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Of all the cruelties humans inflict on animals, vivisection is arguably one of the most insidious. The use of these victims as “test subjects” has a long and disgraceful history, made all the more shameful by the enduring myth that animals “sacrificed” for the good of science are soulless objects without interests of their own. That notion is slowly, if grudgingly, beginning to change, as institutions begin to acknowledge the self-awareness in some animals. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, recently announced plans to substantially reduce the number of chimpanzees used for government-funded biomedical research. The NIH will “retire” hundreds of these chimps and move them to sanctuaries over the next few years. (The NIH will retain up to 50 chimps, however, and their decision does not impact private institutions.)
While it’s wonderful to see anyone released from a laboratory, the tragedy is that thousands upon thousands of mice, dogs, rabbits, cats, pigs, fish, rats, and other species languish inside facilities where they are used to test drugs, household products, medical devices, surgical techniques, military weapons, and much more.
That’s why I was so heartened to learn about New Life Animal Sanctuary in southern California. New Life is the brainchild of longtime activist Gina Lynn, who started the rescue center a few years ago when she heard the psych program that used animals at California State University‒Northridge was closing down. “We were committed to rescuing all the animals they had there,” she says. “More than 300 small animals—rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and mice—including all the offspring of the animals who came to us pregnant. All of those animals, plus five rabbits and 50 more mice from two additional labs, were all adopted out into wonderful homes!”
New Life’s mission is to take animals from labs and place them into loving homes, and do so completely above-ground. “We make sure that every animal we take in is completely legal so as not to potentially risk the other animals we care for,” explains Gina. “We have a legal contract that we have a representative of the lab sign saying they are releasing the animals to our care and relinquishing all rights they have to the animals.”
Gina learned how to start a sanctuary through Best Friends, which offers a course that introduced her to the physical, administrative, and emotional elements of such an effort. “It was awesome,” she says. “I attended a week-long workshop at the sanctuary that covered every aspect of starting and running a sanctuary. We learned everything about animal care, raising money, recruiting volunteers, building and maintaining safe enclosures, etc. We got to see firsthand how a beautifully successful sanctuary is effectively run and were given lots of useful tools and materials to take home for future use.”
Of course, unlike most shelters, before an animal can be adopted from New Life, the traumatic experience of life in a lab means that she or he needs to be rehabilitated first. “We have to take every animal and situation on a case-by-case basis,” says Gina. “I believe that love can be very healing, and I have personally rehabilitated severely abused or otherwise traumatized dogs and cats. It is beautiful and amazing to see the transformation once an animal realizes that there is no longer anything to fear, that all of their needs will be met, and that they can trust in the love and affection of a human being.”
There is a concern, however, that rehoming animals from labs could provide research institutions with a convenient way to assuage their consciences regarding the future of animals they exploit, and it’s one Gina and her team are well aware of. “That has been a topic of conversation and will continue to be going forward. We are completely opposed to animal experimentation and must be careful not to sanction what they do in any way. One thing that was great about the Cal State Northridge rescue was that the entire animal department was shut down and the experiments were ended permanently!”
Keep an eye on New Life Animal Sanctuary’s Facebook page and new website for more details on their rescues and adoptable animals. They will soon be calling for volunteers and looking for donations so they can continue their rescue work.Follow @markhawthorne
Vivisectionists are looking over their shoulders a little more. University police are double-checking locks. Research labs are reviewing security measures. Yes, World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week is almost here. From April 18th to the 26th animal activists across the US, France, Ireland, Israel, South Africa, the UK and elsewhere will be staging protests and media events to raise awareness about the millions of animals who suffer and die in laboratories every year around the world. These animals are subjected to caustic chemicals, addictive drugs, electric shock, ionizing radiation, chemical and biological weapons, deprivation of food and water, psychological torture and many other atrocities, all in the name of “science.”
According to Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN), World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week dates back to the early ‘80s when a number of coordinated protests took place at US primate centers, including those at Harvard University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Davis. “It has grown from being observed on a single day, April 24th, to an entire week to allow more people to participate,” says Michael, who, after earning a degree in animal health technology from the University of Cincinnati, found himself working inside a laboratory. “That’s what woke me up to the issue,” he says. “Basically, animal health technicians do one of two things: they work for veterinarians in private practice or they work in research laboratories.” After engaging in lab work, such as oral dosing procedures that are part of the infamous LD50 tests, Michael quit to become an advocate for animals. “If that doesn’t make you an activist, nothing will.”
