Cause becomes more costly for animal activist

The U responded last week with a $299 price tag to freshman Jeremy Beckham’s request for primate experimentation details.

Last August, Beckham, head of the Utah Primate Freedom Project, began asking for documents detailing the experiments currently conducted on the hundreds of macaques, baboons and marmosets at the U.

The U did comply with many of the requests but to obtain the more sensitive protocol documents, which list the exact procedures taking place, Beckham had to argue his case in front of the State Records Committee in January.

The committee ultimately decided Beckham had a right to the documents but that the U had the right to redact, or black out, proprietary information. However, the committee also agreed that any expenses arising from the redaction, such as copying or staff compensation fees, must be agreed upon by both Beckham and the U.

To notify Beckham of the charges, attorney Phyllis Vetter, representing the U, sent him a letter dated Feb. 20.

In the letter, Vetter informed Beckham he would be charged $137.35 for “legal review,” $126.67 for “technical review” and $35.06 for “physical redaction.”

“If you wish to obtain copies of the redacted records, please send me a check payable to the University of Utah in the amount of $299.08,” Vetter wrote.

U officials worry that releasing the documents would make private information-such as researchers’ names and their work-available to the public. U spokesperson Coralie Alder said in a Jan. 15 interview that maintaining confidentiality “protects the U’s intellectual property rights in discoveries generated by the research.”

Vetter, along with Jack Taylor, director of the Animal Resources Center, also expressed concern to the committee for the safety of researchers who might become victims of animal rights activist groups.

But Beckham said he only wants the documents in order to educate the public to the types of testing the primates face-and that he is not happy with the $299 charge.

He said the U sent him other documents, some more than 100 pages in length, and did not charge him for the redaction or copying fees. He plans to appeal to the U and to the State Records Committee, and said that if such charges are allowed, “my knowledge of government activities will depend on the size of my income.”

Beckham may have a difficult fight ahead of him, however. Vetter seems intent on charging him for every document he requests, including some he requested previously. “The charge for the copies sent to you on January 27, 2004, was $.50,” she wrote. “Please add that amount to your check.”

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