U should take responsibility for its actions in research labs

By By Jonathan Deesing

I was a destructive child. Never one to sit in the basement playing video games, I was more content blowing up plastic Army men and jumping off buildings. But whenever my antics got out of hand, my parents forced me to take responsibility. I still remember taking money to the house of a neighbor whose window I had intentionally broken with a rock. So yeah, I learned responsibility early on, but perhaps the U’s administrators need a refresher course.

One such administrator is Tom Parks, the U’s vice president of research. Parks has said that no wrongdoing occurred at the U’s animal laboratory facilities in light of the most recent complaints filed against them by animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Once it was revealed to him that PETA had an undercover employee in the labs who had documented a number of alleged federal violations, Parks had a number of choices.

He could have assumed accountability if the incidents are proven to have merit in an attempt to quell the situation. He could have offered an open statement that neither confirmed nor denied the U’s responsibility while waiting for a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, he took neither of these options, instead opting for an all-out denial of the events.

“The U is in defense mode,” said Kathy Guillermo, PETA vice president of lab investigations.

What Parks did is understandable. His job is to support research at the U. Thus, when any claims of misconduct are levied against a research institution at the U, he will defend the institution. But perhaps the U should have considered the potential ramifications of its official stance.

Animal advocate groups are gearing up for the USDA to declare the U guilty, and if that comes to light, the U will be faced with far-reaching consequences beyond legal issues.

In its official position statement released Wednesday in response to PETA’s allegations, the Humane Society of Utah said, “The HSU advocates an end to the use of animals for research when the procedures performed are harmful to the animal and cause undue pain and suffering.”

Guillermo said he is concerned that the U hasn’t done enough to ensure the well-being of the animals being tested. The U is examined every three years by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care for animal rights violations. However, Guillermo said, “It’s pretty much a rubber stamp. It’s very nearly meaningless.”

By making no concessions and giving no credence to PETA’s claims, the U has essentially placed itself in a no-win situation. The U has insisted it is right and that inspections given by the AAALAC are sufficient. If PETA is proven correct, the U will be forced to take responsibility and have nothing to fall back on. Further, it will destroy the credibility of the AAALAC and have resounding consequences throughout the animal research community.

Although I certainly don’t support most of PETA’s over-the-top methods, as they are often destructive to the cause, I do feel that the U needs to be diplomatic in this matter. Otherwise, we could end up with paint-throwing fanatics plaguing our campus.

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Willus Branham/The Daily Utah Chronicle