Win D lay on the operating table with her belly on a pillow, her eyes closed, her sides heaving slowly and rhythmically as a nearby respirator pumped air into her lungs. A tube fastened to a hole in her trachea fed anesthetic into her body; there was no chance she would awaken. And it was well she wouldn't. Win D was in for brain surgery. A large patch of skin on the top of her head had been shaved bare and was stained the color of curry sauce by a solution used to clean it.
Methodically the young doctor covered Win D with towels, until the only visible part of her was a triangle of shaved yellow skin on her head. With a small knife the doctor cut cleanly across that triangle, and then spread the glistening flesh wide and fastened it open with clips. In a few minutes, the doctor, David Barba, began drilling two holes into Win D’s skull with a hand drill. It took a lot of effort, and Barba stopped once or twice to catch his breath while his assistant, research technician Sue Moore, put an arm around the patient to keep her stationary. Win D was a pig, but Moore showed no reluctance to come in close contact with the animal. A half hour later, his drilling completed, Barba inserted toothpick-size electrodes and a small catheter into the holes in the animal's skull, in order to measure blood flow and the pressure inside her brain. Soon the information he sought began to print out automatically on a polygraph located next to the operating table.
It was Win D’s fate to be used in a laboratory experiment at UC San Diego’s medical school. Barba was using the pig to study cerebral hemorrhages of a type that are fatal to more than fifty percent of the humans stricken with them. Earlier in the week Win D had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, artificially induced by injecting blood into her brain through a catheter, and two days later the procedure had been repeated. Now Barba hoped to discover information that would help explain why so few human patients who suffer this type of hemorrhage ever recover. When the four-hour operation was over, he would remove the electrodes and catheters from Win D’s brain, and the pig would be returned to her cage in the basement of UCSD’s Basic Sciences Building for a few days. Then she would be given an overdose of anesthetic and killed, or “sacrificed,” as some of those who experiment with animals prefer to say.
Was Win D being needlessly tortured? Was it morally wrong for a doctor such as Barba to experiment with and then take the life of a living mammal? Could a procedure have been used that would have caused less harm to the pig? Could the information have been obtained without using an animal at all? These are the kinds of tough questions increasingly being asked by animal rights activists, a small but very vocal group of people who are convinced that humans — and scientific researchers in particular — are depriving animals of their fundamental rights as sentient beings. Animals, the activists insist, may not be able to talk or reason, but they can suffer — and they do.
There have always been a quixotic few willing to challenge the conventional view that animals are simply not as smart and therefore not as important as people. But for the last decade the issue of animal rights has slowly been gathering steam, and lately the subject has become genuinely hot. Nationwide, a loose network of activist groups has formed, a network that can mobilize quickly for demonstrations and picket lines. In April of this year the first mass demonstrations in the United States on behalf of animal rights took place at several major universities, and in California demonstrations have been held in recent weeks in support of a legislative bill sponsored by State Senator David Roberti that would prohibit city and county pounds from selling animals to scientific institutions for research. There are already indications that the animal rights activists are having an impact on the scientific community, both generally and directly; last December some of the more extreme members of the movement went so far as to break into a laboratory on the campus of UC Berkeley and “liberate” several research animals. Some activists promise that such tactics, along with nonviolent forms of civil disobedience such as sit-ins, will become more and more common in the coming months as supporters of animal rights seek to make their desires known to the public.
In San Diego, animal rights activists fired one of their first political salvos a year ago last April, when a newly formed group called the Animal Rights Coalition decided to hold a demonstration at the annual Greater San Diego Science Fair, held at the Federal Building in Balboa Park. Although the fair has an image of being little more than an event in which students with spectacles as thick as tumbler bottoms gain recognition for various garage experiments, the members of the coalition were upset that animals can be used and, in some cases, euthanized for the experiments. As ten coalition picketers filed up and down in front of the Federal Building that April morning, several teachers taking part in the fair rushed out and angrily began questioning them. Students and other teachers wandered out to see what the commotion was all about, and soon the whole thing “turned into a confrontative shouting match,” remembers Steve Kowit, one of the demonstrators. “These teachers were just outraged we were there. We hadn’t expected anything like that. It astonished us. And it also told us we had a hot issue on our hands.”
