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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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Legislative Roundup: Animal researchers get anonymity

By Ryan Shelton

In an attempt to stop activists from protesting outside the homes of U animal researchers, state lawmakers voted almost unanimously to make researchers’ personal information harder to get.

Animal rights activist and U student Jeremy Beckham of Utah Primate Freedom called the bill “futile” and pledged to continue the group’s demonstrations, which have drawn criticism from the Salt Lake City Council and caused one researcher to move. The City Council imposed an ordinance in January that requires demonstrators in Salt Lake County to stand at least 100 feet away from a targeted residence.

The bill, which garnered support from U President Michael Young, modifies the Government Records Access and Management Act to make the names, addresses and phone numbers of animal researchers in higher education off-limits to the public.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. must now sign the bill for it to become law, and bill sponsor Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, said he’s uncertain if he has the governor’s support.

Huntsman could not be reached for comment.

“We’re not trying to stop protesting,” Bell said. “Protesting is a part of life in a democracy, but we have to strike a balance. This bill is designed to protect the privacy of researchers.”

The U has steadfastly stood up for its researchers, maintaining that all animal testing is highly regulated and approved by federal inspectors.

Thomas Parks, vice president for research at the U, praised the bill and said that the U welcomes disagreement from activists, but said that many of them have gone too far in the past.

“They have the right to talk about it,” Parks said. “But they don’t have the right to intimidate the faculty — this (bill) makes it harder to do that. It’s a good thing for the researchers, the faculty and for the university as a whole.”

But Beckham, who said the U has denied all of his group’s government records requests, called the bill nothing more than a symbolic gesture.

Beckham points optimistically to examples of protestors in Madison, Wis., where he said home protests lead to researchers engaging in public discussion — something he said the U’s researchers have refused to take part in.

“We have a lot of other avenues to find out this information — avenues that we’ve already been using,” he said. “Through Internet research and sympathetic employees inside the labs, we’ve found out quite a lot about who works there and who is doing what. The U can expect to see things resume business as usual.”

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