The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The U was out of line withholding public records

By Jeremy Beckham

On Aug. 25, I wrote to the U requesting copies of all currently approved protocols using baboons and/or macaque monkeys. Essentially, they told me to get lost.

Protocols involving animals contain detailed descriptions of proposed experimental procedures, animal sources, the proposed number of animals and what will happen to them when the experiment is over. At most public institutions, research protocols are considered public information. Public institutions comply with requests after blacking out personal information and proprietary information like the name of an experimental drug.

Other universities honor requests for public documents. I was surprised by the U’s reaction. The U denied my request on the grounds that they “contain confidential information regarding research in progress” and that the records constitute a security risk that could “jeopardize the life and safety of an individual.” I appealed the U’s decision to the State Open Records Committee.

The committee was unmoved by the U’s claims and ruled in my favor. In accordance with the regulations, the ruling allows the U to censor personal and proprietary details as well as specific locations of labs. If the U honors the intent of the open records statutes and the committee’s ruling, it will exercise responsible redaction of the records, keeping intact those sections not specifically personal or proprietary or security related. Based on the U’s reactions so far, I may receive only meaningless pages of blacked-out details.

I believe the U’s decision to deny my request is based on reasons other than those expressed publicly. The U and the animal experimentation industry as a whole seem to feel contempt for anyone who believes that society should look carefully at the discoveries that have been made over the past century regarding the complexity of animals’ minds, the sensitivity of their emotions and the suffering they endure in research laboratories.

The U’s denial has nothing to do with concerns about intellectual property rights or the burden of having to redact sensitive information. It has only to do with their conclusion that those who speak out for animals are a danger to those who experiment on them. If our concerns are given a fair hearing, the public may react with displeasure. Researchers may not be allowed to do the things they do now and the U could lose a bundle of money.

Democracy cannot work without an informed citizenry. When the U invokes a policy of secrecy, it undermines the foundation of democracy and a free society.

The cure for some incurable disease could probably be developed more quickly if we experimented on unwilling people. We don’t do this because we recognize that it would be morally wrong. No one weighs Josef Mengele’s torturous experiments in Auschwitz by asking what was learned from them. His subjects were nonconsenting individuals who were knowingly and intentionally harmed under the guise of science. The enlightened world realizes that this violates their rights and is inherently wrong.

The Utah Primate Freedom Project and similar projects across the country are seeking a societal paradigm to the same effect. We view all primates as rightholders on equal footing-whether that primate is a human child or an adult macaque monkey.

The similarities between humans’ and other primate species’ minds, emotions and social behaviors are being used to justify experiments on the brains of awake, restrained monkeys. This is occurring at the U. Monkeys used in this manner are required to perform some task in order to receive a small food reward or a few drops of liquid. It is a standard procedure in these types of studies to deprive monkeys of food and/or water to motivate them to perform. Researchers’ clear and expressed recognition that monkeys and humans have very similar brains and minds motivates them to use these animals as experimental subjects.

The primates held in laboratories are not intelligent or powerful enough to rally together and try to defend themselves.

We are their only hope and their only voice.

As evidence of the similarity between us builds, the similarities between past holocausts and the present situation with monkeys in laboratories becomes ever more difficult to ignore or refute.

Society views the fact that children and the mentally disabled cannot defend themselves against aggressors as a reason to provide them extra protection. The same should hold true for nonhuman primates.

When we speak of humane care, why should this term be so differently applied to human children and monkeys?

I repeat my call for public debate on this issue. Only the U’s fear keeps it from taking place.

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