted this much time defending my reputation by Googling ‘rhinoceros and buffalo horn’

  22. Patrickb

    @12
    “Fran you have a great and misplaced faith in industrial chemists.”
    True. Perhaps biologists specialising in genetics would be more useful. They may be able to grow stand alone horns in the lab (providing its not to cold, shrinkage you understand).

  23. savvy

    @PatrickB
    “True. Perhaps biologists specialising in genetics would be more useful. They may be able to grow stand alone horns in the lab”

    Not sure if it is possible to grow stand alone hair is it?

  24. alfred venison

    dear anyone
    well-off believers already want the real thing & nothing less and that’s why they’re prepared to pay big money, if necessary, to get it.

    i reckon suppliers to the well-off believers already are prepared to do whatever is needed to address buyer concerns re provenance & chain of custody. the stronger the assurance of authenticity to the well-off believer/buyer, the greater the amount that can be charged by the seller.

    and i don’t reckon “field lab units” to test the genetics of product would be hard to make or buy – they do it with drugs now.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  25. alfred venison

    dear Russell
    what you say about substitution & perceived efficacy illuminates a lot. thanks.

    please be assured my reference to “lying” etc was meant as a rye contrast to confronting & challenging believers to see “reality” instead of believing. my proposal was meant in the spirit of gaming the system, as it were, by playing on the “lies”, but, your substitution practice proposal, already supported as it is by existing folk medicine theory (i bet there’s a tri-gram or two in there somewhere) is, i now see, much neater.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  26. murph the surf.

    I think all this talk about horns will get some one upset.
    The rest of the idea is hair raising.

  27. Patrickb

    @23
    You knows!? “Scientists” are probably capable of all sorts of sciency stuff, and I wouldn’t be surprised if stand-alone hair is right up there on the science community’s todo list. In fact, if certain sources are to be believed, Brendan Nelson’s hair was sentient. Unlike Barnaby Joyce’s head which is in fact made of one part sand, 2 parts cement.

  28. Russell

    Dear Alf,

    I think a more interesting aspect of this bizarre conversation lies around the issue Fran raises with this: “bogus medication to sell to ignorant fools.” or this: “In the end, people who believe that rhino horn releives cataracts or cancer are unlikely to be able to tell fake rhino from real rhino. They aren’t going to have the nose for it.”

    Is this saying that a billion Chinese are ignorant fools because their medicine is different to ours? That when we do a test of their medicines (nearly always not in the way that they use them) and don’t get a result, then why don’t they just realise their foolishness and come on over to our system?

    The Chinese medicine I was made to take never worked for me, but the Chinese I know are very convinced that it works for them.

  29. Fran Barlow

    GregM said:

    @10 {defencible} twice. {defensible}. Both times.

    Indeed. Feel free to put this piece of syntax under the heading “whimsy”. While there can be no doubt that orthodox syntax is defensible it makes more sense, IMO, to spell it as I have, at least in AusE/BrE, given that we spell the corresponding noun with a “c”. I’m quietly seeking to make this an accepted spelling, and raising the argument when prompted. Thanks for contributing to the campaign.

    Sorry. Just being a pedant. A pedant’s lot is not a happy one.

    Tough was the term I used. One can be happy in the face of tough things.

  30. Fran Barlow

    Russell said:

    Is this saying that a billion Chinese are ignorant fools because their medicine is different to ours?

    It’s always salutary to be reminded that it is not merely reactionaries that can find a use for strawman arguments. What makes medicine “therapy” is efficacy. One measures efficacy in clinical trials and reports on them in peer-reviewed journals. As has been said often enough in a different context, one is entitled to one’s own opinions, but not one’s own facts.

    I know of no research that says that 1 billion Chinese believe that rhino horn has therapeutic utility commensurate with a price of $55,000 per pound or whatever it is, but even were this so, it would not make the view less foolish.

  31. Fran Barlow

    And further to Rusell’s observation, it seems that the Traditional CHinese Medicine community removed rhino horn from their pharmacopeia in 1993.

    http://www.rhinoconservation.org/2011/09/09/chinese-medicine-organization-speaks-out-against-use-of-rhino-horn/

    GregM said:

    Which raises the question of how, if you are, according to your cunning plan, going to introduce counterfeit rhino horn into the market you are going to get away with it given these chains of custody control that you believe you would have to counterfeit in order to carry out your most excellent scam.

