Primate Liberation Week Reportback on the Earth First! Newswire

From the Earth First! Newswire:

Reportback: Primate Liberation Week

by Amanda Schemkes / Earth First! Newswire

Photo from inside SNBL lab.

For over ten years Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN) has organized Primate Liberation Week, an annual week of events dedicated to pushing for the end to the use of primates in research. This year SAEN coordinated with The Bunny Alliance and Gateway to Hell to organize the biggest Primate Liberation Week yet, with 34 registered events that spanned three countries and 15 U.S. states.

Every year in the U.S. over 100,000 primates are caged in breeding facilities, quarantine facilities and the laboratories of large corporations and universities. In these labs, primates are subjected to so-called “research” that includes restraint chairs, maternal deprivation, poisoning and being cut open while conscious. The primates also often suffer from dehydration, starvation, diseases, hypothermia and being alone; many of these animals—driven insane by being away from their families and anything natural—engage in self-mutilation. To the primates, labs are a nightmare. But to those profiting off of the torture that happens in labs, the nightmare has dollar signs placed over it. Primate research is an industry of over a billion dollars a year in the U.S. alone.

Because primate research is a rich and powerful industry that fights off activists’ calls for animal liberation, we have to organize in a way that doesn’t just ask the industry to stop, but that forces it to do so. We have to pay attention to how the industry works and use that knowledge to inform our actions against it—and target the industry at its weak points. Primate Liberation Week highlighted how Gateway to Hell, The Bunny Alliance and SAEN, as well as many other activists, are effectively organizing around weak points.

Almost half of the Primate Liberation Week events plugged into the ongoing international campaign to pressure airlines to stop transporting primates to labs. Because airlines are not wholly invested in animal research as labs are, it is easier to convince them to stop flying animals to labs than it is to convince labs to stop using the animals—and campaigns against airlines have been very successful. Due to the work of the international Gateway to Hell network, Air France is the only commercial airline left that transports primates to labs, and the Air Transport Services Group (a cargo airline company) has the only remaining airlines that fly primates from Asia into the U.S. for labs. In the U.S., The Bunny Alliance launched a national campaign against Delta Air Lines (partner of Air France) and also coordinates protests and other actions against ATSG airlines. During Primate Liberation Week, activists held protests at airports, cargo offices and the homes of Delta and ATSG executives, as well as hosted letter writing and leafleting events.

Home demo at the house of John Vestal, a Vice President at Air Transport International (part of ATSG).

The other Primate Liberation Week events targeted university and private laboratories, as well as breeding and quarantine facilities, and were a reflection of the work that many groups do throughout the year to fight labs through protests, lawsuits, letter writing, and raising public awareness. SAEN works to expose the worst of the worst of what happens in labs to place the incidents in the media spotlight, have citations and fines brought against the facilities and get projects shut down. Groups across the country—such as Progress for Science, Animal Connection of Texas and Portland Animal Welfare Advocates—work locally to target labs in their communities, as well to plug into the work of broader networks such as Gateway to Hell.

While Primate Liberation Week offers a look at how activists are organizing against the primate research industry at some of its weak points, we have to also consistently look to how our campaigns change the industry and be prepared to have to organize at additional angles. For example, the repeated successes of convincing airlines to stop transporting animals to labs helped to shut down Mazor Farm, a primate breeding facility in Israel, but now as that facility approaches its January 2015 closure date, information has been released that suggests that it may be resurfacing in Florida. Mazor Farm has applied for authorization to export primates into the U.S., and one of the Mazor Farm owners is involved in building a new primate breeding facility in Florida. This facility, if completed, would be the world’s biggest primate breeding facility, able to house 14,000 primates—and it won’t have to rely on airlines to transport primates to U.S. labs as the facility in Israel has.

The news about Mazor Farm is a sad end to Primate Liberation Week, but it’s a new reality that we have to take into account when we are deciding how to most effectively organize against the primate research industry. Across the globe, activists are already working to stop the export of the primates from Mazor Farm and considering how to combat the plans for the new Florida facility. At moments like this, we have to realize that we have made a huge impact on how the primate research industry functions and it is attempting to adapt. And now we have to take on the responsibility of showing the industry that we can also adapt and find more weak points—and that we will continue to impact the industry until the only change it is able to make is to end.

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