Skip to content

On Different Results of Direct Action

There is a profound difference between what Sea Shepherd does and what the Animal Liberation Front does, but there are also similarities, and those similarities increase in number if a direct action by the ALF (or anyone else) is an open rescue and therefore a direct defense of sentient nonhumans being attacked by humans. And I'm sure they see it as an attack. And an entirely unwarranted one, at that.

This year's carnage in the Antarctic was measurably smaller due to the interference of Sea Shepherd. According to Reuters:

Japan, which considers whaling to be a cherished cultural tradition, killed 679 minke whales despite plans to catch around 850. It caught just one fin whale compared with a target of 50 in the hunt that began in November.

That's one result.

Here's another direct action and its result, as described in an interview by Larry Mantle on KPCC Radio (it's the one called "Animal Rights vs. Animal Testing"). Dr. David Jentsch says to his colleagues "your silence will no longer protect you" and his community of vivisectionists has decided to have a pro-torture and slaughter (i.e., research) rally in defense of his community (he considers himself a proxy for the entire UCLA community). Jentsch talks about the cost ("it's hard to put a price tag on") of protecting those like him, so we definitely know that the tactics of those who seek to defend animals are working on one level (economic harm, though once removed at least in this situation).

He speaks of the "mixed message of the animal rights community" that animals are so much like us, yet not enough like us to experiment on. Then he and the interviewer describe some of the experiments. And it's a very dispassionate discussion, but that's what makes it sickening.

Here are some highlights:

Mantle: "How do you respond to: Yeah, you may find something that benefits humans, but it's not worth it and it's not ethically right?"

Jentsch says that this is an important issue that the entire community has to grapple with, and it seems like the broader community is in favor of research that gets at fundamental improvements in human health even though there is a cost of animal life associated with it. He then says he goes to "exceptional lengths" to make ensure the physical and psychological welfare of the primates he uses, "except when it's absolutely necessary" to harm them.

Then comes the introduction to Vlasak wanting to harm individuals who harm animals. And then comes a brief conversation about Singer and how we wouldn't use young humans, which Jentsch says is precisely why we should use primates. Jentsch is all about human exceptionalism. His rationale for using primates is that they are not on a "full trajectory" for becoming humans, like young children are. They are useful and they are not human, therefore it is okay to harm them. 


And then comes Dr. Jerry Vlasak at about minute 17 of 27, who says Jentsch is "using the same arguments used when experimenting on black people" not so long ago. Of course, Mantle says, "but though they are high-level mammals, they're not humans." Deja vu.

Vlasak's main points:

  • The money that Jentsch is wasting doing this should go to treatment programs. What Jentsch is doing is counter-productive.
  • The broader community Jentsch talks about doesn't really know what he does. Jentsch says the community approves of what he does but they don't actually know what he does. They don't see the animals scream and struggle.
  • (Re: Trajectory of humans versus primates. We wouldn't use a brain-damaged human, right? says a commenter on the journalist's blog).
  • There have been peaceful efforts to dialogue about what's going on in the laboratories and look at alternatives, but they have been ignored. Peaceful protests were ignored, as well. Home protests were ignored also.
  • AND THEN: Is it ever justified to use more violent means after peaceful ones have all failed? This is where Vlasak gets energized. A combination of tactics will force these people to stop torturing animals, he says, and even mentions an example of a researcher who took up non-animal alternatives as a result.
  • Finally, the core question: Why do these "researchers" continue to use animals when there are alternatives and personal threats?

Guess what the answer is? Funding.

No surprise there.

Direct action is such a conundrum.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. am i missing something? perhaps a hint of sarcasm in the final sentence of this piece?

    if the need to save money (or get grants) + the "need" to do research = animal testing…

    how is direct action problematized? there is no conundrum here.

    April 14, 2009
  2. I'd don't know either that direct action is such a conundrum –
    Go after the pocketbook… it's the only place they feel anything anyway.

    Poor animals… with the ability to feel pain that is of no consequence –
    The inability to "communicate" – which is of consequence…
    The fate to be just like us, or totally different than us –
    Poor animals – made to suffer because they don't have a soul.
    Poor us, for making every bit of it so.

    April 17, 2009
  3. Mary Martin #

    Here's a new development: Thomas Paine's Corner covered this story here:

    Check out the comments.

    Then TPC posted about Jentsch's experiments here:

    It doesn't help that Jentsch, with those dramatic eyebrows, looks so sinister. When you see the vervet monkeys strapped down, you instantly forget the version Jentsch told about what he does.

    April 18, 2009

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS