Dr. Jerry Vlasak, Press Officer with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, appeared before the US Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.
The Committee was convened supposedly to address the tactics being used by animal liberation activists against the animal testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences, which has been exposed in five undercover investigations to be abusing animal welfare laws, and continues to kill 500 animals daily in their three facilities.
In what is expected to be a contentious confrontation, a high-ranking Huntingdon executive, members of the FBI and Justice Departments, and the head of the New York Stock Exchange are also expected to appear. Huntingdons stock was de-listed from the exchange last month just moments before it was to make its debut there, and fear of animal activists has been cited by Committee Chairman Inhofe as a possible reason for the exchanges decision.
Dr. Vlasak is a trauma surgeon who has spoken out widely in opposition to the use of animals in laboratories; as a former animal researcher himself, he has pushed for more modern research methods, but also decried the immense and unnecessary suffering that animals endure in laboratories like those at Huntingdon.
In a country where 45 million citizens have no access to even basic health care, there is no reason to be spending hundreds of millions of scarce health care dollars killing animals, Vlasak states. Even forgetting its uselessness and expense as a research modality, it is immoral to torture and kill innocent animals for human desires. Id be against animal research even if it did work, and it doesn’t.
I. Introductory remarks
Good afternoon, my name is Dr. Jerry Vlasak. I’m a practicing trauma surgeon, but more importantly for today’s purpose, I am a Press Officer with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. I am also a former vivisector, who at one time bought into the fraud, fallacy and pressure from the drug companies, and believed that vivisecting animals is legitimate science. I have since come to know better and stand here today in support of the struggle for animal liberation.
The stated purpose of the Animal Liberation Press Office is: to communicate the actions, strategies, philosophy and history of the underground animal liberation movement to the media and the public, and that’s what I hope to do here today.
The actions of activists who care enough about animals to speak out in no uncertain terms, and at times to risk their own lives and freedom, have a message that is most urgent and one that deserves to be heard and understood. Often animal liberation speech and underground actions either go unreported in the media or are uncritically vilified as “violent” or “terrorist”, with no attention paid to the suffering that industries and individuals gratuitously inflict on animals. The Press Office seeks to clarify the motivation and nature of these actions taken in defense of animals.
Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is the largest contract testing lab in Europe, and operates facilities in the UK and New Jersey. They kill 500 animals a day; over 180,000 per year. They carry out experiments which involve poisoning and torturing animals to death with household products, pesticides, drugs, herbicides, food colorings and additives, sweeteners and genetically modified organisms, oven cleaner and cosmetics.
HLS has been infiltrated and exposed in undercover footage 5 times in recent years by journalists, animal rights campaigners and members of the public; each time horrific evidence of animal abuse and staff incompetence has been uncovered, including workers punching beagle puppies in the face, simulating sex with animals in their care, dissecting primates while they are still alive and falsifying experiments to get their clients’ product on the market.
A 1999 inspection of their Occold (UK) facility by the Good Laboratory Practice Monitoring Authority revealed 41 deficiencies, including errors in standard operating procedures, training issues, record keeping, quality assurance, equipment, labeling and facilities.
520 violations of the UK Good Laboratory Practices Act were documented in an expose by the Daily Press (UK) in 2000. They are the only UK laboratory to ever have their licence revoked by the government.
In East Millstone, NJ in 1997, an investigator from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals brought information to light that forced Huntingdon to plead guilty to animal cruelty violations and pay a $50,000 fine.
Some examples of the horrific and unscientific testing done at HLS include the following:
An estimated 12,800 animals died in the research of the sugar substitute Splenda. HLS used pregnant rabbits, beagle dogs, and primates to test Splenda, administering up to 1200 times the estimated daily intake. Thirty two beagles were used and after weeks of having the substance pumped into them, they were killed by exsanguination B having their throats slit. The primates in the Splenda experiments suffered brain defects, mood swings, severe weight loss, anxiety, fear loneliness, and then ultimately, death. The rabbits experienced convulsions, intestinal disorders, and trauma-induced death.
