Before you discuss publicly or launch a campaign, it is wise to know as much as possible about your target. If you don't have well-documented, specific complaints with clear demands for change, you'll appear poorly prepared and won't be taken seriously.
Keep a record of everything.
The following subsection is focused on investigating animal
research. This primer was not created solely for animal rights activists, but we
believe that the tactics and skills described here can be applied to other
Investigating Animal Research
UT, and all research institutions and labs, set up barriers to finding out exactly what goes on. It makes sense. If people had easy access to information, they would know what is going on, and they would be outraged.
Investigating animal research takes some practice. Some people get intimidated by the mere though of it, and never try. This guarantees failure, and it guarantees that animals will continue to die. You can't end the torture without first knowing exactly what the torture is.
Learning the Laws
First, become familiar with the Animal Welfare Act, the federal law that regulates the conditions under which animals are housed by dealers and labs while on public exhibit. It's online at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac. You can order a copy of the Act by calling the USDA at (301) 734-7833 or by writing to this address:
Obtain copies of the state, county and city anti-cruelty laws. The county library may have them or you can try the law library on campus (727 E. Dean Keaton). You can ask the librarian to help you look up the laws.
Some other useful publications to have in your files are the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. These are not actually laws. They are government regulations. This means that enforcement is up to the discretion of the agency. However, they are a useful resource, and you can criticize labs that do not meet the standards of these guides. They can be found on the internet at: http://www.utanimalrights.com/primer/ www.nih.gov/grants/oppr/library_animal.htm
Getting State and Local Info.
The easiest way to find out where animals are being exploited is to look in three publications from the USDA: Animal Welfare: List of Licensed Dealers; Animal Welfare: List of Licensed Exhibitors; and Animal Welfare: List of Registered Research Facilities. Each is organized by state and gives the mailing address for each facility. Call or write the USDA for copies.
Campaigns at UT will be directed at:
UT Animal Resources Center
Getting the Details
Reading researchers' articles can be extremely valuable. You may find
descriptions of very cruel experiments. It's useful to use the experimenter's
own words to expose very abusive conduct. Also, reading the articles can prepare
you to publicly criticize the experiments. Of course, some scientific articles
can be very difficult to interpret. It may be helpful to have someone with a
scientific or medical background to assist you in reading a few so you can
become familiar with the format of scientific writing. It is filled with jargon
and is written for other researchers. Pay close attention to euphemisms like
"sacrifice" instead of kill, "negative stimulus" for electric shock (or worse),
or "vocalize" for scream.
Corporate Research on the Internet
Our schools are becoming corporations. At some point, your group will want to tackle some form of corporate involvement with the University (funding military research, funding animal testing, sponsoring a college, funding an endowed chair or professorship).
To attack these corporations, we really need to understand what they do, and how they work. An amazing example of the efficacy of this strategy is the campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences.
First, find out if the company is publicly traded. Public companies (whose stocks are bought and sold by the public on stock exchanges) must divulge a lot more information than private companies.
A good place to start is Hoover's Online: http://www.hoovers.com/. The site has profiles of 14,000 companies, including the names of top officers and contact information.
Find the company's website (either through Hoover's or through http://www.companiesonline.com/ or http://www.google.com/). Once you reach the website, you may find a treasure trove of information or perhaps only a logo and phone number. Bigger companies sometimes put their entire annual report online.
The main SEC documents are the 10-K (a detailed annual report), the 10-Q (quarterly reports), 8-K (reports on special actions like mergers) and the S-1 or S-2 (a detailed report when a company goes public for the first time). Also look at the proxy report which shows individuals or institutions that own 5 percent or more of the company, the names of board members, and the pay of top officers. A system called EDGAR archives all SEC documents and is available for free at http://www.sec.gov/edaux/searches.htm
You'll want to find out what has been written about a company, especially in the business press.
More and more state information is coming online as well. See http://www.followthemoney.org/
The EPA website has a feature that allows you to search for compliance information on a company or facility from a variety of databases at once. http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/ multisystem_query_java.html
The Environmental Defense Fund has a website that allows you to view environmental date on a specific geographic area. http://www.scorecard.org/
Job Safety and Health Data
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a database of inspection records, including complaints issued. http://www.osha.gov/cgi-bin/est/est1
Keeping an Eye on Business
Check out the Center for Comprehensive Corporate Research. http://www.corp-research.org/
Open Records Requests
The Open Records Law is what allows journalists and the general public to get information on state operations (like UT).
The hardest part about open records requests is deciding what it is you are looking for. There is a lot of paperwork that goes through UT, and you don't want to waste time or money on useless information. Try to narrow down what you are looking for (names of documents, or types of documents is a good start).
Then, type up the request (an example request is attached). Or, the Student Law Press, http://www.scorecard.org/, has an automated generator for open records requests. You just fill in the blanks. This can be helpful the first time you file a request, but it isn't necessary.
At UT, there is an office in the tower that deals specifically with open records requests. It's on the second floor of the tower, MAI 102. The person in charge is Annela Lopez, email@example.com, 471-8300. Hand-deliver it to the front desk and ask for a stamped copy as proof of delivery. UT has up to 10 working days to provide you with these documents, or to appeal to the Attorney General for an exemption. They will call you when the files are ready, and just go back to that office to examine them (rather than paying the copy fees).
In other cases, if you don't know where to send the request, just go to the top. Send the request to whomever you think is "in charge" and they will log the correspondence and route it to the appropriate person. (The first request we filed on campus was sent directly to the President, via registered mail).
Using the Freedom of Information Act
Whereas the Open Records Act is for state information, the FOIA is for federal information.
The FOIA is sometimes overwhelming, due to the bureaucracy and the amount of information involved. But, like the Open Records Act, it's easier than it looks.
First, get a copy of "The Freedom of Information Act: A User's
There is simply too much information covered by the FOIA to address here. Go through the guide, and check out the many websites available on the FOIA. Also, a FOIA helpline service is available at 202-512-FOIA.
(SAMPLE OPEN RECORDS REQUEST)
November 19, 2000
President Larry R. Faulkner
Dear President Faulkner:
Pursuant to the state open records law, Tex. Gov't Code Ann. 552.001 to 552.353, I write to request access to and a copy of:
*All correspondence between the Chacon Corporation and the Animal Resources
Center at the University of Texas at Austin relating to the housing,
euthanization and organ recovery of Beagles at the Animal Resources Center.
If your agency does not maintain these public records, please let me know who does and include the proper custodian's name and address.
In the interest of expediency, and to minimize the research and/or duplication burden on your staff, I would be pleased to personally examine relevant records. Since time is a factor, please communicate with me by telephone rather than by mail. My telephone number is: 512-GO-VEGAN.
I agree to pay any reasonable copying and postage fees of not more than $X. If the cost would be greater than this amount, please notify me.
As provided by the open records law, I will expect your response within ten (10) days. If you believe this information is not public, I ask that you immediately notify me and then seek a formal decision from the Texas Attorney General not later than ten (10) calendar days from your receipt of this request, as required by the open records law. Please provide all available portions of otherwise exempt material.
Thank you for your assistance.