Meet the Founder

Alex Pacheco is often described as the 

Father of the Modern Day Animal Rights Movement

in the United States.

As co-founder of both the world’s largest

animal rights organization (PETA) and the

world’s largest non-profit animal adoption

organization (Adopt-A-Pet), his 30-year track

record of victories for animals

is arguably unequaled.

He has received many awards, ranging from

induction into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame

to The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award,

though his favorite is being voted 

Crew Member of the Year by the Sea Shepherd.

From an early age, Pacheco was outraged by

social injustice, and very motivated to fight

against it. He grew up in the Midwest, watching the

Vietnam War on television and becoming passionate

about defending democracy against communism.

Too young to enlist and in high school,

he wrote to the CIA asking if he could become

an agent. They wrote back saying he was too

young and don’t call us, we’ll call you.

He then applied to the FBI and was accepted

to work at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

Just days before leaving for Washington,

he was talked out of it by his two mentors,

Father Thomas and martial arts expert Steve Adams. 

It was the year of The Concert for Bangladesh,

and they convinced him to instead pursue his other

passion: helping impoverished children. 

Accordingly, he enrolled in the Scholastic Program

for Ecclesiastical Students and for the next year

studied to become a priest while living with

three priests and seven brothers.

After one year in the Ecclesiastical Program,

he took a behind-the-scenes tour of a large

slaughterhouse, where his passion for defending

animals was unleashed. 

Witnessing the brutality firsthand, he dedicated himself

to defending the most helpless of all, and within days

he founded the activist organization The Ohio Animal

Rights Committee at Ohio State University,

and in the first month he received his first three

death threats from trappers and hunters.

Since then his commitment to defending animals

has incited violent opposition and death threats

in many shapes and sizes, from an angry man waving

a loaded .44 handgun and screaming for Pacheco while in

the PETA office, to anonymous packages mailed to

Pacheco, containing written death threats atop

the blood-soaked body parts of mutilated animals. 

Over the years he has received so many death threats

in the line of duty that he stopped counting early on.

In 1979 Pacheco left college to work as a crew member

aboard the Sea Shepherd under Captain Paul Watson

on the Sea Shepherd’s first whale protection campaign.

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, their mission

was to ram the world’s most notorious pirate

whale-killing ship, the Sierra.

Before embarking on the voyage and

in anticipation of the ramming,

the bow of the Sea Shepherd was fortified

with tons of concrete.

In the end, both ships were sunk in Portuguese waters. 

Prior to the sinking and while the crew was still in

Portugal, Portuguese authorities confiscated the passports

of Watson, Pacheco and a few others to prevent them

from leaving the country, pending possible prosecution.

To avoid capture by the Portuguese Border Patrol

and under the cover of night, Pacheco swam

across the border into Spain, hitchhiked to Madrid

and spent three days in an airport

waiting for a passport and a ticket to London,

where he then worked with Ronnie Lee,

founder of the underground Animal Liberation Front. 

Pacheco was later named Sea Shepherd’s 

Crew Member of the Year.

While in England, Pacheco also worked with the

British Hunt Saboteurs Association, disrupting hunts

and physically clashing with up to 40 hunters at a time,

who hunted from horseback and used whips

to strike the saboteurs; some saboteurs were

scarred for life with whip scars across their entire face.

When Pacheco’s visa expired, he returned to the U.S.

and moved to Washington, D.C. to become a lobbyist

for animals, where he also organized the first animal

rights civil disobedience training sessions in the U.S.

In 1980 he co-founded PETA and for 20 years

served as Chairman of the Board,

specializing in undercover investigations, litigation

and lobbying, before leaving in 2000.

During his tenure, the New York Times described PETA

as the mover and shaker of the Animal Rights Movement,

and the organization became a household name

to the point where an envelope with nothing more

than “PETA” written on it can be dropped into a mailbox

and it will still be successfully delivered

by the U.S. Postal Service. 

