Protesters try to engage in debate

A small group of protesters, many of them U students, gathered in front of the Animal Resource Center Saturday afternoon to call out researchers to a debate.

Jeremy Beckham, director of the Utah Primate Freedom Project, was there to hand deliver a letter to one of the center’s researchers inviting him to debate whether or not primate experimentation on the hundreds of animals housed at the U is ethical.

The 15 to 20 protesters demonstrated for more than two hours, knocking on the doors of the center and speaking through the intercom in order to deliver the letter.

They received no response because, according to U spokesperson Coralie Alder, many researchers don’t work on Saturdays.

The group picked the day to correlate with World Week for Animals In Laboratories, during which protesters gather to speak out against animal experimentation April 17 through 25.

Beckham wasn’t discouraged, however. He plans to attempt to deliver the letter again today in order to encourage communication between his group and the U.

“Perhaps you have not heard my previous calls for a public debate, but I urge you to consider explaining yours and the U of U’s position in this matter in a public debate. I am willing and able to make all the accommodations for the debate,” Beckham wrote.

Until she has a chance to review the letter, Alder refrained from comment. “The U fosters an environment for free speech, so they certainly have a right to [demonstrate],” Alder said.

“We’re confident that the research that is conducted at the U is strictly controlled and regulated,” she said.

According to Alder, researchers are regulated by the National Institute of Health, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Utah Department of Health and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

“We’re proud of the work the U does in the field of medical research,” she said.

Beckham has requested information on the many primates housed at the U since last August. The U has been responsive to much of his requests, but some of the information, which the U is labeling “confidential,” he’s having a harder time getting his hands on.

The U is charging Beckham hundreds of dollars for the information, which will have to be reviewed and redacted by a professional to protect confidential information, before Beckham can see it.

Beckham doesn’t plan to pay the fees, however, and will soon argue his case against the U in front of the State Records Committee for the second time this year.

After that, he’s off to join more demonstrations across the country. He plans to spend a week protesting at each of the eight national primate research centers, which are located in Portland, Ore., Seattle, Madison, Wis., Boston, Atlanta, New Orleans, San Antonio and Davis, Calif.

He plans to return ready to continue his fight against the U. “Beckham seems very serious and committed to his cause,” Alder said. “We appreciate his right to voice his opinion.”

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