By John Di Leonardo
On Tuesday, January 25th, I was arrested alongside 6 other activists while practicing Satyagraha, a form of nonviolent noncooperation originated by Mahatma Gandhi. Chanting and refusing to leave the lobby of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we urged the National Institutes of Health to stop the funding of nearly 50 million taxpayer dollars to “monkey fright” tests.
For two decades, experimenter Elisabeth Murray has been using taxpayer dollars to carve out sections of monkeys’ skulls and inject toxins into their brains, causing permanent and traumatic injury. She deprives them of food and water and locks them in solitary confinement inside a small metal cage. A guillotine-like door at the front of the cage is suddenly raised, revealing something inherently frightening to monkeys—a snake or a spider. Murray’s snakes and spiders are artificial but realistic-looking, and some can move or even jump. Because monkeys, like all primates, innately fear these types of animals, they respond in terror. The monkeys endure this same torture repeatedly and when Murray has finished with them, they may be killed or recycled into other experiments, to be further tormented.
Murray has received nearly $50 million in taxpayer funding since 1998—and hasn’t produced a single treatment or cure for humans.
During my studies in India, I saw rhesus macaques—the same species mutilated and tortured by Murray—running free. I watched mother monkeys carrying their babies on their chests and experienced a young monkey climbing up my leg for protection after he got startled by another. When I was approached to occupy HSS in nonviolent protest in defense of these remarkable animals, I knew that I had to participate.
This was my second time being arrested due to my devotion to Satya—or truthfulness—in the face of government corruption. I was previously arrested in 2014 while protesting the use of chickens for Kaporos, an illegal but government protected animal sacrifice in New York City streets. After I prepared a defense based on my devotion to Ahimsa—or nonviolence—and made clear my intention to expose the reality that these sacrifices were being performed not only in violation of moral laws but also several state and local laws, authorities failed to file any charges.
While Satyagraha is an effective tool—so much so that it was fundamental in India achieving its independence—Acharya Tulsi’s Anuvrat movement provides an alternative way to stand up for monkeys and other animals being used in cruel and useless experiments. I urge readers to make a small vow to buy only cosmetics, toiletries, and cleaning products that carry the words “Cruelty-Free” or “Not Tested on Animals” and to urge the NIH to modernize their research methods, and adopt non-animal methods that produce human-relevant results—instead of failed, wasteful, cruel, and deadly animal experiments. Readers can take action at PETA.org or by texting FRIGHT to 73822.
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION). He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].
People Also Ask… ….
Which one is the oldest, biggest, and largest Jain Center in North America?
Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago (JSMC) is perhaps one of the oldest (1970), one of the largest (17 acres) and one of the biggest ( 2000 families) Jain Center in North America. Its state-of-the-art facilities can accommodate up to 1500 people.