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So I just received an email that there will be an extensive campaign across France leading up to an anti-vivisection mobilization in Paris on April 23rd (as part of Lab Animal Week). Beginning April 2nd, a lone warrior named Ben will be riding his bike 1000 km (approximately 600 miles) from Montpelier to Paris, stopping along the way in each town to inform people and amass more numbers for the demo in Paris.

It is creative and dynamic action like this that truly inspires me. It’s so invigorating to hear of activists dreaming up ways to advance radical organizing and fight for animal liberation right now. Activists everywhere should take note.

Solidarity with “Operation velo” and all the freedom fighters preparing to mobilize on April 23rd!

I ran across this AP report tonight and thought it highly topical for this blog. The author Mike Strobbe reveals experimentation on nonconsenting humans in the mid-20th century. The federally-funded tests run the gamut from exposing individuals in mental health institutions to hepatits, to government researchers infecting prisoners in Atlanta with gonorrhea through their urinary tracts. The article cites how most of these atrocities were never covered in the news; and in the few that were “the focus was on the promise of enduring new cures, while glossing over how test subjects were treated.”

Hmmm…Sound familiar??? How about this:

One newspaper account mentioned the test subjects were ‘senile and debilitated.’  Then it quickly moved on to the promising results.”

Now, instead of “senile and debilitated” just insert “soulless and unintelligent,” and you basically sum up the highly profitable animal research industry today.

The article goes on to point out,

Many prominent researchers felt it was legitimate to experiment on people who did not have full rights in society — people like prisoners, mental patients, poor blacks. It was an attitude in some ways similar to that of Nazi doctors experimenting on Jews”

The article does an incredibly thorough job outlining atrocities occuring at the hands of researchers in prisons and mental institutions, of data cover-ups (as when a penicillin test, in which prisoners and patients in a Guatemalan mental institution were infected with syphillus, yielded no results), and the lack of public outcry due to media whitewashing and cultual conditioning; yet, ironically enough, the article fails to make even a loose connection to the tens of millions of nonhuman animals who are abused yearly inside medical facilities.

We know it’s only a matter of time — the omens are everywhere  — before scientists start holding international “bioethics” panels about animals used for science, when it is publicly recognized for the atrocity that it is. We know that history will absolve those who’ve committed illegal actions on behalf of animals in labs — even if today they’ve been labeled “terrorists” and those who’ve been caught languish in prisons. We know this day will come. And many of us will do whatever we can to make that day come sooner.

Short and sweet…

A recording of the live interview conducted by Matt Olsen on Tulane’s radio station, WTUL New Orleans 91.5 fm, on the morning of January 10th, 2011, can be streamed here.

More follow-ups to the 30 days are in the works. Believe that. It ain’t over till…well, you know… Animals are still inside those labs! Stay tuned for more updates.

Thanks.

Animal liberationists held a vigil yesterday outside the Orgeon Health Sciences Center in Portland to “mourn the deaths of countless animals” within the labs of this facility and the Oregon Primate Research Center. What a great idea!

Awesome. Rock on, PDX.                                                                                 Party on, Garth.

I will be appearing on the “News and Views” program on WTUL New Olreans’ 91.5 fm station this Monday morning (1/10/10). Tune in from 9am to 10am, after the Democracy Now! broadcast, to hear me regale the airwaves with tales of my experiences over the course of my 30-day “performance art” project about vivisection happening at Tulane. Over Tulane’s own radio station, no less. (If you’re not in NOLA, or don’t have a chance to catch it live, click that link and listen to the recorded archive.)

Also — a retrospective of 30DFLA by yours truly was just published in Antigravity Magazine , on lucky page eight in the PDF document. (Click that link, son-ra.)