Kowit has been a linchpin for local animal rights activists for several years. A poet who teaches classes in creative writing at both San Diego State University and UCSD, he is a curly-haired man of forty-five, with an accent reminiscent of his native Brooklyn. He talks eloquently and with amazing speed, and although he has a quick, impish sense of humor, his penchant for inflamed rhetoric on the subject of animals has not won him any admirers among the scientists and bureaucrats whose policies he opposes. Some privately accuse him of distorting and misconstruing facts; one has called him “a very rude young man.”
Kowit founded the Animal Rights Coalition two and a half years ago after deciding there was a need for politically oriented animal group in San Diego. He placed an ad in a local newspaper, soliciting calls from others concerned about animal rights, and regular meetings of the group soon began. Today it boasts about 1000 members, thirty or forty of whom are active. Among these, a dozen or so constitute the group’s “steering committee,” which decides what issues are worthy of attention and what action will be taken. Several members of the steering committee have been involved with the coalition since seeing Kowit’s newspaper ad, and they don’t necessarily fit the usual mold of fiery radicals. Marie Savino, twenty-one, the group’s current president, is a fashion model and part-time teacher at Spreckels Elementary School in University City. Larry Lytle, thirty-nine, a self-employed gardener, grew up in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, where he once hunted squirrels and grouse. “If you’re raised in that environment, the thing you learn to do is to go out and kill animals,” the shy, soft-spoken Lytle says matter-of-factly. But when he lost several pet cats to animal traps twenty years ago, Lytle began writing letters to his Congressman about antitrapping legislation. Now he is a steadfast supporter of animal rights. “Animals are also people. They also have souls,” he says, quoting Isaac Bashevis Singer.
According to Kowit, the notion that animals have rights is a sort of end product of the civil rights movement. He suggests that the attitude people have towards animals “is very much like racism. In fact, it is a form of racism, it’s ‘speciesism.’ It’s saying to animals, ‘You are not as smart as I am, so I am going to do all these things to you that I would never do to my own species . . . .’ It tells us a lot about ourselves, and why things like Vietnam and Dachau can happen. The animal rights movement is the last frontier of the human rights struggle.” “It’s an extension of that awareness,” agrees Lori Gruen, a young woman from Boulder, Colorado who has recently become active in the Animal Rights Coalition here. “What’s at issue is not specific rights, like voting or owning property, but an attitude, an air of respect toward animals. I want to end all forms of morally irrelevant prejudice.”
Gruen, Kowit, Savino, and others in the animal rights movement do not lack examples of man’s tyrannical and inhumane treatment of his fellow creatures. Trapping animals for fur is one activity they denounce harshly. Intensive “factory” farming, in which chickens are debeaked and kept in ages the size of file boxes, and in which veal calves are raised in dark, narrow compartments so their meat will be white, is another. The activists are not fond of zoos — "prisons for the innocent,” Kowit calls them. Hunting draws their criticism, as does fishing. Putting a worm on a hook is torture,” Kowit insists. “You look at the worm, you can see it’s suffering. The great American sport of fishing is all about using worms and torturing fish.” Perhaps the most horrifying use that people put animals to, in the eyes of animal rights activists, is the testing of commercial products. Many cosmetic companies use a procedure called the Draize test to determine whether or not products will irritate human eyes. In the Draize test, compounds destined for drugstore shelves are dribbled into the eyes of rabbits, whose heads are constrained in stocks to keep them from moving. The effects of the products on the animals’ eyes, which include reddening, ulceration, and even blinding, are noted and used to satisfy government regulations on product safety. Another standard commercial test, used to determine the toxicity level of new substances, is the LD-50 test (the abbreviation stands for “lethal dose — fifty percent”). In the test, increasing doses of drugs, cleansers, or other solutions are fed to a group of between sixty and one hundred animals (usually rats or mice) until half of them die. “A lot of people don’t realize that their Lysol has been force-fed to a rat,” Marie Savino says bitterly. “Every time a product says ‘new and improved’ on the label, it means more animals have died.”
Also ranking high on the activists' list of abhorrent practices is scientific research, which commonly employ rats, mice, chickens, cats, pigs, dogs, and monkeys in medical and psychological experiments. Many of the experiments are fatal, and some inflict emotional or physical pain on the animals involved. Locally, UCSD is the target of most animal rights supporters’ ire, both because the university is a major user of animals and because it is publicly funded. But Kowit and many other members of the coalition would like to see all animals freed from all laboratories.
Kowit is an antivivisectionist (one who opposes the use of animals in experiments), wears canvas shoes rather than those made of animal hide, and, like most members of the coalition’s steering committee, is a vegetarian. “The bottom line, and the hardest one, is not eating meat,’’ he says. “We [in the animal rights movement] don’t talk about it much. Animal rights tend to end at your own hamburger. But we don’t push vegetarianism as an issue because it’s such a hard decision to make.’’
Nevertheless, many of those who join the movement gradually become vegetarians, according to Lori Gruen. “Once you realize that what goes on in the labs is wrong, it’s a small step to say that intensive farming is wrong, or eating animals is wrong,’’ she explains. “I haven’t bought leather in five years. There’s an inner consistency you have to follow. Also, for political purposes, it’s better if you’re consistent.’’
That consistency is difficult to achieve. “I go out of my way to avoid killing anything,’’ Savino says. “I catch bugs and throw them outside. Once you start thinking about it, you can’t keep killing them.’’ Kowit likewise has a wide-ranging sympathy for the entire animal kingdom. He says he tries to avoid killing cockroaches, but he does admit to occasionally spraying for ants. “There are times when it’s us or them,’’ he concedes.
In spite of their idealism the members of the coalition maintain a curious pragmatism. For example, following the recent public outcry over Sea World’s plan to capture and display ten killer whales over the next five years, members of the coalition talked of holding a demonstration in front of the aquatic theme park. One member called the park’s offices to request a meeting on the subject, and within days members of the coalition’s steering committee were sitting down with Lanny Cornell, Sea World’s vice president and zoological director. (“If we feel an issue can be misconstrued, we’ll go out of our way to contact the people who will be most vocal about it,” Cornell explained later. “In this business, to think that simply complying with the law is enough, and not to strive for communication [with opposition groups], would be naive.”) After the meeting, Kowit was firm in his pronouncement that “we are not going to protest at Sea World. What they’re planning to do to the killer whales — pulling teeth, taking blood samples, doing liver biopsies — is innocuous compared to what goes on in most research labs. Philosophically, the idea of animals being kept in captivity. . . . Ugh! It doesn’t appeal to me.” But a protest at Sea World, he summed up, “would not win a lot of public support. It would not be a good way to spend our time.”
In contrast, members of the coalition were out in force early one hot Saturday morning a few weeks ago, marching up and down in front of the county animal shelter on Azusa Street, near the University of San Diego. They carried signs with slogans such as "Save Our Pets," "Your Lost Pet Could Be Sold for Research,” and “Research Is Big Business.” The protest was designed to draw attention to Senator Roberti’s current bill, which would prevent pound animals from being sold to research institutions. Local officials from the county department of animal control have not endorsed the bill and continue to sell hundreds of dogs to UCSD each year, claiming it is one of the few ways they can help defray the shelter’s costs. Unlicensed or untagged dogs are kept at the shelter only three working days before being sold or killed, leading to complaints by animal rights activists that someone’s pet could be brought in, sold to the university, and experimented on before its owner was able to track down the animal. “You can reach a lot of people through the pet issue,” Gruen would note later. “You can start with pets ... to make people aware of the suffering that’s going on.”
As the sun grew hotter and the video cameras from local television stations rolled, Kowit explained that ninety percent of the dogs brought to the shelter are killed through euthanasia (the figure is actually closer to eighty-eight percent for the 1982-83 fiscal year, the latest period for which data are available). “The myth is that this is a place where animals are adopted,” he charged. “In fact, it’s a slaughterhouse.” In addition to an end to the practice of selling animals for research, Kowit said, the protesters want the shelter to lower its fee of twenty-eight dollars for impounded animals; they believe a lower fee would result in more animals being reclaimed. They also say the shelter could do more to advertise animals for adoption, and they claim that if laws on neutering and licensing were changed — if a license for an unneutered animal were costly, for example, and employees were hired to check up on unneutered or unlicensed animals — animal populations would decline and the need for animal shelters would disappear.
But Sally Hazzard, director of the county department of animal control, refuted the protesters’ claims. Only 600 dogs — less than two percent of the shelter’s total yearly population — were sold to UCSD last year, she noted. And Hazzard insisted that lower impound fees would not result in a higher percentage of animals being adopted, because more than one-third of the animals that wind up at the shelter are abandoned, not “someone’s little Fifi who jumped out of the house. If you had a two-dollar fee, it wouldn’t make any difference to the guy who drives out to Lakeside and lets his dog out of the car.’’ Hazzard also said the shelter has recently placed ads in the lost-and-found columns of local newspapers, including the Sentinel and the Daily Californian, that urge people to contact the shelter; mailed 220,000 notices in tax bills last year advertising the shelter’s services; and conducts a “dog of the week” adoption campaign on radio station KEZL-FM. And as for the coalition’s faith in tougher neutering and licensing laws, Hazzard said the county “would have to hire a jillion people to write citations all the time. It’s like the fifty-five-mile-an-hour speed law. How do you enforce it?’’
Dogs could be heard yelping and barking in the background as the protesters continued to march. All at once a middle-aged man in blue shorts and a white T-shirt drove up and got out of his car with an elderly golden retriever on a leash. As the man headed for the front door of the shelter, several sign-carrying demonstrators intercepted him and tried to talk him out of leaving the dog. “But he’s too big for our yard,’’ the man protested. Coalition members pointed out the likelihood of the dog being euthanized or sold for research, but the man cut off the conversation abruptly by saying, “Well, I’m going to take him in.’’
“You’re going to have that on your conscience then,*’ someone called after him. But the man came out of the building a few minutes later with only a coiled leash in his hand.
Of the hundreds of dogs sold to UCSD by county animal shelters each year, many are destined for cardiopulmonary experiments. A large number of these animals are anesthetized, operated on, and die without ever waking up; most of the rest are observed while recovering from various forms of surgery and are then killed (with an overdose of anesthetic) once the necessary data have been obtained.
But in 1979 two former animal technicians and a staff member at UCSD charged in sworn affidavits that many of the animals kept at the university were receiving inadequate care both before and after they were used in experiments. Many of the allegations revolved around the lack of staff members available to attend to sick or post-operative animals at night and on the weekends; all three former employees claimed that this led to some dogs not receiving regular doses of anesthetic or attention for partially healed incisions. Other charges included live rabbits being bled painfully — in some cases to death — by improperly trained technicians, and technicians mishandling rats so badly that the skin on the animals’ tails was inadvertently pulled off. One of the former technicians, Patricia McElhiney, described an incident in which a technician laughingly threw a rat against a wall to kill it, and she went on to say, “This is a typical kind of incident. It was the whole attitude of the people working there that the animals were almost like playthings .... It didn’t matter if you hurt them. They were just animals.’’
With the help of the Animal Rights Coalition, the affidavits were turned over to the county grand jury and an investigation was launched. Kowit and other activists here were hoping that the charges would goad the county into terminating its practice of selling dogs from local shelters to UCSD for medical research. The university countered by inviting Bill Virden, director of the San Diego County Humane Society, to visit the medical school's animal care facilities to look for evidence of abuse. In some forty hours of repeated visits Virden found little evidence of mistreatment, overcrowding, and other practices claimed by the former employees. He did recommend that several staff members be added to insure that the university's animals would receive proper attention at all times, but concluded, “We are impressed by the overall attitude shown by [UCSD’s] animal handling staff .... Our study has had widespread media coverage, and yet thus far we have not had a single person come forth . . . volunteering specific information about specific experiments or abuse of animals.” The county grand jury also made a one-day inspection of the medical school’s animal facilities, and was even more unequivocal than Virden in its conclusion: “It appears that this situation has been blown out of proportion by a group of people who are emotionally involved with the concept of research on animals.” The county board of supervisors subsequently voted 3-2 to let stand the agreement enabling animals from the county shelters to be sold to the university.
Kowit recently charged that the grand jury’s investigation was a ‘‘non-investigation. It was something out of Alice in Wonderland. They never even called the witnesses who had given the testimony [in the sworn affidavits]. I find that astonishing. And their whole ‘investigation’ of the facilities took one day. We weren’t complaining that UCSD’s floors were dirty.”
Nevertheless, the incident had a significant impact on the medical school’s animal research activities, even though it did not fundamentally change any of them. For a time after the grand jury investigation the university began raising its own dogs at an animal housing and research facility at Elliott Field (near Scripps Ranch). About 200 dogs were raised and used, according to Jack Vanderlip, the medical school's head veterinarian. (Vanderlip said recently that the project is currently dormant because the dogs cost about $400 each to raise to maturity, compared to the fifty-dollar cost of dogs from the county’s animal shelters.) The outcry from animal rights activists at the time of the investigation also made university officials realize “that there are members of the public out there who need to be assured that these animals are being cared for,” as Vanderlip puts it. In other words, the university now makes a concerted effort to combat negative charges and perceptions about animal research through speedy and outgoing public relations. Vanderlip personally escorted me on a cordial and thorough tour of the medical school’s vivarium — the facility in the basement of the Basic Sciences Building where animals are housed and in some cases operated on — and I was allowed to witness the operation on the pig Win D unannounced.
Federal guidelines spell out in detail the type of care and facilities animals must be given in research institutions.
Nearly all animals must be fed and watered once a day, for example; dogs and cats cannot be subjected to temperatures under 45°F or in excess of 85°F; guinea pigs that weigh more than 350 grams are to have ninety square inches of cage space, and so forth. At major research institutions such as UCSD, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture make unannounced visits at least twice a year to see that the guidelines are carried out. But Vanderlip admitted that immediate care for the university’s animals at night and on weekends is still largely the responsibility of the researchers conducting the experiments, rather than his staff veterinarians and animal technicians. And considering the large numbers of both researchers and animals at UCSD, variations in the care of animals — in some cases, outright neglect — seem inevitable. The university used a total of sixteen monkeys, 927 dogs, 109 cats, 262 guinea pigs, 158 hamsters, 3470 rabbits, 18,308 rats, 35,377 mice, and about 300 pigs in the year ending October 31, 1982, and Vanderlip estimates the numbers will be about the same this year. (“There are abuses, damn it,’’ said one UCSD professor.
“Some people treat their animals inhumanely. But to make a blanket statement that all researchers do is not valid.” Like his colleagues, this professor insisted that abuses come about from oversight, not intentional mistreatment.)
There are also no laws governing what can and can’t be done in the experiments themselves, a fact which animal rights activists have long deplored. UCSD, like most colleges and research institutions, has faculty committees that review requests for animals and control the funding and type of research that can be performed.
“Basically, you don’t get the bucks to do the research if a group of your peers doesn’t think it’s worth doing,” explains Harvey Shapiro, a professor of anesthesia and chairman of the UCSD medical school’s animal care advisory committee.
Like nearly all scientists, Shapiro argues that the benefits of such research to both human and veterinary medicine outweigh the harm inflicted on any individual animal. But Kowit likens such reasoning to that of Nazi doctors who experimented on captive Jews during World War II. “The German doctors at Treblinka could have justified a lot of their experiments, too. No doubt they would have made some important breakthroughs,” he says. ‘‘Utility is not the only issue. Maybe four or five percent of the experiments on animals can be justified in terms of utility. But they can’t be justified ethically, not ever.”
Lori Gruen is among the local activists who dislike Kowit’s Nazi analogies. ‘‘You have to talk to people in a reasonable way,” she comments, ‘‘not offend them. . . .” Even Gruen, however, would like to see all experiments using animals brought to an end, a position that scientists find ludicrous. ‘‘It’s absolutely impossible to make progress in biology, medical science, and psychology without using animal subjects,” declares Evalyn Segal, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. Segal is on the American Psychology Association’s committee on animal research and experimentation, which recommends guidelines for the care of animals used in research, and she has earned the respect of some animal rights activists because of her concern for animal welfare. ‘‘Everything that has occurred in biomedical work to improve the welfare of people and animals came from research that somewhere along the line used animals,” Segal points out.
‘‘I think scientists are getting an unfairly bad rap by some of the people who want to do away with all animal research. ... On the other hand, I do think there are times when scientists have not given the thought to animals they might have. Are the animals comfortable? Could you study the same question with a procedure that isn’t quite so stressful to the animal? I think these kinds of questions need to be asked.”
One famous case cited by animal rights activists as proof that scientists neglect and even torture animals took place two years ago in the Rockville, Maryland laboratory of psychologist Edward Taub. An activist who had gone to work for Taub under the guise of wanting to learn about primate research released photos to police of filthy cages, monkeys with un-bandaged open wounds, and other abuses. The activist charged that Taub also forced his monkeys to go without food or water at times, and the psychologist was later convicted of misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals (the ruling was subsequently overturned on an appeal). Marie Savino claims Taub was just one of many scientists who perform cruel experiments on animals, experiments that are often repeated needlessly by others who are either unaware of identical work done by their colleagues or who are simply trying to make money by obtaining a research grant. Her opinion is shared by Kowit. ‘‘Scientists will do anything for a research grant,” he charges, ‘‘and psychologists do the most horrendous experiments of all.” One standard piece of equipment in psychology labs is an ‘‘operant” chamber, Kowit points out, used to train rats by giving them a mild electric shock. ‘‘If that isn’t torture, I don’t know what is,” he declares. However, neither he nor Savino could offer specific examples of current experiments in San Diego that are either inhumane or clearly have no beneficial implications for human beings, yet they remain convinced such experiments take place. “We’re still trying to get that information,” Savino says. “It isn’t easy.”
Segal, who saw demonstrators toting signs that read “Psychologists Torture Animals” at a recent meeting of the American Psychologists Association in Anaheim, says such charges “really turn me off. They’re so outrageous, so extreme, they make me less willing to find common ground [with the demonstrators!. They liken us to little kids picking the wings off insects.
“If you’re stressing an animal, causing him some suffering in a way that is going to lead on to learning how to alleviate human suffering or more animal suffering, then I think that stress is fairly easy to justify. If you ’re stressing an animal and you cannot see a clear-cut application in the immediate future, then it’s harder to justify, and that’s one of the issues scientists should be and are thinking about more.” But as for activists’ claims that much scientific research is conducted for its own sake and is not applicable to humans, Segal comments, “My faith as a behavioral scientist, backed up by my experience, is that everything we do with animals does eventually lead to some sort of useful application for humans.”
“Physicians are not supposed to cause any needless suffering. I see that as my role,” agrees Shapiro. He notes that the majority of the university’s experiments with animals are made possible by grants from the National Institutes of Health (which in turn are regulated by Congress), and are disease-oriented. The balance of research grants at UCSD come from private companies that, Shapiro says, are necessarily interested in direct applications because of their concern for profits.
