The following presentation in Critical Animal Studies (CAS) was given by Ian Purdy at Brock University on April 20, 2011. The presentation prompted a lively discussion about tactics, strategies, creative activism and the need for activists to adapt their approach as is warranted by the enemy target and the environment. Ian is working toward his Master’s Degree in CAS.
NIO FLORIDA’S ANTI-VIVISECTION CAMPAIGN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This evening I’d like to share details of a very creative anti-vivisection campaign going on at the UF.
The University of Florida (UF) and vivisection
UF, located in Gainesville, is one of the largest research universities in the U.S. It was awarded $574 million in research expenditures in 2009. Numbers aren’t available yet for 2010. A portion of this research money goes to animal experimentation, of course. The estimated tens of thousands of animals used at UF include dogs, cats, horses, sheep, cows, alligators, rabbits, birds, rats, mice, fish. There are also at least 33 primates, some of whom are macaque and capuchin monkeys.
UF made the list of Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN)’s top lethal labs of 2010. It was number 3 on a list of 20 labs that have killed animals through negligence and have been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) (an act federally-regulated protocols) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The animals were 1 rabbit 6 rats; the cause of death was broken back and being boiled alive.
 (animals used: http://www.all-creatures.org/saen/fl/res-fr-fl-ufg-aphis-2009-1.html.)
The ongoing anti-vivisection campaign
Being run by Negotiation is Over Florida. Uncompromising position statement:
“We unequivocally oppose any and all research conducted upon animals. They exist to enjoy their own lives. Animals are not a resource to be used by humans.”
They also have a uncompromising definition of vivisection:
“The practice of experimenting on living animals to garner money and professional accolades.”
In terms of inception
The campaign began in Sept. 2010. The decision to target UF was made after a lecture was given by a member Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN) which covered some of the experiments that were going on at UF, among them brain mapping in monkeys, and covered the deaths of several animals from neglect. (More on brain mapping later.)
[Saen is a signatory of the newly formed Canadian Coalition Against Animal Research and Experimentation (CCAARE).]
In terms of laying the foundation
NIO Fla started researching the goings on in the labs at UF using the National Institute of Health (NIH) database. The NIH reveals the amounts of U.S. federal dollars being funneled into universities and for which experiments they are to be used. However, as the activists have discovered, what the NIH grant is supposed to be earmarked for and what it is actually used for may be two different things entirely.
Finally, after identifying specific UF vivisectors, NIO Fla turned to PubMed to determine the extent and nature of their research. For example, activists were able to determine that Mingzhou Ding had authored 781 articles dating from 1975 in which he’d used every animal from rodents to non-human primates in his research experiments.
Exposing the Experimenters & the Suffering
NIO Fla was guided by the premise that animal experimentation depends on a solid wall of secrecy that the public can’t penetrate to flourish. Public exposure is what experimenters fear most.
Therefore, exposing individual experimenters and the details of their work was a central tenet of their campaign.
There are other reasons for focusing on individuals, however:
- First, the vivisection complex so too big to tackle as a whole; concentrating on specific individuals makes it manangeable.
- Secondly, activists wanted to isolate vivisectors who used monkeys. The focus on monkeys was strategic: both in terms of engaging public support for the campaign, but also because ending the use of monkeys in research was deemed “winnable” strategy.
This played on initiatives like The Great Apes Project, which has garnered a lot of support in its bid to grant legal personhood to chimpanzees & bonobos.
Vivisectors are clearly aware of public sentiment on this issue, and frequently stress that most animal experimentation is done using the more socially devalued rats & mice.
Thus the activists chose to focus on:
Marco Salemi, a Medical Pathologist. They publicized that he used $700,000 in tax-payer funded grants to sicken dozens of macaque monkeys with neuroAIDS, a designer-strain of the AIDS virus that causes damage to the organs. His claim to fame is driving primates insane by inducing dementia.
Mingzhou Ding, a Neuroscientist who was bringing in $260,000 a year to do so called “brain mapping” experiments on primates.