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