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(Video) Unexpected Connections: UCSF Patient Blasts Chipotle's Humane Washing

Sharing Petra's story with a UCSF patient led to a surprising turn of events. 

Sharing Petra's story with a UCSF patient led to a surprising turn of events. 

Unexpected Connections: UCSF Patient Blasts Chipotle's Humane Washing

by Wayne Hsiung

Wherever the animal rights movement has had success, industry's response has been to say that they care about animals. This is a common theme across campaigns and even nations. And we saw it recently in our Not Ours to Use campaign against the University of California, when UCSF -- in response to public criticism and protest -- announced that it had received gold standard accreditation for its "commitment to the highest ethical standards in animal care." (Just a few weeks before, a press representative came out to our protest with similar points to make. She was befuddled when we responded that animal testing was intrinsically unethical.) If you went by UCSF's rhetoric alone, you'd think that their animal research facilities were a luxurious hotel and spa! 

This is why we at DxE focus so much on maintaining the integrity of our message. Powerful institutions and norms will constantly attempt to co-opt our message and lead to backsliding of even significant reforms. Targeting the abusers that most ostentatiously display their moral credentials is a crucial part of this strategy. If even the so-called "humane" animal exploiters are engaged in fundamentally wrongful acts, then we can make a case for truly systemic shifts, shifts that are real and robust. So, while it may be true that UCSF is better than some of its peers, as its "gold standard" suggests, that should not confuse the public from the nonetheless brutal reality of what happens in UCSF's labs: mutilation, poisoning, enslavement, and, ultimately, killing. 

The strands between our campaigns should be obvious to anyone who follows DxE. UCSF and Chipotle are engaged in exactly the same practice: whitewashing violence as "humane." And in doing so, they are representative of the dominant (and until now, successful) response by animal-abusing industries. But it is even more gratifying when a random member of the public sees the same connections. I was surprised to hear the reaction, therefore, when I asked a UCSF patient (to protect his anonymity, we'll call him "Bob") what he thought of the contradictions between the university's statements about caring for animals, on the one hand, and the "gruesome" and "chilling" conditions that the animals are actually forced to endure, on the other.

Bob has a serious respiratory issue and has to come to the hospital on a regular basis. I am always hesitant to push people in such interactions, as they have understandable loyalty to the institution that is saving their life. However, upon hearing the story of Petra, a poor rhesus monkey who was left to languish for two years with a bloody hole in her head, Bob quickly joined us in criticizing the university. 

Even more astonishing, however, was what came next. When asked about whether he had heard about UCSF's shameful whitewashing, Bob responded. "Not about UCSF. But we heard about Chipotle."

At first, I assumed that he had heard about Chipotle through one of our protesters. But that was not the case. Apparently, Bob (who is naturally an affable person who strikes up conversations with people on the street) had just heard about Chipotle across the street at the UCSF cafe. A woman who was an organic (vegetable) farmer, and a former Chipotle employee, had just educated him about Chipotle's horrible humane washing. And he was as scandalized by what he had heard as we are. 

Two lessons to draw from this: 

1. Our campaign is starting to have an impact. When random passersby on the street can identify the problem with a corporation, it shows that your message is cutting through the haze. 

2. Even ordinary people -- especially ordinary people, in fact -- can see the problems with Chipotle's bloody lies.

Our movement has been so acclimated to the self-serving, consumerist model of activism that we don't always see the pernicious influence of corporate marketing. When a brand has given you something, when you love their products, it's hard even for activists to hear someone say something bad about the company. But we can't allow ourselves to be deceived by corporate marketing tricks. Chipotle has no real interest in helping animals, or even serving vegan food. They have one and only one interest: making profit. And we have to be as astute and skeptical as Bob if we want to effect real and permanent change, not just on Chipotle, but on their ilk (whether in the food industry or otherwise) all over the world. 

Scenes from Today's UCSF Protest - January 29, 2014

Scenes from Today's UCSF Protest - January 29, 2014

So why do they continue to deceive the public? Because they have something to hide: the truth. Monkeys starving to death as they beg for food inside grim cages. A sweet little mouse, her throat parched dry from dehydration, wasting away as she dies of thirst . A poor little girl named Petra, languishing for years in a cage with a hole in her head – the product of just another botched surgical procedure.

From Today's UCSF Protest

DxE (along with In Defense of Animals) was out at UCSF again today with the message that the money being used for experiments isn't science; it's blood money and violence.

Stay tuned for more actions and info, as the campaign against UCSF, which was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as "gruesome" and "chilling", continues. 

DxE Confronts the Chancellor of UCSF


At a speech for UCSF donors and alumni, DxE disrupted, questioned, and confronted the Chancellor of the university (and the former President of a major pharmaceutical company) about the "gruesome" and "chilling" conditions inside UCSF's labs. "There are 800,000 animals suffering and dying in your labs," I said, as police and staff immediately converged.

The Chancellor replied, disingenuously, "Don't worry.  These guys [i.e. the police] will get you, so I can talk to you afterwards." But seeing that I would not relent, and that the police would not "get me", she ended with "Enjoy the party," and ran off without finishing her speech.

At that point, three other DxE activists came forward from the crowd in front of the stage with placards held high saying "STOP VIOLENCE." Together, we said, "It's not science. It's violence." 

Hundreds of people stared as we were escorted out of the area by the police. And dozens came out afterwards with questions about UCSF's murder of animals, as we continued our protest on the sidewalk outside of the event.  

The 800,000 animals at UCSF continue to suffer and die. We never forget that. But today, their voice was heard, loud and clear. And even the animal abusers will remember that. 

The animal rights movement is everywhere. And we will be heard. 


Images from Today's Protest

The campaign against UCSF continues! Images below.  

Protesting UCSF

Just a few images, from our protest today at the University of California at San Francisco.