Classic Hate Mail to General Motors—Featuring Pig Crash-Test Dummies

A letter so mean it ended up in the hands of the FBI documents a controversial chapter in the history of product design

GMcartoon.jpg

Illustration sent to General Motors as part of hate mail protesting use of pigs in crash tests. FBI


The FBI's new database The Vault—"more than 2,000 documents that have been scanned from paper into digital copies so you can read them in the comfort of your home or office"—has proven to be a treasure trove of unexpected finds, from details about the possessions found on the Notorious B.I.G. when he died to the organization's UFO files. Also among the declassified documents: animal rights-related hate mail sent to General Motors Corporation in 1991 and submitted to the Detroit bureau of the FBI because, according to the FBI, they were "viewed by GMC Personnel as being of a somewhat threatening nature."

To be sure, GM's practices at the time represent a dark chapter in the history of automobile R & D. In September of that year, The New York Times reported that a GM spokesman admitted that about 19,000 dogs, rabbits, pigs, ferrets, rats, and mice had been killed during the previous decade in automobile safety tests. Following pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other activist groups, the company put an end to its animal testing. And thanks to the FBI's The Vault, we have a much more detailed sense of what that pressure looked like.

Here's one of the letters GM received; the full declassified FBI file, including the illustration that appears above, is available here.

FBI pig test letter

Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Business

Just In