by Kristen Lombardi
The Boston Phoenix
April 27 - May 4, 2000
BEHAVIOR: Eric Pierce (left) and Jonathan Lefkowitz
(right) put themselves behind bars to protest primate
A warning to those walking through Harvard Square
this week: beware the human-filled cages on Mass Ave. Local
animal-rights advocates have borrowed a page from in-your-face
PETA-style actions and plan to spend the week in cages -- outside --
to draw attention to the monkey research conducted at Harvard
University's New England Regional Primate Research Center (NERPRC)
As you read this, four activists from the Animal
Defense League (ADL) sit in three-by-five-by-three-foot cages
outside Harvard Yard, across from Au Bon Pain on Mass Ave. They'll
be there until Saturday, when they'll be released. In another act of
solidarity with the monkeys, they won't eat or drink while caged.
But Shon Mahoney, who volunteered for the cage-in, isn't worried.
"Considering monkeys are in cages all the time," he says with a
shrug, "this is the least we can do."
Mahoney and his caged counterparts will be kept
company by other ADL activists, who will host nightly vigils
throughout the week. ADL members hope the cage-in will force NERPRC
officials to debate animal experimentation -- something the research
center has been reluctant to do. And members want NERPRC to do
experiments that are more directly related to humans, including
epidemiological, clinical, and genetic studies.
"If people knew what really happens," says
Danielle Tessier of the ADL, "they'd demand an end to these types of
brutal experiments." She points to lab pictures of monkeys with
steel posts sticking out of their heads. The photos, she explains,
depict a brain-mapping experiment, in which an electric current is
pumped into animals to shed light on how the cerebral cortex relates
to perception and behavior.
But because animal experimentation has occurred
for decades, ADL activists know their goals will be hard to reach.
"Once grants get funded, they're hard to kill," says Michael Budkie,
an animal-health technician turned activist who drove in from Ohio
for the local event. "Let's face it," he adds, "this is job security