LETTERS [July/Aug 2003]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July/August 2003:

Stress,  distancing,  vivisection,  and A primate’s memoir

Reading your review of Robert M.
Sapolsky’s A Primate’s Memoir:  A
Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life among the
Baboons in the June 2003 edition of ANIMAL
PEOPLE,  I was reminded of an all-day conference
I attended years ago on the physical and
psychological effects of stress.
The only speaker was Robert Sapolsky,  a
lively,  humorous,  and engaging man who spent
the morning describing the many and varied ways
that stress is experienced,  the painful nature
of the experience,  and the personal toll that
stress had taken on people’s lives,  including
his own.
Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon,
after the audience had been charmed and seduced
by Sapolsky’s warmth and wit,  he announced to
this group of caretakers–nurses,  psychologists,
and social workers such as myself–“I am a
vivisector.”


I remember sitting there dumbfounded and pained
that such a friendly person who had just spent
hours describing how awful it was to undergo
stress would then go and inflict it on innocent
animals.
Sapolsky appears to be able to do
this–despite considerable guilt–through a
variety of psychological mechanisms which allow
him to split off that part of himself which he
finds objectionable.
First,  he rationalizes his cruelty by
stating that he is doing it for a higher purpose:
to alleviate human suffering.  It should be noted
that the diseases Sapolsky claims to be working
on continue to ravage people’s lives.
Second,  he further deals with his guilt
by announcing it to everyone,  either through his
lectures or his books–and it is always done
against the background of his charming,
engaging,  and self-critical manner.  By
criticizing himself,  he wards off criticism from
others.  By stating that he tried “to minimize
the numbers of animals,  the amount of pain,”  he
attempts to portray himself in a positive way.
Yet the sheer number of animals he has brutalized
over his long career negates the validity of his
statements.
Third,  and most insidiously,  he
attempts to psychologically undo his cruelty by
dabbling in vegetarianism and engaging in
non-invasive studies of wild animals.
Throughout the lecture I attended,  Sapolsky
spoke frequently about his studies in Africa,
attempting to confirm for himself and persuade
his audience as well that he is really a good
person.  Unfortunately,  Sapolsky’s observational
research in the wild has not been able to reign
in,  modify,  limit,  or stop his sustained need
to hurt and destroy.
I wonder what kind of experiments Sapolsky is doing today.
–Irene Muschel
New York,  NY
<Benirv@hotmail.com>
Robert M. Sapolsky replies:

Thanks for the review and the complexity
of the issues you tackled in it.  In response to
the question you raised in the transition from
discussing my book,  A Primate’s Memoir,  to
discussing Eating Apes,  by Karl Amman,  yes, I
know Karl–we had camps about 200 yards apart
from each other in Masai Mara in the early 1980s,
when he was beginning his work by photographing
cheetahs.   I have been very moved and impressed
by what he has taken on since then.
The lecture that Irene Muschel attended
was a continuing medical education course called
“Stress and Disease,” and I am pleased with the
positive things she has to say about it and my
lecturing.
In the afternoon’s session, on the
neurobiology of stress and clinical depression,
I described a body of work related to a
phenomenon termed “learned helplessness.”   The
studies I described were not my own.  They were
initiated in the 1970s,  when I was in high
school, by scientists at the University of
Pennsylvania.  I have never done any research,
whatsoever,  in that area of science,  and I
prefaced that part of the talk by saying that,
“These strike me as the most brutal experiments
ever done on animals…”
The bulk of my lab work,  related to
stress hormone effects on neuron death,  and gene
therapy against neuron death,  is done with
cultured neurons,  i.e.,  in petri dishes,  not
in animals,  and uses human brain tissue.
Two additional points,  in terms of the
“dabbling” issue.  I became a vegetarian at age
13,  and started my African fieldwork at 20,  and
continue both to this day.  Thus,  I have spent
two thirds of my life as a vegetarian,  and more
than half of it doing my field work.  I’m not
sure if “dabbling” is thus really an appropriate
term for those compensations I do for the limited
amounts of animal research that I do in my lab.
Finally,  I think I even have come down
on the side of the angels on occasion,  in terms
of animal rights issues.  For example,  I helped
persuade a judge to give a particular animal
abuser a maximum jail term,  as described by
Deborah Blum in her 1994 book The Monkey Wars.
Eurogroup