    Given that the activity is illegal, the end users are not going to have access to reliable validation. Those who buy illicit mood altering drugs are obliged to assume both that they are neither getting cheated nor poisoned. In the case of mood-altering drugs they will quickly find out if the first applies, and if they are being poisoned, they will find out the second fairly quickly. However, in the case of counterfeit rhino horn, the bar is low and users have no scope to complain about being cheated.

    That said, you do raise a salient point about technical feasibility. If it’s not possible to contrive something that could pass muster as rhino horn, then the idea is moot. Perhaps settling this point would be the most useful approach.

  32. Fran Barlow

    oops {Russell; Chinese}

  33. Fran Barlow

    This recent article is interesting:

    http://au.news.yahoo.com/entertainment/a/-/entertainment/10127489/raiders-steal-fake-rhino-horns-in-britain/

    LONDON (AFP) – Two rhinoceros horns were stolen from a British museum on Saturday — only the horns were fake and worthless.

    The horns were removed from a stuffed Indian rhino and a White rhino specimen at the Natural History Museum’s site in Tring, northwest of London.

    However, due to a recent spate of such thefts across Europe, the museum had replaced the horns with replicas {…}

    Why wouldn’t you simply keep quiet about them being replicas and then replace them with more replicas?

  34. alfred venison

    dear anyone
    i’ve heard that in california there are “discreet labs” that will analyse any drug sent to them if the user is worried.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  35. Fran Barlow

    That may well be so, but it seems from a bit more reading on the subject that positively identifying chemicals (e.g. psycho-active agents such as MDMA) is technically quite simple, establishing that a blend of keratin, calcium and melanin comes from a rhino is going to be a lot harder. There is DNA in the horn, but there would be ample non-injurious ways of obtaining rhino DNA and composing this into a powder composed of ketatin, melanin and calcium.

    I’m going to continue reading on this.

    Apparently Elle Macpherson of all people briefly endorsed rhino horn, before recanting and arguing that she’d been joking. What a dill!

  36. savvy

    @Fran
    “Why wouldn’t you simply keep quiet about them being replicas and then replace them with more replicas?”

    Well think about it Fran.

    The museum wants the people, and criminals, to know they are fake so that their lovely museum exhibits stop getting vandalised by thieves.

    Perhaps the criminals will not understand why Horns keep growing back on dead, stuffed rhinos, therefore leading to more pillfering of said horns and the whole market gets saturated with fake rhino powder.
    This leads to a collapse in the demand for the real stuff and the whole problem is solved Fran style.

    Well done lady, perhaps you should call up the authorities with your plan.

  37. savvy

    @Fran
    “there would be ample non-injurious ways of obtaining rhino DNA and composing this into a powder composed of ketatin(sic), melanin and calcium.”

    How do you know?
    [gratuitously stoushy challenge deleted ~ moderator]

  38. BilB

    I think that I would follow the Fran plan. I would also improve security serveilance in that area with a view to capture the “perps”.

    Although it should be the preferred way that animals are displayed, museums would rather not put up signs saying “fake exhibits everywhere”. The illusion that everything is “real” is important to maintain. In reality seeing and experiencing that which is beyond our reach is the value of Museums for most people, and for their appreciation of why it is importnat to preserve as much of the natural world as possible from our, in real terms, very temporary human invasion. How the illusion is achieved need not be the focus of the primary exhibits.

  39. FDB

    I dunno BilB.

    I will never outlive my disappointment on seeing the much-vaunted South Australian Museum’s Giant Squid!!1!, which turned out to be a crappy fibreglass model in a disused lift shaft looking like a shabby year 6 diorama.

  40. Fran Barlow

    Apart from exhibits meant to be handled, holograms might be more useful as you could vary and cycle them and perhaps have cutaways to show internals. In the case of the rhino, you could have images of what they look like post slaughter by poachers — not something for those with weak stomachs.

  41. BilB

    FDB,

    Your only recollection of fake exhibits is the one bad one. You have no idea how many good ones you have seen.

  42. patrickm

    FDB where did you get the idea that the giant squid is not real? Is it just because it didn’t look real to you? I think it is what a taxidermied dead squid looks like!

  43. grace pettigrew

    I understand there is a conversation going on about microchipping wild tigers in south-east asia, there are so few of them it might be possible with sufficient investment, although darting the penis might be a bit difficult from a distance….with rhinos, perhaps soiling the horn in the wild might be possible, again from a distance, paint-bombs? The chinese are gearing up to wipe out the african elephant for ivory, similar story, the ivory has to be made unusable while still on the animal, in the wild. The clock is ticking, keep searching Fran.

  44. patrickm

    BTW
    For spaminator reasons most would have missed my http://larvatusprodeo.net/2011/09/24/saturday-salon-90/#comment-338553 I hope that people who are interested in the issue of unemployment take the trouble to go to the link. Although it starts of a little slow it is IMV a really great read and because I don’t think this issue will take 2 years to become red hot in Oz (as it is in many other countries already red hot) people who see themselves as of the left had better get armed for the debate with the right. As I said I hope a thread could be established for the discussion because chit chat in the salon will not do this subject any justice and people could use a reference body of work like the Libya threads etc to establish a worthwhile understanding and to reflect on later as the situation develops.

  45. alfred venison

    dear Russell @21
    you make your point eloquently & succinctly – I, for one, am persuaded.

    by my estimation, this exercise of yours, in google search & report, has not only defended your reputation, but enhanced it as well.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  46. Fran Barlow

    Russell said:

    buffalo horn isn’t as potent as rhino horn, but take enough of it and you will get the same result.

    The science says that there is no measurable therapeutic benefit in rhino horn. You’d be as well off offering to nibble on the (disinfected) finger and toenails of your friends. Your statement is thus an example of telling a lie with the truth.

  47. savvy

    @ Fran 29
    “While there can be no doubt that orthodox syntax is defensible it makes more sense, IMO, to spell it as I have”

    Well you are spelling it wrong. Your explanation suggests you do this on purpose as you believe everyone else is wrong and you are right.

    “I’m quietly seeking to make this an accepted spelling, and raising the argument when prompted. Thanks for contributing to the campaign.”

    Do you extend this campaign to the classroom? Do you purposely teach children incorrect spelling?

  48. savvy

    @47
    “The science says that there is no measurable therapeutic benefit in rhino horn.”

    A few years ago the science said the same about acupuncture and leeches used in medical proceedures.

    Science is rarely settled.

  49. Russell

    “The science says that ….”

    Where is this science?

  50. alfred venison

    dear Fran Barlow
    when Russell wrote: ” buffalo horn isn’t as potent as rhino horn, but take enough of it and will get the same result”, you replied: “science says that there is no measurable therapeutic benefit” and “your statement is thus an example of telling a lie with the truth”.

    the same is said about the lack of measurable therapeutic benefit with respect to homeopathic medicine – I remember one attempt by dr beneviste & lab to produce reproducible results/ “proof”. beneviste’s work was reported in nature, and refuted later by randi et al.

    but, despite all that, qe2 still swears by it & in 2005 paid $35 million to upgrade the royal london homeopathic hospital – renamed it royal london hospital for integrative medicine.
    http://www.naturalnews.com/031556_homeopathy_King.html

    do you think that dr. peter fisher, homeopath to qe2 & director of the london hospital for integrative medicine, is also “lying” when he discusses homeopathic medicine options with his royal patient? a patient who shares his belief in the medical efficacy of certain tinctures, a belief which you and i and maybe even Russell don’t share.
    yours sincerely
    alfred veison

  51. Russell

    Dear Alf,

    Thanks for your consideration. I wouldn’t bother to try homeopathic medicine (nor would I have bothered with TCM if they hadn’t made me try it first before producing the scarce and expensive antibiotics) but I don’t share Fran’s faith in “science says”.

