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One animal laboratory closed, 1100 to go

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By Kathy Guillermo

Most words describing life for animals in laboratories are inadequate. They can’t begin to convey the actual experience. So try this: Imagine you’re Jamie Lee Curtis in the 1978 film Halloween or any of the victims in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series or one of the humans in Night of the Living Dead. Think of the fright you know just by vicariously feeling what it would be like if you were unable to escape a zombie or a crazed man with a knife. Think of Ms. Curtis’s panicked character Laurie Strode banging on the neighbor’s door, hoping for rescue, as her murderous brother comes closer and closer.

Now imagine that it’s real.

That’s everyday life for animals in laboratories: the heart-pounding terror of being trapped, unable to escape, as someone with a weapon—a scalpel or electric-shock device or a bottle of chemicals—approaches. Studies show that animals’ hearts race in fear when a laboratory worker simply enters the room.

There’s no happy ending for animals. They can’t leave the theater or sound stage and go home. The man or woman approaching means death—murder for the animals, the end of life—in virtually every case.

A rare exception occurred last month following the release of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) undercover investigation of a North Carolina laboratory called Professional Laboratory and Research Services (PLRS). PLRS was paid by large pharmaceutical companies to test flea, tick and companion-animal products on dogs and cats. For these animals, this is bad enough. It means being doused with or force-fed chemicals that will likely cause sickness or death.

But PETA’s investigator documented the kind of treatment that decent people hope never occurs in laboratories. Look at the video evidence at PETA.org. Laboratory workers scream death wishes and curses at cowering dogs; drag them, kick them and lift them by their ears; fling cats into cages, calling them “motherf—ers”; and deny veterinary care to dogs who have rotten teeth and whose legs are covered with sores.

PETA’s 70-page complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture led to the laboratory’s closure just a week later. Nearly 200 dogs and more than 50 cats have been gently and lovingly taken in by animal shelters. Animals, some of whom were imprisoned at PLRS for years, who’ve never walked on grass or up steps and who’ve never known affection—except what PETA’s investigator could give them—will go to good homes.

This is a wonderful ending to a tragic case. But I also think of all the dogs and cats who died at PLRS in the 20 years before PETA got there. And I think of all the animals—of all species—who live in terror, with no escape, and eventually die in the more than 1,100 animal laboratories in the U.S.

It’s wrong, no matter what the goal is, to do this to other beings. We wouldn’t do it to children, who are also defenseless. We wouldn’t do it other adult humans. We should not do it to animals. Experiments on animals can never be justified in a progressive and decent society like ours. PLRS, bad as it was, is not the only animal laboratory that should go out of business. The doors of every place where animals are treated as if their lives are of no consequence—and as if their suffering is less important than ours—should close forever.

Kathy Guillermo is the vice president of Laboratory Investigations for PETA and the author of Monkey Business: The Disturbing Case That Launched the Animal Rights Movement. She can be reached c/o PETA at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

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