When I talk about trying to improve the lives of lab animals, someone often asks with hopelessness, "As just one person, what can I possibly do for them?" The answer is "plenty." Single voices can add up to an influential roar, made all the louder if they're the voices of people who live according to what Mahatma Gandhi once suggested: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." There are many ways to "be the change" for lab animals.
• Buy the products and stock of companies with animal-friendly policies. Look for products whose labels contain such phrases such as "cruelty-free" and "no animal testing." If you have questions about a company's practices, call its public-relations director or its toll-free customer-information number. (For a list of companies that have adopted the "Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals," visit the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics.)
• Keep lab animals in mind when making charitable donations. Support national organizations working for the animals' welfare
• Join a national or local animal-advocacy group that works for lab animals.
• If you're a student, refuse to dissect or experiment on an animal. If you're the parent of a child attending a high school where animals are used in labs, join the PTA to encourage the adoption of the many readily available alternatives. Know that some states legally require teachers to let students use them without being penalized. (For information, including where you can obtain the alternatives, contact the National Anti-Vivisection Society's Dissection Hotline.)
• If you want to get directly involved with lab animals, ask to tour the labs of companies and research facilities. (Taxpayer-funded facilities are legally required to let you inside.) If you don't like what you see, you can speak out, or even volunteer to become a member of the lab's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which is required by law to have one representative from the committee. By being on the committee, you can influence how the animals are treated.
• Stay informed about the issues. A good place to get information is from the Websites of major organizations concerned with lab animal welfare, including:
1. Animal Legal Defense Fund
2. Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
3. In Defense of Animals
4. Medical Research Modernization Committee
5. National Anti-Vivisection Society
6. Humane Society of the United States
To get information on federally funded animal-research projects, you can contact the Freedom of Information Act office.
• Let your voice be heard. Call or write letters to companies, research institutions, regulatory agencies, and the editor of your local paper. When federal or state legislative battles are being waged over pound seizure, the treatment of nonhuman primates, and other lab-animal issues, pressure the politicians. Encourage them to tighten laws about animal research.
Excerpt from For Bea, the Story of the Beagle Who Changed My Life Copyright © May 2003 Kristin Von Kreisler, Published by The Tarcher Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher