Episode 78 Interview with a Pro Tester
Interview with Animal Experimentation campaigner Tom, of Pro Test and Speaking Of Research, two groups which promote medical experimentation on Other Animals.
Also featuring The Animals Film and BBC "One Planet: Animals and Us" by Victor Schonfeld, Women's "Suffrage", Geocaching, Scary English Women and Michael Jackson!
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Hello and welcome to another interesting episode of Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals.
Today, I'm joined by Tom from Speaking Of Research, a group promoting Animal Experimentation, as in, the group is *for*, not against Animal Experimentation. When I first came across Tom's first group, Pro Test based in the United Kingdom, I actually didn't know if it were serious, or a contrarian prank. A few years ago, I made up some pamphlets calling for an "End to Womens Suffrage in New Zealand", which I left at our local public library.
Veganism and Technology are my two main interests, promoting Animal Rights, spending time with Hen Friends, and organizing Vegan Potlucks, and never shutting up about how wonderful Apple is, how great Steve Jobs was, seeing text on the greater than 300 dots per Freedom Unit inch Retina Display on my iPhone 4 for the first time was like seeing, as Michael Jackson would say, "divinity in motion".
I'm interested in geocaching, where you use American military satellites in space to find plastic lunchbox containers, hiding in public parks around the planet. Theres over 100 geocaches hidden around my city of Invercargill, New Zealand, at the bottom of the world. You use a GPS device, such as a glorious iPhone, you select the geocache you'd like to find, and its shown using Google Maps, where it is on the map, satellite view works well so you can see buildings, trees etc, and then how far away you are from the geocache's location, 328m, 327m, 326m…..and so on.
My first geocache that I ever placed, that I ever hid for other geocachers to find is called Ms Ogyny. Its a cache asking for the repeal of "Womens Suffrage" in New Zealand. Heres the geocaches description, which people can read before they find the small plastic container hidden inside a natural little "cave" among a trees roots, covered over with bark and leaves.
(I wanted something which might throw people off to the meaning of the term "suffrage")
"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." Master Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Are you sickened by violence overseas? Violence here? The 2007 FAO report shows we "use" and kill 56 Billion land animals each and every year, for what? Our pleasure? With all the pain and suffering in the world, why would we want our own people to deal with suffrage here?
In 2008, 76 percent of adult New Zealanders reported being involved in suffrage, among the OECD, New Zealand ranks very high for reported suffrage. In people over the age of 65, the incident count skyrockets to 94 percent! Our elders are the most vulnerable to the scourge that is suffrage!
Perhaps some of the most recognized reports of suffrage involve New Zealand Women! Who could forget Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark, Jeanette Fitzsimons, and the many other, less publicised cases!
For too long have New Zealand Women fallen prey to suffrag-ing, the effects of which are felt throughout our community by *everyone*.
New Zealand was the first nation to fall to the plague of Female Suffrage, in 1893, I for one blame "The Nanny State", "Dole Bludgers" and "anti-Smackers".
(government handouts, welfare payments and people against using physical violence to "correct" their children)
Each time you look at a New Zealand Ten Dollar note, please be reminded of poor, misguided Kate Sheppard. What sane individual could possibly want "Universal Suffrage"?
Its about time we stood up to this awful reality, lets make our voices heard, and say NO to Women's Suffrage in New Zealand!!!
After successfully protecting our Women-folk from the evils of Suffrage, then we can move on to the next step : banning ALL Suffrag-ing in New Zealand!"
Well, the cache was made public January 2011, and has since been found by 84 people from around the world, who've all visited Invercargill, and the Otepuni Gardens where the cache is hidden, near the Invercargill Vegan Society memorial tree for World Vegan Day 2011. Unfortunately though, the plague of Womens Suffrage still remains in our once great nation, yes, New Zealand women are still allowed to vote, as are New Zealand men, its a travesty! We want a dictatorship, one person, one vote!
I wanted my first geocache to have a story about it, to perhaps make people think about the importance of rights, and social change, in this case, New Zealand being the first nation in the world to grant women equal citizenship rights, and what a large difference this has made, to, well, a whole fifty percent of the population! The cache is located near the Freemasons temple, and a prominent Catholic basilica, both organizations which do not allow female members, which I personally think is bloody ridiculous, I wouldn't want to be a member of a club where my female friends weren't "allowed" to join too, be it as "brothers" of the New World Order, or only males allowed to be priests.
