By Robert Cohen Executive Director Text Only

Robert Cohen in college

Robert Cohen and a Long & Evans Hooded Rat, later named Unicorn, and adopted as Robert's pet. In this 1973 photo, Cohen had implanted an electrode into the rat's brain, and the now conscious creature is immobilized while Robert records single-cell neuronal activity.

Henry & Me

  "I don't think one can articulate
   a satisfaction with harming another
   being whether it's human or nonhuman."
              Henry Spira

Henry Spira was a man who turned compassion into action.
Many people honor Spira by referring to him as the founding
father of the animal rights movement.

Spira was mentor and friend to many of the people who are at
the forefront of today's AR movement. People like Alex
Hershaft (FARM), Howard Lyman (Voice for A Viable Future),
Ingrid Newkirk (PETA), and Peter Singer (author of Animal

Henry died of cancer on September 12th, 1997 at the age of
71. He began fighting for animals in the mid-1970s by
calling attention to surgical experiments being conducted on
cats. Those lab experiments took place at the American
Museum of Natural History between 78th and 81st Streets in
New York City.

Many years later, Spira was to draw attention to Revlon's
practice of testing cosmetics by blinding rabbits. Spira
took out a full page ad in the April 15, 1980 issue of the
New York Times. Without Spira's passion, the world would
have known little of what goes on in research labs, and
Spira's revelations awakened thousands more activists.

I never met Spira. We did, however, cross paths.

You see, I was inside the Museum of Natural History
witnessing that cat surgery while Spira and others were
outside protesting. At that time, Dr. Ethel Tobach was
curator of the Primatology department at the museum. My
friend (and mentor), Robert Orndoff, Ph.D., was invited to
assist with the cat surgery. Orndoff's mentor, Frank Beach,
was America's expert on the physiological aspects of
hormones and sexual behavior in mammals.

Frank Beach is considered to be the founder and father of
the field of psychoneuroendocrinology, the study of how
hormones affect the brain and behavior.

Beach's mentor was Karl Lashly, the father of physiological

Lashly's mentor was William James, the father of
experimental psychology.

So you see, what little I know about the physiological
aspects of mammalian neuroanatomy and hormonal behavior was
passed on and taught to me from a long line of great names
in scientific annals. At the time, I believed that animal
research was the most noble of academic pursuits.

Our Museum of Natural History cat had an electrode implanted
in the medial forebrain bundle of her brain's hypothalamus.

Why would anybody protest that, I wondered? We were
scientists, seeking to expand the horizons of mankind's
understanding of brain mechanisms. In the long run, we would
cure human diseases by experimenting on animals. The
protestors did not understand.

I remember going outside to get a hot dog from a vendor in
front of the museum, facing Central Park. I walked among the
protestors to try and understand their position. I recall no
individual faces, just a mindless passion that seemed at the
time to be misplaced.

Nearly 30 years later, I am haunted by the fact that I was
the clueless one. I do not remember Spira. I could not pick
him out of a crowd. The man was a visionary. At that time, I
lacked the vision to see the truths I now see.

Robert Cohen, author of:   MILK A-Z
Executive Director (
Dairy Education Board

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