The legacy of his leadership has contributed

to the continuing success of the organization,

which currently has over 6 million members

and annual revenues exceeding $55 million.

Within months of founding PETA,

Pacheco began working undercover in a

federally funded animal research facility in Silver Spring,

Maryland, less than 10 miles from the White House.

For four months he gathered evidence of cruelty

to animals and compelled the Montgomery County,

Maryland Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office

to take legal action, with Pacheco leading law enforcement agents

into the laboratory, carrying out the world’s first,

and to this day only, police raid on an animal laboratory.

Unprecedented, the raid was covered on the

front page of the Washington Post and

broadcast nationwide on ABC World News.  

It was soon covered on the front pages of

every major newspaper in the U.S., often several times,

from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times

to the Soviet Union’s largest newspaper Tass,

including coverage by every U.S. television network. 

At one point, the front page of the Wall Street Journal

reported that the three topics the White House had 

received the most calls and letters about during 

that week were the war, unemployment, and

the Silver Spring Monkeys.

When photographs taken by Pacheco were broadcast,

showing severely mutilated laboratory primates,

the case sent shock waves through the biomedical

community worldwide.

Known as The Silver Spring Monkeys Case,

it generated a political and social battle that was fought

in Congress, in the courts, in the national media and

in the streets, with Pacheco spearheading a 15-year

campaign against the laboratory’s funding agency,

the National Institutes of Health, over the fate of the

laboratory primates.

The Washington Post wrote: The case ignited widespread

public debate on the ethical issues of animal research. 

It also turned Alex Pacheco into a public figure

and helped make PETA the largest, the most powerful -- 

and the most feared -- animal rights group in America.

The New York Times described it as the nation's 

best-known animal rights case.

Filmmaker Oliver Stone, in the forward to the book

Monkey Business: the Disturbing Case

that Launched the Animal Rights Movement, wrote ...

Out of the sad saga of the Silver Spring Monkeys grew

one of the most important social movements

of our time. 

The campaign brought to an end the era of

little old ladies in tennis shoes, transforming animal lovers

into activists and producing an explosion

in the birth of animal rights organizations.


The case also spawned the birth of anti-animal-protection

organizations such as the National Association for

Biomedical Research, which is comprised of major

drug companies, federal government agencies

and major universities, with membership fees 

exceeding $100,000 annually.

The campaign also led to the American Medical Association

commissioning a study by Harvard University on 

how to defeat the animal rights movement.

The study described Pacheco as “a national folk hero

to the animal rights movement.” 

In 1989, a secret Animal Research Action Plan

by the American Medical Association

called for divide-and-conquer tactics

to counter PETA and other animal groups.

After the plan was leaked, the AMA publicly

acknowledged their plan and boasted

about budgeting $21 million to carry it out.

The Silver Spring Monkey campaign

fueled an unprecedented amount of activism

and a flood of national media, with activities

ranging from illegal break-ins into animal laboratories,

to peaceful protests and civil disobedience

which continued to rise for almost two decades.

In the process, Pacheco was arrested over 60 times.

Spearheaded by Pacheco, the campaign produced

numerous precedents, including:

The first and only laboratory animal case

to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The first and only arrest of an animal experimenter

for cruelty to animals.

The first and only criminal prosecution and conviction 

of an animal experimenter on charges of cruelty.

The first termination of a federal research grant

because of cruelty.

The first and only confiscation of animals from a laboratory.

Introduction of federal legislation, signed by over 100

members of Congress, to force the federal government
to terminate funding for the laboratory

and to release the Silver Spring Monkeys.


In addition, fifty-five U.S. senators, ranging from

Senator Jesse Helms and Senator Barry Goldwater
to Senator Ted Kennedy, signed a joint statement
calling on the government to terminate funding
for the laboratory, end the experiments

and free the Silver Spring Monkeys.

Pacheco was called to testify as the lead witness

before Congressional Hearings by the U.S. House

Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology. 


He was called to testify as the star witness

for the State of Maryland in the criminal trial

and prosecution of animal experimenter Dr. Taub,

in State of Maryland vs. Dr. Edward Taub.


