On Nov. 4, I attended my first protest, called “STOP AALAS: Protest Animal Testers and Vivisectors,” organized by the Animal Rights Coalition. Our protest was held outside the Minneapolis Convention Center, where AALAS (American Association for Laboratory Animal Science) and other animal testers gathered inside for a weekend-long conference. AALAS is the largest animal research organization in the U.S., and this is the biggest animal research convention in North America.
Upon arrival, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. When you hear the word “protest,” you tend to think of things getting wild and violent, and maybe even a fight or two breaking out. While I didn’t think this would happen, I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
When we first arrived, we were directed to a table piled high with posters and signs for protesters to hold, as well as masks of rabbits, mice, cats, or pigs for people to wear if they chose to. The masks represented the animals being tested on and used for scientific purposes since they cannot speak for themselves. Some people even dressed in full chicken suits or other costumes. I chose not to wear a mask or a costume, but I gladly accepted the poster they gave me, which read “Puppy Killers!” You could bring your own poster if you chose to, but for my first protest, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing!
What many people don’t know is that even animals such as dogs, cats, and monkeys are used as lab animals, along with rabbits, mice, and rats. Since dogs and cats are common and cherished companion animals, people are often outraged when they hear what is happening to them all over the world. But why should dogs and cats be different from typical “lab” or “farm” animals? This was one of the messages that the protest was hoping to make: it’s not okay to harm any animal.
During the protest, my husband and I stood at the same corner for two hours, which was near the convention center drop-off and in front of the main doors. We held our signs high as cars passed, and eventually felt like we were experienced protesters. We mastered our “serious faces” and finally felt comfortable with what we were standing up for.
Many cars honked or gave waves to show that they respected us for what we were doing. Other cars sped up and drove away without even looking. It reminded me of the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” On the other hand, I could tell that many people were interested and were absolutely appalled that there were “puppy killers” and animal testers inside at the Minneapolis Convention Center. People are shocked when they learn that animals are harmed when used in labs, and then they become even more shocked to learn that it’s happening right in their own city.
The protest was a very eye-opening experience for me. For one, I saw how many people actually care about animals, like I do. Often, being an animal advocate can be very discouraging, and you start to think that nobody else out there cares at all. Then, when you participate in an event like this, you realize that there are people who cared even long before you started to, because this wasn’t their first protest. They’ve been participating in them for ages.
Many people were so passionate that they even started chanting, “One, two, three four, open up the cage door. Five, six, seven eight, free the animals — liberate!” Other people chanted, “Puppy killers leave town!”
Nearly 100 people showed their support during the STOP AALAS protest, and nobody seemed bothered or complained about the cold Minnesota winter weather. Everyone just wanted to be there and to make a difference.
After the protest was over, we all gathered together for a group photo. It was very exciting to see everyone come together like that. When my husband and I left the protest, we felt great about what we had done. We had seen the waves people had given us and heard their loud honks, and we had seen the shock on many of their faces as they drove by. We even saw several people drive by more than once, to get a better view. It was great to see that there are many people out there who aren’t going to turn away when they see or hear of something bad, but they are actually going to look and see what they can do to help. I hope that they will be at the next big protest, or find another way to help out and make a difference for the animals out there.
Attending this first protest made me want to do more for the world, and now I am constantly striving to do better and find another way to help out. I am glad to know that there are other people out there hoping to do the same!
Courtesy Image: Alexandra Beane