Monday, December 28, 2009

By Stuart Chaifetz

As we end this year and prepare to welcome a new one, I want to reflect for a moment on the origins and future of the ARISE Anti-Vivisection campaign.

Prior to ARISE, I spent nearly two decades fighting against hunting, including the last four years working politically for animals. In the back of my mind, however, I always thought that someday I should try to help animals that are experimented on, for their suffering was truly terrifying to behold. But there was just too much work to be done and too little time to spare for any new ventures, so this remained unrealized. That changed in February of this year, when I received an email with a picture of a dog being vivisected.

We’ve all seen pictures such as these, but what struck me so deeply was how this sad creature looked exactly like my dog, Theseus. Both sets of eyes, dark and brown, were indistinguishable from each other, save for the fear and terror beaten into the dog being experimented on. I was transfixed and then unsteadied by the imagery, for I saw my own beloved dog strapped down and being cut open. I apologized to both of these dogs for not having done anything to fight vivisection before, and swore that one day I would, though when or if I could keep this promise where unknowns to me.

A few hours later I received my monthly newsletter from NJ Animal Rights Alliance (now the Animal Protection League of NJ) and saw that a position was open for someone willing to fight vivisection. With such a string of evenly placed events forming before me, the possibility of life was given to that promise I made, and so I leapt at the opportunity. I knew, however, that unlike other animal issues I had fought for, vivisection presented difficulties like no other.

Those who promote and profit from animal research exploit the base emotional reaction of “It’s your child or an animal,” and by doing so hope to bind reason and conscience and win the argument before it even starts. Emotions, on all sides, permeate so deeply that to enter this fray one must be armed with science and fact and armored with principles and morality.

And there is one fact that, in my opinion, is so stark and overwhelming in its implications that I repeat it as often as I can, for it is the battering ram that breaches and destroys the gates of the vivisection argument: Nine out of ten drugs tested on animals fail when tested on humans.

Nine out of ten. Ninety percent failure. This catastrophic number does not even include those drugs that are later recalled because they hurt or killed humans, so it is even worse than this. Scientists could literally throw darts at different drugs and have a better success rate than trying to substitute the biology of a mouse for a human being.

Is it your child or an animal? No, and it never was. It was your child versus bad science the entire time. It was the animal being used because there was neither the technology nor the innovation to use human cells and tissue, so they simply cut apart whatever they could get their hands on.

And you know what? Many of them know it and that is why there is such a hunger and realization that we need better tools if we are ever to turn such massive failure into real hope for humanities ills.

As we move forward, ARISE is going to to engage in a major campaign focused on the promotion of non-animal tests and technologies, for as soon as these means are approved, then lives, tens of thousands of them, will be saved.

It will be a different kind of campaign, less protest and more being proactive, and because of that it may be more difficult to see the goals, but they are there and they are real. Nothing is easy and this won’t be either. My hope, however, is that when we begin you will spare some of your precious time and work with us on this endeavor.

Thank you for all of your support, and best wishes for the the new year to come.