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That PDF is a little hard to read, so for those struggling with vision clarity or simply internet laziness, below is the column (albeit without a few minor edits by AG and including some internet links) transcribed…

 

30 DAYS FOR LABORATORY ANIMALS RETROSPECTIVE: THE VITALITY OF RESISTANCE

As we stand in the meager block of lighted concrete, the afternoon sun’s rays reaching down onto us from only a tawdry glare in the neighboring hospital’s window, direct warmth shielded by a canopy of steel, I describe to a friend the evolution of my humble anti-vivisection project, 30 Days for Laboratory Animals, over the past weeks. “It almost feels like I work here,” I joke. Like a custodian’s behind-the-scenes and undervalued relationship to the stability of an academic institution, similarly, as the researchers perform experiments on animals on the 9th floor of the Tulane Health Sciences Center, I feel I in turn provide a service by calling their work into question on their way inside each day. I suspect many—if only begrudgingly—kind of respect me. And suspending disbelief for just a moment, maybe by some morbid stretch I even respect them. Without the vivisectors’ work, admittedly, I would not have my own, and without my efforts, they…Well, I like to think, at least for the most part, the relationship is not so much adversarial but symbiotic

Ex-convicts say the world looks different after a “bid”; likewise, I can attest that after 120 hours in public space, the ground occupied for four hours each day comes to represent more than just “the sidewalk outside the School of Medicine.” Like an unused parking lot re-appropriated for a community garden, the space of a demonstration is reclaimed, transformed—a liberated territory, if you will. “Yeah,” replies my comrade, absorbing the sun’s brilliance with me. “We’re actually standing on The Beach”—the name it shall be known as henceforth. Oh, you may think that brown trash can, where Subway wrappers are deposited daily, is some unremarkable fixture of the urban landscape—but look closer, young padawan. “That’s the lifeguard stand,”notes S——, a true visionary of our time. My view from the picnic blanket commands not that of a downtown cluster of medical complexes but—why, yes, I see it now—a vast, shimmering ocean, teeming with life!

My creative writing teacher in high school used to give the instruction “Show me, don’t tell me.” But holed up beneath my covers, trying to pound this sucker out, I am at a loss for just how to judiciously portray the past month with mere prose. I could describe, inadequately, those most poignant moments: the Indian woman confiding to me that the unwanted animals she “sacrificed” with CO2 over her seven months as a lab tech caused her profound guilt and stress; the surgeon deconstructing his own speciesist conditioning right there before me with the realization that condemning intelligent pigs’ to death for “teaching purposes” is unethical (“Pretty hypocritical, huh, Derek?” he remarked a few minutes later, holding up the dog he’d just scooped off his ride’s passenger seat); or the Ukranian exchange student helping me hand out flyers and assuring me that she appreciated my work more than I could ever know. Such validation outweighed all the wrinkled noses or callous indifference I endured at the hands of some of those less compassionate staff, researchers, or students. It is the former vital connections, always, that remind me why I resist.

My field study also produced those humorous anecdotes. The man who stole my unattended phone and eventually returned it—but not before trying to hussle $40: a knee-slapper, indeed! Add to this the university policeman, having read said account on my blog, trying the next day to persuade me to provide a description of the thief, which I politely declined—an interaction more puzzling, but amusing all the same.

“Well, if it didn’t really happen,” the cop says after my courteous refusals, “just let me know.” Huh? “If it was just internet banter, I understand….” Cops: if anyone understands the art of fibbing, it’s them!

“Well, it did happen…,” I reply, a bit confused.

“Just tell me it didn’t happen,” he offers again, with a dismissive wave, “and I’ll leave you alone about it.”

In retrospect, I wish I would have explored some possible descriptive variations (“Oh, you know—white male, gray hair, wearing a suit and lab coat…”), but they say hindsight is 20/20. Assuming we reached some implied “understanding,” I finally retract, with a hint of sarcasm: “OK—it didn’t happen.” The cop then looks me in the eye and nods, squarely—“I appreciate your honesty.” Uhhh…? Wait, what’s going on?! Adding insult to injury, he then high-fives me and walks away before I can even retort! Manipulating me into “confessing” to a lie, and then thanking me for my “honesty”! I felt…just…well, dirty!

