by Roxanne Galvan
As we approach World Week for Animals in Laboratories, I want us to take a few moments to remember the tragic story of Britches. In 1985, a baby macaque monkey was born in a laboratory at the University of Riverside. Shortly after, he was stripped from his mother’s care and subjected to unimaginable cruelty under the guise of ‘scientific research’. Some would prefer to call it for what it truly is: torture. Britches was forced to be the subject of a study surrounding human blindness. His fresh, tiny eyes were sewn shut with oversized sutures, such that he suffered permanent corneal damage once they were removed by his liberators. A sonar device that emitted piercing sounds was strapped to his head. The baby macaque was left alone in a small metal cage where he spent the fir
st 5 weeks of his life terrified and devoid of any compassion or solace. The story of Britches has a happy ending where anonymous ALF activists, with the help of sympathetic workers within the laboratory, rescue him along with somewhere between 400-700 other animals. Dressed in white lab coats and black balaclavas, they conducted a live liberation, filming and exposing the horror lab. For Britches, we get a sigh of relief knowing he was saved from solitary confinement and spent the rest of his years in a sanctuary with an elder macaque foster mom. For the countless other animals who have died and are awaiting premature death in labs, we cannot feel that relief.
Vivisection is a topic that makes almost anyone uncomfortable as they struggle with the selfish guilt of believing that animal suffering is a ‘necessary evil’ to develop new medicines and technology to reduce our mortality rate. In fact, people will justify many things─factory farming, the increasing deforestation of the Amazon to sustain crops for a growing human population, the construction of oil pipelines to fuel their sedentary lifestyles, plastic pollution to minimize time spent washing reusable dishes─as ‘necessary evils’ suitable to make us more and more comfortable with how our bodies and leisure time are being used as tools of labor and productivity. Where we fail as a whole is in the cultural belief that the world belongs to humans, and therefore animals are to be dominated for our convenience. How else could an entire group of people justify the trapping, stealing, and breeding of beautiful animals with emotions and unique abilities in order to perform painful experiments on them? The mounting evidence surrounding how useless these experiments are in actually helping people is certainly not changing the hearts and minds of the masses.
In a capitalist civilization, money and social power are what often drive people to oppress others and in the vivisection industry, animals are the ones who pay the ultimate price with their freedom and lives. This is why we must continue to march on UCLA, to educate our friends and family, use our voices and stories, our abilities and talents and keep caring about our environment, the animals who deserve to be free from cages and cruel experiments, and a better future for humanity. We are not living in sync with all the other beings on this planet and if we continue on this quest for dominance, we will be heading towards collapse. I want to challenge you to think of, to imagine, a better future for us, for indigenous cultures, for the earth’s marginalized peoples, for the forests and oceans, for the monkeys, gorillas, mink, pigs, rabbits, and all other creatures we share this planet with.