Quotes, poetry, and lyrics give us something, like wise teachers. Every year, as one ends and another begins, I remember what words inspired me and which ones will guide me in the new. In 2013 these words did not come from someone particularly famous or powerful. Instead, what captured what matters to me – and what I want NEAVS to be – came from a popular song flooding the airwaves – “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles. Here’s a bit of it:
Everybody’s been there
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen by the fear …
Bowed down to the mighty …
But I wonder what would happen if you …
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I want to see you be brave ...
In 2013, by my mother’s side, I saw how big her brave was as she met the last nine days of her nearly 92-year life. I listened as people I love recoiled from their rightful needs from fear of ... something. I experienced frustration as I watched others step back from a harder line on behalf of the animals we served. In 2013, I realized with a bolt both shattering and empowering that if the animals need anything from us, they need us to be brave.
We can only serve animals in the war that sacrifices them, if we are brave. Soldiers need to be brave. Worrying what people think or how we might jeopardize our popularity can never work. Advances in social justice happen because of the bravery of those who refuse to bow to the “mighty.” I am not talking about violence or aggression. It is something far more powerful than such counterproductive measures. I am talking about the power that comes from saying NO – not accepting the rhetoric, lies, halftruths which cost animals dearly.
“Brave” directs, “Let your words be anything but empty …” As such, I must be certain my 2013 message is not of empty words. While 2013 had many successes for animals in labs, by year’s end events threatened to stall the accomplishments for chimpanzees. For one, we cannot accept NIH’s position that it cannot pay for sanctuary construction, which would lead to keeping its retired chimpanzees in labs unless sanctuaries find miracle money to build. We cannot rest with a message that sounds like, “Only if you build it, will they come.” For decades, sanctuaries have cleaned up messes created by government-sanctioned institutions profiting from animal suffering. NIH, and all federal agencies, must accept their responsibility without further burden on sanctuaries. In our math, NIH is responsible for construction costs and to retire chimpanzees to sanctuary. We must meet the new year with the possibility that NIH is falling short of its moral mandate to chimpanzees. We must meet the new year resolved to not allow NIH to absolve itself of responsibility to get its chimpanzees out of labs and into sanctuary.
In 2013 we won major victories for chimpanzees and the scientific arguments against their use – victories that will serve all animals in labs. However, a brave heart leaves no casualties. We can declare our chimpanzee campaign a success only when we have assured every chimpanzee that every day holds new freedoms, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and the safety of never again being separated from a chimpanzee friend.
I promise you, whose support makes our work possible, 2014 will be a year of continued effort for all animals and one day soon every chimpanzee still held in a U.S. lab will wake and know today is a better day. Our words, will never be empty. Our work on animals’ behalf – always strong and informed. In short, please remember you can count on NEAVS’ brave.
For the animals,
Theodora Capaldo, EdD