As my sociological experiment draws to its close, I sigh not with grateful relief but rather a modicum of sadness. I find it tragic that many perceive the practical applications of social struggle with a disdain they reserve for, say, panhandling: a pathetic display in which dehumanized crazies “beg for change.” Demonstrating can be humbling, I won’t disagree with that. Fact: more than once did a passerby offer food or money—after all, between my ragged cardboard signs and the sight of my frail, loitering form wrapped in a blanket on the chilliest days, such a misconception (“Aw, that poor orphan!”) is understandable. And when it involved a sweet med student girl I’d only just met insisting on treating me to a veggie sub, sometimes I even accepted “charity”! Besides, the “indigent”(i.e., the dudes who pass me on their way to the library) so scorned by society are in many ways more in touch with reality, I’ve learned, than some of its most “respectable” members (i.e., those holding PhDs and salary jobs). No, there are things far worse in this world than public vulnerability—on the contrary, this can be a healthy exercise. Honestly, I have never felt more ashamed, disempowered, or uncreative in my life as those days I sat at home, paralyzed by inaction.

Protesting—even for 30 days—isn’t going to set the animals inside that building free; it breaks my heart to say this, but Rome also wasn’t built in a day. Such an acknowledgment doesn’t, however, lead me (conveniently) to not act—and here emerges a deeper message I’ve been scratching at the surface of all along. Consider punk rock as a contextual parallel. Writing zines, playing in bands, booking shows…Few of us entertain the highfalutin expectations that any of these personal endeavors will “change the world,” yet we still undertake them. (Though take a gander at the evolutions of the riot grrrl movement, or straightedge, and maybe rethink what I just said!) We do so, I think it’s safe to say, because projects of this nature directly affect our individual lives and often influence those around us. Such pursuits teach us skills, grant us mediums for self-expression, and open up possibilities for connection and experience. In essence, they impregnate our lives with meaning and make us feel more fully alive.

Here’s my point: hardly a day has gone by that I haven’t been haunted by the horrors of vivisection and the animals caged inside laboratories like Tulane’s—which are fortified not only with locks and alarms but a cultural ideology of speciesism. If I would have continued internalizing the grief of the humiliations these animals suffer and remained an inactive vegan, I would have been doing a great disservice not only to them but to myself as well—and, inevitably, a service to those ordering their executions. The mother grizzly does not ponder the efficacy of charging the train that mauled her child; she simply acts how any one who loves would in the face of such tragedy. At the end of the day, I respect those who follow their hearts and act more than the defeatist utilitarians. As Chris Hedges writes, “Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for the larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative.” This is what 30 Days for Laboratory Animals has meant for me—and so much more…

Gazing out from The Beach of Tulane Avenue for the final hours, feeling all wistful, a metaphor takes form like a cloud on the horizon: that of a vast ocean, poisoned to such a degree that those sustained by it have begun to die. And we as individuals are moved to a monumental task: to perpetually filter living water back into this body. Each one of our struggles represents a droplet of clean water, and we hope beyond the last vestiges of hope that the disease overtaking cannot devour as much as we reintroduce. We work less with the expectation of ever again frolicking the pristine waters in our own lifetime, but because this beautiful ocean is an integral part of who we are—and the truest thing we possess.

And because to not do so, in essence, would be to succumb.

To die.

“All that I can give, everything that I am / Can so easily disappear, like grass blown by the wind/ But I cannot embrace that which kills all I love/ So draw the line and count me as an enemy”Seven Generations, “Chimera”

Sorry for my absence these past few days. Have you missed me, ye School of Medicine personnel? I flirted with the mischievous idea of showing up on the 30th, just to see how many took notice with indignation (“You said 30 days!”), but I let it pass — as I have so many other schemes of mine…

In lieu of a conclusory treatise, which I feel I came close enough to in my last post, I offer this 19-minute video interview taken and marvellously edited by the illustrious Francis N. Blake (big thanks, my friend!) on my last day. At times entertaining (the courier’s testimonial is definitely my fave), other times annoyingly deliberating — but overall a satisfactory presentation of the intentions and motivations driving 30 Days for Laboratory Animals. (The “raw” interview  can be viewed, in all its unedited glory, here.)

