40 Ways to Help Animals in Laboratories

40 Ways to Help Animals in Laboratories

Simple Acts of Kindness

1. Live by Example

The gentlest way to teach is by example. Whenever you choose cosmetics and household products whose ingredients have not been tested on animals, refuse to dissect an animal, write a letter to the editor, or wear a button, you set an example. Live your life in accordance with your principles—others will notice, and many may follow.

2. Shop with Compassion

As the movement to protect animals has grown in size and influence, it has become easier than ever to avoid the use of animals in laboratories every time you open your wallet. Today hundreds of companies conduct no animal testing, dozens more include no animal ingredients, and many make their policies clear on their labels with phrases like “no animal testing,” “cruelty-free,” or “tested by stylists, not on animals.” Drugstores and supermarkets are putting more of these items on their shelves. Every time you purchase an animal-friendly product, you support animal-friendly companies and don’t support companies that continue to use animals. What could be easier?

3. Identify Your Companion Animal

Having your companion animal wear identification is important for minimizing the chances of theft or permanent loss. Lost or stolen companion animals can end up in research laboratories. The likelihood of this happening is remote and decreasing these days, but an animal who is easily identified is less likely to suffer this fate. An identification tag is a lost pet’s ticket home. Equipping your animal with identification won’t guarantee that he or she won’t fall into the wrong hands, but it can help. Although a collar with an identification tag is still the first line of defense, some argue that tattoos or even microchip implants are the best way to ensure the safety of your companion animal. Concerned laboratory animal facilities will look for tattoos and microchips and make an effort to track down the animal’s guardian.

4. Donate

Giving money to a worthy organization is one of the simpler actions you can take to help animals. Animal protection is, by definition, not a profit-driven enterprise, and organizations both large and small depend on donations to maintain and expand their efforts. If you are not sure whether a particular group merits your support, ask for specific information about what the group does. Never hesitate to ask questions. Be aware that many charities and health foundations fund experiments using animals.

5.Join In

If there is an animal advocacy organization in your area that is concerned about animals used in research, education, or testing, join it. You’ll be able to keep on top of local issues, you’ll meet others who share your concerns, and you’ll be among the first to know about local activities for animals. Every year the Animals’ Agenda magazine (www.animalsagenda.org) publishes a directory of hundreds of animal advocacy organizations, and the Internet has many sites devoted to animal advocacy issues

6. Wear Your Messages

Because they are seen by so many people, bumper stickers, buttons, and T-shirts are great ways to bring an issue to the public’s attention or to remind people that it is an issue. Placing a bumper sticker on your car is one way to express your views to many, but you can also put a bumper sticker on a briefcase or piece of luggage, perhaps on a laundry basket on its way to the Laundromat, or on any other container big enough to display it. People typically pin buttons on jackets, but hats, bags, and scarves are also effective places to express your views. And beneath your jacket may lurk a compassionate T-shirt waiting for a sunny day! “I’d rather dissect the Digital Frog” is one of our favorite T-shirt slogans.

7. Use Your Answering Machine

The next time you put a message on your answering machine, put in a good word for the animals. Urge your callers not to buy animal-tested personal-care and household products (see Action 2), recommend they put identification on their companion animals (see Action 3), or announce an upcoming meeting or public demonstration by your group (see Action 5). Similarly, you can also set your computer to attach a favorite quotation or message each time you send out an e-mail.

8. Circulate Your Messages

Once you’ve read a good animal rights book or magazine, don’t let it collect dust on a shelf. Let someone else read it. You can put your books back into circulation by donating them to a school or by dropping them off at your local library, community center, used bookstore, or used book sale. Many a latent activist has been sparked by discoveries made in the library or at a book sale. Flying somewhere? Visiting the mall? Taking the bus or the subway? Those pockets in the aircraft seats in front of you, those food court tables at the mall, and those bus or train seats are among the many good places to plant animal advocacy magazines to add to the reading supply. They’re bound to provide more edifying reading than the usual fare. Just remove your address label from the cover, then help remove the blinders from some people’s eyes.

