SAEN LogoHeat - Essays From SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

By Michael Budkie
September 2012

Sometimes it is almost too much. The triggers are so different. Post-mortems, protocols, reports. The end is always the same.

To fully understand, to really see the pain, you must know that death has visited me recently. Within the last year I have lost several feline friends. Smurphy who can only be called ancient, for a cat, probably 22; and George also ancient for a feline at 19. Two friends old both in years and in relationship. Both part of my family for too many days to count. Good friends who lived long and good lives, now gone. Both passed away as I cared for them, sitting in my lap.

heat cat torture vivisection

heat cat torture vivisection

I found this report and can't stop thinking about it…an inspection report for a lab, with only one violation, one non-compliance – a fatal one.

A laboratory called Southwest Bio-Labs broke the law, only once, in October of 2011.

Apparently there was a faulty thermostat. The temperature got too high. Ten cats died, cooked to death. But I can't see ten cats, I can only see two, my old friends Smurphy and George, feeling the heat, passing out, passing away, again and again. It is as if I must relive their deaths, made much more painful, endlessly. The memories of my friends turn to ashes as I feel them burn, and at the same time my soul turns to dust.

It doesn't always take a long time to make a friend. Sometimes you don't even know their names. After years of anticipation I have finally just toured a primate sanctuary that cares for several different types of macaque monkeys. Macaque monkeys are the type of monkeys who are most often used in laboratories. Some think they aren't as cuddly; they clearly aren't chimps. But when you look into their eyes, you can see their souls. They have relationships, friendships, even with humans. I've seen this now, and it cannot be forgotten.

And now, after experiencing them up close, after seeing their eyes, I understand their suffering even more. This is when I read about the February 2012 criminality of the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary. In five pages of illegalities that I read about monkeys, probably macaques, just like the ones whom I have just met, bleeding to death. Experimental procedures at this lab required cutting holes into monkeys' skulls, and during these projects they died, unexpectedly, of exsanguination. Their lives flowed out of their intentionally inflicted injuries until there was no more.

It is as if they have taken the lives of my friends. They are not just animals, I have looked into their eyes and seen through to the other side. And I have held my friends as they died. But that was on a scale that was almost bearable, one at a time. At Southwest Biolabs, ten cats, Georges and Smurphys, died. There is no excuse, no apology, and only a single violation. These Georges and Smurphys didn't know a loving hand; they didn't die in the lap of a family member. They expired in an overheated room because no one paid attention. And no one will even mourn them, but you and me. And the monkeys fared no better. They lived in stainless steel boxes until their lives flowed out of their veins due to carelessness.

It would be easy to be angry -- easy to curse, easy to yell, easy to hate. Vengeance is the easy way out. Anger is a fire that consumes the soul, leaving only emptiness. These victims do not crave anger; they would not want more death. They look for no more victims, no matter which side they come from. They want only compassion. If they could, they would ask us for the love they were denied, the touch that they missed, the laps they never had a chance to sit in. The monkeys want the trees they never saw, the families they were denied. Victims seek the beginning of justice, not more victims.

What do we feel when a loved one dies? We experience a gaping hole in our lives where they used to be. We miss our friends, our family. It doesn't matter if the friend or family member is human. And I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but losing a friend does not move me to want more death. Our world is already filled with death; we need not make it overflow.

So, as we decide what we must do, as we look for answers, as we try to move forward, we must ask ourselves, how? What would they ask of us?

Now, as I sit here and read those inspection pages again, I ask myself, what do they want? As images of George and Smurphy and eight of their friends slowly dying of heat prostration in steel cages in a lab in New Mexico, and pictures of the monkeys I just met bleeding to death, move through my mind, I ask, what do they want? What do they want from me? Compassion would have freed them. Caring would have opened the cages. Empathy would have put them into a better place.

These are the things that they demand of us. Compassion for them, for ourselves, and for those we oppose. We cannot expect others to exercise compassion if we do not show it to them. There can be no discussions if both sides are yelling. The war will never end if everyone insists on death. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” (Gandhi)

If we are all to see the truth, we need look no further than to look into their eyes, see their souls. Hold a cat in your lap, and you know that they are not designed for cages or experiments, only for companionship. Meet a monkey and you will see that they are not designed for lives in stainless steel boxes; they are for trees.

Denying their very natures, demeaning them to the level of objects, considering them tools, this is hate. Hate put them into cages; it will not take them out.

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