On a fateful day in 2013, a new adventure started for me. I had already been a rat advocate, as well as adoring other rodents, but I took a little course called “Animals and Human Civilization” – taught by the amazing Boria Sax (check out his books!). We had to pick out a book to read in relation to the course and I decided it was finally time to read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I had always loved animals and wanted to work on their behalf – ALL ANIMALS, not just the charismatic ones – and I was sort of surprised by what I was learning in my late-life undergraduate studies: It was in to be worried about animal welfare in academia. It sure hadn’t been that was when I graduated high school in 1992. Back then animal advocates were often painted as unbalanced people who didn’t get along much with other humans and who foolishly “anthropomorphized” things like emotions onto non-human animals.
What was I expecting? A light little romp, honestly. What I got was the work of a brilliant man who was worried about all aspects of life. Philoshopher, poet, and a little too well-informed about current events to be blithely optimistic about a human future unchecked by ethics. I can’t even bear to think of what he’d think about today’s world…
Anyway, I keep digressing. Here’s the truth, gang: I have always been concerned about non-human animal abuse and lab testing. I’ve never believed it would be possible to completely eliminate it, and people get REALLY defensive and angry if they even think you’re thinking it, but it used too often, sometimes for frivolous studies, and, on top of all that, the Animal Welfare Act does not consider rats, mice, and birds “animals.” Yep, you read that right – that means they don’t have to consider the suffering of these species. I won’t get into the realities for the sake of the weak at heart, but just trust me on this one. Also, don’t start asking me to compare the values of lives. I just told you I know that I don’t believe it can be eliminated, so that’s my final answer. I won’t die (or be murdered) on that hill.
What’s been interesting, though, is the fact that when I would explain the inspiration for my thesis, people (including my advisor) just assumed it was all about animal testing (which it was not) – a point I was trying to make to anyone who would listen AND hear. There was plenty here about Conly’s primary focus – which was human civilization. Conly wasn’t an animals right activist, although he did have a respect for animals. Secret of NIMH removed all the other stuff and then went extreme with the testing angle in a way that would cause any research scientist to automatically assume that Conly’s work was just completely anti-science. In fact, it really focused a great deal on ‘civilization’ and materialism. Additionally, the scientists in the book weren’t creepy sadists, it was the clinical detachment that Conly emphasized.
NOW, here I sit, about six months after graduating with my Master’s thesis and I am just going to tell you straight out – YES, I freaking care a lot of about the treatment of rats and rodents. I do want most of it eliminated. Go on – go out there and tell people I’m a bit of an animal activist.
Do me another favor: Tell people about how awesome rats are (or learn about them). Don’t fall for the horror-hype and, also, be prepared for the invasive species stuff. But before you say: “Yes, they are invasive and wipe out other species,” you better realize you-who-is-not-without-sin better not cast the first stone. They survived because they’re adaptable and because we’re bloody filthy. *steps off of soap box*
*ahem* A great place to learn about how cool rats are – or to take your kids to learn about how cool they are – is at the Smithsonian National Zoo in D.C. They have a HUGE area for the rats to run around in and tons of great information about the positive things about rats. I’m not kidding – I almost cried when I saw the display. As you can see, I came dressed for the occasion.
So, yes, Arahshiel Silver cares an awful lot about animals and about reducing animal testing. She cares an awful lot about the suffering of these animals that science is just getting around to “proving” can suffer, have positive affects, and empathy.
So yes, you can call me the animal lover. But you should also realize that I also study the facts and don’t promote hyperbole. At this point though, does anyone even pay attention to facts any more? What I do pay attention to is the very real connection I feel with my rats and other non-human animals. Both Caroline Earle White and Robert Leslie Conly had empathy for human animals AND non-human animals. It’s not an either/or proposition.