Editorial: Peace plan two years later
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1998:
Wesleyan University psychologist Scott Plous’ article “Signs of Change Within the
Animal Rights Movement,” just published in volume 112, #1 of the Journal of Comparative
Psychology, rates an exception to the usual rule that two-year-old opinion polls are not news.
Plous in June 1990 surveyed 402 participants in the first March for the Animals in
Washington D.C., and followed up in June 1996 by surveying 372 participants in the second
such march. These subjects were each at least 18 years of age, identified themselves as animal
rights activists, and “reported traveling from another state expressly to join the march.”
Their profiles each year were so similar, except in average duration of animal rights involvement,
which increased by three years, that Plous concluded the animal rights movement has
essentially stalled in terms of recruitment for a decade––a point increasingly evident to grassroots
organizers such as Joe Haptas of the Northwest Animal Rights Network, who says as
much in his letter on page 5 of this edition.
Between 1990 and 1996, however, “a significant shift took place in the priorities”
of animal rights activists, according to Plous.
“Whereas a majority of activists in 1990 saw animal research as the most important
issue,” Plous found, “activists in 1996 tended to identify animal agriculture.”
In 1990, 54% put research first; 24% cited agriculture.
In 1996, 48%––twice as many––put agriculture first. 38% named research.
The change indicates an increasingly realistic perspective. As Animal Rights
International founder Henry Spira has pointed out at least since 1984, and we have amplified
at every opportunity, the “universe of animal suffering in America today” is overwhelmingly
endured by livestock, who do 96.5% of the dying; killed at the rate of 8.5 billion a year,
chickens alone account for about 95%. Fishing and hunting account for most of the rest.
If animals may be killed for food, a common public syllogy runs, they certainly
may be killed to advance medical knowledge, which is perceived as a higher purpose.
Biomedical research accounts for just three tenths of 1% of intentional animal
killing for human purposes: a bit less than either companion animal killing in animal shelters
or killing by the fur trade. Yet through 1990, according to researchers C.S. Nicholl and S.M.
Russell, animal rights organizations had published 659 pages of literature addressing laboratory
issues for every page on animal agriculture.
The balance may have shifted somewhat, but a similar study if done today would
still turn up disproportionately lopsided results.
This is partly, of course, because animal use in laboratories is highly varied and
fast evolving, especially as result of recent breakthroughs in genetic technology. Literature
about lab use of animals accordingly must often be updated. Factory farming methods are
monotonously similar, worldwide. An eight-year-old article on animal experimentation is
often hopelessly obsolete; an eight-year-old article on animal agriculture might remain quite
contemporary, at least as regards animal suffering. As regards standard farm animal care,
there have been no substantive changes for the better during the past several decades, while
the trend toward concentrating animals in intensive confinement has only accelerated.
Growing maturity in self-appraisal further appeared in consideration of tactics.
“The 1996 survey found a modest decline in support for laboratory break-ins,” Plous
reported, reflective of public opinion surveys which indicate that the wave of break-ins during
the mid-to-late 1980s coincided with stalling endorsement of activist goals pertaining to lab
animal use, “and it found majority support for a 10-point proposal to reduce tensions between
activists and researchers.”
The latter was drafted by ANIMAL PEOPLE and published as our May 1996 editorial
“Peace plan,” after trial presentations to Cornell Students for Animal Rights, the
Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, the Issue Management Council (an industry
forum), and members and staff of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.
Plous in surveying activists summarized the peace plan thusly:
If animal researchers will…
1. Stop trying to portray animal rights
activists as terrorists
2. Open all animal care and research committee
meetings to the public
3. Hold regular open houses at laboratories
and address any problems the public detects
4. Show a willingness to police themselves
and discipline researchers who abuse animals
5. Report how many rats, mice, and birds
are used in labs, even if not required to do so
6. Refrain from political alliance with groups
who favor animal use (e.g. hunters)
7. Recognize the value of animal protection
groups who are willing to work cooperatively
8. End animal dissection in classes below the
upper division university level
9. Quit buying animals from random source
dealers (i.e. animals not bred for research)
10. Acknowledge criticism respectfully, recognizing
that activists and researchers share
Then animal rights activists will…
C o n d e m n violent activism, including arson,
break-ins, vandalism, and bomb threats
Agree not to disrupt animal care and research
meetings or harass any of the participants
Stop using exaggerated or outdated photos of
animal research that is no longer conducted
Discuss suspected animal abuse with the institution
involved, before going to the media
S t o p using old or inflated estimates of how
many animals are used in research
R e f r a i n from political alliance with groups
that are anti-science
Recognize the value of animal research
groups that are willing to work cooperatively
S t o p using the dissection issue to generate
opposition to animal research
Quit claiming that biomedical researchers are
responsible for families losing their pets
E x p r e s s criticism respectfully, recognizing
that activists and researchers share common
Plous found that activist opposition to animal testing if anything increased between
1990 and 1996. In 1990, 85% of his survey subjects favored full elimination of animal testing;
90% did by 1996. Yet the view that animal researchers don’t care about animals softened
to about the same degree, from 81% holding that attitude in 1990 to 76% retaining it in
1996. That shift was reflected in the extent to which activists were willing to mitigate hostility
to achieve the practical gains embodied in the peace plan.
