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Primate Wars at KU Med: Anatomy of an Intense Grass Roots Campaign

Primate Wars at KU Med: Anatomy of an Intense Grass Roots Campaign
By Jason Miller

At the request of Anthony Nocella II, I have composed a summary of Bite Club’s campaign to stop primate vivisection at the University of Kansas Medical Center. This summary will also appear on Lib Now!

In late 2009, I became aware that the University of Kansas Medical Center (aka KU Med or KUMC) had a primate vivisection program. While the census of their “test subjects” (primarily macaques and squirrel monkeys according to information available through the USDA and KU Med’s website) is relatively small compared to other vivisection facilities, what cried out for Animal Rights activist intervention was the fact that they had been cited by the USDA for 160 violations of animal welfare laws, a staggering number.

Still reeling from a no-holds barred 6 month campaign my allies and I had waged against the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department to stop a deer cull (which entailed us giving them significant hell through myriad relentless and creative tactics, our tactics delaying the slaughters, our campaign throwing national attention on their insistence on killing when equally efficient and cost-effective non-lethal means of deer management were available, them eventually slaughtering 400 deer, and me being arrested and placed on probation), I decided to wade into a battle against the University of Kansas Medical Center to stop them from imprisoning, torturing, and killing primates with millions of our tax dollars and a blatant disregard for animal welfare laws.

As a grass roots activist in a town with few hard-core ARA’s, with dwindling personal resources, suffering battle fatigue from the deer war, having even fewer dedicated activists than I had in the campaign to save the deer, facing significant barriers to our activism via law enforcement, and struggling against a recalcitrant, politically-connected opponent, I have found spear-heading the KU Med campaign to be incredibly challenging.

Yet my allies and I moved forward by:

1. Publicly asking the university to open up their facilities to inspection by us and/or the media (to validate their claims that they were operating ethically), to provide video evidence of their ethical treatment of the primates (upon their refusal to allow the media or us into their facility), and to respond to Carol McCormick’s offer to do their research upon her instead of the monkeys.

2. Creating and distributing a flier about two of the vivisectors (which was provocative but well-within First Amendment protected speech or advocacy), an act which got me banned from setting foot on KU Med property.

3. Putting on numerous demonstrations at a busy intersection near KU Med.

4. Engaging in a form of tactile activism, to take the abstract and make it real for KU Med’s Vice Chancellor Atkinson.

5. Carrying out a home demonstration at a vivisector’s house, which was a first in Kansas City. That ultimately resulted in a near arrest and three TRO’s (temporary restraining orders) against me.

6. Offering a reward for stopping the primate vivisection at KU Med with this verbiage: Jason Miller, an Animal Rights and social justice activist of modest means, is offering a reward of $35,000.00 to any group or individual who facilitates freedom (i.e. life in a primate sanctuary) for the primates enslaved by the University of Kansas Medical Center OR to any group or individual who orchestrates or causes the complete and permanent cessation of primate vivisection at the University of Kansas Medical Center. DISCLAIMER: Jason Miller is not endorsing, condoning, promoting, or encouraging the commission of illegal or violent acts to achieve the goals necessary to earn this reward. I am offering this reward (which if I pay it out will require me to sell all my possessions and cash in my 401k retirement fund) because I wanted to employ another unique tactic in the war to liberate animals and to take an action that will underscore my commitment to my spiritual beliefs that nonhuman animals are as sacred as human animals. To my knowledge, this is the first time someone has offered such a reward. When KUMC, and nonhuman animal exploiters in general, tie my hands one way, I find other ways to take the fight for the animals to them.

7. Publishing a harsh critique of Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson (who bears ultimate responsibility for the vivisection at KU Med) and her appointment by Obama to a federal bioethics panel.

8. Taking our message to the streets via motorcade (reaching tens of thousands of people with our message) and by distributing fliers in the neighborhood of a noted vivisector at KU Med.

9. Informing the public of KU Med’s repressive response to our First Amendment-protected actions.

10. Publishing and widely distributing (by leafleting on the street) an article by Michael Budkie of Stop Animal Exploitation Now that details some specific examples of KU Med’s torture and abuse of primates.

11. Challenging the three TRO’s (a temporary restraining order to prevent stalking) against me as violations of my First Amendment rights. This is an expensive under-taking and an effort (for the greater good of the Movement and for the health of the First Amendment) to create a legal blue-print or precedent that will stop the all-too-common abuse of anti-stalking laws to cripple or shut down social justice activists around the country.

And the struggle continues…..

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