The campaign paved the way for passage

of federal animal protection legislation

– the 1985 Amendments to the Federal

Animal Welfare Act. 

In 1991 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against

the Silver Spring Monkeys, and in defiance of Congress 

the NIH immediately killed half of the surviving monkeys 

and the conflict continued.

Apart from the Silver Spring Monkey case,

while Chairman of PETA, some of Pacheco’s

most significant accomplishments came from

the wide range of roles he played in helping convince

many of the world’s largest corporations to

dramatically improve their policies concerning animals. 

From leading a high-profile three-year successful campaign

against the world’s largest corporation at the time,

General Motors -- in which Pacheco destroyed his own GM car

by setting it afire in public during a press conference

in downtown D.C. -- to his undercover work in the

Texas oil fields owned by Exxon, his track record of

victories for animals is remarkable.

Successfully targeted companies include

multi-billion-dollar companies such as Phillips Petroleum,

Shell Oil, Gillette, L’Oreal, Revlon and Avon,

to smaller companies such as Benetton,

Tonka, Mattel, Hasbro, Amway, Kenner,

Mary Kay and others.

In 1983, Pacheco went to work armed and undercover

in Waco, Texas, closing down the largest horse slaughter

operation in the world, where over 30,000 horses suffered. 


Working under dangerous conditions,

he was repeatedly threatened and shot at

by horse ranchers and publicly pursued

by the County Sheriff and sheriff’s deputies,

who attempted to arrest Pacheco on numerous occasions. 

The threats against him by armed ranchers

reached the point where Pacheco’s supporters

hired bodyguards for him, with the first two sets

of bodyguards quitting, saying it wasn’t worth the risk.

In the resulting Waco, Texas, horse slaughter case,

a special prosecutor was appointed, who convened

a grand jury, which in turn subpoenaed Pacheco,
with the sheriff then arresting Pacheco,

charging him with felonies ranging from

horse-theft to impersonating a federal officer. 

Legendary criminal defense attorney

Richard “Racehorse” Haynes came to Pacheco’s defense,

representing Pacheco before the grand jury

and successfully defending him against all criminal charges. 

In the end, the world’s largest horse-slaughter company

was permanently closed.

Pacheco then began undercover work in a

Defense Department research facility,

which resulted in a direct order by U.S. Secretary of Defense

Caspar Weinberger, covered on the front page of the

Washington Post, permanently closing down

the Pentagon’s Wound Laboratory,

where dogs and other animals were being shot

in underground firing ranges to test new weapons and bullets.

Unsatisfied, Pacheco led continued protests

against the D.O.D. until Secretary Weinberger issued

a second order, ordering that no dogs or cats

are to ever be used again, in any military ballistics training

or research, by the U.S. Defense Department. 

Soon afterwards, the underground Animal Liberation Front

raided the Head Injury Laboratory at the University

of Pennsylvania, removing 60 hours of videotape recordings

of severe brain damage experiments being

performed on live baboons and videotaped

by the experimenters themselves.

A copy of the videos ended up in Pacheco’s possession,

and from them he made the 30-minute documentary

Unnecessary Fuss, showing university doctors

committing violations of federal law

while violently scrambling the brains of live baboons. 

A grand jury was convened to investigate the theft

of federal property (the videotapes), and while Pacheco

was holding a news conference to call attention

to violations at the university, he was subpoenaed

by undercover agents.


In return, Pacheco led over 100 activists

in an orchestrated occupation and surprise takeover

of 15 federal offices at the headquarters

of the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency

funding the university experiments.

The occupation lasted four days,

generating national media and substantial

involvement by members of Congress. 


On the fourth day of the occupation,

Pacheco met in secret in a stairwell

of the occupied offices with the Chief of Staff

for the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services,

Margaret Heckler, to broker a deal 

in which Secretary Heckler publicly announced 

the termination of the $14 million Head Injury Laboratory

at the University of Pennsylvania.