Michael told me about a report that details the duplication of animal experimentation within the National Eye Institute. “According to the information we’ve gathered over the last year, NEI is currently funding primate experimentation at 26 laboratories in 15 states involving 53 grants, which utilizes roughly $100 million over five years. But the bottom line is they are funding the same paradigm — the same experimental procedures ― over and over and over again. Even if someone had doubts about the validity of animal research or felt there might be some value in it, why do we need to be doing the same thing at least 53 times simultaneously?”
Getting involved in World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week can be as simple as spreading the word. Here are five things you can do:
1. Educate yourself. Learn the facts behind animal experimentation by reading the articles and fact sheets on the SAEN site. Check out resources on other sites, such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Americans for Medical Advancement. You can also read books such as Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, which gives readers an inside look at the research industry and its use of animals.
2. Educate others. Talk to friends and family about what is going on behind the closed doors of research labs. Add an auto-signature to your email with a link to SAEN. Post information on social-networking sites. Forward this post others.
3. Participate in a World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week event ― or plan one of your own. The goal of WLALW is to raise awareness about the horrors of animal experimentation. It’s important that the public understand the toll in terms of animal suffering, wasted tax dollars and the danger to human health. SAEN will be happy to help you.
4. Send letters to elected officials. SAEN is asking people to contact their senators and representatives to request a General Accounting Office audit of the National Eye Institute around the duplication of research projects. If you live in the US, you can find contact information for your elected officials here.
5. Support World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week financially. Working with local activists to support protests, news conferences and tabling is costly. SAEN provides all support to local groups and activists free of charge. Their communication costs, travel costs (to work directly with local groups) and materials costs are covered by donations from people like you. Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law. Please send all donations to:
Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
PMB 280 1081-B State Route 28
Milford, Ohio 45150
Remember: animals suffer in labs around the world 365 days a year. Anything you can do to help is appreciated.
A new documentary was released this week exposing the global primate trade and the treatment of these animals inside the notorious Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) testing facilities in England. Produced by Animal Defenders International (ADI), Save the Primates shows animals being taken from their homes in the wild and delivered directly to laboratories. HLS in Cambridgeshire is a major contract testing operation for multinational product brands; it can hold up to 550 monkeys at a time. During ADI’s one-year undercover investigation, 217 monkeys were killed in just five studies.
This new investigation is part of a European initiative to ban the use of primates in experiments and is being coordinated by ADI and the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS). Among the horrors Save the Primates reveals:
In South America, owl monkeys scream as they are torn from their families in the rainforest to be taken to Colombia for malaria experiments.
In Vietnam, monkeys frantically rattle their tiny, rusting cages while being held captive by a primate supplier approved by the UK Home Office. (In a single year, this business supplied nearly 500 monkeys to HLS.)
In the UK, primates are used in commercial testing at HLS in Cambridgeshire. The video shows struggling monkeys strapped into chairs and forced to inhale products. Many of the animals are housed in one-cubic-meter cages and then taken out to be held down by workers as tubes are forced down their throats.
The new “Save the Primates” report and investigation are part of a comprehensive study linking primate research and the international primate trade to the alternatives that are now available. Hoping to secure Europe-wide support for an end primate tests, ADI and NAVS have produced Save the Primates in English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish.
“There is a unique opportunity in Europe to finally begin phasing out experiments on primates,” says ADI Chief Executive Jan Creamer. “Nobody looking at the undercover footage of monkeys at this leading UK laboratory could fail to be moved by the stress and suffering these animals are forced to endure. Yet there are alternatives to using monkeys in these tests. Now that the truth of everyday suffering has been revealed, we must seize the opportunity to put an end to it.”
Activists with the Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) of Ireland this week are calling on their government to halt further funding for animal research at Smooth Muscle Research Centre (SMRC) located at the Dundalk Institute of Technology. An exposé in this week’s Dundalk Argus, a leading local newspaper, reveals how researchers at SMRC use rabbits and mice imported into Ireland from Charles River Laboratories based in the UK and Mayo, Ireland, for research into erectile dysfunction, urinary tract infections, incontinence and cardiovascular systems.
At SMRC, rabbits and mice are routinely killed and dissected so their body parts can be used in the experiments. ARAN argues that SMRC should use parts from human bodies donated to science and that such work would provide human-relevant data while also eliminating the extra steps of having to breed the animals, transport them, kill them and then use their body parts. The laboratory is subsidized in part by the government.
