Tag: China

The People Who Clone Pets Want To Bring Back Extinct Species — And Clone Animals For Their Organs

Should scientists resurrect long-extinct species? Is it ethical to clone thousands of animals who will not live, but have their organs harvested for human patients?

Those are some of the questions people are asking as the cloning industry — once relegated to producing one-off copies and genetically identical versions of deceased pets for wealthy clients — is expanding with new capabilities.

This story by the BBC’s David Cox provides an informative, brief history of cloning before pivoting to the current state of the industry and how it could continue to evolve.

Two of the most fascinating prospects have to do with conservation. One company, Colossal, is working on bringing back the extinct woolly mammoth, while other scientists are turning to cloning as a way to prevent the extinctions of species like the white rhino, which is functionally extinct without any breeding pairs left living.

Dolly_face_closeup
Scottish scientists shocked the world when they cloned Dolly the Sheep in 1996.

As with anything in science, innovations in cloning unlock new applicative branches, and scientists have partnered with the medical field to address human health concerns. Some, like the practice of editing genes to prevent diseases in newborns, tend to fly under the radar. But others, like the push to adapt organs from animals like pigs so they can be replacements for human organs, are much more controversial and have met opposition from animal welfare groups.

Then there’s the elephant in the room, no pun intended. What about cloning humans?

Right now no one’s gone down that route, at least not publicly, because of the inevitable backlash. What’s happening deep in the bowels of clandestine medical facilities in nations with murky ethics laws is another question entirely.

I am opposed to human cloning, but I don’t believe it will remain the immutable taboo some people think it is. Someone will break the dam, and while that pioneer will likely get raked over the coals, the bell cannot be unrung. Things change so fast these days that what’s shocking one day merits a shrug the next, and it’s possible the world will be introduced to a man or woman one day before it’s revealed the person is, in fact, a clone. (Not unlike the way the world was introduced to Imma, a Japanese influencer and model who exists only digitally.)

Imma
Imma has more than 400,000 Instagram followers, she models the latest fashions and she appears in adverts for products like beverages and watches, but she doesn’t exist. She’s a digital creation.

They’ll be the Dolly the Sheep of the human race, and ethicists won’t get a say in whether they should exist because it’s already been done.

“See how normal they are?” people keen on cloning will say. “They’re just regular people. Are you going to tell them they shouldn’t live?”

But before that, it looks like the movie Gattaca will become reality, and people will order up a great baseball player or a child with intuitive musical genius just like they might commission a piece of art or a custom car job. Gene editing with CRISPR is surprisingly trivial.

Of course, it won’t be lost on people that we’re cloning humans when there are millions of unwanted, uncared-for street kids in the third world, not to mention people who live without the consideration of their fellow human beings in every nation. Just like it hasn’t escaped the notice of activists that South Korea and China are leaders in cloning pets, yet dogs and cats are also food in those countries.

What separates the dogs and cats bound for restaurant kitchens from the dogs and cats having their cells preserved for cloning?

Nothing except for their individual value to humans, just like pure luck separates a cat who finds a loving home from a cat who ends up euthanized with a needle. We are a fickle species.

Yet both the beloved pet and the unwanted shelter cat are sentient, experience intense emotions and have their own thoughts. That’s not conjecture, it’s fact as confirmed many times over experimentally, but it shocks a lot of people. Our education system has not done right by the billions of non-human minds we share our planet with.

Cloned monkeys
These rhesus macaque infants were cloned in a lab in China. The remaining barriers to human cloning are ethical, not technological.

I’ve thought about what might have happened if Buddy had been adopted by someone else, and what his fate may have been. I love the little guy, but it’s possible that someone else may have viewed him as an annoyance, a loud and incessantly chatty cat who needs an inordinate amount of attention and affection, sometimes lashes out, and needs to be surrendered.

Likewise, unwanted cats have languished in shelters for months before viral posts spark interest in them, and suddenly offers to adopt come in by the hundreds from across the globe. Nothing about those cats changed, but humans formed an emotional attachment to them after learning their stories.

Of course, the ethics of how we treat and consider animals can change depending on where you’re sitting. If you’re young, healthy and energetic, your view may be radically different than the person sitting on an organ donation waiting list, knowing their time may be up before a new liver or kidney becomes available. Suddenly a seemingly simple moral calculus becomes murky and complex.

