Britches

A City of Hope research facility Executive Director, speaking after a US ALF raid during which 115 animals were rescued from his lab, described the act of compassion as one of ‘terrorism comparable to the hijacking of planes and the bombing of embassies.’ But for those involved in the rescue of animals condemned to suffer and die at the hands of men who become monsters, there is no question as to who are the real terrorists. One

of the most dramatic US actions in the 80’s was to provide more than ample evidence of this.

Almost 1,000 animals were rescued when the ALF hit the University of California in America in the spring of 1985. Among those liberated were cats, pigeons, rabbits, rats, deer, opossums, and a very special little monkey named Britches, an infant stump-tail macaque. It’s him on the front cover of the book. The five-week-old monkey—named Britches by his rescuers—was the gemstone in this haul. He had been kept in isolation, his entire skull and most of his face covered by surgical tape. This was holding in place electrical equipment for a study into the combined effects of sight deprivation and isolation (in a traumatised baby monkey). The weight of the device—from which a constant, loud noise emitted—forced his tiny neck to the side as he struggled to balance. It’s not clear what happened to his mother, but she was probably used to produce more babies. He had been taken from her just after birth and given instead a block of wood covered with cloth to which he clung desperately.

He was a few weeks old, blinded by a 40 year old man, his mother was gone and he was trapped in a cage with a lump of wood as his only comfort. But word was out. Someone on the inside had taken it upon themselves to tip off the ALF, or at least someone who might be able to get word out to the ALF. It didn’t take long. Following a brief period of surveillance, masked raiders dressed in lab coats forced their way through the locked doors of this vast basement laboratory by removing them from their hinges, then rifled the labs of all occupants. The tiny monkey was lifted in cupped hands with this bizarre medieval contraption held to prevent it over-balancing his head, and he was gently laid into a carrier. Meanwhile, others wheeled racks of rodents and carried various other animals to the loading bay and eventual freedom. It was an impressive night’s work. It was two weeks from word out, and within hours of his rescue, Britches was in the hands of Betty, a sympathetic vet.

On this day, 20 April 1985, I have been called upon to administer an examination and follow up care to an infant stump tail macaque, male, my guess approximately five weeks of age. Said infant liberated by the Animal Liberation Front from the U.C Riverside laboratory. Attached to the infant’s head by means of bandage and tape is an apparatus of some sort with what appears to be some sort of electrical cord extending from it. It has been cut (by the raiders). Bilaterally are short lengths of tubing emerging from the bandage. Tape is in direct contact with the face and neck. Bandage lifted totally from the right eye due to excessive moisture and right eye partially visible. Beneath the bandage are two cotton pads, one for each eye. The cotton pad for the right eye has slipped laterally beneath the tape. Both pads are filthy and soaked through with moisture. Bilaterally upper eyelids are sutured to lower eyelids. The sutures are grossly oversized for the purpose intended. Many of these sutures have torn through lid tissue resulting in multiple lacerations of the lids. There is an open space between upper and lower lids of both eyes about one quarter inch and sutures are contacting corneal tissue resulting in excessive tearing, which explains the soaked pads. There are multiple bandage lesions on head, face and neck of infant.

One can only conclude that the suture placement must have been performed by an unqualified or incompetent person and that the infant was not receiving proper ongoing medical care. Such care would also clearly be subject of malpractice given a veterinary or infant practice situation. Infant demonstrates photophobia. Penis of infant is oedematous and inflamed. There are smegma accumulations. Generalised muscle development poor. Skin dry. Body odor foul. (sic)

What they had done to this tiny creature was tragic, and even the hardest of hearts would and should have been moved by this scene. Betty was finished and stood back, but Britches didn’t seem to know he could finally open his eyes. Then realisation dawned. His fingers shot up to his eyes. Betty grabbed them and held them at bay afraid he would hurt himself by rubbing. At first in one eye, then in the other, cracks appeared between Britches upper and lower lids. His eyes began peering out. He was squinting into the light, looking at the world for the first time since his eyes were sewn shut. Fascinated by the experience, two now-twinkling eyes opened fully. His head turned to the right and then the left, then sank back again, it was as if he was saying, ‘I can see! Look at that! I can see!’ He popped his thumb into his mouth and started sucking contently. The little fella was going to be all right.

When he was fully recovered, he was transferred to a rescue centre where he was introduced to an older lone female, a potential surrogate mum. It wasn’t his real mum of course, but it was the piece de résistance in this amazing story to see how delighted each animal was to meet the other. It was love at first sight. Britches was so excited!

The experiment was of course legal and far from a one-off, the rescue illegal and sadly less frequent. One scientist commented: ‘Unlike blind human infants, Britches was also deprived of all social interaction, including contact with his mother, and kept un-stimulated in a wire cage since birth. He could not have developed as a normal blind child would. It’s rubbish research.’ No remorse from the University of course: "We have reason to believe they [the animals] are in worse hands [than at the University]" Ted Huller, University Executive Vice Chancellor

Not very likely now, is it Ted?! Few would dare agree with that statement when presented with the film of this story. As is so often the way when the doors to these places are opened, the term ‘scientific research’ takes on a whole new meaning.

"Cruelty to dumb animals is one of the distinguishing vices of low and base minds. Wherever it is found, it is a certain mark of ignorance and meanness; a mark which all the external advantages of wealth, splendour, and nobility, cannot obliterate. It is consistent neither with learning nor true civility."
Rev. William Jones (1726-1800) Anglican priest, theologian, musical composer, contributor to the Oxford Movement

 

From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk