Students returning to campus yesterday afternoon were greeted by a choreographed demonstration outside of Old Campus of a protestor in a cage being treated by two others dressed in animal costumes.
Demonstrators at the performance art protest, staged by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), alleged that Yale research scientists have been violating U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations for testing on animals for years. The group also claimed that Yale laboratories hold over 150,000 animals in captivity. Two protestors appeared dressed in animal costumes and lab coats, as the demonstration centered around the question “What if the tables were turned?”
“Many of these animals have holes drilled into their brains and are exposed to electrocution or potentially fatal drugs as part of laboratory experiments,” DxE said in a press release Friday. “Lab technicians routinely kill primates, sheep, rodents and other animals after the experiments are completed.”
The protest drew a crowd of 10 residents, most of whom were not Yale affiliates. Many drivers blew their horns in solidarity with the protestors, who were situated at the intersection of College Street and Elm Street.
Bob Davis, acting director of Yale’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, could not be reached for comment over the weekend. However, according to the IACUC website, “animal care is conducted in a cordon with the highest scientific, humane and ethical principles and is in compliance with regulations.”
This is not the first time Yale’s use of animals has come under scrutiny. In 2010, the Connecticut Animal Rights Network staged a similar protest, naming and shaming researchers who had supposedly mistreated animals.
In anticipation of the event in 2010, Yale issued a statement defending the humane use of animals in its research.
“Yale takes seriously its responsibility for the humane care of animals; our laboratories comply with or exceed all federal regulations and independent accreditation standards,” the statement read.
Last March, the animal rights organization Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! filed a complaint against the University. Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, which were released to the public after the SAEN filing, revealed a range of animal welfare violations in the University’s laboratories. In the over 40 violations reported between January 2011 and May 2013, failing to administer post-operation painkillers, or infrequently administering them, as well as forgetting to place a milk source with baby mice, appeared on multiple occasions. SAEN urged the USDA to impose the maximum financial penalty on Yale for three particular animal welfare violations.
“Yale is amongst the worst in the Ivy League in its treatment of animals,” protest leader Zachary Groff ’13 said. He added that the group intends to hold a campaign focused on Yale Dining’s food later this year.
Passer-by Ava Tomasula y Garcia ’17 expressed sympathy for the protestors’ cause.
“Students should be aware of the issue,” Tomasula y Garcia said. “But this should probably be paired with talking with the administration.”
Yale professor Shelly Kagan, who has written extensively about animal rights, noted that regulatory safeguards tend to be morally inadequate.
“Although there are requirements that animals be ‘well-treated’ in terms of their cages and feeding, there is no consideration required at all of the animal suffering involved in the experiments themselves,” the philosophy professor said.
DxE has staged numerous protests across Connecticut. In January, the group held protests at Whole Foods outlets throughout the state alleging Whole Foods commits violence against animals.
The grassroots organization DxE comprises a global network of activists and seeks to challenge speciesism — the idea that humans are entitled to superior moral rights — through creative forms of protest.