Saturday, January 17, 2015

The death of Toystory is no bull. But, questions do arise!

Toystory is dead.

News reports suggest that he was one of a kind, and there might never be one like him, ever again.  Who was he?
an ornery, 2,700-pound bull named Toystory—a titan of artificial insemination who sired an estimated 500,000 offspring in more than 50 countries.
Imagine that!  half-a-million calves, and in fifty countries.  You think you can beat that record?
Rare is the bull with the genes and testicular fortitude to sell a million units of semen, known among breeders as the millionaires club.
Over nearly a decade, Toystory shattered the record for sales of the slender straws that hold about 1/20th of a teaspoon and are shipped using liquid nitrogen to farmers around the world. A unit fetches anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred.
After joining the millionaires club, Toystory surpassed Sunny Boy, a Dutch bull who sold more than 1.7 million units in the 1990s and is memorialized with a life-size statue at the headquarters of his owner in Arnhem, Netherlands.
Are you wondering how the 500,000 offspring qualified Toystory for the millionaires club?  Read carefully--the 1/20th of a teaspoon of his semen is one unit, and this bull went past two millions of those units!  Well, more than 2.4 million, to be precise.

If you are like me--and thank your stars that you are not, especially given what is coming up next--you will wonder about the simplest of questions here: how do they get the semen from a bull?

We routinely read and hear about artificial insemination of cattle.  How do they get the semen in the first place, right?  Of course, my junior-high school mind imagined the bull going into a closed room with a small cup and then looking at the mammaries in the soiled issues of Playcow!

Wasn't your life better until you read his post?

It is a strange world in which we live.  We broke down the making of new life into its components of semen and egg, and then have developed the science and technology, and the profitable industry, of how to fertilize eggs with tiny doses of extracted semen.  Whether it is for the holy cow or the human, we have been marching along shattering the old ideas of how to create life forms.

As much as an atheist I am, I have never cared for such baby factory approaches that we have engaged in.  Thus, I find it awful that a cow is now nothing more than a milk factory, and the bull is nothing more than a sperm machine.  Test-tube babies, similarly, have completely redefined what it means to be human. Since then, we have gone down many other routes, including rent-a-womb and fertility-tourism.  Yep, some of us atheists, too, are immensely uncomfortable with life being reduced to such material terms.

Oh well.  The genie, as they say, is out of the test-tube!

Which means, there is only one way ahead for me--find out how they extract the semen.

Reading this made me all the more uncomfortable about this whole thing.  Why read it, and why think about all these, right?  The world is one messy place, my friend and, whether we agree with things or not, we need to try to understand them.  As simple as that.

Now, my curiosity got even bigger.  Of elephantine proportions.  I was sure the mad scientists have gone about collecting semen from an elephant.  Google answers.  With this video too, from Channel4.com!  With a note that the video is not suitable for children less than 16 years old.  For some reason that video didn't play in my computer; if you experience similar problems, head to the Daily Mail note with the same video.

Seriously, this is where we are now?  And things will get only more bizarre?  Is it all worth it?

My "guardian angel" in Costa Rica 

3 comments:

Anne in Salem said...

AI is huge business, making many farmers a great deal of money. It feeds our desire for steak, bacon, ribs and ice cream. A champion race horse can earn far more as a stud in retirement than he earned in his racing career.

AI in humans creates ethical and legal dilemmas not imagined by fathers of a church or our country. For example, a man and woman could fall in love and desire to be marry but be unaware they are biological siblings.

I am certain I will sleep quite well tonight without pondering semen extraction.

Ramesh said...

One of things that fascinates me about your writing, is that you can raise the most profound of philosophical questions from trivia. In this case, not trivia, but a news items about Toystory that caught your fancy.

I am always uncomfortable when we mix life with business - the meat and dairy industry has always left me with ethical questions. Although I am a vegetarian, I am not a vegan and so a consumer of the dairy industry. It is a complex ethical issue.

I however have huge problems when AI is applied to humans. I accept that these are personal ethical issues, but I remain highly sceptical whether that is science in the right direction. Much to ponder about.

Sriram Khé said...

If this is not the world that leaders of religions, and founders of countries, would have ever imagined, then, they ain't seen nothin' yet!
Why are humans so special that you should have problems only when AI is applied to our kind? What is good for the goose is good for the human too ;)
Thanks for the comment on philosophical/ethical issues even with trivia. This has always been my point. People overwhelmingly seem to believe that philosophy and ethics apply only to big questions, but I disagree. Everyday life is full of such complications that we conveniently overlook. We intentionally choose not to think about them. We ought to ... hmmm ... is it any wonder then that colleagues and students stay away from me if bug them like this ;)

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