There’s strong evidence that people who take the first steps toward cloning their beloved cats and dogs spend time wrestling with the ethics of the decision as well. Texas-based ViaGen, the western leader in commercial cloning, told the BBC that 90 percent of its clients are not people who have gone through with cloning, but have only taken the initial step of preserving their pets’ cells for $1,600.

And what of the mammoths? Bringing them back from extinction isn’t as simple as filling in the gaps in their genome, implanting gene-edited eggs in female elephants and hoping gestation takes care of the rest. Mammoths are social animals. Will an elephant mother raise a mammoth baby? Where does that mammoth baby belong? Without a herd of its own kind, can it be happy?

We can’t ask the mammoths, and even if we could, it might not be up to them anyway. As one paleogeneticist put it to NPR last year: What if the technology isn’t used to resurrect the mammoth, but to save the elephant? Does the end justify the means in the latter situation, but not the former?

Mammoth, Dolly the Sheep and rhesus macaque images credit Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

FurryGate: Rogan, Boebert, Greene Drag Cats Into Politics With Claims Of Litter Boxes In Schools

The physicist Michio Kaku was a guest on a radio show and was answering a question about possible intelligent life visiting Earth when Joe Rogan interrupted him.

“The three pyramids are aligned with Orion’s belt,” Rogan said. “Do your research, man. Look it up.”

Rogan, who was into 9/11 truther conspiracies at the time, went on to explain how the Egyptians couldn’t possibly have built the pyramids on their own, and that aliens helped them align the positions of the giant structures to correspond to important celestial features.

Here was Kaku, one of the brightest minds in human history, co-founder of string field theory, a man whose textbooks are required reading for PhD-level physics students, getting talked over and “educated” by a pothead who rose to fame hosting a game show in which he forced contestants to eat cockroaches.

I thought of that cringey interaction this week after reading about Rogan insisting school districts are accommodating kids who identify as cats by replacing toilets with litter boxes in school bathrooms.

Rogan’s source was rock solid if you’re the type of person who thinks ancient aliens traveled thousands of lights to the Earth of deep antiquity to teach human beings how to stack stones on top of each other: Rogan’s friend’s wife, who works at the school district, insisted the litter box story is true.

Like previous claims of school administrators gone mad in service to alleged furries, Rogan’s claim was intentionally nebulous and unverifiable. He didn’t name the school, the district or the teacher. We have to take his word for it.

If you like that sort of thing, I have good news for you! Rogan’s in great company.

Marjorie Taylor Greene — the congresswoman who once claimed “Jewish space lasers” were responsible for California wildfires, the shining testament to US education standards who warned “the Gazpacho police” will imprison patriotic Americans, the genteel stateswoman who said scientists are creating fake meat in “Peach tree dishes” to “zap” Americans — has also warned of the apparently widespread practice of furry school children shitting in litter boxes.

Not to be outdone, Rep. Lauren Boebert has co-signed the cat conspiracy, telling donors that evil cat-loving people are hell bent on destroying wholesome American values by unleashing cat-identified children on an innocent and unsuspecting public.

Say it enough and it becomes true

The claims have been repeated so many times that they’ve spread to school board meetings and state legislatures across the country, perpetuated by gerontocratic leaders who think The Onion is a real news source. Two current gubernatorial candidates, in Colorado and Minnesota, have also repeated the claim.

“Schools are not disclosing that they are allowing children who identify as snakes, cats, whatever, they’re providing litter boxes for the [student] cats,” a Tennessee state representative said during a hearing in September. “And obviously it’s very disruptive to the learning process. If a child has that much of a self-identity issue they probably need a different environment, and it’s creating a lot of anxiety, a lot of confusion with the children who are boys and girls.”

“But Big Buddy,” you might be thinking, “I thought you said PITB was apolitical and you’re a moderate?”

It is, and I am.

I dislike all ideology equally because it invites people to abdicate their responsibility to think for themselves. I believe our two-party system and the divisiveness it fuels could be the ruin of our great nation, particularly at a time when polls show up to half the US population expects to fight in an ideologically-driven civil war. I worry that we are doing precisely what our enemies want by feuding amongst ourselves. Indeed, we know for a fact that “troll farms” in countries like Russia and China exist to sow the seeds of division and crank up poisonous political rhetoric online.