We have read your “Chronology of Humane
Progress,” published in April and May 2003,  with
great interest.  However,  I have noted that in
the year 1980 you did not record the formation of
Eurogroup for Animal Welfare.  This was an
initiative of nine animal welfare organisations,
one from each of the then nine member states of
the Common Market.  It is now the European Union
and we have 15 member organizations, soon to be
25.   Eurogroup was formed to advance animal
welfare through European legislation and to
provide a united voice of animal welfare at the
EU Institutions. I believe we have done this very
successfully.
Legislative change is the result of many
people’s efforts and I do not wish to exaggerate
Eurogroup’s influence. However, I am convinced
that had Eurogroup not been active,  we would not
have achieved a European ban on veal calf crates,
pregnant sow stalls or battery cages. These are
three major achievements (there are many others)
and I believe justified a reference to our
formation in 1980.
–David B. Wilkins ,  Director
Eurogroup for Animal Welfare
6 Rue des Patriotes
1000 Brussels,  Belgium
Phone:  32-02-740-08-20
Fax:  32-02-740-08-29
<D.Wilkins@eurogroup-
animalwelfare.org>
Start of WSPA

I was very impressed by the “Chronology
of Humane Progress.”  Having been involved in the
humane movement since 1954,  I of course knew
many of the individuals who have played a role in
the development of humane progress.  Sad,
however,  is the thought that so many of them are
no longer with us.
May I suggest that your reference to the
formation of the World Society for the Protection
of Animals is not quite correct?  I was a member
of the committee which developed the merger of
the International Society for the Protection of
Animals and the World Federation for the
Protection of Animals.  The result of this
marriage is WSPA.  The three groups you
mentioned–the Massachusetts SPCA,  Royal SPCA,
and Humane Society of the U.S.–were already the
main components of ISPA.
–Tom Hughes
President
Canadian Farm Animal Care Trust
22 Commerce Park Drive
Unit C,  Suite 306
Barrie,  Ontario L4N 8W8
Canada
Phone:  705-436-5776
Fax:  705-436-3551
Hans Reusch

We wish we could send you more–much
more.  We are deeply grateful for our ANIMAL
PEOPLE subscription and for all your dedicated
works,  not just for animals but for the world.
ANIMAL PEOPLE is absolutely essential to the
progress of the animal rights,  humane education,
and en-vironmental movements.
Your “Chronology of Humane Progress” was
much appreciated,  but why no mention of Hans
Ruesch and The Slaughter of the Innocent?
–Jacqueline Jackelow
Animal Voice
P.O. Box 3185
Vero Beach,  FL  32964

Readers’ nominations of additional items
for inclusion will be considered if at some
future point the Chronology of Humane Progress is
republished.
Dogs & cats to labs

The city of São Paulo, Brazil,  after
some time of prohibiting the provision of shelter
animals to research institutions, has resumed the
sales.  I would like to ask ANIMAL PEOPLE readers
to remind the Mayor and the Secretary of Health
that this is a practice that you do not support,
and urge them to reconsider.
Please send e-mails to Mayor Marta
Suplicy,  c/o <prefeitura@prodam.sp.gov.br>,  and
Secretary Dr. Gonzalo Vecina Neto,  c/o
<gonzalovecina@-prefeitura.sp.gov.br>, with a
copy to me.  Thank you!
–Debbie Hirst
President
Forum Nacional de
Proteção e Defesa Animal
São Paulo, Brazil
<debbie.hirst@br.bnpparibas.com>
Greens & whales