Of course there was retaliation for closing the laboratory,

and HHS Secretary Heckler paid the price with her job. 

Angered leaders of the biomedical community

pressured President Reagan, who in turn unceremoniously

removed Secretary Heckler from her position as head of HHS

(an agency with the third-largest budget on earth) 

and sent her to Ireland, demoting and appointing her

as the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.

In 2002, Pacheco continued to revolutionize

the world of animal rights by co-founding Adopt-A-Pet.

Free to over 17,000 humane societies, animal rescue

organizations and the public, its website hosts over

100,000 adoptable animals nationwide that are viewable

and searchable online, with over 48 million website

visitors annually. 

It is likely that Adopt-A-Pet is responsible for the adoption

of more animals than any other non-profit in the world.

In 2010, Pacheco founded 600 Million Stray Dogs Need You

with the mission to develop safe veterinary formulas

to permanently end the number one cause of suffering

and death for dogs and cats worldwide --

dog and cat overpopulation.

The first formulas in development are Spay and Neuter Cookies,

which are being designed to safely sterilize strays --

without surgery.

The objective is to end the cycle of suffering for the

tens of millions of stray cats in the U.S. and

end the cycle of suffering for the 600 million stray dogs

worldwide, who give birth to over one billion stray pups each year.

The organization is also dedicated to alleviating the plight

of the 15 million people who are treated for rabies each year,

and preventing the deaths of the 59,000 people who die

from rabies each year.

The World Health Organization reports that

over 95% of all people who die from rabies

receive their fatal infections from one source: stray dogs.

Though Pacheco co-founded PETA at the age of 21

with no money, no staff, no training, no college degree

and no business experience, he nonetheless played a central role

in raising over $128 million in donations for animal protection

while living a near possession-less life.

From the first five years of PETA when he worked without pay,

often sleeping under his desk in a sleeping bag,

Pacheco’s commitment has not wavered.

His work has often been dangerous,

he has come to live with threats against his life

by the abusers he exposes, and he's been

shot at many times and arrested over sixty.

He's been subpoenaed many times by the FBI

and federal grand juries, while animal experimenters

have put warning posters on their laboratory walls

with his photograph, saying ...

                     Warning –
                     If you see this man call security.

Described by those close to him as a modern-day Spartan

because of his Franciscan, non-materialistic philosophy,

Pacheco remains an innovator and, above all,

perhaps the world’s preeminent defender of animal rights.

**   Much was written regarding the Silver Spring Monkey

campaign, including ... 

“Pacheco shocked the nation into awareness of animal abuse

in the realm of science … with the first laboratory animal case

argued before the U.S. Supreme Court”

     – Publishers Weekly.

“The modern anti-vivisection movement began in 1980

with the Silver Spring Monkey case.”

     – Dr. Murry Cohen.

“Pacheco is widely considered the founder

of the modern Animal Rights Movement.”

     – Dr. Andrew Kirschner.

"Until 1981, it didn't occur to most folks that animals --

from mice to dogs to chimps -- might be abused

in scientific laboratories. Then came Alex Pacheco ... "

     - Philadelphia Inquirer.

“This landmark case … filled a newly discovered void

in the American conscience."
      – Booklist.

“The most famous laboratory animals in history.”

     – Author Kathy Snow Guillermo.

“The ensuing battle over the monkeys’ custody

saw celebrities and politicians campaign for the monkeys’ release,

an amendment in 1985 to the Animal Welfare Act,

the transformation of PETA from a group of friends

into a national movement, the creation of the first
North American Animal Liberation Front cell
and the first animal research case to
reach the United States Supreme Court.”

     – Wikipedia.

Thank you for caring.

Alex Pacheco

600 Million Stray Dogs Need You
Animal Rights Hall of Fame 
Adopt A Pet 
PETA Co-Founder 
Chairman (1980-2000)
Sea Shepherd 
Crew Member of the Year
Peace Abbey 
Courage of Conscience Award

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