    I’m waiting to see Fran’s scientific evidence re horn because I’ll be interested to see how the scientific tests were done. Here’s my experience of Chinese medicine – first they don’t just identify that you have X wrong with you and give you the drug that cures X, there’s a long discussion and examination and concepts of yin/yang, qi and God knows what else is particular about you, and then you get your own mixture of various twigs and things to boil up , jars of tablets, bottles of vile tasting brown liquids … let’s just say it’s meant to be individual you meets the synergy of all these medicinal things, one component of which might be horn.

    This makes “scientific” testing on the usual Western model a bit difficult. That’s why I thought this comment: “What makes medicine “therapy” is efficacy. One measures efficacy in clinical trials and reports on them in peer-reviewed journals. As has been said often enough in a different context, one is entitled to one’s own opinions, but not one’s own facts” a bit ethno-centric. The effectiveness of TCM can be seen in practice, in the experience of the billion people who use it.

    I think Fran is turning a blind eye to that experience in the belief that it if can’t be verified by western science it has no value. And instead proposes a scheme for government dishonesty worthy of the worst of the ALP right-wing faction’s dubious schemes.

  52. Fran Barlow

    Russell asked:

    Where is this science?

    But, P; Lung, L C & Tam Y-K (1990) Ethnopharmacology of Rhinocerous Horn; Antipyretic effects of prescriptions containing
    rhinoceros horn or water buffalo horn
    in Journal of Ethnoparmacology 22, 45-50

    The study was on rats and at about 100 times the dose humans would have in a preparation, there was temporary relief in rats. Tellingly though, the study didn’t rule out that either the calcium or the protein was responsible for this effect. The method of administration was also different nd in a follow up study in 1991, herbal preparations had more measurable effect. Equally, attempts to demonstrate an anti-pyretic effect in rabbits in a 1959 study through oral administration produced no measurable effect. Hoffman La-Roche (1983) also produced no positive results.

    As far as I can tell, there have been no published studies on humans and no studies at all showing that any agent peculiar to rhinocerous, saiga antelopes of buffalo are of any therapeutic value.

  53. Russell

    Fran – so your evidence is the citation I provided the link to earlier. See my comment above yours – the way it was ‘scientifically’ tested is not the way it is used in practice, so of limited use.

    “As far as I can tell, there have been no published studies on humans and no studies at all showing that any agent peculiar to rhinocerous, saiga antelopes of buffalo are of any therapeutic value”

    So? Does the lack of studies in western journals mean you can say that the people (who are living in a very long tradition of this medicine) who believe a prescription for them containing horn may do them good are “ignorant fools”?

    I think that attitude is probably ethno-centric, and also not very open to the idea that our paradigm of medicine may not be the only useful one.

  54. alfred venison

    dear Russell
    i wouldn’t pay for homeopathic treatment, either, but i do get a flu vaccine every year – a little bit goes a long way, with that one. as for chinese traditional medicine, well, i’m vegetarian for a start. but i was macrobiotic for about ten years, last century, and holistic methodology, epitomised in the fertile yin-yang imagery, is central to macrobiotic philosophy, too.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  55. Fran Barlow

    Russell said:

    So? Does the lack of studies in western {medical} journals {showing therapeutic benefit to humans} mean you can say that the people (who are living in a very long tradition of this medicine) who believe a prescription for them containing horn may do them good are “ignorant fools”? {my emendments}

    Again, without my emendments this sounds like dissembling. As things stand, there’s simply no basis for thinking that there is a therapeutic benefit in rhino horn at all. None. One might as well sit under pyramids or engage a faith healer. Nor is this a western thing. The Chinese pharmacopeia removed it in 1993. They weren’t taking my advice on that.

    Were I to list the “complaints” informing the use of rhino horn over the years, it would not reflect well on rhino horn’s proponents, yet this appeal to the metaphysical substantially informs the continued use of the product. That, and the occasional corrupt official with possibly with a share in the trade. One suspects the positional goods matter (having rhino horn in ornamental objects) is also a background factor.

  56. Russell

    “Nor is this a western thing. The Chinese pharmacopeia removed it in 1993. They weren’t taking my advice on that.”