The Canadian Green Party are not the only
Greens who have endorsed the wanton and brutal
killing of marine mammals (“Canadian Greens
endorsed seal hunt,”  by Don Roebuck,  June
2003.)  U.S. Green Party 2000 presidential
candidate Ralph Nader endorsed the shooting of
whales by the Makah tribe in Washington state.  A
statement posted on <www.votenader.org> went so
far as to describe the shooting of whales as
“humane.”
Nader’s support for whale slaughter was
couched in terms of respecting treaties with
Native Americans,  but if Nader was truly
concerned about the whales he might have
suggested that the treaties be renegotiated.
Instead of endorsing spending our tax money to
kill whales,  he might have suggested that our
government should fund whale tourism.
It is truly bizarre for the Green Party
to support whaling by native people in the U.S.
and oppose whaling by native people abroad.  The
native people of Japan and Norway and the other
nations currently killing whales have long
histories of whale slaughter,  but spotting
whales from airplanes,  chasing them with
motorized boats,  and shooting them with rifles
has no connection to traditional native culture.
A Green Party that cannot and does not
unconditionally oppose killing whales is worse
than useless.
–Frank C. Branchini
Edgewater,  Maryland
Meryl Harrison

Sadly but not surprisingly,  the strain
of the past three years has taken its toll on our
valiant Meryl Harrison,  who continues to bravely
lead rescues in Zimbabwe under increasingly
difficult conditions.  Our ’60-something’ chief
inspector has suffered from a heart condition
since she was young.  It is now essential that
she undergoes the necessary ‘keyhole’ surgery
(electrical ablation) to prevent a potentially
fatal attack.  The operation is not available in
Zimbabwe.  It will be necessary for Meryl to
travel to South Africa.  With the
non-availability of foreign currency in Zimbabwe,
we would like to appeal to anyone who could
assist in this regard.  We can deposit cheques
here without paying a fee.  Cheques should be
made payable to the Zimbabwe National SPCA with a
note to say that it is towards Meryl’s surgery.
Anyone who would like to use a credit card is
requested to contact Marcelle Meredith, Executive
Director of National SPCA of South Africa at
<spca@global.co.za>,  who will kindly facilitate
this.
–Bernice Robertson Dyer
National Chair
Zimbabwe National SPCA
P.O. Box 470
Kadoma,  Zimbabwe
Phone:  263-68-24037
Fax:  263-68-23443
<conroc@mweb.co.za>
Animal Welfare Sunday

Animal Welfare Sunday was introduced with
great success last year with special services in
hundreds of churches.  We sent out over 600
information packs to try to encourage churches to
think about the suffering of animals for at least
one day in the year.
In 2003 Animal Welfare Sunday falls on
October 5,  linking with World Animal Day on
October 4.  This year the Anglican Society for
the Welfare of Animals suggests a special and
perhaps surprising theme:  shopping.  Lack of
compassionate concern in choosing food is today’s
major cause of cruelty to animals.
ASWA chair Dominic Walker,  Bishop of
Monmouth,  recently saw an example when a fellow
shopper bought both wild bird seed and hens’
eggs.  Since the eggs bore no free-range
labeling,  they had been laid by hens crammed in
cages which cruelly frustrate all the compelling
needs they share with wild birds.  While showing
concern for fortunate free-living birds she was,
along with many other well-meaning animal-loving
Christians,  unthinkingly compounding the
suffering of birds in much greater need of her
compassion.
The Animal Welfare Sunday U.S.
coordinator is Sue Grisham (2624 Ridgland Ave.,
Waukegan,  IL 60085;  <sue@jimgrish-am.com>;
<http://Episcoveg.weblogger.com>.
–Samantha Chandler
Corresponding Secretary
Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals
P.O. Box 7193
Hook,  Hampshire RG 27 8GT,  U.K.
<www.aswa.org.uk>
Response to the Eberle case

