Hello fellow animal lover! My name is Nicole Abate. I am 27 years old, and have been an animal lover my entire life. As a child, I loved animals. Then again, all kids do right? It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that I knew I wanted to work with them as a career. For me, it all started with a film. And that film, was Free Willy. I was hooked. Whales became my new obsession. Toys, posters, print outs from the computer (not the internet, it was the early nineties, but an encyclopedia in CD-ROM form). I even had a recurring dream of swimming with whales in the lake down the street (I still have this dream now, although I know it’s impossible). I wanted to be a whale trainer. My first trip to SeaWorld was like a glimpse into my future.
However, as the years went on, I slowly realized that this was not the job for me. To be a whale trainer requires one to be a strong swimmer. This is something I am not. Luckily for me, insight into an even better career would soon present itself.
One night watching the Discovery Channel, I came across a show set in Australia. A man and his wife were traveling along the dingo fence, and encountering all sorts of animals along the way. The show really got my attention at the end, as they reached the ocean to discover a gray whale. Throughout the entire program, the man spoke with such passion about each animal he and his wife encountered. Not only the dog-like dingo, but the creepy crawly tarantula and the slithery snake. He looked like he was having the time of his life, and you could see that he cared for each and every one of these animals, from the cute to the not so cute. That night, I decided: I want to work with animals in the wild, I want to be a wildlife biologist. This was a more concrete plan, as my love of whales had expanded to all animals. Who was this man I saw? What was this show that altered my life as a movie had done before? It was Steve Irwin. And the show, was The Crocodile Hunter. Steve Irwin understood that each and every animal is important, and it is our job to protect, and understand them. He is truly an inspiration, and I know he is missed by humans and animals alike.
With my new-found career path, I made it through high school easily taking my science and animal science courses in preparation for college. High school, was easy. College, not so much. It wasn’t until I started pursuing my minor that courses became interesting. Animal behavior was wonderful. I had always known that I loved just watching animals, but the fact that there was a career for this, awesome! For the minor, I took a course focused on primates. During this course, my focus became changed again. Primates are so fascinating, and they offer so much insight into our own history. They are perhaps some of the most important animals in conservation. I soon found myself researching primates every chance I got outside of my course load. I familiarized myself with the research of “Leaky’s angels”, the three women chosen by Dr. Louis Leaky to study the great apes in their natural habitats (Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey, and Birute Galdikas). I made it through college, albeit with some setbacks, and was ready to take on the primate world.
Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a fairy tale ending. During school I was working at a clothing store. Retail is pretty much the only job you can get with a busy course load. I’m not going to lie, the pay wasn’t so great, and not being around animals was making life drag on slowly. There aren’t many jobs for an aspiring primatologist in New England, so I began to look elsewhere in search of a job where I could be around animals. I wound up accepting a position with a local company that breeds rats and mice for the use of pharmaceutical companies and universities. Before starting, I didn’t really know much about the world of animal testing, but I heard horror stories of how bad it was. After getting a tour on my interview, it was clear that for this particular facility, that was not the case. I was told in my interview that preference is given to applicants who love animals, because they know those people will care about the animals, and treat them as such. Happy, healthy animals yield better results. So I started with the goal of taking care of all the animals I was responsible for, and making their lives as comfortable as possible given the less than ideal situations.
I was able to do this comfortably for about a year and a half, before again, my life was changed by a film. That film, was Earthlings. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, but prepare yourself, it’s a lot to take in. This film, in addition to a few books I read, stirred up something inside of me. I began shopping at whole foods shortly after one book, and I have cut down on the restaurants I go to now. I have lost sleep over some of the knowledge I gained during this period. I thought, what can I do to help?
While I know I alone do not have the power to stop all this cruelty that’s going on, I must do whatever I can to help. I will work slower and take my time to really care for the animals in my care at work. It is not their choice to be there, so I must treat them with respect. After all, it’s thanks to them that we are all alive today. What medication was not first tested on an animal? We all owe them our lives, and they deserve to be treated just as we would want to be treated. Rat, mouse, primate, or human, we all deserve to be treated humanely and kindly.
This is what I can do at work every day. And now, with this blog, I hope to reach out to people who only see the horror in animal testing, and prove that we have come a long way since those awful black and white videos so many people have etched in their minds. I also hope to shed light on some animals that are met with only fear, including rodents. It is my mission now, with this blog, to help you become as caring and passionate as I am to the humane treatment of all animals. Thank you for reading.
Nicole is currently employed at a university, caring for lab animals. She has always been an animal lover, and more recently an animal activist.