    From what I read when Googling, they removed it because of the threat of extinction for the rhino, and because it could be substituted with other horn, not because it had no therapeutic effect.

    I reject your emendation in removing the word western as a description of the journals we’re talking about. Do you think that Chinese TCM journal articles, if there are such, are likely to turn up in your or my Googling? There is presumably a large TCM literature, in Chinese, used by the practitioners who study it, in the many TCM hospitals in China.

    In that one article you cite, let’s look at the abstract, because it doesn’t support your case:

    “Aqueous extracts of rhinoceros horn or water buffalo horn demonstrated significant antipyretic action at 2.5 g/ml i.p. (1 ml/animal) in rats with hyperthermia induced by subcutaneous injection of turpentine oil. Qingying Decoction, a classic compound prescription composed of rhinoceros horn and eight herbs, showed significant antipyretic action at dosages equivalent to 0.5 g/ml of rhinoceros horn extract. Comparable action was obtained by Qingying Decoction prepared with water buffalo horn. It is suggested that water buffalo horn can be used as a substitute for rhinoceros horn in treating hyperthermia, especially when prepared with other herbal materials according to the principles of compound prescriptions of Chinese medicine”

  57. Fran Barlow

    So what you’re saying Russell is that one journal found that at 100 times the dosage humans would use, in rats, when administered by injection there was some change in the rats’ induced hyperthermia for a short time, although a second dose was then required. The researchers weren’t convinced that anything peculiar to rhino horn was involved and indeed herbal preparations alone did better, but there you go …

    Impressive.

  58. Russell

    No Fran, I’m saying that the one journal article you’ve Googled up is hardly a basis for “science says ….” especially when that article claims that “Aqueous extracts of rhinoceros horn or water buffalo horn demonstrated significant antipyretic action …. Qingying Decoction, a classic compound prescription composed of rhinoceros horn and eight herbs, showed significant antipyretic action at dosages equivalent to 0.5 g/ml of rhinoceros horn extract”.

    I’m questioning your belief that western-type clinical trials (and how many have been done?) mean much, given that they don’t trial the way that Chinese medicines are used.

    And I have been giving you the opportunity to think again about describing Chinese people who believe in Chinese medicine as “ignorant fools”.

  59. jumpy

    Fran
    Quote the Green Bible at im

    Bob 2:3
    “”"”an end to cruel and unnecessary animal experimentation.”"”"

  60. Fran Barlow

    Russell said:

    And I have been giving you the opportunity to think again about describing Chinese people who believe in Chinese medicine as “ignorant fools”.

    And I am rejecting your strawman. I am not saying anyone (Chinese or not) who sees value in TCM is an ignorant fool. Acupuncture, properly performed, clearly does have therapeutic value. For all I know there are other therapies within TCM that would pass a clinical trial. I’m merely saying that anyone (Chinese or not) who thinks paying $55,000 per pound for rhino horn is money well spent in pursuit of health is not someone who ought to be in charge of spare change.

  61. Russell

    “I’m merely saying …”

    Nice try Fran, but you’ve said quite a lot in this thread and all of it very consistent. And that is that people who believe that rhino horn could be efficacious in restoring their health are ignorant fools – “bogus medication to sell to ignorant fools.” Those people who might be silly enough to believe, without the evidence from clinical trials, rhino horn (mixed with other things) might help them. Of course none of the users of the horn pay more than a few dollars for the amount of it in their prescription, so your $55,000 distraction is in fact meaningless.

    And I think you’re old enough to remember the ridicule the medical profession poured on acupuncture – meridians! – if they couldn’t explain it, it couldn’t possibly work. You may want to reconsider your approval of acupuncture – just a few months ago a medical professor in Adelaide wrote : “Most alternative medicines and therapies – whether it’s chiropractic or acupuncture – do no better than a properly controlled placebo group. So a lot of these therapies are placebos”

  62. alfred venison

    dear Russell
    are you a medical librarian?
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  63. Fran Barlow

    You are certainly persistent in pushing this ethno-bating strawman Russell. This is a text medium. It is clear that those who believe that rhino horn has therapeutic value are ignorant fools as there is simply no basis for doing so.

    There are all sorts of ignorance and stupidity, and one sees it in more than ample supply in this country too. People go to solariums so that they can emerge looking healthy. People carry lucky charms into gambling premises in order to change their luck at the card table. Even Australia’s ex-cricket captain, Steve Waugh used to carry a red handkerchief in his pocket for good luck.

    All such practices are ignorant and foolish, though some are harmless. In the case of the practice for which you are apologising, apparently on the basis of “culture”, in addition to it being a criminal scam, the consequences for an endangered species are disastrous. It entails the infliction of great suffering on animals. It is a vehicle for corruption of state officials and a violent insurgency in which people have died.

    Your attempt to scratch about to find some shred of reason or evidence to pander to the practice is unseemly. You should stop.

  64. savvy

    @Fran
    “Steve Waugh used to carry a red handkerchief in his pocket for good luck.”
    “ignorance and stupidity”

    Nice one Fran. Steve Waugh is ignorant and stupid.

  65. Fran Barlow

    Quite right TT. Steve Waugh was a very judicious captain, most of the time, and clearly an effective player. He was also involved in some worthy charitable works in India, which was to his credit. As a cricket follower, I was an early advocate for his inclusion in the test team and actually had the honour of meeting him (and MEW and Gilchrist and Tub Taylor) one day up at a Resch’s Cup match at Waverton Oval between Northern and Bankstown. He seemed a very nice chap.

    That doesn’t change the fact that carrying a red handkerchief onto the ground or lifting your feet while a player is within 13 runs of a century or the team score in on some multiple of “the Nelson” makes no difference at all to onground events. Those who adopt such practices add colour to the event and participate in an amusing piece of culture, but objectively, such practices are ignorant and foolish.

  66. savvy

    @Fran
    “That doesn’t change the fact that carrying a red handkerchief onto the ground … makes no difference at all to onground events.”

    Of course it can.
    If it gives the practitioner a psychological boost then they will perform better. If a person plays better, due to a confidence boost from some little ritual, then of course it can make a difference to onground events.

    People make their own luck, and little rituals such as above are part of that.

  67. Chris

    That doesn’t change the fact that carrying a red handkerchief onto the ground or lifting your feet while a player is within 13 runs of a century or the team score in on some multiple of “the Nelson” makes no difference at all to onground events. Those who adopt such practices add colour to the event and participate in an amusing piece of culture, but objectively, such practices are ignorant and foolish.

    Well if performing such routines gives them confidence they wouldn’t otherwise have, perhaps it does really have a measurable positive effect. So its not really a foolish thing to do after all?

  68. Russell

    Dear Alf – I once was a medical librarian.

    “It is clear that those who believe that rhino horn has therapeutic value are ignorant fools as there is simply no basis for doing so”

    Well Fran, I’m glad you’ve given up the Katz-like contortions and gone back to clearly stating your belief. We could argue over what constitutes proof of ‘no basis’, but my real objection was your flinging about the label of ‘ignorant fools’. I’d like you to be able to go a bit further than TT’s point, and consider the possibility of different ways of perceiving ‘reality’, but maybe we should leave that for another conversation.

    I wonder, if mankind does go on, and they look back at us a thousand years from now, and what we believe, whether they’ll think we were all ignorant fools.

  69. alfred venison

    dear Russell
    thought so. fair’s fair – you showed me yours, i’ll show you mine: i’m a records manager. last century i was libraries: sydney uni (fisher & economics faculty).
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  70. Fran Barlow

    Russell said:

    I wonder, if mankind does go on, and they look back at us a thousand years from now, and what we believe, whether they’ll think we were all ignorant fools.

    If humanity is still about in 1000 years, I’d say that is a near certainty. That’s how most of us would see the folk from 1011. Everyone of us has at best partial knowledge of the way the world works. Providing that we are doing everything we reasonably can, we can plead guilty to ignorance and foolishness with an excuse — we had no ready means to avoid misapprehension, but we tried our best to lay the foundations for those who came after us to act with more insight than was available to us. There we see the human project.