Educate Yourself

9. Read

The better informed you are, the greater the impact you can make, so read everything you can. When you read stories in major newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Newsweek, be wary of simplification, bias, and a tendency to support traditional views indifferent to animals’ interests. A well-referenced book is probably your best source of reliable information. There are many excellent books on issues related to animal research.

10. Know Your Adversary

Part of being an effective activist on animal research issues is knowing the arguments in support of animal research. Do not limit your knowledge and your effectiveness by reading only those materials with which you agree; read articles and books reflecting a range of opinions. You will make yourself a much more effective advocate if you learn the arguments used by those who support the continuing use of animals in the laboratory— and how they might be countered.

11. Get On-Line

The world is a web and you are its spider. The World Wide Web is growing at a rate of thousands of new users per day. With it comes more information to access (see Action 12), more places to express your opinions, and more people to brainstorm with via e-mail or chat lines.

Always be aware that the Web is a free and easy cyberspace where any opinion or “fact” can be found. It is not only a good place to locate people and information; it is also a major source of misinformation.
Be cautious in repeating claims you find on the Web, especially those made by members of chat groups.

12. Find the Databases

Databases are loaded wit information relating to animal use in laboratories! CRISP (Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects), for instance, is a federally funded database available free of charge; it can be accessed on the Internet at www-commons.cit.nih.gov/crisp. Using CRISP, you can access basic information about any scientific study receiving federal money. This information includes research topics, funding amounts, types of animals used, and the number of years the project has been funded.
A valuable new resource has recently entered the information superhighway. Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, in collaboration with a number of government agencies, has established AltWeb, the Alternatives to Animal Testing Web site. This rapidly growing site is to be a global resource on alternative methods, the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, and refinement), animal ethics, and animal care, with hyperlinks to related Web sites and databases. Check it out at www.jhsph.edu/~altweb.

13. Search the Libraries

A good library is one of your best sources of information on the whos, whats, whens, wheres, and whys of animal research. For sleuthing on animal experimentation, you will want to visit a library with good science holdings. A university library will usually serve you well.

14. Collect the Numbers

As an advocate for animals, you never know when you’re going to find yourself engaged in a discussion with someone about animal research issues. It never hurts to have a few facts and figures up your sleeve.

15. Get FOIAed Up!

It is not a free country for animals in laboratories, but it is a comparatively free one for you. One such freedom is provided by the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), passed in 1966. The FOIA entitles you to information on how the government is spending your tax dollars. FOIA allows you access to information on federally funded animal research projects and to documents of various departments of the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration, and Public Health Service (PHS). FOIA can provide you with such information as the amount of money spent yearly on a specific project, the research methods used, and internal correspondence related to the project.

16. Consult the Experts

Don’t hesitate to contact experts—especially those known to be sympathetic toward animal protection—for advice or background information. Experts from many fields have helped in the fight to better the conditions for animals used in laboratories. Medical doctors and veterinarians have critiqued the published reports of animal experiments, lawyers have represented students asserting their right not to be compelled to dissect animals, and biologists have testified in support of bills that would recognize a student’s right to choose dissection alternatives. Even if you’re not sure of an expert’s availability or approachability, it never hurts to ask.

17. Tour a Laboratory

Try sending a letter to the director of a local facility explaining that you are concerned about how the animals are treated and that you are interested in learning more about the research being performed there. If the laboratory receives federal funds (most of them do) to conduct animal research, then you may point out that you are entitled to know how your tax dollars are being spent. This may not get you a free pass to the laboratory, but it is a valid point.

If you can secure a tour of the facility, that is great. But if you are unable to, your efforts are certainly not wasted. Your request serves as a reminder that the public is concerned about animal research.

Get the Word Out

18. Take Aim

Whether you are acting as an individual or as part of a group, it is wise to focus your energies. If you are part of a small group, direct your attention to one or two specific projects; don’t spread yourself too thin by working on too many. Start out your campaign with small-scale projects that have a reasonable chance of success. You are more likely to convince a drugstore to stock animal-friendly personal-care products, for instance, than you are to get the National Institutes of Health to swear off invasive animal research by the year’s end. Always keep your larger goal in mind, but devote your energies at first to winning the smaller battles

19. Call Toll-Free

Many companies maintain toll-free customer information numbers. These include companies that perform animal testing, such as cosmetics companies, pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturers of household or personalcare products; companies that breed and sell animals for experimentation; companies that sell live and dead animals for classroom use; and companies—certain airlines, for example—that transport animals. When you call such companies, you remind them that you don’t approve of their practices. Ask that your views be shared with company leaders, request a response, and add that you will not purchase any of the company’s products as long as the company continues its current practices. Be polite to whomever you talk to. Telephone representatives are not responsible for a company’s policies.

20. Check out the Charities

We all know of many big charities and health foundations whose aim is to help people. What most people don’t know is that many of these groups harm animals in the process by funding or conducting experiments on them. It is important to remind these groups that animal experimentation is a concern for their potential donors.

21. Talk Back to Advertisers

Advertisers will use just about any ploy to get their product noticed. This often includes reference to animals or the use of animal images, and the message sent isn’t always a good one. If you encounter such an advertisement, contact the company responsible. Reasonably explain your objections and ask the company to retract the offending advertisement. Many companies will be sensitive about alienating consumers and responsive to your complaints. While you’re at it, don’t hesitate to commend companies who send positive animal messages in their advertising.

22. Write a Letter

Awell-written, well-directed letter is still one of the most effective tools of communication. The length and style of your letter will depend on the person you are addressing. Letters to the editor of a newspaper or magazine should be brief and concise; long letters are rarely accepted for publication. Similarly, a letter to your state or federal representative will usually have the best effect if it is not long-winded. Your letters will need to be more lengthy if you are submitting a list of specific complaints regarding an animal laboratory.

Write letters to companies that continue to test their cosmetic, personal-care, or household products on animals. Politely ask them to join the hundreds of other companies that have given up these practices, and tell them that you look forward to the day that you can purchase their products. Also ask what they’re doing to advance alternative methods. Always include your phone number and your return address on your letter so that the recipient can confirm your identity. Since many publications and companies solicit letters and comments via e-mail, take advantage of this quick and easy way to be heard.

23. Quote Friends in High Places

ANobel laureate and Joe Sixpack may both have something to say about animal experimentation—and don’t make any assumptions about who might be more accurate!—but whatever is said, more people will listen to the decorated scientist. A good quote from a recognized expert is a valuable tool for lending credibility to your position. The opportunities for such a quote are increasing every day as more scientists come out with criticisms of the status quo for animal use in research, testing, and education.

24. Speak Up

As the public controversy over animal research has heated up in recent years, teachers have been inviting speakers to address their classes on this issue, and the general public has become more interested in learning about it. With some preparation and practice, you can become an effective spokesperson on this issue. Public speaking can be a powerful way to deliver a message.

25. Set up Tables

Whether you are looking to open the doors to a particular laboratory or to open people’s minds in general, distributing literature is a good way to start the job. And there are few better ways to do that than by setting up a table, or “tabling.” Contact the local police first to tell them of your plans and to ascertain that you aren’t violating any local ordinances.

26. Work with the Media

Members of the media are not always the animals’ best allies, but you cannot live without them if you want your message to reach the most people in the shortest possible time.

Educate the Educators

27. Join the PTA

Parents, beware—it is likely that at some point your child will be expected to participate in a classroom exercise that is harmful to animals. Your first recourse is to ask the teacher and administrators whether and what alternatives are available. If alternatives are not available, there is much that you and your child can do to reform animal use in education. You can start by joining the parent-teacher association (PTA) of your child’s school and bringing the dissection issue to the table.

28. Dissect Dissection

If you are a student, the most direct way you can help animals in the classroom is simply not to dissect them. An estimated six million vertebrate animals are killed and dissected each year in U.S. high schools alone. As more students object to dissection and vivisection at their schools, more schools are accommodating them, and more humane alternatives are being developed by companies that recognize the rising demand for them.

29. Borrow a Bullfrog

The increasing demand from student activists for humane alternatives to classroom dissection and invasive liveanimal exercises has resulted in an influx of alternatives on the market. Now there is a quick and easy way to lay your hands on these materials: borrow them!

30. Document the Truth

If you tour an animal research laboratory (see Action 17), you probably won’t be able to photograph or videotape what is being done to animals in the research process. Schools, however, provide a unique opportunity for you to document animal use in the laboratory. If you are a student or parent, you may want to request permission to videotape or take photographs of the animals being dissected or used in invasive live studies in the classroom. You could make a project of documenting each step of a dissection, starting with images of whole animals as they are received by the school, then as they are readied on the dissection tray and dissected in the classroom, and, finally, as they are discarded in the garbage bin.

31. Be an Alumna/Alumnus for Change

Most large, state-funded universities have active research programs that involve animal experiments. In addition, curricular use of animals for dissection and live-animal exercises is commonplace. Some schools even perform animal tests on products.

First, find out what is being done at your alma mater or at any school of higher education that you are concerned about. Information about state-funded schools is more accessible because they are supported by taxes and are thus required to divulge certain information that is considered in the public domain. Private schools, unfortunately, are not obliged to provide such information.

Take Direct Action

32. Demonstrate

Is pursuing your nonconfrontational campaign tactics beginning to feel like banging your head against a wall? Is it time to make your efforts more visible? It may be the moment to hit the streets with a well-planned demonstration.

33. Start Your Own Group

If there is no local animal advocacy group in your area, start one. Perhaps you could even form your own Internet-based animal advocacy club. For information about starting your own organization, contact one or more national organizations for advice. You may also want to call the founders of another kind of local activist group you admire and ask for advice.

34. Improve Your Drugstore

Happily, it’s harder today to find drugstores that don’t stock any mouse-friendly mascara or rabbit-friendly hair-care products. But if a store in your neighborhood carries no crueltyfree products, or if you just want to see more cruelty-free items on the shelves, make a project of improving your drugstore. Send a letter to the manager of your drugstore—and a copy of that letter to company headquarters—requesting that the store stock various cruelty-free items. Suggest some of your favorite brands and products. If you get nowhere, see the section on boycotts (see Action 39).

35. Eliminate Pound Seizure

Pound seizure is an idea that ought never to have become reality in the first place. Fortunately, laws are being enacted to stop this practice. More than a dozen states prohibit pound seizure. In almost all other states, pound seizure is neither prohibited nor mandated, although in some states it is regulated. In those states, the city or county council usually decides whether to release animals from shelters for use in research. If you live in one of the few states that mandates pound seizure or in a locality that allows it, join ongoing efforts to repeal the laws. If you live in one of the states with discretionary laws, write to your state representatives requesting that legislation be passed to outlaw the transfer of animals from pounds and shelters to research laboratories.

36. Help God- Help God’s Creatures

Noah didn’t act alone! Enormous numbers of people attend religious services, and scriptures of many faiths speak of the needs and suffering of animals. Yet, with very rare exceptions, religious leaders have been silent regarding and sometimes even antagonistic toward the humane and just treatment of animals. But things need not remain this way. If you belong to a religious group, bring some of your religion’s humane teachings to the attention of your religious leaders.

Ask your religious leaders to include animal-focused sermons in their schedules and to include positive references to animals in their sermons. Some Christian churches hold blessings for the animals on the Sunday nearest Saint Francis’s Day (October 4); perhaps your church would be interested in doing this.

37. Take Stock for Animals

As the number of companies having animal-friendly policies and practices grows, so do your options for humane investing.

38. Lobby

Figure out what you want your legislators to do. Determine whether you want them to support, oppose, or introduce a piece of legislation.

Find out who represents you at the local, state, and federal levels. Contact your local board of elections, library, League of Women Voters, or a local political organization.

Make an effective, convincing case. As with any effort to get people to act on your behalf, it always pays to be polite and respectful with your legislators, regardless of their prior record on animal issues.

39. Boycott

The simplest way to protest the practices of a company that tests on animals is not to purchase any of its products. As more and more people boycott a company’s products, the company will begin to feel the boycott’s adverse effects. A well-organized boycott can pressure companies into changing their ways. Many of the cosmetics companies that have stopped conducting animal tests made the decision, in part, because of the public impact of activist boycotts.

40. Get a Job

If helping animals is a priority in your life, consider seeking employment with an animal protection organization.

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