Care and Feeding
In a world filled with problems, the folks at Whole Foods Markets have found a cause to fight for: the comfort of lobsters. Soon-to-be-killed lobsters, to be exact.
The chain has announced it is re-examining its "animal compassionate standards," whatever the hell that means, in regards to how crowded its lobster tanks are. This sounds like TDCJ making sure the cells on death row are painted in a bouncy, "up" color, but what do we know?
"We are viewing the lobster as a live creature rather than a commodity that deserves no concern," company CEO John Mackey said in a prepared statement.
Jimmy Schaefer, manager of the seafood department at the chain's Kirby location, says Whole Foods is looking into more humane ways to transport and sell the crustaceans. (The crustaceans that are typically just days or hours away from being boiled alive by hungry humans.)
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The shrimp, flounder and cows sold at Whole Foods aren't getting any re-examination, it appears. A nice plush rug leading to the abattoir's killing floor is apparently too much to ask.
Whole Foods isn't exactly eager to announce this potential change in how it handles condemned lobsters. At first a company PR person said a Houston Press photographer could come to the store and photograph one of the lobster tanks; a second call came shortly after saying permission had been rescinded.
What is it they're hiding? We thought we could find out. We contacted two different Houston-area pet psychics, professionals who say they can commune with animals, even from a distance. One, Griffin Kanter, has a Web site called www.talkwiththeanimals.com, so you know she's got to be legitimate.
Sadly, neither chose to respond. Apparently lobsters aren't as compelling a subject as bouncy, fluffy puppies who wuv their masters.
There's a chance Whole Foods may decide to get out of the lobster-selling business altogether. "They're going to do a lot of research on it, and they're going to make a decision on June 15 if we're going to keep carrying them or not," Schaefer says.
Hmmm, research into how comfortable lobsters are as they sit in tanks and in transit. Griffin -- this is your big chance!
Wily criminal masterminds have long been able to fool lie-detector machines, unless Hollywood has been lying to us all these years. Now those cold-blooded sociopaths face a new challenge, thanks to a Houston-area teen's science fair project.
Trisha Pasricha, a junior at Clear Lake High School, wanted to see if there were ways to determine if someone was lying beyond the standard polygraph measurements of heart rate, respiration and sweating. Luckily her dad is a doctor and researcher of gastroenterology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, so he had some ideas.
"The gut has more nerve cells than the spinal cord," says Dr. P. Jay Pasricha. When some wiseass talks about "sphincter-tightening" as his buddy wavers on whether to go all-in on a big pot, he's actually making a proper medical diagnosis, the doctor says.
"Most of the GI tract has an intrinsic electrical rhythm generated by cells in the walls of the stomach," Pasricha says. "And the rate at which the organ contracts changes."
Pasricha and his daughter set up an experiment in which volunteers alternately lied and told the truth about what playing cards they held in their hands.
"The study showed the heart rates went up both when they lied and when they told the truth, so you couldn't discriminate between the two. The stomach changed only when the person was lying," says Pasricha.
He expanded on his daughter's experiment and gave a formal presentation on it to a conference at the American College of Gastroenterology, which sounds like one happening get-together.
The New York Times did a blurb on it, and since then the phone's been ringing off the hook. "The Today show wants to do something," he says. "I've been a researcher 20 years, and if you combine all the press I've gotten in all that time, it's not a fraction of what my daughter's getting." (His daughter was out of town when we talked to Pasricha.)
So why hasn't someone thought of this before? "They may have," Pasricha says. "Maybe the Department of Homeland Security's already doing it, but they don't want anyone to know."
Pets and/or Clothes
Returning to the subject of the animal kingdom, and some humans' odd preoccupation with it, we note that the Houston SPCA is once again teaming up with Neiman Marcus for a holiday adoption campaign.
"Cuddly canines and frolicking felines will delight the entire family as they play in specially decorated windows" at the Galleria, the organization announced.
And not too far away from those windows, all the enthralled pet-lovers can purchase the latest in dead minks and foxes. You can "adopt" them, too -- and wear them.
Cue the outrage: "Neiman Carcass is only working with the Houston SPCA to detract shoppers' focus from the millions of canines, felines and other animals violently slaughtered for sale in its stores," says Michol Rantschler of the group In Solidarity With Animals.
Rantschler says she doesn't blame the HSPCA for, ummm, lying down with dogs and getting fleas: "It is understandable that the HSPCA will do whatever it takes, even work with morally bankrupt Neiman's, to save more of the animals in its care," she says.
So what exactly does the HSPCA think about all this? Does it hear at night the doleful cry of little minks as it contemplates its deal with the devil?
We don't know. We called the organization's Heidi Brasher several times, letting her know what we wanted to ask. One time we actually got Brasher on the phone. She said she was busy admitting some dogs into the facility and would get back to us as soon as she finished.
And apparently she is in the midst of the world's longest admissions process, because we haven't been able to get in touch with her over four business days. She did leave us one nonresponsive voice-mail message during that time, but otherwise remains incommunicado.
Maybe she's checking up on the lobsters at Whole Foods.
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