One year ago I adopted a dog from a local rescue group. It seemed like the right thing to do. As a full time volunteer for SHAC USA I live and work in an environment where someone is constantly home, and I am surrounded by other compassionate "animal people." Knowing how many dogs and cats are put down every year simply because there are not enough homes (and some selfish people still won't spay/neuter) I felt it was my obligation to provide a safe and loving home to at least one homeless, and slated to die, animal.
Upon my first visit to the shelter I was overwhelmed. As anyone who has ever set foot in a shelter couple explain to you (or could not as the experience leaves you speechless), the desperation, the stress, and longing in you see in the face of these abandoned creatures breaks your heart. Off in a corner cage I saw one little dog who I knew on the spot I would be diving with. He was a 7 year old beagle named Willy. After seven years, apparently with one family, he was dropped off at the Newark, NJ Humane Society (the worst in the state) and spent a month in a kennel before being scheduled for "termination." Willy came home with me the next day to start a new life.
It is ironic that I ended up with a beagle. Seven days a week I spend all my time fighting to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences, which uses beagles just like Willy to test on, violate, mutilate, and murder. I had grown up with a beagle and credit that experience with helping me see animals as unique individuals who deserve rights. I often thought about my childhood dog Barney when learning about vivisection places like HLS.
Willy has been a joy and has changed my life tremendously, as I am sure I have changed his. This week we celebrated his one year birthday (day of adoption) with us. In that year we have had many experiences together from hundreds of walks, to plenty of snuggles, curious exposure to funny looking animals at the OohMahNee Sanctuary, an unfortunate visit from the FBI (the only thing Willy cared about was getting some of the pizza the feds had for lunch at our kitchen table), and the adoption of a new brother named Buddy (a gigantic Golden Lab/German Shepherd).
With Willy in my life, fighting to close HLS has taken on a whole new meaning for me. He manifests the realness of all the animals that die in HLS and labs just like it. Knowing how sensitive, timid, and vulnerable he is, I can see exactly why these perverts would pick the beagle to exploit. It is truly no different than preying upon small children and other innocent victims of violence. Seeing my little friend happy and healthy daily instills in me vigor to achieve that same freedom for all of the HLS prisoners. The rabbits, mice, birds, primates, and even Willy's arch-enemy the cat, are all emotional, sentient, intelligent creatures that have families and complex social systems. These are animals that share with us the ability to feel joy just as much they have the ability to feel pain. These animals deserve our protection, our voices, and our unrelenting fight.
The term "terrorist" bounces off of me whenever Fox News tries to pin it on me. I know what terror is, as I have seen what happens inside of HLS. The feeling those animals have when that white gloved-hand reaches in for their already bruised and beaten body is terror. They recoil away from the cage door because they are filled with fear. The dumping of paint on someone's car, blowing a whistle outside their window at 3AM, erecting a mock animal grave yard in their front lawn, or having me scream through a bullhorn at them may cause our targets some anxiety, but it is petty and it pales in comparison to the true horror billions of animals experience every second of every day.
I will fight to close HLS no matter how long it takes (which in my humble opinion will not be that much longer), and I will always support the courage of the Animal Liberation Front and grassroots activists for fighting tooth and nail to end suffering.
For my friend Willy, and all other animal victims of human violence, I will not be quiet and am proud to be an animal rights activist!