NEWS BRIEFS: Human-animal hybrids created

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jul 28, 2011 5:22 PM
NEWS BRIEFS: Human-animal hybrids created
LONDON (BP)--More than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos have been created in the last three years in British laboratories, The Daily Mail reported July 25.

Pro-life advocates decried the news.

The newspaper reported 155 embryos that have genetic material from both human beings and animals have been created under a 2008 law passed by Parliament. The information was not revealed until a government minister provided it in response to a parliamentary question from David Alton, a crossbench member of the House of Lords in the British Parliament. Crossbench members are not identified with political parties.

The hybrid embryos, which were created in three British labs, came in at least three forms, according to The Daily Mail:

-- An animal egg fertilized by human sperm;

-- A "cybrid" formed when a human nucleus is implanted in an animal cell;

-- A "chimera" created when human cells and animal embryos are combined.

Researchers who back the creation of hybrids say they will provide embryonic stem cells for the treatment of an array of diseases. So far, however, only non-embryonic stem cells have produced treatments for maladies. Harvesting embryonic stem cells destroys the embryo, while procuring non-embryonic cells does not do such harm to the donor.

Alton described the creation of human-animal hybrids as "dabbling in the grotesque."

"Ethically it can never be justifiable -- it discredits us as a country," Alton said, according to the newspaper.

"At every stage the justification from scientists has been: if only you allow us to do this, we will find cures for every illness known to mankind. This is emotional blackmail.

"On moral and ethical grounds this fails, and on scientific and medical ones too," Alton said.

In the United States, there is no federal law outlawing the private creation of human-animal hybrids.

Alton also learned in response to a parliamentary question that more than 1.5 million human embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the last 20 years have been destroyed, The Daily Mail reported July 22.

British scientists have created more than 3 million embryos by IVF, but fewer than 100,000 babies have been born as a result. That means it requires more than 30 unborn children to be created by IVF for each successful birth.

Of the 3.1 million embryos created, about 1.46 million were discarded during treatment, about 101,000 were donated for destructive research and about 764,000 were placed in frozen storage. The remaining embryos were implanted, producing about 94,000 births, according to the newspaper.

"We are creating and destroying human embryos on an industrial scale," Alton said.

VIETNAM ARRESTS SICK PRIEST, VIOLATES RELIGIOUS FREEDOM -- The Vietnamese government took a religious freedom advocate from his home despite ill health July 25, spurring the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to consider naming the country as a heinous violator of religious freedom.

Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Roman Catholic priest, was sentenced 15 years in prison October 2001 for submitting a testimony of religious freedom abuses to USCIRF, according to a statement from the commission.

Ly was released in 2005 when Vietnam was designated by USCIRF as a Country of Particular Concern, meaning it had "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom." He was arrested once again when the Bush administration lifted the CPC designation in 2007 and released on medical parole in March 2010.

Ly suffered several strokes while in prison and has a brain tumor, for which he was receiving treatment at his home. USCIRF condemned the Vietnamese government for taking the human rights advocate away from his caretakers despite his medical needs and parole.

"Father Ly should be immediately and unconditionally released," said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair and executive vice president of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies. "Less than one week after the United States helps to mediate Vietnam's dispute with China over the South China Sea, Vietnam ignores our government's consistently stated concerns about the treatment of Father Ly -- a frail Catholic priest who has peacefully advocated for the fundamental right to freedom of religion -- by seizing him without any warning and despite being told by his caretakers that he is not well enough to travel and to be taken back to prison."

Leo said it is time the Obama administration re-designate Vietnam as a CPC for its acts against Ly and other violations of religious freedom.

"Re-designating Vietnam as a CPC is not only the right thing to do," Leo said. "It has proven in the past to produce tangible religious freedom improvements on the ground without hindering other bilateral interests. Most importantly, it will clearly signal that the United States sides with those in Vietnam who peacefully advocate the cause of human freedom."

Ly is not the only human rights defender who has been detained by the Vietnamese government, according to USCIRF.

The organization's 2011 report found severe violations of religious freedom in the country that included arresting people for their stance on religious freedom, legal defense of religious communities or religious activity. Among those detained are more than half a dozen human rights advocates in addition to people from religious communities such as the Hao Hao, Khmer Buddhists, Cao Dai and Montagnard Protestants.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press, and Whitney Jones, a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an intern with Baptist Press.

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