A 2003 report documented the lab carrying out an experiment on a refrigeration component, long since banned in production, for the Japanese Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Association. This egregious and fraudulent study forced seven month old beagles puppies to inhale the pollutant, which caused severe head tremors, pain, whole body shaking, unconsciousness and eventually death.
On a daily basis animals used in vivisection are drowned, suffocated and starved to death; they have their limbs severed and their organs crushed; they are burned, exposed to radiation, and used in experimental surgeries; they are shocked, raised in isolation, exposed to weapons of mass destruction, and rendered blind or paralyzed; they are the given heart attacks, ulcers, paralysis, and seizures; they are forced to inhale tobacco smoke, drink alcohol, and ingest various drugs, such as heroine, cocaine ;and in my very own home town of Los Angeles at UCLA medical center, primates are now being forced to ingest the drug Ecstasy. And they say activists are violent?
The campaign to Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) was set up at the end of 1999 by a group of activists who had successfully closed down Consort kennels which bred beagles for experimentation, and Hillgrove cat farm, which bred cats for the same purpose.
In what has become an international campaign in more than 18 countries, a campaign that knows no limit to the creativity and length to which many demonstrators will go, SHAC has exposed HLS for the cruel, unscientific, and corrupt company they are. The global, anti-Huntington Life Sciences campaign is an innovative and selfless campaign, and has received worldwide media coverage for the success of its methods, the intelligence of its tactics and the determination of its supporters.
It is important to realize that SHAC USA is not one group, or hierarchical entity, but an ideology, a paradigm shift if you will, in the way the public views the atrocities perpetrated by companies such as HLS. Thousands of people world-wide have come together and protested the evil perpetrated upon innocent animals by HLS. While some groups like SHAC USA are legal, incorporated non-profit organizations, others are just loosely knit, caring individuals of like-minds. It is ridiculous to think that SHAC is one group with a top-down organization that controls all activities worldwide.
Tactics routinely utilized by SHAC groups around the world include:
Regular leafleting and demonstrations outside of business complexes of all manner of HLS business allies.
Boycott campaigns have met several HLS allies. Banks such as The National Westminster Bank, Bank of New York, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and even Bank of America have seen thousands close their accounts and seek new financial services out of ethical consideration.
Banners and highly visible signs are hung in and around companies under protest, drawing attention of community members, employees, and members of the press to the relationship between the protested company and HLS.
Websites parroting the same look of corporate websites of protest targets are often erected under critical URLs. StephensKills.com or BNYkills.com caused press attention to the Huntingdon relationship and were the source of a PR headache.
National SHAC USA demonstrations see upward of 400 B 500 activists converging to protest the lab and the few companies that keep it afloat.
Residential picketing of corporate executives are a common tactic of animal activists. Similar to Cindy Sheehan’s “Camp Casey”, activists often protest outside the homes of those bankers, insurance brokers, board members, and VPs of companies that support HLS.
IV. About the Animal Liberation Movement
By the accusations against SHAC campaigners, some are trying to disguise where the real violence exists, the real blood-letting that is perpetrated behind the tightly-barricaded walls of Huntingdon laboratories.
Activists watch all this, and become embittered and frustrated that the above ground arm of the struggle is not making progress by legal means, so they begin utilizing more radical tactics. Well, these tactics have their place; they always have. Menachem Begin, former Prime Minister of Israel and before that, former member of the Israeli terrorist group Irgun, personally planted a bomb at the British headquarters in the King David Hotel in 1946, leaving 90 dead and 45 wounded. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 32 years later in 1978.
The Algerians used violent tactics in the streets of Algiers in 1954-55, and American colonists used it in our own revolutionary war of 1776. Those who freed the slaves over 100 years ago and the suffragettes who fought for women=s right to vote didn=t ask for their rights and freedoms by saying APlease sir… Instead they fought hard with many personal sacrifices, and they won.