But I’m also against pure, abject, mind-boggling, depressing, Idiocracy-style stupidity and the idea that anything is true if someone says it is. Neither party has a monopoly on this kind of thing.

In particular, I’m not a fan of injecting cats into the American culture wars. (Although it’s not just cats at this point. A Texas school district was forced to deny rumors that administrators were allowing “furries” to eat out of dog bowls in school cafeterias.)

We already fail these innocent creatures in myriad ways, from allowing declawing and doing little to improve weak animal welfare laws, to tolerating the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable for people to shoot cats with arrows, BBs and real firearms as some grotesque form of entertainment.

Now people want to use cats as the rope in a perverse game of cultural tug-of-war, which could further degrade their status and lead to more proxy violence against them.

Cats are vulnerable, and are already targets of hate

Violent criminals, including the perpetrators of the recent mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, often get their start by killing cats before “graduating” to humans.

Cats are also frequent victims of redirected anger, with studies showing they’re abused and killed in domestic violence situations because they’re viewed as extensions of the feminine, or simply because killing them causes emotional distress to the people who care for them.

Of domestic violence victims who have pets, more than 70 percent of their abusers also took their rage out on the victims’ pets.

Politics have pervaded and infected so many things, cats and dogs are now staked to territory on either side of the political fault lines.

So how long will it be before an Alex Jones type claims the government is using cats to spy on Americans? The best conspiracy theories always have a nugget of truth to them, after all, and in the 1960s the CIA tried — and failed, spectacularly — to use cats implanted with transmitters to spy on Soviet officials.

How long before a Boebert or a Greene tells a crowd that it’s their patriotic duty to shoot “liberal cats” on sight? How long before Tucker Carlson follows up one of his thrilling UFO/crop circle/cow mutilation investigative specials with a breathless exclusive about America-hating cats?

“Why do so many cats want to see America burn? Why do cats like to line their litter boxes with the American flag? Does the government allow cats to vote? Hey, I’m just asking questions!”

If you think that’s outlandish, I’d point out that we’ve been there, done that.

Tucker Swanson Carlson has already claimed that “decadent rich people” who “detest the country” like to plot America’s downfall from cat cafes. Those evil America-haters stroke cats and sip lattes while “working through the night to destroy” our great nation, Carlson told his viewers. I’m not making this up.

Europeans almost extirpated domestic cats in the middle ages when people were convinced they carried the Black Plague, and cats had even bigger targets on their backs after the Inquisition’s most overzealous prosecutors insisted felines were used in Satanic rituals.

Likewise, my Google News alert for cat-related articles shows a depressing, never-ending feed of stories about people chugging beer and shooting cats with BB guns, mystery killers strangling neighborhood kitties and “hunters” who put arrows through these sentient, innocent animals who have the mental and emotional capacity of three-year-old human children.

And there’s already plenty of nonsense online about how our choice of pet reflects our political beliefs, as well as unhinged rants about the kind of people who prefer cats. There are even research studies about the intersection of politics and attitudes toward companion animals, and research shows certain people consider cats “liberal” because they don’t adhere to social hierarchies and don’t recognize authority.

Is it really a stretch to imagine some 85, deep into a case of Miller High Life, taking target practice at neighborhood cats because he sees them as evil, feminine, America-hating animals? Are we sure it doesn’t happen already?

Politics really does ruin everything.

Humans Are An Alien Invasive Species, New Study By Feline Science Institute Finds

Homo sapiens are an invasive species who do irreparable harm to the environment and other animals on an unprecedented scale, a new study by the Feline Science Institute has found.

The results prompted feline scientists to add homo sapiens, commonly known as humans, to a database of destructive and invasive animals maintained by the Academy of Scientific Studies.

Cat scientists have only just glimpsed the breadth of human-initiated impact on other animals, Dr. Oreo P. Yums, lead author of the newest research paper, told reporters.

“We found humans are astonishingly, almost indescribably destructive,” Yums said. “For instance, although they fret about birds, humans kill more than a billion of them a year just with their skyscrapers, which birds are prone to fly into due to their mirrored surfaces. Add in wind turbines, cell towers, power lines, habitat loss and slow die-offs due to chemicals, and by conservative estimates we’re talking about billions of birds killed by humans every year without even tallying active measures like hunting.”