    Of course, if we spurn existing knowledge and best practice and pander to ideas that have been exposed as nonsense, then these defences are unavailable. We will not only be ignorant and foolish but reckless as well. One can understand people from the middle ages believing in devils or wanting rhino horn to purge themselves of it. They had little means to know how ridiculous this was. Now we know.

    Chris said:

    Well if performing such routines gives them confidence they wouldn’t otherwise have, perhaps it does really have a measurable positive effect. So its not really a foolish thing to do after all?

    In the narrowest of senses — the creation of a ‘workaround’ for baseless angst — it makes sense, rather like that advice to people nervous about speaking in public to imagine the audience in their underwear. Yet it is made necessary by a fundamentally irrational belief — that one can manipulate the physical world to one’s advantage with metaphysical tools. If a red handkerchief really could alter the flight of a cricket ball from the bowler’s hand or its movement from the pitch surface or the capacity of fielders to intercept the ball after contacting the bat or glove or the capacity of the player to choose and execute strokes with advantage then it would be illegal, much as those engineered swim suits were a while back. Players would be entitled to object, as they do if a runner goes on without the full equipment.

    It would have been better for Waugh simply to have accepted that there were indeed some events on the field that were beyond his capacity to control and to focus on doing all he could to control to his advantage all those things that he could control and shrug his shoulders at the rest of it.

  71. Russell

    “if we spurn existing knowledge and best practice and pander to ideas that have been exposed as nonsense, then these defences are unavailable”

    So those billion Chinese have spurned existing knowledge? Their belief in TCM has been exposed as nonsense to them? I don’t think so.

    Fran, if you want to, you can call them ignorant, though I wouldn’t, but surely you are going to retract ‘fools’?

  72. Fran Barlow

    Stop moving the goal posts Russell. It ill becomes you. It’s the belief of some people in the efficacy of rhino horn that is the subject of this discussion, rather than TCM as a whole. Those who persist in believing that therapeutic benefit flows from this agent are indeed ignorant fools.

  73. Russell

    Fran – no use trying to define ‘the subject of this discussion’ to avoid the issue: you felt quite free to say that the people who would use this ‘bogus medication’ are ‘ignorant fools’. From your comments it’s clear that you would say the same about other similar Chinese medicines.

    I have pointed out to you that your ‘ignorant fools’ are the billion Chinese who would go along to their doctor and receive medications that included all sorts of (to us) useless things – bits of horn and scorpion and strange weeds … God knows what. I’ve known dozens and dozens of highly intelligent people who find them efficacious, despite the lack of evidence from clinical trials that they work.

    That’s why it seems to me that you’re simply wrong in your assumption that believers in those medicines are ignorant fools. It also seems to me ethno-centric and rude.

  74. Fran Barlow

    Russell said:

    From your comments it’s clear that you would say the same about other similar Chinese medicines.

    Only if the medication’s “similarity” was that investigation recommended against attributing it a therapeutic usage. Beyond that, your method involves persistent attempts to verbal me so as to make a cheap slur.

    You simply have no data on what a billion Chinese think of rhino horn as a medication, and still less why they think it. If polls are correct more than half the adult Australian population fancy that we are being swamped by boat people. I’ve no hesitation in calling such folk ignorant fools because it is open to them to find out that they are radically mistaken, yet their prejudice and angst restrains them from doing so.

    Your wave of the hand at what a billion Chinese think has even less force than that.

    I remain unclear about your motives in speaking as you have, but in my opinion, the usefulness of this discussion has been exhausted. I favour wrecking the market for rhino horn and am perfectly relaxed about the ethics of releasing counterfeit horn onto the market, assuming that might work. You can please yourself what you think of that.

  75. Russell

    “I remain unclear about your motives in speaking as you have”

    I was offended at your description of people who would use such products as “ignorant fools”. How many people in China do you imagine are aware of your criteria for acceptable medicines? How many Chinese medicines would pass your test? As I said earlier, you may want to call them ignorant, even though I think that might demonstrate your own ethno-centric prejudice, but to call them fools is offensive – to me.

    Your analogy with Australians and boat people fails at every level.

    I made no attempt to verbal you – I simply quoted you. I do agree that “the usefulness of this discussion has been exhausted”