Written by PETA
has been exactly 30 years since PETA's historic Silver Spring
monkeys case thrust the animal
rights movement into mainstream consciousness in the summer of 1981. PETA's
first undercover investigation led to many other firsts—the
first search-and-seizure warrant to be served on a U.S. laboratory, the first
confiscation from a laboratory of abused animals, and the first
cruelty-to-animals conviction of an experimenter.
17 macaque monkeys carried much of the
weight of the animal rights movement on their backs. When we found the Silver
Spring monkeys at the Institute
for Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland,
many of them were being used in a crude experiment in which their spinal nerves
were severed, making it difficult or impossible for them to move one of their
arms. The experimenter, Edward Taub, starved them, used surgical pliers to
pinch their skin, and gave them electric shocks to try to force them to use
their disabled limbs to get food. They had lost most of the fur on their tails
trauma of the cruel, invasive experiments and intense confinement to rusty,
broken, and mold- and feces-encrusted cages was so severe that many of them had
ripped off their own flesh and were left to suffer from open, festering wounds.
Many of the monkeys had lost their fingers to the jagged, broken, and rusty
wires that protruded into the tiny, uncomfortable space where they had to sit
pursued the Silver Spring monkeys case for more than a decade—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although we
prevailed in getting some of the monkeys into a group indoor/outdoor space away
from public view at the San Diego Zoo, some of them—including
Augustus, for whom PETA's Augustus
donor club is named—were turned over to another laboratory, anesthetized,
experimented on, and killed.
because the Silver Spring monkeys case forced the cruelty of animal experimentation into the spotlight, it paved
the way for many victories for animals. In 1993,
PETA persuaded General Motors to become the first company to stop using animals
in automobile crash tests, and other companies soon followed until those horrendous
experiments were eradicated. At PETA's urging, Revlon and Estée Lauder became the first mainstream corporations to end animal
testing, and since then more than 950 household, cosmetics, and personal-care companies have followed
suit. And just in the past year, after another PETA investigation, animal
testing hellhole Professional
Laboratory and Research Services, Inc., shut its doors and
surrendered its animals, and four of its workers were indicted on felony
cruelty-to-animals charges (another first for animals in laboratories).
Silver Spring monkeys (and some of the people who helped rescue them) are all at
peace now, but their legacy will continue to lead to more groundbreaking
changes for animals for many years to come.
Written by Michelle Sherrow
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.