Ms. Bea’s Story

By Ingrid Newkirk

President

My dog ‘Ms. Bea’ was a rescued shepherd, a grand, imposing canine

presence. She hated joggers (they made her feel fat) and children (too noisy)

and loved coming to work with me every day when I ran a large animal shelter

in Washington, DC.

Ms. Bea had several important jobs at the pound. One of them was to rise

from her bed at the front desk and greet frightened dogs who were being cast

off by their owners. When they saw her moving toward them with such self

assurance, obviously well fed, totally at home and happy as a clam, they

stopped shaking and began wagging their tails.

She worked long hours and loved every minute. She ate what we ate-Indian

take-out was her favorite-and she rode the truck into the ‘best’ and the most

troubled neighborhoods, looking out the window at them all. I loved her very

much.

Ms. Bea was 17-years-old when she died. I still think of her often, a

dignified old girl who knew she looked silly when she carried her green

plastic frog in her mouth, a dear friend and loving companion. When people

ask me how anyone can justify breaking into laboratories and ‘stealing’ the

animals, all I know is that, if anyone had Ms. Bea on the dissection table,

I’d be through that door in a minute, lock me up if you will.

This wonderful companion is my litmus test of whether it is right to do

things to animals. Ms. Bea was not a thing. She had gender, individuality,

life and love and understanding inside her. No one could ever convince me

that it would have been all right to burn her or sink electrodes into her

head and shock her-not to save me, my child or my other dog, if that were the

case, and I believe it is never the case. It wouldn’t have been right.

All the animals are Ms. Bea, in their own way, aren’t they? Even the

smallest of them, the ugliest or weirdest of them. I remember thinking

exactly that when I toured a large government laboratory. Entering a barren

room in a seemingly endless corridor of barren white-washed rooms, I found a

baboon. I actually heard from him first because he was banging his head so

loudly against the cold steel sides of his cage.

In this totally sterile, dull, windowless environment, he was so alive and

so gaudy, almost surreal: a huge hydramus baboon, the size of a small man. He

had a long dog snout that looked as if he had painted it with crazy red and

pink and white and grey stripes. His long multi-colored hair stood out from

his body like a big colorful cloak.

How must he have felt when aliens snatched him from his jungle and

transported him to this cold lonely world to die in a steel cage? Most

primates avoid making eye contact, yet this baboon stared straight at me. His

eyes were filled not with despair, as one might expect, but with deep

loathing.

I made inquiries and found that the baboon and several others had been

part of a cancer study that had been casually abandoned when the investigator

moved away. The baboons had been forgotten, and had I not asked embarrassing

question, would have been hosed down in their cages and fed monkey biscuits

until they died. Eventually the government told me that they had no further

use for the animals and had killed them.

I continued to visit the laboratory because I believed that the

experimenters had the potential to have a change of heart and find another

way to make a living.

Dr. Roger Ulrich did. For years, he had experimented on animals and

received many professional awards and honors for his hideously cruel

experiments, using monkeys and rats to study the relationship between pain

and aggression. In one experiment, he used electric shocks intense enough to

cause paralysis.

One day, Dr. Ulrich wrote this to the American Psychological Association:

“When I was asked why I conducted these experiments, I used to say it was

because I wanted to help society solve its problems of mental illness, crime,

retardation, drug abuse, child abuse, unemployment, marital unhappiness,

alcoholism, over-smoking, overeating, and even war! Although, after I got into

this line of work, I discovered that the results of the work did not seem to

justify its continuance. I began to wonder if perhaps financial rewards,

professional prestige, the opportunity to travel, etc., were the maintaining

factors and if we of the scientific community, supported by our bureaucratic

and legislative systems, were actually part of the whole problem.

“One spring I was asked by a colleague, ‘Dr. Ulrich, what is the most

innovative thing that you’ve done professionally over the past year?’ I

replied, ‘Dear Dave, I’ve finally stopped torturing animals.'”

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