Senator Booker’s photo op with animal activist criminals

A recent blog post by an animal activist organization notorious for burglary and theft of research animals—Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE—shows that the alleged felons met with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) in Walnut Creek, California and talked about their upcoming court trial. While the court trial in question was about burglary and theft of pigs from the agriculture industry—Smithfield/WH Group—this interaction and tacit endorsement by a sitting United States Senator is unsettling. Mostly because endorsement of criminal activities against animal agriculture might be paired with endorsement of criminal activities against animal research. Both Sen. Booker and DxE have targeted animal research in the past. Moreover, if the actions of alleged felons are not prosecuted and instead are legitimized by legislators like Sen. Booker, this tactic may continue to be used against all types of activities involving animals, across the country.

Sen. Booker with Paul Picklesimer. Picklesimer is facing felony charges for their actions against animal agriculture and animal research (see end of article). Credit: Direct Action Everywhere.

We would be remiss not to mention that according to DxE, Sen. Booker “spoke about the need for nonviolent direct action”. Whether the Senator considers burglary and theft as nonviolent direct action is unclear—DxE definitely thinks their direct acts are non-violent and most state laws consider theft and burglary as non-violent felonies, while robbery is a violent act. Moreover, it appears that Sen. Booker mostly discussed animal agriculture, and there is no mention of animal research. Nonetheless, the New Jersey senator appears to endorse this alleged criminal group and both have historically targeted animal research. 

Sen. Booker’s “failed” animal research legislation

We’ve previously discussed Sen. Booker’s failed legislative campaigns targeting nonhuman animal research (here, and here). First, there is his legislative effort named the Primate Protection and Research Modernization Act, introduced in 2018, but not reintroduced thereafter. While this legislative effort did not pass, it likely contributed towards shifting the public and legislative dialogue and perception of animal research. 

Indeed, the bill was littered with misinformation, which can sway public perception and discourse, to say nothing of other legislators’ views. First, it misleadingly notes that “alternatives to nonhuman primate research such as organs-on-chips technology and computer modeling are now available.” While it is true that organs-on-chip technology and computer modeling are now available, they are not alternatives to nonhuman primate research. Moreover, the scientific community would need to have empirical studies that compare current alternatives and animal research, yet such studies do not exist because organs-on-chip and computer modeling cannot currently replace primate research. 

Lung-on-chip from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It is sufficient to say that we likely would never have developed a vaccine to battle COVID-19 or Monkeypox without research on nonhuman primates (NHPs) directly, and that these drugs could not be tested on organs-on-chips. Surely the Senator must be aware of this fact! 

Thus, alternatives do not exist unless we are ready to fully succumb to novel viruses that eliminate people without using the knowledge we have to fight for their lives. 

Booker’s proposed Primate Protection and Research Modernization Act also states that “nonhuman primates should only be used in research to fulfill an important public health objective…”. This completely disregards the need for and benefits of basic research. For example, nonhuman primates are one of the only mammals that menstruate, making them an ideal model for understanding women’s reproductive health (e.g., polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and viral induced fetal defects). They are also uniquely susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease, similar to humans. While reproductive health and Alzheimer’s could still be considered “an important public health objective” it is unclear if such research would be supported in comparison to research on viruses, if this act were supported. Either way, it misrepresents the research that is taking place and the value of these animals to the lives of millions of people suffering from issues related to women’s reproductive health and Alzheimer’s. 

Cynomolgus macaque, often used in Alzheimer’s research. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thirdly, the act uses circular logic to justify nonhuman primate research as wasteful. Specifically, it notes that since society collectively decided that chimpanzee research is valuable but unnecessary, and that nonhuman primates are less similar to humans than chimpanzees, then nonhuman primate research is also unnecessary. The logic here is flawed. The Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research suggested that for chimpanzee research to be discontinued “there must be no other research model by which the knowledge could be obtained”. Other nonhuman primates are often the other research model used as an alternative to chimpanzees (see our above discussion points regarding viruses, reproductive health, Alzheimer’s, etc.). Thus, chimpanzee research is unnecessary because of nonhuman primate research…and, nonhuman primate research is unnecessary because it can be replaced by nonhuman primate research? That’s flawed logic. Moreover, If arguments like these are supported, policies will continue to be put in place against the replacement that justified the abolition of the “superior” animal model. For example, nonhuman primates replace chimps, mice replace nonhuman primates, fish replace mice, cells in a dish replace fish, computer models replace cells in a dish… While progress in science may certainly allow an alternative model to be quite similar to humans (no one can predict the future) we must really consider that eliminating research on specific animal models will constrict our abilities to understand life on this planet, and restrict our ability to battle suffering with medicine. We also shouldn’t be allowing flawed logic in our legislation.   

We’ll be keeping track

It will be interesting to continue tracking Sen. Booker’s affiliation with the group and whether he continues to sway public dialogue and perception of animal research towards society regressing to a time of post-medicine without justified alternatives. In the meantime, we call on Sen. Booker to explain why he seems to endorse Direct Action Everywhere, DxE, a group that wantonly promotes and engages in criminal activity in pursuit of its mission. 

Specific court cases for burglary and theft of animals used in research by members of DxE:

See other criminal activity here: 

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