“Yet again animal experiments are shown to be highly unethical, unnecessary and unreliable,” says Stephan Wymore, head of research for ARAN. “Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction. Irish medical research needs a rapid modernized shake up.”
According to the news article, figures released from the Department of Agriculture show that between September 2005 and November 2008 SMRC imported 1,000 New Zealand white rabbits and 70 mice to use in tests.
ARAN is directing activists to the site for the National Anti-Vivisection Society for more information on humane research and ways to get involved in campaigns against vivisection.
You can read more about ARAN and their campaigns here.
From the same vivisectionists who helped give us the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act comes animalrightsextremism.org. Launched by the US-based Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the Web site is devoted to resources on “animal rights extremism.”
The site says that “Animal rights extremists … pose a real threat to medical progress and the scientists who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others.” Well, as long as they’re human, presumably.
According to Carrie Wolinetz, FASEB’s Director of Scientific Affairs and Public Relations for the Office of Public Affairs, “We wanted researchers who have been targeted by these groups to have centralized access to the resources available to assist them. Scientists need to know that the research community supports them and they are not alone.”
FASEB apparently hopes to attract the younger set: there’s a page on the site featuring cartoon animals and photos of animals in all kinds of cute poses. Conspicuously absent are any shots of mice left with untreated ulcers, immobilized monkeys locked in torture devices or cats with electrodes planted in their brains.
For reasons why animal activists are working to end animal testing, please visit http://www.stopanimaltests.com/
A recent editorial on Dissident Voice juxtaposes the fear animal researchers feel when confronted by protesters with the pain and terror animals experience in lab experiments.
Interestingly, the article was authored by Dan Kapelovitz, president of the Animal Law Society at the UCLA School of Law; Jill Ryther, communications director of the Animal Law Society at the UCLA School of Law; and Jaime Bryant, professor of law and faculty adviser to the Animal Law Society at the UCLA School of Law.
UCLA not only engages in vivisection, but it was quite vocal in its support of California’s Assembly Bill 2296, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law last month. The law, which takes effect immediately, provides new penalties for those who target the homes and families of academic researchers, in particular those who use animals in their research. It makes it a misdemeanor to trespass on the home property of an academic researcher “for the purpose of chilling, preventing the exercise of, or interfering with the researcher’s academic freedom,” and it establishes a new misdemeanor offense for anyone who publishes personal information about a researcher, or his or her family, in order to encourage others to commit violent acts or threaten violence against them.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, himself a former animal researcher, certainly must have bristled at the article by Kapelovitz, Ryther and Bryant, who write: “Every day at places like UCLA, animals are subjected to excruciating, unrelieved pain as involuntary subjects in research experiments that have not been described or justified to the public. Researchers and the heads of experiments hide behind unsupported general claims that such research is necessary and productive for human health, but they offer no information by which the public can assess their claims as to specific experiments.”
The authors end the piece by noting that “laws like this ― whose focus is the speech of protestors ― may actually increase violent acts against researchers rather than diminish them. When lawful speech is stifled by expansive use of such laws to intimidate protestors, activists concerned about imminent and ongoing violence against animals may feel the need to resort to methods other than speech to have their voices heard.”
That seems to be precisely what is happening.
Here’s a great example of the power of activism. Earlier this week, Farm Sanctuary, the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), Animal Place and other groups sent out notices that Covidien Electrosurgery was to host a cruel lab on August 7. The lab was to be part of a conference held by the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists in which pigs were to be killed and sacrificed in a “Hands-On Pig Lab” to demonstrate electrosurgical tools.
The call went out to activists everywhere to contact Covidien Electosurgery and ask them to remove live animals from their demonstration.
AAVS has announced today that the lab has been canceled. “Because so many of you voiced your opposition, the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists felt enough pressure to cancel that portion of the event,” reads the AAVS statement. “Covidien, the healthcare product company conducting the pig lab, intended to use live pigs in a marketing demonstration of its surgical tools. However, thanks to your phone calls and e-mails, this lab has been canceled and a strong message has been sent to those in the medical field that the public will not tolerate such treatment of animals.”
While this is great news, it’s also important that activists express their thanks to Covidien for making the right decision. Please take a moment to contact Bryan Hanson, president of Covidien Electrosurgery: firstname.lastname@example.org; ph: 303-530-2300; fax: 303-530-6285.
Also, please contact your federal representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 2193 – legislation that will amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the use of animals for marketing medical devices. The sponsors of this bill are Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and if your member of Congress has already become a cosponsor, please thank them!