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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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Credibility of animal-rights organization questionable

By By Zack Oakey

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a Virginia-based organization famous for its showmanship and claims to principled, high morals in what its website calls protection of “animal rights.” Animals, in its estimation, deserve all legal and social protections afforded to humans.

Now, PETA’s attention has turned to U laboratories. It asserts that the few violations members have been able to capture on video warrant a total shutdown of U laboratory animal use until an audit can be performed. The U community must demonstrate solidarity with the good people running our university research facilities.

We have to do this for two reasons. First, PETA’s judgment is suspect. In reports submitted to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA documented that from 1998 to 2008, it euthanized more than 21,000 dogs, cats and other “companion animals.” PETA Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch said in a 2007 North Carolina criminal trial that a $9,370 walk-in freezer, reported in its 2002 tax documentation, is intended to keep animal carcasses. The VDACS reports that in 2008, of all animals taken into PETA’s care, 95 percent were euthanized. It seems that the about $30 million in donations PETA accepts every year is mostly spent on Super Bowl advertisements and getting celebrities to disrobe for their billboards rather than on facilitating pet adoptions they so proudly advertise.

An organization that operates in categorical defiance to its own moral prerequisites should not be taken seriously. If it preaches the gospel of saving animal lives but doesn’t follow its own ideology, values judgments on its part are meaningless. Instead, PETA members have become provisioners of softcore pornography and auctioneers of hyperbole and credulity. Shame on PETA for its inconsistency!

Second, PETA’s complaint against the U relies on a logic that is tenuous and, in some sense, dangerous. It claims there have been problems in the U’s animal facilities. Given that there is more than one animal facility each holding hundreds of animals, this will always be true. They say that federal laws were broken. They probably were.

This kind of thinking leads to the worst forms of restrictions of freedom imaginable. Civil liberties advocate Harvey Silverglate has estimated in his new book, Three Felonies a Day, that the average American unwittingly breaks three prosecutable laws every day. This is partially because of the technical details contained in laws that hardly anyone understands and the vague language used. Organizations such as PETA are able to cry wolf on that basis and use redundancy in the legal framework as a tool.

Tom Parks, U vice president of research, recognized as much when he said that on any given day, one of the 50,000 mice, 200 rats and 250 other large animals could experience some violation of federal law. How serious the infraction might be is another matter. To prevent every infraction, as PETA apparently wants, would mean violation of privacy and personal choice on a scale unimaginable.

What would all of this effort accomplish, anyway? Stop the Mario Capecchis of the world from earning Nobel Prizes? Should we throw away all hopes of thwarting cancer, AIDS or malaria? In one of the oddest ironies yet, PETA Senior Vice President Mary Beth Sweetland is a Type 2 diabetic, which means she must take biosynthetic insulin, derived from cow and pig pancreas, daily.

Ignoring PETA’s contradictory reality is vital. The benefits we all experience as a result of animal research outweigh the concerns. Of course we should put protections in place against occasional negligence. That is why we have Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science training, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections, Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care accreditations, an intricate veterinarian-to-principal investigator communication system and a social stigma protective of animals.

PETA wants to insert itself into this conversation, and it has to be loud and unreasonable to get attention. We who care for, have worked with and are appreciative of animals in the research atmosphere will back off no further. We demand that we be allowed to save lives without PETA’s permission.

[email protected]

Willus Branham/The Daily Utah Chronicle

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