Nelson Mandela was a lawyer who tried every legal means he could find to displace the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa. When he realized his inability to make change legally, he took up arms and was imprisoned by the government for decades, only to pick up a Nobel Peace Prize after the regime was overthrown.
Nonviolence is not a moral principle, but a strategy, and there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.- Nelson Mandela
The final, and only effective alternative for the American anti-slavery movement was coercion. If institutions could not be changed legally, and ethical education could not persuade a critical mass of people to change their minds, and if insufficient support cannot be found, is not the only way left to right a moral wrong is by employing force? This is the only correct position to take.
All movements for social change are resisted by those who profit from the status quo. John Brown recognized this in 1850 as he battled slave owners of the American South, Malcolm X recognized it as he fought a century later for the rights of “free” blacks, and animal liberationists know it today as they fight for the freedom of non-human animals.
Far from being terrorists, activists are using the only avenue left available for the self defense, we call it extensional self-defense, of animals. These are actions that most people would engage in if it were their own families or loved ones being slaughtered.
If Americans owned up to their own secret speciesism, racism and nationalism, and pretended that it were white, middle-class kindergartners from Kansas being pumped full of bleach and anally electrocuted, without question, most would likely be ready to take up arms themselves to end such a holocaust.
V. NYSE De-listing
On September 7, 2005 HLS was due to begin trading on the NYSE under the symbol LSR. Moments before trading was to begin, and with HLS executives on the stock exchange floor to celebrate, the listing was cancelled without comment. There was no direct or indirect reference or mention of animal rights action.
Did NYSE president Catherine Kinney halt the listing because she had just realized the financial temerity of HLS, or did she decide that a company as debased and cruel as HLS should not be associated with her exchange? Or did she, as many including this committee=s chairman have claimed, capitulate to animal rights campaigners and their threats to protest the exchange if they traded the shares of this pariah, HLS? Mr. Inhofe specifically warned the exchange not to “capitulate to threats.”
The New York Stock Exchange’s reluctance to admit the lab is understandable, as the company is very resistant to the light of public scrutiny demanded of truly socially positive and profitable corporations. Its financial prospects are as dubious as its research on animals.
Currently HLS stock still trades on the OTCBB under the symbol LSRI. It was de-listed from the London Stock Exchange in 2002; the company reincorporated in Maryland and underwent a reverse 5:1 stock split. It’s split-adjusted price today is a bit under $2.00 per share.
Chairman of the Board and CEO Andrew Baker owns 27% of the stock, and in June fronted the company another $43 million in a leaseback offer giving him personal ownership of the company’s land, buildings and equipment, which he leases back to them.
Even after that massive infusion of cash, HLS still reports a whopping $75.9 million debt. A $50 million bond is payable in mid 2006.
No commercial bank or insurance company is willing to do business with HLS, and at least 25 market makers have thus far refused to deal in their stock.
HLS has not paid a dividend in many years, 2 of its directors are 3 rd world-based and have no experience in the field, and its annual shareholders meetings are held secretly in Panama. Hundreds of customers and suppliers have cancelled their contracts with HLS, choosing not to do business with a company dealing in the torture and killing of defenseless animals. Is this the kind of business that belongs on any stock exchange?
In the last 2 weeks, HLS share price has gone into a downfall, as company after company sheds their stock from their portfolios. More than a million shares have been divested, as companies are informed about the vile business carried out by HLS. One company, Awad, stated that had they known about the cruelty at HLS, they probably would have never invested in them.
Oct. 20, 2005-WASHINGTON MUTUAL SELLS OFF 188,430 OF THEIR SHARES IN HLS!
Oct. 19, 2005- ROYCE & ASSOC. SELL OFF 120,000 SHARES!
Oct. 19, 2005-THOMSON, HORSTMANN & BRYANT, INC SELL OFF 123,500 SHARES!
