First of all, before I delve back into the life of Henry Spira, I thought I should just say that we finally unshackled the Christmas tree from its not so festive bindings and guess what…it’s lopsided, comically so. It looks kind of like a can-can dancer holding up her many skirts, I don’t think it helps that it has roots sticking out the bottom that make it rock whenever it’s touched. Almost gives a new perspective to rocking around the Christmas tree.
Anyway, back to Spira, we left off with him taking on Revlon for their use of the Draize test (I was tempted to post a picture of the results but eyes freak me out way too much and it’s pretty disgusting so didn’t think you’d appreciate it). However it appears I have missed out one of his campaigns.
In 1979 he took an interest in politics, kind of. There was a certain piece of legislation that he didn’t take kindly to. It was called the Metcalf-Hatch Act, it was passed in New York and enabled scientists to take cats and dogs, for cheap, from pounds. Any animals that were unclaimed were often taken by researchers and experimented on. Shelters had to give the animals up otherwise they would have lost their public funding. Naturally the animal rights movement were infuriated.
He researched the problem for a while before he confronted those responsible for it. He contacted the senator responsible for stifling the repeal that had been attempted for 26 years and managed to organise a meeting with him. Whilst Spira waited in a local pub fate intervened. He began talking to a nurse and she happened to sympathise with his goal. In fact she was in charge of the intensive care unit in a hospital that happened to come under the senator’s constituency. They ended up going to the meeting together and this helped to persuade the senator to allow Spira to gather support for the repeal.
After much time spent putting together a coalition of many animal rights groups the motion for repeal was put to the senate. The majority voted for it and it went further until finally it was approved. Unclaimed dogs and cats would no longer be taken from pounds to suffer inhumane experiments.
During his life he also confronted Amnesty International. While they campaigned for human rights and disapproved of torture they funded research in which scientists were commissioned to find a way of torturing that would not leave a mark on skin, this they did on pigs. Pretty hypocritical right?
That’s what Spira thought. They campaigned against torture on humans yet funded a project that would allow people to get away with it if they ever found a result.
Not wanting to publicly humiliate the company because of the good work they had done for human rights, Spira wrote them a letter highlighting how hypocritical it was. They ignored him until he wrote another letter declaring his intent to hold public protests. In reply they agreed to hold a meeting to find a solution however none was ever found and they kept asking Spira to postpone his protests. Finally he decided enough was enough and set a date and place for the protest to take place. This spurred Amnesty International into action and they finally stopped the research.
Once they declared that they no longer tested on animals Spira sent a donation to them so he could become a member.
Unfortunately in 1998 after many years of productive and fruitful campaigning Spira died of cancer. However I think it’s fair to say that his attitude towards animals and his many achievements in their name will be remembered for a very, very long time.
Thank you Henry Spira.