I decided to take a counter position, to see who would notice, if people would think "suffrage" were a bad thing, to appear to have a very unusual position, in being publicly against something which we all take for granted, at least NOW, that women were equal to men, and should be regarded as such by law, in the same way you don't often meet someone who publicly campaigns in the streets *for* animal experimentation.
My friend Geraint shared a story on Facebook, a report from the Otago Daily Times about how many animals are "used" at Otago University, the southernmost University to Invercargill here in New Zealand, if I'd been one of those showoffs who passed primary school, I could have went to Otago for Uni.
Notice the actual headline, the report doesn't actually "politically correct it up", but openly uses perhaps "emotional" terms, such as saying these animals were killed, that they died:
University's death toll - 25,000 animals in two years
"More than 25,000 animals including fish have died during research and teaching at the University of Otago since 2009, and the figures are expected to increase significantly when statistics are collated for 2011.
About 53,334 animals were used for research and teaching purposes in 2009 and 2010, figures released by the university show.
Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Richard Blaikie said no cats were used. Dogs were used for behavioural studies when the pets were volunteered by their owners to assist researchers.
"Knowledge gained from animal-based studies helps scientists better understand how the body works," he said. "For example, how cancer cells develop, how to improve vaccines, and possible treatments for dementia and Parkinson's disease, the causes of human infertility and so on."
Statistical information about which academic divisions at Otago were using animals could not be supplied to media because individual researchers could be identified, Professor Blaikie said.
The research animals come from a variety of sources.
Rodents and frogs are bred at the university, while sheep and pigs are bought from local suppliers. Possums, birds, and reptiles were "generally involved" in wildlife field studies and often in conjunction with the Department of Conservation, Professor Blaikie said.
All research at the university which involved animals was carried out under "very strict" ethical guidelines.
- OTAGO DAILY TIMES"
Perhaps you could say theres a general public mistrust of Animal Experimentation? That its seen as a gruesome, negative thing, certainly thats how this news piece read to me, that it was all rather barbaric.
At first, I thought "Pro Test" was equally as unlikely as a call to revoke the citizenship rights of New Zealand women, it seemed very strange to see a hundred or more people protesting in the streets with banners asking FOR Animal Experimentation, that these people were FOR Animal Testing, I'd never seen it before, or even considered they were out there.
Reading more on the groups website, first Pro Test established in the UK, and then Speaking of Research based in the US, I soon wanted to contact them, and ask for a interview with a spokesperson. Tom was gracious enough to accept, and here we are.
Tom does not personally experiment on other animals, he feels very strongly for what his group sees as medical progress, he feels very strongly about saving the lives of human animals. Before we hear the interview, I'd like to play a few background clips, not so much to do with ending womens right to vote in New Zealand, but more to do with animal experimentation.
A couple of years ago, the BBC produced a two part series called "One Planet: Animals and Us", hosted by The Animals Film director Victor Schonfeld. The Animals Film is basically the 1980's version of Earthlings, although it would have been even more shocking at the time, since it really was a trailblazer. I can say this, its probably more difficult for me to watch The Animals Film, because it has that "vintage film look", and the musical score is all screeching, wailing synthesizers, not like todays beautiful, soothing music:
This track is called "Animal Rights", by electronic artist Deadmau5, who picked that name after upgrading his then Windows computer, and finding a dead mouse inside the computers case.
No, instead of this sweet, gorgeous music, we instead get animals being torn apart, bombarded with radiation, poisoned and killed every which way to this English accent and these horrifying 1980's tones all throughout the documentary:
To this day I'm scared of women with English accents! I associate their voice with pain, torture and shrieking music! But the movie itself is not terrifying, although the picture quality is very dark and moody, very saturated, very "old film", and the music is often like nails on a chalkboard (whats a modern expression for that?), its the fact that this is real, that this is going on all around us thats whats really horrifying. The movie itself is a documentary, and its scarier, more horrific, more terrible than any horror film, because its real.
A large part of The Animals Film is comprised of man on the street, vox pops interview clips, which are most often contrasted between those directly involved in animal agriculture, and everyday people. You'll hear Schonfelds voice in this clip, asking questions, he has quite a thin, high voice, which is noticeably stronger in the BBC One World Animals and Us series, recorded a couple decades later. This interview in particular is particularly interesting, first a pig farmer, who explains how he keeps the pigs from fighting, by effectively joining in the fight himself, armed with a bat and hurting them before they hurt one another. Then theres a second man, who identifies as vegetarian, a Vegetarian in 1981, there wouldn't have been too many of those here in Invercargill, New Zealand back then! He is however, wearing an animal skin jacket!
