If you don’t know about the SHAC 7, you should. Their case has serious repercussions for the animal rights movement, and freedom of speech for American webmasters (and mistresses). They took a stand against animal abuse, and have ended up taking a stand for free speech–many activists view the SHAC 7 as a test case, and are deeply concerned by what has happened.
So who are the SHAC 7? They are a group of animal rights activists who were involved in the campaign to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences, a notoriously cruel animal testing laboratory, with branches in the United States and Great Britain. Huntingdon is a contract organization–they don’t develop products, they just test them, for any company that wants to pay them. The lab is perhaps most famous due to the undercover expose involving beagles, who were mutilated and abused for the sake of “research.”
Now let’s get a few things straight here. I am very pro-science. I am amazed with the progressions we have made, scientifically, in the last hundred years, and I am all for research. What I am not for, however, is animal testing and vivisection. Not only because it’s morally repugnant, but because numerous scientists and doctors have spoken out against it–animal testing is not a useful or valid measure of effectiveness or danger to humans. Thalidomide tested safe on numerous animal species, but it sure as heck wasn’t safe for human use, now was it? If you want to understand how a drug will interact with the human body, test it on a human.
Sorry. But that’s the way it is. There are numerous alternatives to animal testing, especially for cosmetics, but animals are cheap and expendable, and therefore, they are abused so that you can wear makeup, use hairspray, and enjoy the sundry delights of modern living. Oh, and there’s a huge lobby which has a big stake in animal testing, and isn’t afraid to put out millions of dollars of propaganda in defense of animal testing. Yes, the same lobby that put posters in doctor’s offices in the 1960s saying things like “this visit made possible through animal research.” Developing drugs safe for human use without animal testing could cause those drugs to be more expensive. But, in my mind, the moral cost that comes with pharmaceuticals is too high with animal testing. Instead of sinking billions of dollars into the animal testing industry, we should be promoting and developing cruelty free research methods. Numerous companies are already there, on the sly, and as consumers, we are in a position to pressure others into joining them. As Dr. Richard Klausner said in the Los Angeles Times: “The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simply didn’t work in humans.” (May 1998)
Animal testing does not save lives, it takes lives. And before you get all uppity with me, keep in mind that I have lost friends and family members to cancer and other debilitating diseases. Terminal illness and injury are not alien concepts to me–I have dealt with them and their effects personally. And I am still opposed animal torture being included in the drug testing process. A more lengthy discussion of my opposition to animal testing is something for another time, however.
Back to the SHAC 7. They had a website (among numerous other animal rights groups) following protest activity against Huntingdon Life Sciences, and promoting animal rights ideology. They posted videos from infiltrations of the lab, and encouraged activists to speak out (or act out) against something that they saw as wrong. Now they are going to prison, as “terrorists,” classified under the Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
The animal rights movement has always been regarded as somewhat of a fringe movement in American society, despite numerous prominent supporters. Make no mistake, the federal government prosecuted (persecuted?) the SHAC 7 in the hopes that this test case would pass without comment, allowing the government to further restrict our civil liberties. The government labeling of “terrorist” is getting remarkably nebulous, kids, so watch out. Whether or not you agree with the cause and ideology of the animal rights movement, you should be very, very concerned about the SHAC 7, because next time, it could be you.