“Despite the fact that 55% of activists supported laboratory break-ins,” according to
Plous, a decrease from 61% in 1990, “slightly more than 50% also said they would support
the 10-point proposal if animal researchers were to accept it. Specifically, 29% of activists
said they would strongly support the plan, 22% said they would support it, 18% said they
would oppose it, 15% said they would strongly oppose it, and 17% said they were not sure.”
Overall, 51% were favorable; 33% negative. Moreover, Plous found, “42% of
break-in supporters were willing to condemn break-ins if animal researchers would agree to
the proposal” in full, which––though Plous didn’t say so––would cut laboratory animal use in
half, by eliminating classroom dissection below the upper division university level.
“Support for the plan,” Plous continued, “did not depend significantly on activists’
gender, age, race, education level, or number of years in the animal rights movement. Nor
did support depend on whether activists viewed animal researchers as caring about laboratory
animals or whether activists viewed animal research as the single most important issue facing
the animal rights movement. 51% of the latter respondents supported the plan, compared
with 50% of other activists. These results suggest that the proposal was supported even by
activists who might have been expected to resist compromise.”
In advancing the 10-point plan, ANIMAL PEOPLE never actually expected anyone
to ratify and adhere to it as a collective treaty; but we did hope that it might provide a basis for
an informal d e t e n t e that could help get animals out of labs by developing trust, increasing
access to information, and opening opportunity to negotiate change in a win/win atmosphere.
We are gratified to note that this seems to be happening.
Activists and researchers have collaborated, for instance, to send more former laboratory
animals to Primarily Primates during the past two years––from lemurs to chimpanzees––than
it received during the previous 15 years, during most of which time it was the
only institution in the world to rehabilitate animals formerly used in biomedical research.
With encouragement from some members of the research establishment, animal
rights organizations are actively collaborating in many other primate retirement projects. Most
dramatically, the American Anti-Vivisection Society on April 3 pledged $1 million to the
Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, a proposed $14 million state-of-the-art sanctuary proposed
by primatologists Jane Goodall and Roger Fouts. Goodall and Fouts intend to bid on a
contract to take over care of the 141-member Holloman Air Force Base chimp colony, now in
custody of the Coulston Foundation, the leading supplier of chimps to research.
Those who don’t recognize the symbolic importance of these developments don’t
remember the uproar in the early 1980s over the two cruelty convictions (both later reversed on
technicalities) of researcher Edward Taub for allegedly keeping primates in bad conditions,
and the further fracas over the mere suggestion that the so-called Silver Spring monkeys seized
from Taub’s lab might be sent to Primarily Primates. Some of the monkeys were eventually
sent to zoos, while those most grievously harmed were instead killed, one by one, in terminal
experiments at the Louisiana Regional Primate Research Center.
More openness, less violence
Around the U.S., many research institutions seem to be quietly moving toward more
openness, despite the ongoing intransigence of New York University toward former faculty
member Jan Moor-Jankowski, a longtime advocate of openness, and of the National Academy
of Sciences, which in late 1997 won an act of Congress exempting it from the 1972 Federal
Advisory Committee Act, after the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that it was not exempt.
It is conspicuous, meanwhile, that amid the dozens of break-ins, arsons, and bombings
recently directed at the fur trade by the lawless fringe of activism, research institutions
––the main targets of such actions in the 1980s––have been virtually exempt.
Many universities have been relaxing or even abolishing dissection requirements.
While major national animal protection organizations have been conspicuously
absent from college campuses, Minnesota activist Freeman Wickland personified the Animal
Liberation Front Support Group and became an Internet folk hero by driving thousands of
miles and often sleeping in a rusted-out jalopy to speak anywhere anyone would listen. Noting
the negative effects of violence on public opinion, and the harm done to the civil rights and
peace movements by agents provocateur who urged activists toward violence, A N I M A L
PEOPLE argued two years ago in direct debate at Antioch College in Yellow Spring, Ohio,
that Wickland’s efforts, however well-intentioned, were largely misdirected.
On January 24, at the National Conference on Civil Disobedience in Washington
D.C., Wickland himself renounced break-ins, arson, bombings, and sabotage, for many of
the same reasons. He explained why in a 16-page publication, Strategic Nonviolence for
Animal Liberation. Judging by the space given to Wickland’s change of heart in the February
1998 edition of the Foundation for Biomedical Research newsletter, the new Wickland is
much scarier to people who still conduct and defend cruel research, because he has influential
support, is an effective speaker, and no longer handicaps himself with a link to terrorism.
We have previously noted gestures of perhaps equivalent moment by prominent vivisectors
and vivisection defenders. Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, for
instance, has put much of his own wealth into developing computer programs which have
already replaced much animal use in advanced anatomical study. Though Koop has repeatedly
ignored our interview requests, we suspect his investment wasn’t just to make a buck.
Much remains to be done––but the number of animals used in U.S. laboratories has
fallen steadily in the 1990s, to new recorded lows in each recent year.
We hope progress continues as the detente holds, while scientific findings increasingly
support the longtime humane contention that meat-eating is as unhealthy and unnatural
for humans as it is cruel. In the greater struggle, against by far the biggest and most abusive
form of animal exploitation, a lot of the folks in lab coats are humane movement allies.
[Strategic Nonviolence for Animal Liberation is available for $1.00 postage c/o the
Animal Liberation League, POB 7245, Minneapolis, MN 55407.]