Ever Since the Silver Spring Monkeys
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
In a Sep. 2, 2019 article called “How Animal Researchers Stay Out of the News,” Martha Rosenberg writes, “Ever since Alex Pacheco exposed treatment of the Silver Spring monkeys in 1981, animal researchers have been reduced to uttering ‘it’s not how it looks’ or ‘let us explain’ when unwanted images surface.”
She notes that unlike factory farms, which have been infiltrated often enough so that videos and photos of the animal suffering are now easy to find, it’s still extremely rare to get video and photos from inside laboratories, and it’s because governments and experimenters spend millions of dollars to prevent outsiders from seeing what’s going on.
Not only that, they’ve passed laws like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which brands anyone who interferes with a lab as a felon and a terrorist, even if all they did was save the lives of animals.
Rosenberg doesn’t mention this, but during the 1980s and 1990s, an underground group called the Animal Liberation Front broke into many labs around the U.S., and some in Canada, and rescued the animals. Rescuing these animals was a big risk because it was illegal, and it became more and more risky as wealthy groups of animal experimenters got Congress to make the laws tougher and tougher, to the point where the Animal Liberation Front essentially ceased to exist.
Alex Pacheco, now head of 600 Million Dogs but back then chairman of PETA, served as the spokesperson for the ALF for a number of years. Authorities assumed he also participated in the illegal rescues--although that was never proven--so that got him into big trouble.
By “big trouble,” I mean facing 20 felony counts that could have put him in jail for 400 years (life). Fortunately, he didn’t end up in prison, but by serving as the ALF spokesperson, he risked that for the animals. How many people would do that?
Once something is the law, we tend to think of it as right and anyone who breaks it as bad. But throughout history, people have broken bad laws to do what later people realized was the compassionate and ethical thing to do--people like Harriet Tubman, who broke the law in order to help slaves escape through the Underground Railroad, when slavery was the law of the land.
When doing the right thing is against the law, only the truly courageous will risk their freedom, and sometimes their lives, to show that the law is wrong.
~Jen Thompson, 600 volunteer/donor