Keep posted for updates, as they will trickle in. So you can run and tell that. Thanks for everything. With that, I raise my glass of soy nog: “To a fulfilling new year!”

“…And there’s plenty more where that came from.”—Kevin McCallister

Between the biting cold, the forlorn street, and the building’s pedestrian traffic at a disheartening holiday low, I feel I am finally ready to lay this project to rest…for now, at least. The hours spent in solitude out there have given me plenty of time to question the efficacy of my efforts and  at times even  to lament my somewhat impulsive planning (choosing winter over spring, including a holiday week and semester break, etc.); but more importantly, I’ve had ample time to contemplate redoubling these efforts for next time. However that may manifest itself. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment spent chatting with those who bid me the honor, constantly learning, enjoying the company of friends, meeting new ones, and experimenting with this medium of communication and protest.

This is far from over. The mainstream media seemed to not care enough to cover my humble project, but who needs ‘em anyway? In the past few days I have done interviews for a documentary film on veganism in New Orleans, and another for a podcast called Vegan Radio. The latter should be available shortly after the start of the New Year.

I want every one to know how inspiring such a project can be, and beseech you all to try something like it. I’d like to thank every individual who came to visit; my amazing friend who provided the initial spark, encouragement, and help to hatch this outrageous plan; Michael at SAEN; Jeff at the Humane Society of LA; all who organized and participated in solidarity actions around the U.$.; and those courageous individuals who showed themselves unafraid to heed their conscience and question their colleagues’/bosses’ unethical atrocities on the animal kingdom. Little thanks to “philoshophy guy,” who gave me more of a headache than any constructive criticisms. A begrudging “thank you” to the dude who stole my phone, only to return it after he tried unsuccessfully to secure $40 (yes, this really did happen, Officer “I Appreciate Your Honesty”. Duh. What’s more unbelievable — that I would fabricate such a story for the purpose of “internet banter” or that I simply wasn’t interested in providing the university police with a profile/description of some  harmless individual?! ).

Remember, comrades and conscientious objectors, that just because we use (or may have used) a procedure developed ostensibly “through” [sic] animal experiments does not make us perpetrators of the violence inflicted on these beings. This is the lucrative paradigm of the research world — as enforced by the NIH and FDA, and lobbied for by powerful pharmaceutical giants — and a shrewd way for those whose salaries depend upon animal research grants to deflect accountability. (As a matter of fact, as an individual who has laid awake nights haunted by the images of laboratories and terrified animals, such a spiteful sentiment evokes more than a little resentment.) We did not construct these concentration camps, and we do not order these animals’ executions.* Our responsibility lies not with which procurements of modern medical technologies we use — any more than our being treated for hypothermia would subject us to complicity with the Nazis who developed said data from experiments on Jews. Where our responsibilities lie is in stopping the system that perpetuates institutionalized animal abuse. For if we do not try to stop the horrors, we can, indeed, count ourselves as complicit as the “good Germans” who did all in their power to numb themselves and ignore the smoke stacks rising in the distance…

Remember it is not a matter of procedure but a matter of systemic oppression. So when those who abuse animals assure us that their methods are humane, when they tell us they care for the animals they exploit, here is my rebuttal:

“The worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it.” — Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism

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*Just the other day, a woman told me how for seven months she “sacked” the unwanted animals by gassing them with CO2. (The phrase “sacking” is indicative of the disconnection implicit in animal experimentation: it’s short for “sacrifice,” otherwise known as “murder” — thus, “sack” is an abbreviation of a euphemism.) She told me, “It really stressed me out. It made me feel really guilty.”

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