Shapiro and Segal agree that the animal rights movement has had an impact on the scientific community. Incidents such as the Taub case, in particular, have forced “us to be more careful in regard to animals. In that sense, [the activists) are doing us a service," Shapiro says. But both scientists also agree that unfounded claims by some in the movement are pushing scientists and activists further apart, hindering the very changes that supporters of animal rights desire.
Alternatives to animal research, including computer models (or simulations) and tissue cultures (the latter can sometimes be used to test chemicals which formerly were tested on living animals) are currently coming into somewhat wider use in research institutions. Activists everywhere are touting them as the answer to scientists’ needs. “None of us are antiscience,” says Savino. “We would like to see more money spent on alternatives. I can’t see trying to save a life by taking a life.” She suggests that the widespread use of animals to test drugs and other chemicals could be replaced by animal embryos and, in some cases, live human subjects. “We could pay people [to undergo the tests] and use small doses,” Savino says. “If we’re going to be the ones who ultimately take the drugs, shouldn’t we be sure they’re going to work on us?”
Scientists such as Shapiro and Segal dismiss as unethical and socially unacceptable the practice of using humans to test drugs or surgical procedures. Tissue cultures and computer models do present a low-cost alternative to some kinds of animal research, but Shapiro argues that computer models must be set up, and their accuracy confirmed, by experiments on animals. And he claims that for many other experiments there simply are no alternatives to using animals and there probably never will be. UCSD uses many dogs in the training of paramedics and medical students in heart massage and other life-saving techniques, “and the emergency room is no place for someone to be learning heart massage.” Shapiro also says that no computer model in the world will simulate the reaction of an animal or human being to a previously unknown drug.
“It is true that many experiments are repeated, but that’s what science is all about,” Shapiro continues.
“You get a bright idea, and you have to confirm it. We test and retest, look at a nuance. . . . That’s how we build a foundation to make us feel secure when we apply that research to humans.” Barba, the neurosurgeon who performed brain surgery on Win D, echoed Shapiro’s comments when he paused halfway through the operation and explained, “By itself, this operation is of little value [because reactions in individuals vary). But comparing the results of the operation on this pig with other pigs could tell us . . . what makes people sick. If not, it will at least tell us that our theory about what’s causing the problem is not the right one. And that’s important, too. In an operation like this you want to make sure you’re not wasting your time or the pig’s time.”
The day after Barba operated on Win D, I returned to UCSD’s vivarium to take a look at her. Sue Moore guided me through the long, well-lit, underground corridors, where everything seems to be made of gleaming tile or stainless steel. Each corridor was lined with a series of pale blue doors, and I knew that behind each door was a room full of animals: dogs whose tails thump against the sides of their cages as you enter; baboons that glare out hatefully at you from behind their bars; chickens that lean out and eye you with their awkward, sideways look; mice and rats that crawl around obliviously among the wood chips in their cages. We stopped in front of one blue door, and when Moore unlocked it,there was Win D, snuffling around the floor of her steel cage for bits of food like any of the other half dozen pigs in the room. Also like them, she had an incision on her neck and one on her head, both closed with stitches. Win D had recovered well, but she would be euthanized in a few days anyway; there are no happy endings for animals used in research.
The debate between those who use animals for research and those who defend animal rights has not yet peaked, and the future seems to promise more polarization rather than less. The UCSD medical school has just installed a costly new security system in its vivarium that will admit only card-carrying employees at night and on the weekends; Vanderlip says the system was installed partly out of concern that animal rights extremists might try to break in. Members of the Animal Rights Coalition insist they plan to work for gradual changes in the way humans treat animals, largely so they can attract and maintain public support. But they also warn they are becoming increasingly impatient about wanting to see change. “I’m a normal human being, not an extremist, but if the opportunity arises, I would break into a laboratory,” Marie Savino said recently. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, but some laws need to be broken. If we have to destroy a little property, fine. None of us who are serious about this are afraid to go to jail. . . . We’re going to make it very hard on some people unless there are changes.” Kowit, sitting next to Savino as she talked, nodded his head. “The movement needs a lot of direct action now, nonviolent civil disobedience like sit-ins,” he said. “The pot has to be on the burner until it boils.”
Animal rights activists say there will be more and more direct action on behalf of animals in this country, and they often point to England as an example of what the future might hold. In England, an outlaw group called the Animal Liberation Front has made frequent headlines for its raids to free animals at research laboratories and sprawling “factory” farms.
Slightly to the political right of the Animal Liberation Front is the Hunt Saboteurs Association, an anti-hunting group that opposes fox hunting (and other so-called field sports) because the foxes are often caught by excited hounds and killed. The saboteurs do not advocate any activity that is strictly illegal, but will stop at almost nothing else to achieve their goals.
Nelson (not his real name), twenty-two, was a member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association from 1974 to 1980. He has lived in San Diego for the last eight months, and in a recent interview he recalled some of the group’s tactics:
In 1976 Nelson wrote to a fox-hunting organization in northwestern England, telling them he was a student interested in doing research on fox hunting and requesting a schedule of their hunts. The organization innocently responded with a full schedule, and Nelson subsequently joined the hunters as a “foot follower” — one who follows the hunts but does not actually chase the foxes on horseback. In this way he was able to feed invaluable information to his fellow saboteurs regarding the time and place hunts would take place, and who the key hunters were.
A fox being pursued will naturally seek its burrow, but since this would bring the hunt to a screeching halt, a member of the hunting organization rises before dawn to block off the animal’s burrow entrances — “stop up the earths,” as the English say. Nelson or one of his cohorts would rise a little before the hunter, follow him into the countryside, and unstop the earths as fast as they were plugged. The saboteurs would also spread out over the likely hunting course and spray it with “antimate,” a pungent commercial solution that dog owners can slather on a bitch in heat to mask her smell to other dogs. Antimate would cover up the fox’s scent as well, and the dogs pursuing the animal later in the day would be likely to follow a trail of antimate rather than their true quarry.
Once the hunt began, the saboteurs would sometimes try to stay in front of the hunters, leading dogs astray by spraying antimate as they went. Because the hunters were on horseback and the saboteurs were on foot, this tactic meant running a good fifteen or eighteen miles in the course of an afternoon, according to Nelson. “Often we’d encounter the fox,” he recalled, in which case the saboteurs could determine the animal's trail exactly and cover it with antimate.
Some saboteurs also became expert at blowing hunting horns, which a huntsman uses to call his dogs. Each huntsman trains his hounds to respond to a precise call, but a good imitator could draw another man’s dogs to a field sprayed with antimate. In addition, saboteurs in one area could stay in touch with their fellows in another area by phoning a coordinator who stayed at home specifically to relay information among the saboteurs.
Once in a while the saboteurs would come upon hounds in the final stage of pursuit, in which case the only tactic left was to distract the sprinting dogs by setting off firecrackers or literally throwing themselves in front of the oncoming animals, ‘it would only slow them down for a second, but that would be one second more for the fox,” said Nelson.
After two years disguised as a foot follower. Nelson’s cover was blown one afternoon when two of the organization’s hunters came across him while in frantic pursuit of a fox. Nelson threw himself at the hunters’ hounds, enabling the fox to escape. Nelson escaped the wrath of the hunters by running immediately to his car nearby, but he noted that other saboteurs were sometimes beaten or whipped by irate hunters. "This was just the price you’d have to pay to sabotage the hunt,” he said with a shrug.
Nelson was arrested and fined several times for ‘‘breach of the peace,” and a court finally ordered him to stay out of the counties in which he had been obstructing fox hunts. He thinks tactics like the ones used by the Hunt Saboteurs Association will soon catch on in the United States and will spread quickly, partly because of the extensive media coverage he expects them to generate. Deer hunters, be forewarned.