Oct. 18, 2005- CORTINA SELLS OFF THEIR 165,000 LSRI SHARES!
Oct. 13, 2005- AWAD SELLS OFF THEIR 250,000 SHARES IN LSRI!
Oct. 12, 2005- GREENVILLE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT SELLS OFF THEIR 251,000 SHARES IN LSRI!
Companies that still hold large chunks of HLS/LSRI shares at the time of this writing include:
Buffalo Micro Cap Fund
Dalton, Greiner, Hartman, Maher and Co.
John Hancock Advisors
Gilder, Gagnon, Howe and Co.
Palisade Capital Management LLC
When it met in May of this year to discuss “animal enterprise terrorism”, this committee heard from David Martosko, director of research for a lobbyist group called Center for Consumer Freedom(CCF).
The Center for Consumer Freedom, formerly known as the Guest Choice Network, was set up by one Richard Berman with a $600,000 “donation” from tobacco company Philip Morris. Berman arranges for large sums of corporate money to find its way into non-profit societies of which he is the executive director. He then hires his own company as a consultant to these nonprofit groups. Of the millions of dollars “donated” by Philip Morris between the years 1995 and 1998, 49 percent to 79 percent went directly to Berman or Berman & Co.
On November 16, 2004, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that CCF has violated its tax exempt status. The complaint alleges that CCF engaged in prohibited electioneering, made substantial payments to the founder of the organization, Richard Berman, and to Berman’s wholly owned for profit entity Berman & Co., and engaged in activities with no charitable purpose. CREW executive director Melanie Sloan told Forbes magazine, “It doesn’t seem to me that someone should get a tax deduction while they’re writing public relations memos about how people should be able to smoke in restaurants.”
Each of the witnesses that have testified before me have their own financial interests at stake in the continued oppression, torture and murder of non-human animals by HLS. Neither I nor any of the thousands of people campaigning in hundreds of groups under the SHAC umbrella have anything to gain in the closure of this hellhole, other than the knowledge that 500 animals will no longer suffer and die every day in HLS Laboratories.
HLS is only one representative of the Global Vivisection Complex, an outdated, inefficient and wasteful entity whose time has come and gone. What are the major medical breakthroughs in the areas of cancer research, HIV/AIDS treatments, Parkinson’s or other debilitating diseases that have come out of vivisection laboratories like HLS?
According to recent opinion polls, only 13% of the public have confidence or trust in the Pharmaceutical Industry . In August of 2005, Opinion Research Corporation International found that 67% of the US would rather donate to medical research that does not involve animal experimentation.
In the 21 st century, there is absolutely no need to torture and kill non-human animals to advance human medicine. The majority of physicians in the UK, according to a recent poll, are against animal experimentation and feel it is not necessary for medical research. Here in the US, there are thousands of physicians like myself who realize there is no need to kill animals in order to help humans, the vast majority of whom get sick and die because of already known, preventable lifestyle variables such as diet, smoking, drugs and environmental toxins. In a country where 45 million people do without reliable access to ANY medical care, there is no reason to waste hundreds of millions of dollars testing drugs and procedures on animals. In a world where 20,000 children are dying from lack of access to clean water each week world wide, there is no reason to waste hundreds of millions of dollars testing drugs and procedures on non-human animals.
Huntingdon is the poster child of an abhorrent, unnecessary and wasteful industry that not only murders millions of innocent, suffering animals, but dooms countless humans to their own unnecessary suffering because scarce health-care dollars are wasted on useless animal research and testing. HLS will be closed, and will serve as a lesson to other vivisection companies to use modern modalities and stop torturing animals, or they too will become targets of the animal liberation movement.
I thank the Committee for listening to my comments, and invite your questions.
Jerry Vlasak, MD
North American Animal Liberation Press Office
21044 Sherman Way #211
Canoga Park, CA 91303
Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS)
• Largest contract testing lab in Europe
• Operates facilities in the UK and New Jersey.
