August 22, 2005
Animal Rights Activist And "Recovering Objectivist" Cries Foul!
Did Epstein Even View the Video That "Cries Out For Explanation"?
A Recovering Objectivist Speaks Out!
By Gayle Dean

"Goddamn...I'm gonna knock you little hateful ass you."-- Senior Covance technician talking to a monkey he is restraining. 9/4/2004

In a recent op-ed, Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute attacks PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for its ongoing campaign against Covance Laboratories, a company that conducts bio-medical research on primates.

Perhaps believing that the best defense is a good offense, Epstein starts by calling animal-rights advocates 'vicious', 'deceptive' and 'anti-human' and says our goal 'is not to stop sadistic animal torturers; it is to sacrifice human well-being for the sake of animals.'

As a recovering Objectivist, I'm offended when I hear this sort of irrational, baseless, rhetoric. I'm human and not at all vicious or hateful. I like well-being for myself, as much as anyone. I seek it out daily and don't want to 'sacrifice' it to anyone, man or beast. And why would any of us wish to sacrifice human well-being? anyway...are we all simply masochists? Epstein's 'argument' amounts to not much more than name-calling.

Further, this is a perfect example of a false alternative -- that we must choose between human well-being and animal well-being and cannot have both. Animal-rights advocates reject this false alternative. They believe that human-well-being subsumes respect for animal well-being. Concern for one's environment and fellow-beings is not only compatible with, but is an indispensable component of, human well-being, the Virtue of Selfishness notwithstanding.

When animal-abusers are caught red-handed, there's not much their apologists can do, except pretend that the abuses are rare and abnormal. Unsurprisingly, that is Epstein's tactic: He tries to minimize and dismiss the abuse as an aberration, an exception, saying the evidence amounts to a 'mere handful of instances', when in fact, the formal complaint filed with the Dept. of Agriculture details not 'a mere handful' of abusive instances, but 272 pages worth.

You don't have to take my word for it. View the video at and judge for yourself: The way the Covance animals are restrained, caged, beaten, and tormented is neither necessary for research nor are these merely isolated incidents. While you're there, listen to Gordon Liddy's short public service announcement about Covance (on the same page). And if you have the stomach for it, read the 7-page summary of the formal complaint.

When Epstein says that humane treatment is the 'scrupulously practiced policy of most animal researchers', he is simply echoing the industry's public-relations propaganda.

Matthew Scully, former special assistant to the president and deputy director of presidential speechwriting for George W. Bush, had this to say in Dominion:

In its current form...the AWA [Animal Welfare Act -- which governs the treatment of lab animals] is a collection of hollow injunctions, broad loopholes, and light penalties when there are any at all....

And in Fear Factories: The Case for Compassionate Conservatism ? for Animals published in The American Conservative:

Our cruelty statutes are a good and natural development in Western law, codifying the claims of animals against human wrongdoing...Such statutes, however, address mostly random or wanton acts of cruelty. And the persistent animal-welfare questions of our day center on institutional cruelties?on the vast and systematic mistreatment of animals that most of us never see.

Another good indication that the abuses PETA has documented at Covance are not just isolated instances, is provided by the comtemptuous attitudes and abusive language that the technicians use with the animals. Epstein himself notes and seems disturbed by the technicians' ?bizarre taunting of monkeys?:

'Goddamn...I'm gonna knock you little hateful ass you.'-- Senior Covance technician talking to a monkey he is restraining. 9/4/2004

'Yeah, I'm coming for you again today. Yeah. Yep. You again today. I'm gonna kick your ass again, too.' Female Covance technician speaking to a caged monkey. 9/25/2004

Clearly, those who would yell obscenities--at helpless animals-- are mean-spirited, with tempers out of control, and exhibit a fundamental contempt and hostility toward the animals. These low-lifes have no business acting as 'caretakers' for any living creatures.

Driving the final nail in Covance's coffin are the court decisions, which unequivocally support PETA. Covance sought an injunction to prevent PETA Europe from showing the shocking video footage. The judge dismissed the request, calling the video 'highly disturbing' and commenting on the 'rough manner in which the animals [are] handled and the bleakness of the surroundings in which they are kept,' as matters which 'cry out for explanation.'

Further, the judge held that since Covance 'has fostered a misleading impression', PETA is 'entitled to correct it publicly,' and then ordered Covance to pay PETA for its legal costs. Covance appealed the judge's decision, but the appellate court described their case as an 'uphill task,' and Covance finally withdrew its appeal. Covance's censorship attempts in the U.S. also failed.

So, anyone who examines the evidence objectively-- even those who disagree with the basic concept of animal rights -- will have to agree that Covance is guilty of exactly what PETA claims. And unless Epstein is prepared to attach the 'vicious, deceptive, anti-human' label to unbiased judges who examined and were appalled by the evidence, then this is a slam-dunk victory for PETA, as well as a repudiation of Epstein's assertions about the motivations of animal-rights advocates. In light of all of this, I wonder if Epstein even read any of the documents or watched the video.

Gayle Dean

Gayle Dean is a free-lance writer who constructs crossword puzzles for all the major media. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, The New York Times, the L.A. Times, Simon & Schuster books, and Dell Puzzle Magazines. Gayle's puzzle book series, Wordplay Crosswords Volumes 1 & 2, was published by Merriam-Webster.