This week in the run-up to International Animal Rights Day on Dec 10th, I hope to feature eight remarkable women spearheading the battle for Animal Rights in their varied fields of science, art, law and politics.
Maybe it’s not so surprising then that every single one of them has ties with a 9th, world renowned photographer and animal advocate JoAnne McArthur.
First up The Scientist
“I always wondered what it would be like to be another animal.”
Lori Marino, neurobiologist, biopyschologist, self-styled scientist-advocate
As far back as she can remember Lori always wanted to know what it felt like to be in another animal’s skin. Then as a student, she hoped a class in the neurobiology of rat behaviour would help her find out. It did indeed prove fascinating, but unhappily, taking that class required her to intentionally damage the rats’ brains, and then kill them. Seeing the rats’ suffering traumatised her. It gave her nightmares.
After her first degree she won a scholarship to the very prestigious Princeton University to study for a PhD. No mean feat. But when she found out the work at Princeton would involve damaging cats’ eyesight and afterwards killing them like the rats, she knew she just couldn’t do it. Hard for her parents to understand how she could say no to such a great academic honour.
The questions about animal sentience and cognition she wanted answers to led her into the study of cetaceans. She’s spent more hours than she cares to think of measuring whale and dolphin skulls – ones no longer being used by their owners of course!
She was appointed by Emory University professor of cetacean neuroscience, and today Lori is the go-to expert on cetaceans, the one to be consulted.
(Need I say, Lori is a vegan.)
Lori combines a profound passion for nonhuman animals with the appropriate scientific objectivity in questions that concern them. And that gives her unique authority when animal advocacy bumps up against zoos and aquariums, or the law, as it frequently does.
Lori’s expertise featured in Blackfish, the documentary that’s had enormous impact around the world raising awareness about the plight of the captive killer whale Tilikum.
She was also consultant for another prizewinning documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine. Lori describes the film as a “unique project giving voice to those individuals – the cows, pigs and hens in factory farms, the dolphins in marine circuses, the rabbits, monkeys and chimpanzees abused in research laboratories, and all the other nonhuman persons whose suffering is the very foundation of our human society.”
She was called as expert witness in the trial of Anita Kranjc of Toronto Pig Save in November, sued for giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. Lori testified to the emotional and social distress pigs suffer in the factory farming system.
She continues to work closely with the Nonhuman Rights Project, fighting to obtain the status of personhood for captive chimps, for which her expert testimony is called upon in court.
“I can do it because I know the science. And because I have a Ph.D. You can’t imagine the power that title and hard data give you in court.”
“Person doesn’t mean human,” she explains. “Human is the biological term that describes us as a species. Person, though, is about the kind of beings we are: sentient and conscious. That applies to most animals too. They are persons or should be legally. There is abundant, unquestionable evidence for personhood for animals.”
Most of Lori’s work revolves around the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy of which she is both founder and director. The Center works hand in hand with Farm Sanctuary in The Someone Project, encouraging people to open their eyes to see that farmed animals are real persons, friends not food, someone not something.
Thinking back on her own experience as a student in neurobiology, of being required to harm and kill animals, Lori through the Kimmela Center, raises funds to provide students with research grants. All research is with domesticated animals at shelters and sanctuaries, and is entirely non-invasive. With Kimmela-funded research, it is most definitely a case of “No animal was hurt in the making”!
The Kimmela Center’s strap line? “Informed by Science….Driven by Passion.”
Six short words that perfectly sum up what Lori Marino is all about.
I’ve barely touched on all the outstanding work Lori has done and is still doing for animals. To find out more click here.
Add your name to the Declaration of Animal Rights here