Humans have killed off an estimated 70 percent of the world’s wildlife in the last 50 years alone and show no sign of stopping. Oceans are overfished, animals like pangolins and big cats are ruthlessly hunted to extinction to feed demand within the Chinese traditional medicine market, and human addiction to palm oil means the “two-legged demon monsters don’t even have sympathy for their fellow primates,” mewologist Charles Clawin said.

“In Borneo and Sumatra there are entire schools, filled to capacity, for critically endangered orangutan babies who were orphaned by human contractors clearing ancient jungles to make room for more palm oil plantations,” he said. “Often, the humans use industrial equipment to tear down trees while the orangutans are still in them. Other times, they dispatch the mothers with pistols, not realizing there are babies clinging to them.”

In Africa, where the elephant population has plummeted in the last century, more than 110,000 elephants have been slaughtered in the past 10 years alone for their tusks. The elongated incisors are used to make jewelry and piano keys, and items made from ivory have become a status symbol in China, where growing middle and upper classes seek to show off their wealth with luxuries.

In 2019, Chinese businesswoman Yang Felan, dubbed the “Ivory Queen,” was arrested and charged with smuggling $2.5 million worth of tusks from Tanzania to her home country. Yang, “a key link between poachers in East Africa and buyers in China for more than a decade,” was a respected businesswoman, investor, restaurateur and vice chairwoman of the China-Africa Business Council.

“Poachers continue to slaughter elephants and our big cat brothers and sisters,” said Luna Meowson, who tracks the illegal wildlife market for the University of Nappington. “Having extirpated tigers from virtually their entire range, poachers are turning to South America, where jaguar poaching increased 200 fold between 2015 and 2020. It never stops.”

Big Bruce the Lion Slayer
A human hunter poses victoriously after heroically slaying a lion (panthera leo) from atop his trusty steed, a mobility scooter, after a team of guides drove him around the bush in an air-conditioned SUV, then lured the animal directly into his line of sight. A female of the species, presumably his mate, looks on proudly.

Although the earliest details remain murky, fossil records show Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago. The invasive species, which has a gestation period of about nine months, began rapidly breeding and immediately went to war with fellow members of the genus Homo.

After wiping out two-legged rivals including Homo neanderthalensis, Homo altaiensis, Homo denisova and Homo bodoensis, the victorious Homo sapiens set their eyes on other species. Throughout their history they’ve also proven remarkably adept at murdering themselves and continue to hone their skills.

“Those OG humans, they had to really work at slaughtering other species and extirpating wildlife,” said Chonkmatic the Magnificent, King of North American cats. “They didn’t have attack helicopters, stealth bombers, tanks, carrier battle groups, daisy cutters, artillery, mortars, phosphorous, napalm, biological weapons, or even small arms like rifles. In those days a pimply kid from Oklahoma sitting in an air-conditioned base in Virginia couldn’t wipe out an entire city 5,000 miles away by pressing a button ordering a drone to drop a nuke. They had to put some sweat into violence, you know?”

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Breakthroughs in recent centuries have led to innovative and more convenient ways for Homo sapiens to author mass destruction and render entire sections of the Earth lifeless.

The species, known for its aptitude for tool-making in addition to eating ultra-processed foods and staring at screens, began with simple tools of destruction like the Mark I Spear, early bows and even torches. Over the centuries they innovated, coming up with clever and inventive new ways to inflict pain and end life until the advent of electricity, the industrial era and the brutally destructive war machines of modern times.

Human scientists have tried to obscure their species’ impact on wildlife and the planet by declaring species like felis catus “invasive” and “alien,” but even if cats are “guilty of grabbing a forbidden snack every now and then,” they don’t have the coordination, technology or will to carve up habitats, render entire swaths of the Earth uninhabitable with nuclear fallout, create Everest-size mountains of garbage, or effortlessly drive millions of species to extinction, Clawin said.

“They’re so good at it, they don’t even have to try,” he noted, pointing out human accidents or incidents of negligence like oil spills and chemical run-off into rivers. “We tend to think of humans out there with shotguns and rifles, cackling maniacally as they shoot anything that moves. And, sure, they do that, especially in places like Texas where the sight of any animal always prompts the question ‘Should we shoot it?’ But our research shows they can wipe out entire categories of fauna in their sleep. It’s remarkable.”

Additional reading: Polish institute classifies cats as alien invasive species

PITB Reviews: The Platform

Movie: The Platform (2020)
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Genre: Horror, social commentary
Medium: Netflix

The premise of The Platform is simple: A man wakes up in a concrete prison cell. The center of the cell is dominated by rectangular gaps in the floor and ceiling, and when our protagonist warily steps closer he can see levels of identical cells above and below him. The cells extend as far as the eye can see in both directions, each populated by two prisoners.

Every day, a platform is lowered level-by-level, laden with a massive feast: Meats, wine, cheese, bread, cake, soup, pie, fish, escargot, paella, salads, grapes, apples and other fresh fruit, vegetables, juice. Every kind of food you can imagine, cooked and prepared to perfection by professional chefs.

Goreng, our protagonist, is greeted by his cell mate, a kindly old man named Trimagasi who sits down next to the edge of the hole in the floor in anticipation of the platform’s arrival. When it descends to their level he pigs out, shoveling as much food as he can into his mouth before a buzzer sounds and the platform descends another level.

Goreng looks on, digusted: The food is scattered all over the platform, much of it half-eaten. Clearly, these are someone’s disgusting leftovers.

The Platform
Trimagasi, top, pigs out while Goreng picks at food scraps.

Trimagasi urges Goreng to eat, and explains that they are very fortunate indeed: At level 48 there’s still enough food leftover from the prisoners on the 47 levels above that they won’t starve this month. At the end of every month, he says, each pair of cellmates are put to sleep with gas and wake up on a new level that is chosen at random by the people operating the cruel social experiment.

Trimagasi tells Goreng he once spent a month on level 132, where not a scrap of food is left by the time the platform descends. Goreng asks the old man how he survived, and Trimagasi demures.

We also learn that Goreng voluntarily entered in exchange for a real-world opportunity promised to him after he spends six months inside. Trimagasi was sent there as punishment: Infuriated by a TV commercial for a self-sharpening knife called the Samurai Plus after he’d just purchased a knife sharpening kit, Trimagasi threw his TV out of his window and unintentionally killed an illegal immigrant who was riding a bicycle below. He’s approaching the end of his two-year sentence in what the authorities call the VSC, short for Vertical Self-management Center.

Each prisoner is allowed to take one item with them inside: Goreng takes a copy of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, harboring romantic notions of finally reading the book with his time in the prison. Trimagasi, who loves to use the word “obviously,” told Goreng his choice of item was obvious: His prized Samurai Plus, which he cradles lovingly as he boasts about how it can cut concrete without dulling.

Goreng puts two and two together, realizing how Trimagasi survived on level 132.

The Platform
Going down: Just a portion of the feast as it exists on the platform before it’s consumed, defiled and excreted, level by level.

The Platform is a blunt allegory for human civilization, specifically the enormous wealth disparities of modern societies. The occupants of level 1 are the Jeff Bezoses and Walton families of the world, people with unimaginable, multigenerational wealth pigging out on life’s resources without thinking of the starving street children of India, the homeless of cities like New York and San Francisco, the families in North Korea eating tree bark.

Some reviewers think it’s a critique of capitalism, but I think it’s more universal than that: The kleptocrats of countries like Mexico, Russia and Brazil, the monarchies and emirates of the Middle East, and the party bigwigs of communist countries like China pig out on their own respective first levels while the people 130 “levels” down starve just the same.

The rest of us? We’re in the 30s, 40s and 50s, happily scarfing down the scraps from above, the ad revenue the Zuckerbergs and Pichais allow us by their forbearance, the slightly comfortable salaries allowed by corporate shareholders, the house and garage we might enjoy if we’re fortunate enough to run a successful small business in an industry that hasn’t been pillaged by the multinationals yet.

Some people might find the movie heavy-handed, but I don’t see it that way. As uncomfortable as it is to watch at times, reality is much, much worse. The fact that some of the movie’s scenes are difficult to watch is testament to how lucky we are to be born in circumstances where that kind of suffering isn’t part of our experience, let alone our daily lives. Show The Platform to one of the handful of people to ever escape a North Korean hard labor camp, for instance, and they probably won’t even blink.

