Care for a break from the election content, Juicers? I was thinking about John’s post from a couple days back about the protesters outside Brock Turner’s home. As the author of a book on activism and someone who gives workshops on effective activism, I know that “afflicting the comfortable” (journalist Finley Peter Dunne) and “going where you are least wanted” (abolitionist Abigail Kelley Foster) are time-honored activist strategies. However, that doesn’t mean you just show up at someone’s home and act like a nut. (Or worse: a gun nut.) It’s kind of a nuclear option—to be used, as Suzanne pointed out in her comment (#6), when there’s “no other resort.”
I submit the following as an example of an effective escalation onto someone’s home turf:
Over the course of three decades starting in the mid-1970s, The New York Blood Center conducted experiments on hundreds of chimpanzees at VILAB, a lab it leased in Liberia. About ten years ago, they decided they no longer needed the chimps, and moved them onto six islands in a river, collectively known as “Monkey Island,” promising to provide lifetime care. The graphic at right shows the exact language of the promise, and it’s also worth noting that there’s a growing consensus that primates used in research deserve a retirement.
In early 2015, however, NYBC reneged on that pledge, flat-out abandoning the 66 remaining chimps without even food or water. (The islands are surrounded by brackish, nonpotable water.) They also abandoned the chimps’ caregivers, some of whom, despite their limited resources, continued on as volunteers to help the animals they had bonded with and felt a responsibility to. (See below pic–and The Humane Society of the U.S. has since started collecting donations from the public to help fund the caregiving.)
Yeah, care for 66 chimps isn’t cheap—around $360,000 per year—but it’s estimated that the NYBC has earned around half a billion dollars in royalties from treatments developed as a result of the chimp research.
Animal rights groups have been campaigning to have the NYBC to step up and meet its responsibilities.
They met with executives.
Picketed the building.
Worked the press.
All to no avail.
Guess what came next?
In June, 2015, activists started protesting at the homes of NYBC board members, beginning with the Park Avenue home of the chairman, billionaire real estate developer Howard Milstein. When that proved fruitless, they moved on to the Upper West Side home of board member Michael Hodin, protesting outside it numerous times during rush hour.
That didn’t work, either.
This past June, they started protesting at Hodin’s home at night—and now they got a reaction:
So give us your thoughts, Juicers. Is this an appropriate, effective escalation of an authentic call for justice in accordance with Gandhi’s dictum, “The role of a civil protester is to provoke a response, and to keep protesting until there is a response?” Or do you think the activists crossed a line? (You know where I stand.) And what, if anything, do you think the NYBC owes the chimps?
Oh, and by the way, the campaign scored a major victory just last week when MetLife ended its relationship with the NYBC. From MetLife’s press release: “MetLife has been actively urging NYBC to work with the Humane Society to reach a sustainable, long-term solution for the care of the chimpanzees in Liberia….MetLife has informed NYBC that we will not consider future financial support until a solution is found.”
Although activists had been pressuring MetLife to break with NYBC for months, the announcement came a little over a month after activists marched to the Summit, NJ, home of MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian.