Saturday, December 2, 2006

Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and Animal Cruelty

This Friday while sitting in Jury Duty, I picked up a SF Weekly newspaper to fight the boredom. The first article I read by Matt Smith about Boycotting Feinstein involved a new proposed law that would put activists in jail for hurting a company's bottom line. Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States says, "The language of this legislation was too broad and vague, and could be interpreted to infringe upon lawful practices, such as protest, whistleblowing, or boycotts." Here is what Feinstein has to say on the AETA website:
Senator Feinstein Statement:

“The tactics used by animal rights extremists have evolved in the face of our current laws, and consequently, the scope of their terror is widening,” Senator Feinstein said. “We need the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act to fight these tactics, including the latest trend of targeting any business and associate working with animal research facilities.

“Just three months ago, extremist activists acting in the name of animal rights attempted to firebomb the home of a UCLA primate researcher. The home where they placed their bomb actually belonged to a 70-year-old neighbor of the scientist. Thankfully, the device did not ignite. But it did lead another prominent UCLA researcher to quit in fear. We must recognize that scientific research is not only a legitimate career, but also an invaluable facet of medical advancement, conducted by respectable professionals deserving our support. The deplorable actions of these eco-terrorists threaten to impede important medical progress in California and across the country.

“Unfortunately, this type of activity has been going on for awhile. In August 2003, two bombs were placed at the Emeryville offices of Chiron Corporation, a pharmaceutical company in the Bay area that employs 4,400 employees as our nation's 2nd largest manufacturer of flu vaccines.”

Matt Smith explains, Feinstein says that the above behaviors such as violence, threats, vandalism or harassment assaults are already illegal. Her bill criminalizes ordinary protest activites that weren't illegal before.

I think back to the experience Marion Nestle had writing her book on Food Politics. She explains that not ONE person she spoke to allowed her to formally quote them as saying what they said with a name responsible for those words. She explains in great detail how powerful lobbying leaves citizens out of the loop when it comes to fair and balanced law-making. There is a sneaking suspicion that large corporations relying on animal testing to produce "safe products for humans" played a role in this new "bipartisan legislation."

The commentary regarding affecting the bottom line of a company via activism confuses me because a simple act like boycotting with signs out in front of KFC. No violence, no physical harm, just signs that explain how KFC chickens are factory farmed and abused. This might steer people away from eating there. This somehow affects the daily profits, is this potentially going to end some folks in jail?

What frustrates me is that there are plenty of ways in todays world to test products without using animals.

10's of millions of animals are tested on annually. A majority are rats and mice. The following is an example of cruel testing taken from the National Anti-Vivisection Society website:
The Draize test is the most well known eye and skin irritancy test. It attempts to measure the harmfulness of chemicals by observing the damage they cause to the eyes and skin of animals. In the Draize test for eye irritancy, solutions of products are applied directly into the eyes of conscious rabbits. During the test period, which usually lasts at least seven days, the rabbits may suffer extreme pain, and blindness often occurs. At the end of the test period, all the animals are killed in order to determine the internal effects of the toxic substances. The Draize test for skin irritancy consists of immobilizing an animal while test substances are applied to shaved and abraded skin. (Skin is abraded by firmly pressing adhesive tape onto the animal’s body and quickly stripping it off. The process is repeated until several layers of skin have been exposed.) The Draize test was introduced about 50 years ago by Food and Drug Administration toxicologist John H. Draize. Since its inception, the test has been strongly criticized for its extreme cruelty and inability to provide reliable data that can be extrapolated to humans.

A couple of the most commonly used non-animal product safety tests include:

Murine Local Lymph Node Assay (ILNA), a method for assessing the allergic contact dermatitis of chemicals. The peer review panel concluded that the ILNA is a valid alternative to currently accepted guinea pig test methods, and that the ILNA reduces the number of animals required for testing and eliminates animal pain and distress.

Corrositex, an in vitro (test tube) method for assessing the dermal (skin) corrosivity or burn potential of certain classes of chemicals using a collagen matrix barrier as a kind of artificial skin.

More details on Animal Testing/Cruelty an be found at:

For a tiny price of $12, you can get this book on their website:
"Personal Care For People Who Care is the most comprehensive listing of companies that do and do not test their products or ingredients on animals. The 200-page 12th edition contains over 600 listings of cosmetics, household, personal care and companion animal products from which to choose. The book is easy-to-use and small enough to take with you whenever you shop."

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