Feral cats

“Where cats belong–and where they don’t”
on page one of your June 2003 edition is just
full of pearls and thought-provoking points.
There will not be one cat person who reads it who
won’t learn something.  I’ll need to reread it
several times to commit the finer points to
memory for quick reference.
I am so sorry for the time and energy
expended on the Eberle libel suit.  I’ll be
helping soon in a small way.  May your energy and
health hold up!
–W. Marvin Mackie, D.V.M.
Owner/Director
Animal Birth Control
450 Arcadia
San Pedro,  CA  90731
<Spaydvm@aol.com>
Lifesavers

It is my dream that if I ever get on my
feet financially, I want to get ANIMAL PEOPLE
subscriptions and the Watchdog Report on Animal
Protection Charities for some family members and
friends who need to know what some animal
charities are really all about.
I also wish that Lifesavers Wild Horse
Rescue would stop using Bruce Eberle.  It hurts
to know that only a small fraction of whatever
money is sent to them will go to their work
instead of more fundraising.
–Katherine Stires
Tucson,  Arizona
Berkeley activists

I was aghast to read of the hassle and
expense you were put through by Bruce Eberle.  As
you stated in your editorial,  had Eberle simply
sought straightforward corrections of
demonstrable errors,  you would have had no
trouble complying,  but obviously “correcting
errors” was not his game plan.
In light of your recent travail,  I find
it discomforting to have to point out an error in
your June 2003 item “Hancock still fighting for
animals.”  You wrote that California state
representative Loni Hancock moved to abolish the
decompression chamber,  while serving as a
Berkeley city council member in 1972,  “at urging
of a group called the Dog Respon-sibility
committee,  formed by Myrna Walton,  Julie Stitt,
and George and Diane Sukol.”  Walton and her Dog
Responsibility Committee fought for a Berkeley
leash law and an anti-barking ordinance,  and
even moved to have barking dogs who were “repeat
offenders” be surgically debarked.  The Committee
for the Protection of Domestic Animals was headed
by my wife Diane and Martha Benedict,  who fought
Walton on all her proposals as well as
championing the demise of the decompression
chamber.  Stitt formed a separate group,  Friends
of the Berkeley Dogs,  working alongside Diane
and Martha.
–George Sukol
Bellevue,  Washington
Questions answered

I’m so sorry re your legal woes.  I put
in the mail my little check–all that I can spare.
I asked some dumb questions as well.  The
first was,  “Can you list the animal charities
represented by Bruce Eberle?” And you did.
The other question was,  “Can’t we ask
other animal charities to help?”  And you had.
Those charities that can afford to help should
definitely do so,  for obvious reasons:  your
work has helped them all.
–Suzanna Megles
Lakewood,  Ohio
<SuziM@n2net.net>
Donor strategy

I am sorry to hear of your problem with
Bruce Eberle and am sending a check to help out.
It isn’t much,  but I really appreciate that you
keep me informed about who is worth sending my
hard-earned money to.
I have not donated to HSUS in years,
ever since I read in your paper about Humane
Society of the U.S. CEO Paul Irwin becoming a
millionaire on the critters’ money.  Yet I am
inundated by stuff from HSUS.  I am also on the
lion list at the moment,  and everyone wants
money to help feed and rescue lions all over the
place.  Then there are the environmental groups,
cat and dog groups,  horse groups,  and circus
and farm animal groups.  My table disappears and
I begin to feel inadequate because I think I
should be able to manage my mail.  But there is
so much,  and some of it I want to read and/or
donate to.  I throw out stuff I know I won’t read
or donate to,  but I still get overcome by the
volume.
I also have a life–my own ex-Premarin
horse and five cats and old dog and nine
chickens,  etc.
I have decided to put the majority of my
money to work with an organization which is here
helping animals locally.  I know them and the
kind of operation they run.
–Arleen Krasnoff
Ferndale,  New York
Lion’s share

The phrase “the lion’s share,”  used by
both sides in your dispute with Bruce Eberle,
was originally used by George Bernard Shaw as a
joke,  meaning that “the lion’s share” was the
whole thing!
–William Holliday
Myrtle Beach,  South Carolina

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