I would think the skin used to make his jacket was from a four legged animal!
The Animals Film has a much greater focus on animal experimentation than Earthlings, while both show typical, every day scenes of slaughterhouses and farms, Earthlings had a more "spiritual" theme, of flowers and mountains, of uplifting gospel type music, while The Animals Film has more a horror theme, of screaming synthesizers, and of cruel animal experimentation. The latter scenes show animals being made to run on treadmills, exposed to radiation until they give out, collapsing and vomiting, and a scene of two dogs being sewn together, a smaller dogs head and two front legs attached on the back and neck of the larger dog, the smaller dog attached surgically as though they were conjoined twins.
I didn't want to focus on such extreme visual examples of animal experimentation though, by far the most "used" animals are rats and mice, here is a fairly unemotional scene, well, unemotional in terms of what it is, of rats being given pure alcohol to cause ulcers in their stomachs, with some rats being treated with prototype drugs to help prevent ulcers. They are then all killed at the end of the experiment, and we hear from someone directly involved with such scientific research on other animals, her identity being kept secret, as she speaks from the shadows. We do however notice she is holding a lit cigarette, she's a heavy smoker, as was the style at the time, as Grampa Simpson might say.
Now to jump a couple decades into the future, well, as of the time you're actually listening to this episode, its our *past*, January 2010, but for Victor Schonfeld as heard in the clip, it was a long way forward from 1981!
Here, the Assistant Surgeon General of the United States is asked how many animals are "used" in experiments…..and, uh….um….well, uhhhhhhh, he finds it a little difficult to give an actual answer for that! Honestly, this is amazing public relations spin, making something very negative sound like "well, its IMPROVING, and we sure are excited about the advancements in ending animal use…", when the real answer is….well, um…..errrrrrr….you'll soon hear!
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had a satirical news piece about this sort of answer, a gameshow called "Polish That Turd"
What an unreal answer, the assistant surgeon general of the greatest country in the world doesn't actually know how many animals are harmed and killed in scientific research, I mean, Assistant Surgeon General, I'd guess theres only one position above Assistant Surgeon General on the payscale. So, nobody actually has a clue how many animals we are killing, but we sure are glad its probably going down, because of all these exciting nonhuman animal experiments which are coming into being, although we still need to kill them.
Its a little like the slaughterhouse manager saying "yes, we kill a lots of animals each day, but don't worry, we do it HUMANELY". Except, slaughterhouses *actually know how many animals they've killed each year!*
Episode 378 of the show No Agenda covered this, where hosts Adam and John talk about the American Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the man in charge of killing Osama Bin Laden, well, he was also unaware how many wars America was currently involved in :
One more clip from Victor Schonfelds recent "One Planet, Animals and Us" series. This features an ex animal experimenter talking about the realization he made, that the dogs he harmed and killed were no different than the dogs he cared about.
Dr John Pippin was himself involved in animal experimentation, then he became Vegan, just as farmers Harold Brown and Howard Lyman each also made the journey to Veganism, and lets not forget philosopher Tom Regan, former butcher.
By now you're probably threatening poor old Jordan, and by proxy, your iPod, "get to the bloody interview man, or so help me Steve Jobs, I'll ludivico technique force you into hearing english women narrating over screeching 1980's haunted house synthesizer music!"
All right, all right, lets not do anything hasty, anything that we'll later regret!
And now for the reason you've been listening to this episode, not to become afraid of English women, or documentaries from the 1980's, heres my interview with Tom from Speaking of Research, and Pro Test.
What did you think? Have any of your preconceptions about Animal Experimentation been changed? I'm really glad that Tom would give me his time, its always interesting to hear from others who not only don't agree with you, but are quite fundamentally different, and not just in a minor way, like the fact Tom presumably doesn't scream and leap up on a chair shrieking hysterically, going into Animals Film flashbacks when he hears an English Woman narrating a documentary from the 1980's!
I'd like to thank everyone who sent in a question for Tom, you for listening, and Tom for his time. You can find his group Pro Test www.pro-test.org.uk, pro-test.org.uk, and the American group Speaking of Research at Speaking Of Research .com, Speaking of Research .com
Thank you for listening to Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals.
You can find the script for this episode, as well as downloads for every episode of Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals at www.coexisting.co.nz
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Thank you for listening.
Speaking of Research
Otago University, animals killed
BBC series One Planet, Animals and Us
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart "Polish That Turd"