It also shows how our betters divide and conquer to keep the rest of us distracted and themselves secure. The idea that most people who receive social services are lazy bums is a popular one in some quarters, encouraging people not to have empathy for the less well off, but to loathe them. Likewise, the people occupying the higher floors of The Platform’s prison don’t feel sorry for those beneath them. In one scene, two cellmates tell a man they’ll help him ascend to their floor, then literally shit on him as he’s just within reach, cackling with delight as he falls.

I didn’t take it as a call for socialism either. The movie makes it pretty clear that neither asking people to moderate their consumption, nor trying to enforce sharing works out for the people who try those methods. Indeed when socialism has worked in real world circumstances, it’s been part of a hybrid model that still uses capitalism as its economic engine.

Mostly, The Platform exists to make people think. While Jeff Bezos goes to sleep tonight in his $50 million compound estate, dreaming of his next vanity flight to low Earth orbit or the next hypercar he’s going to buy, there’s someone shivering on a park bench with 15 cents in their pocket, stomach grumbling, knowing the people who pass them by every day don’t even see them as human.

Going To Asia? Leave Your Pets At Home, Plus: Aussie Former Soldier Pleads In Shelter Assault

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been kind to pets, but the virus itself has done little damage to animals compared to the actions of scared and misinformed people.

After finally admitting it had a human-to-human transmissible virus on its hands — months after it knew privately about the virus outbreak — the Chinese government waged a war on pets in the first few weeks of 2020 as the world watched in horror.

People abandoned pets en masse in empty homes and apartments, while government authorities shot dogs and cats on sight to prevent the spread of the virus even though there was no evidence they could be infected, much less pass the virus to people. As paranoia and misinformation spread, people even resorted to clubbing pets to death on the streets.

Now we know cats can get the virus, but there’s still no evidence they can transmit it to humans, which makes the practice of killing COVID-infected pets even more infuriating in addition to pointless.

The latest incident is from Vietnam, where authorities killed 15 dogs and a cat belonging to a local bricklayer who returned to his home province after work dried up. Authorities seized his pets and “destroyed them” last week in what a government official is now calling a mistake prompted by “COVID prevention pressure and local coercion.”

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Pham Minh Hung, 49, with his dogs as he returned home to Ca Mau, Vietnam. Credit: Pham Minh Hung

That story follows an incident in the Chinese city of Harbin, where three cats were euthanized in late September — over the owner’s objections — by authorities who said they were worried the pets would “re-infect” their owners.

Pet ownership and respect for animals among the public has increased in countries like China and Vietnam in recent years, prompted by an increase in disposable income and the influence of the internet. Both cases caused widespread backlash in their respective countries, with users defying laws prohibiting criticism of government to complain about the pet killings.

“It doesn’t seem very realistic that the cats would contaminate the environment so badly that they would be a risk for their owner to re-contract COVID,” Rachael Tarlinton, a virology professor at the UK’s University of Nottingham, told Reuters.

He REALLY Wanted His Cat Back

Meanwhile in Australia, a former soldier has pleaded guilty to reduced charges after he “stormed” a pet shelter in Melbourne’s suburbs to recover his cat in January.

Prosecutors say 45-year-old Tony Wittman was outfitted with a fake but real-looking rifle and full military gear when he went to the Lost Dog’s Home in Cranbourne West late on a January night, holding a female employee at gunpoint while demanding to know where the cats were kept.

Wittman had called the shelter 10 minutes before it closed earlier that night, Australian media reported at the time, and was told the shelter had recovered his cat, but that he’d have to wait until morning to claim her.

Wittman, who threatened to shoot the employee if she didn’t comply with his demands, told the court he suffers from PTSD and felt he needed to retrieve the lost feline immediately because he “loves his cat and relies on his cat for support.”

Wittman got spooked and left the shelter before taking his cat. He dumped his tactical vest and other gear in bushes not far from the shelter.

The incident was captured on the shelter’s security cameras, and Wittman was caught when he dropped by the following morning to pick up his cat as if nothing had happened.

“The victim and her work colleagues are absolutely traumatised by what’s happened,” a detective told the court in an earlier hearing. “He’s aware of their workplace. He lives close by. He has shown a complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the general public.”

Wittman’s lawyers were able to negotiate a deal with prosecutors in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges