Beckham continues his pursuit to end animal research and squelch SB 179

Though Jeremy Beckham, long-time animal rights activist and former U student is in Wisconsin, his battle to obtain U research records wages on.

For now, the Utah arm of his campaign is deeply embedded in a fight against Senate Bill (SB) 179 sponsored by Sen. Gregory Bell.

The U-instigated bill, which passed unanimously in the Utah Senate and awaits a House approval, will allow results of sponsored research done at higher institutions of learning in Utah to be held confidential as per an agreement with the research sponsor.

“The basis of the bill is that the U of U and USU have been feeling a loss of grants because of concerns by research sponsors that [Government Records Access and Management Act] could force disclosure of trade and business secrets,” Bell said.

Coralie Alder, spokeswoman for the U, confirmed Bell’s assertion.

“[The U] instigated the bill because of problems with provisions of GRAMA which have proven unwieldy and cumbersome for large research contracts and grants. The bill seeks to make the process more workable while still providing access to information as appropriate,” Alder said.

But, according to Beckham, who is also president of the Utah Primate Freedom Project, “the system is simply corrupt.”

“Even when you play their game and don’t break any laws, they change the rules as soon as you start to win,” Beckham said.

He said he feels this bill is a direct roadblock the U set up to stop the Utah Primate Freedom Project, and other activist groups, from gaining information to help their cause.

“As far as I know, that isn’t the case,” Alder said.

Beckham’s beginnings

The 19-year-old Beckham has tremendous staying power. His motivation is deeply entrenched in his pure belief that vivisection-live dissection-is wrong. His belief began in high school, and was encouraged by his animal-activist mother.

A concern for animal welfare combined with an active interest in debate made a combustible combination for Beckham.

Coming across the Primate Freedom Project Web site in the spring of 2002, curiosity about vivisection soon turned to abject horror as he read about primate’s human characteristics and usage in medical research. Meeting the project’s founders, Rick Bogle and Lynn Pauly, spurred Beckham into the relentless pursuit against vivisection that he continues today.

“I recognize this is a long struggle, and I don’t expect victories overnight,” Beckham said.

Beckham’s battles

with the U

A tenacious animal rights activist, Beckham more than ruffled a few feathers at the U fighting to save primates from medical research, or vivisection.

The U is one of many universities in the United States housing monkeys for medical research.

Promising to step up his confrontational efforts to save the primates, Beckham said his fight here in Utah is far from over.

“Anyone who knows me will tell you that for the past couple of years, and for the foreseeable future, trying to end vivisection has largely consumed everything I’ve done in life,” Beckham said.

While at the U, Beckham fought relentlessly to have U research records released. The U refused. Beckham said these records, detailing primate experiments performed on campus, should be public under the Utah GRAMA. At a January 2004 hearing, the State Records Committee agreed with Beckham, but gave the U the right to redact, or black out, what it felt was confidential information.

It was a hollow victory for Beckham, as the U imposed a $300 fee to obtain this information. At a September 2004 hearing, the State Records Committee struck down Beckham’s appeal for a fee waiver or reduction.

“I was truly surprised at the outcome. But I can honestly say that not once have I felt an urge to give up,” Beckham said in a recent interview. “When I lost the hearing last September, it only made me rethink the strategy for the future of the campaign.”

Beckham’s future fights

Keeping SB 179 from passing is not Beckham’s only goal for Utah.

“Since that [September] hearing, the campaign has started to take a slightly more confrontational approach,” said Beckham, an avid supporter of the Animal Liberation Front.

The private home of U researcher, Alessandra Angelucci, was the scene of the last protest by Beckham and followers of the project.

“Escalation is the key to any successful grassroots social justice campaigning,” he said. “We’ve been on the doorsteps at the homes of some primate researchers, and these home protests will continue until they find work that doesn’t involve torture.”

Angelucci said that most of the project’s accusations leveled against her and other researchers are false and misleading. Angelucci and the U scientific community are currently searching for the best way to respond to the project’s accusations. This will be welcome news to Beckham, who said he feels the U is hiding something behind its long-standing silence regarding primate research issues.

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