• Kill 500 animals a day
• HLS will test anything for anybody.
• Carry out experiments which involve poisoning animals with household products, pesticides, drugs, herbicides, food colorings and additives, sweeteners and genetically modified organisms.
• HLS has been infiltrated and exposed 5 times in recent years by journalists, animal rights campaigners and members of the public
• Each time horrific evidence of animal abuse and staff incompetence has been uncovered
workers punching beagle puppies in the face
simulating sex with animals in their care
dissecting primates while they are still alive
falsifying experiments to get their clients’ product on the market.
• 1999 inspection of their Occold (UK) facility by the Good Laboratory Practice Monitoring Authority revealed 41 deficiencies, including errors in standard operating procedures, training issues, record keeping, quality assurance, equipment, labeling and facilities.
• 520 violations of the UK Good Laboratory Practices Act were documented in an expose by the Daily Press(UK) in 2000.
• Only UK laboratory to ever have their licence revoked by the government.
• In East Millstone, NJ in 1997, an investigator from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals brought information to light that forced Huntingdon to plead guilty to animal cruelty violations and pay a $50,000 fine.
• Some examples of the testing done at HLS include the following:
An estimated 12,800 animals died in the research of the sugar substitute Splenda. HLS used pregnant rabbits, beagle dogs, and primates to test the substance, administering up to 1200 times the estimated daily intake. Thirty two beagles were used and after weeks of having the substance pumped into them, were killed by exsanguination B having their throats slit. The primates suffered brain defects, mood swings, grip reflexing, severe weight loss, and then death. The rabbits experienced convulsions, intestinal disorders, and not surprisingly trauma-induced death.
A 2003 report documented the lab carrying out an experiment on a refrigeration component, long since banned in production, for the Japanese Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Association. The repeated study forced seven month old beagles to inhale the pollutant, which caused severe head trembling, head tremors, whole body shaking, unconsciousness, and eventually death.
• Animal experimentation at Huntingdon Life Sciences is not life-saving, not necessary, and is inherently cruel.
Center for Consumer Freedom
Front group for the restaurant, alcohol and tobacco industries.
Media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, and environmentalists
Created by Berman & Co., a public affairs firm owned by lobbyist Rick Berman
Berman has argued against a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) initiative to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for drivers.
Claimed that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warnings about salmonella related food poisoning are just Awhipping up fear over food.
Anyone who criticizes tobacco, alcohol, fatty foods or soda pop is likely to come under attack from CCF.
In 1995, Berman and Norm Brinker, his former boss at Steak and Ale Restaurants, donated the $25,000 that disgraced then House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was hauled before the House Ethics Committee for influence peddling over the money. Berman and Brinker were lobbying against raising the minimum wage.
In a 1999 interview Berman boasted that he attacks activists more aggressively than other lobbyists. “We always have a knife in our teeth,” he said. Since activists “drive consumer behavior on meat, alcohol, fat, sugar, tobacco and caffeine,” his strategy is “to shoot the messenger. … We’ve got to attack their credibility as spokespersons.”
On November 16, 2004, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that CCF has violated its tax exempt status. The complaint alleges that CCF engaged in prohibited electioneering, made substantial payments to the founder of the organization, Richard Berman, and to Berman’s wholly owned for profit entity Berman & Co., and engaged in activities with no charitable purpose. CREW executive director Melanie Sloan told Forbes, “It doesn’t seem to me that someone should get a tax deduction while they’re writing public relations memos about how people should be able to smoke in restaurants.”
In April 2005, CCF launched a $600,000 ad campaign in such major newspapers as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and USA Today, calling “obesity” a “hype” and stated, “Americans have been force-fed a steady diet of obesity myths by the ‘food police,’ trial lawyers, and even our own government.”
21044 Sherman Way # 211
Canoga Park, CA 91302