from Bite Back #1

Over the past 20 years, activists have been able to get inside of the world’s most notorious lab, Huntingdon Life Sciences. They would apply for jobs or simply walk in, carry still cameras or hidden video cameras, and capture some of the most damning footage of laboratory abuse that the public has seen. However, on the night of April 1st, activists set out for HLS with the intent to not only leave with video footage, but with animals. They were on a mission, to do what had never been done before, to return successful after - breaking into hell.

The following story was received anonymously by several animal rights organizations over a year ago. Although already published on one international website, the below is the first time in the US this story has been put into print. Dated June 10th, 2001; author unknown.

“On April first, 2001, our lives changed. All of us. It was this weekend that I, along with some very dear comrades, entered Huntingdon Life Sciences, and left with 14 precious friends. In a span of three days, the entire animal liberation movement in the United States was entering a new era, with focused energy, and dramatic success. We were all changing for the better. The grassroots animal rights movement was learning to focus on specific targets, and how to use their strength to gain victories. We, the underground animal liberation movement, were becoming more focused, plugging into the campaigns of the above ground, to inspire them, to give them hope, and to promote tactics that require audacity, even if they are unconventional, while still using uncompromising vigilante rescues as the most effective way to free animals now. But of course, the most important change that weekend was in the lives of 14 beagle puppies, who we lifted from their living graves. It’s hard for me to imagine now, these puppies who love sunshine and grass, and romping with each other, back in those steel cages we found them in. And they’re never going back.

Huntingdon Life Sciences is a vile little lab, and they’ve not only tried to hide from the animal rights community, but the nation as a whole. The lab is almost entirely surrounded by woods, which was convenient for us (and the animals inside). We were able to walk around the whole perimeter of the lab unnoticed, and see the filth that passersby can’t see from the roadway. The back of HLS is dirtier than a junk collector’s lawn in Alabama, with chunks of asphalt breaking apart in what are supposed to be delivery driveways. Rows upon rows, and piles upon piles of empty cages become warped and oxidized from weather exposure. This brought us great joy, that HLS not only couldn’t keep animals in these cages anymore, but seemed to have no use for them now, or in the future. Several large buildings in the back were filled with nothing but garbage, leftovers for a one successful scam operation, now exposed into a joke of an enterprise, struggling to give some semblance of survival.

The evening of March thirty-first, we were approaching the lab through the woods behind it. HLS resides in a town so tiny, they don’t even have their own police force, and rely upon the next town over, Franklin Township, to provide them with protection. But no evil can protect themselves from the pure of heart. We put in time and effort until we learned how to outsmart them at their wicked game. There are two bodies of water behind HLS, one being a canal that divides up the police forces of the area. HLS is just within the final reaches of the Franklin Township police force. We knew that police are inherently routine in their work, seldom using any creative skills, and that they wouldn’t think outside of their own jurisdiction if they knew that a “crime” was occurring. We therefore entered, and left from outside their jurisdiction. But this required crossing the canal, at times 100 feet wide, and too deep to be able to walk across. Also, we thought that nothing would mask the smell of 14 puppies like fresh flowing water.

We tied a rope to one of the trees along the shore, and sent one of our first people out in the boat to cross the canal. The oars dipping into the water silently created huge ripples that spread to both shores in a matter of seconds. We too, silent, and anonymous, hoped to create huge ripples, showing the world that the use of animals as a vehicle for human greed will no longer be tolerated-We will fight back, and We will win. At the other shore, the rope was tied to another tree. This enabled us to shuttle each other across the canal in a matter of moments. We followed the backwoods trails created by deer, passing the landmarks we had come to know like the back of our hands, the abandoned rusting septic tank, and the section of woods where the bramble grows so thick that it can only be crawled through, always approaching the growing sound of the ventilation fans, which echo through the woods for miles.

Our lookouts were all stationed, it was time to go inside. We used bolt cutters to create emergency exits every few sections of barbed wire fence, in case we needed a quick escape. This wasn’t very likely though, since the security force was as threatening and effective as a 95 year-old deaf man. The fence doesn’t even touch the ground in many places, leaving sometimes three and four foot gaps to slide under, and the back gate was never locked tight enough to keep us from passing in and out for previous surveillance. Perhaps to the 250 lb security guard, this was safe. We knew the precise timing of the security rounds, and that for the specific employee working that night, we had 6-7 minutes as he completed his rounds, and would return to our entry point. The security patrol was hard to miss, and always gave plenty of notice since the truck used highly visible flashing lights, and drove 5 miles per hour.

When we had initially been searching for the animal storage units, we had been erroneously looking inside the lab. Climbing up the jungle gym of pipes along the back of the main building, we were able to enter the necropsy room through a skylight that wasn’t even nailed down. The first night we went, we realized that the horrors Michelle Rokke had witnessed in this same room where we stood were as true then as they were in 1997. Several operating tables were covered in evidence of painful dissections, with surgical instruments left, uncleaned, to soak in the pools of blood left on the tables overnight.

It was only by following the stench of animals living in close quarters to one another that we were able to find the only animals we saw alive at HLS. All of the sheds in the back have alarmed, deadbolted doors. But they also have ladders that lead straight up to the ventilation shafts of the buildings. We climbed up the ladder and entered the building through the unlocked door only 10 feet above the alarmed deadbolted one. The inside of the lab looked worse than any dusty old attic imaginable. Sheets of plywood created a path crossing over the cave of exposed fiberglass insulation, where tangled wires hung down casually. We tore apart the insulation, and sawed a hole through the ceiling to the floor below, where the animals were. The locked door was no match to the crowbar that popped it open in seconds.

When we entered the beagle unit, it was eerily silent. The dogs, upon seeing us, made no noise. Through the darkness, we could see the shining black of the puppies’ eyes peering at us with a mixture of curiosity, and the intense fear of humans. We had waited so long for this moment. We ran from cage to cage, and flung open all the doors at once. As they saw the first puppy do it, all the others began to understand that they could get up and leave their prison with the slatted steel floor. The puppies ran all over the unit, exercising their new found freedom to run, jump, and interact with one another. Those who were small enough went into carriers, and for some of the larger dogs we affixed harnesses fashioned of rope, to guide them to liberation. We cleared the unit, and took every living animal we found out with us.

I took two dogs out with me, both the largest dog, and the smallest puppy of the lot. As we ran along a grassy trail created by powerlines, the puppy was a ball of energy, and the older dog trotted along at a pace worthy of a Sunday walk. But before we were halfway out, the puppy was getting restless, and he began to cry. The three of us stopped for a moment, and the little one kept jumping up to sniff me as I scratched behind his ears. I pulled him up into my arms, and he began to lick my face through the fabric of my mask. “I understand Little One, you’re tired... You’re just a baby here, fleeing for your life...” It was at this time that I appreciated the steady pace of the older dog. He seemed to know and understand that if he patiently ran, and kept moving, he would never have to return to the iron cube he had been in for what was most likely years.

The three of us crossed the canal, and knew that we were going to be safe. We were the last ones to meet up with the rest of the group, and as I loaded my new friends up for transportation, all that was visible was a sea of wagging brown and white tails, and bobbing puppies jumping all over, relishing the feeling of contact and play. Although we all moved with a stealthy silence, there was an intense feeling of celebration. The beginnings of dawn were lightening the sky to a dark blue-gray, and it was going to rain soon. Within hours, our footprints would be washed away in the mud, and the dogs would be hours away, on the long, well-deserved journey to their new lives. The coldness of winter was finally ending, and the sharp spring green glowing with new life could be seen through the darkness. It was a beautiful morning, and it was a brand new day for the animals.”