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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Full Circle

msva peta

With Tali and Margo on Washington Square East, en route to the PETA talk at the Kimmel Center. Photo by Rain.

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As you may know, at NYU I was an opinion columnist for the Washington Square News. (If you’re interested, here’s the best thing I ever wrote for that paper.)

One time the animal rights group on campus circulated a pamphlet stating that NYU researchers, funded by our tax dollars, were practicing vivisection on rhesus monkeys, supposedly to discover a cure for lazy eye. I was going to link to the definition of “vivisection,” but I think I’d better define it for you here:

viv·i·sec·tion  [viv-uh-sek-shuhn]
1.  the action of cutting into or dissecting a living body.
2.  the practice of subjecting living animals to cutting operations, especially in order to advance physiological and pathological knowledge.

I was so shocked and disgusted that I hastily typed up an opinion piece decrying what was going on in our university research labs. It was an absolutely lazy piece of so-called journalism–I did virtually no outside research–and the next day we published a letter from the NYU spokesman (part of whose job it was to take us pesky kids down a peg on a regular basis) that began, “Camille DeAngelis parroted the contents of a nasty pamphlet…”

Funny that he should use the word “parrot,” right? Because parrots repeat what’s actually been said; they don’t obfuscate, as humans are wont to do. The NYU spokesman didn’t deny anything about the vivisection itself–he only attempted to rationalize it by saying people would be helped by the “work” they were doing, and that the animal rights activists were just getting in the way of medical progress. As if making use of our first-amendment right was “nasty,” and drilling holes into monkeys’ heads WASN’T.

Yeah, I think the monkeys would have a thing or two to say about that. But we don’t speak their language.

Does “progress” necessitate the torture of innocent, sentient beings? Scientists like T. Colin Campbell believe this to a certain extent–for without his lab rats we wouldn’t have as much scientific evidence that a plant-based diet is THE way to fend off cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and there’s no denying that animal testing has saved many human lives through vaccines and other critical medicines. Our technology, however, has advanced to the point where animal testing (for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and so forth) is actually the least effective way of doing things. And yet many companies are still dropping chemicals in rabbits’ eyes before sticking them back in their cages.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a party to unnecessary suffering in any form. I wish I had actually joined People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals back at NYU, and gotten involved. I thought I was doing enough by being a vegetarian, but I know better now.

Ingrid Newkirk’s lecture included photographs and video footage of animals doing extraordinary things…and animals being treated with extraordinary cruelty.

As our vegan academy group walked down to Washington Square for the PETA lecture that Thursday night, I thought back on that ill-executed yet thoroughly righteous editorial I’d once written. I also remembered a brief conversation outside the NYU Main Building I’d had with a really nice girl named Lauren, who was active in the PETA group on campus and was thrilled that I’d written about the vivisection issue. I was sipping a hot chocolate, and I offered her some. She asked if there was milk in it, I said yes, and she politely declined.

Why didn’t I get it?

I wasn’t ready, I guess. But I really wish I could have been. 

(All Main Street Vegan Academy posts here.)

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.