U animal rights group offers reward to end alleged animal cruelty

by Patrick Hayes

The University’s Student Organization for Animal Rights, in conjunction with California-based In Defense of Animals, announced Wednesday it will offer a $10,000 reward for anyone who can end alleged animal cruelty at the University.
The reward will be given to any individual who can provide information that proves a researcher is in violation of animal abuse laws, said SOAR member Kate Petersen.
“The reward will not be paid to people who do things that are illegal,” she added.
IDA is providing the $10,000 reward money. Petersen said she did not know how many times the reward can be given.
SOAR’s reward offer has raised some criticisms.
“It’s outrageous,” said Richard Bianco, assistant vice president of the University’s Academic Health Center. “It’s like putting a bounty on the head of our researchers and the people who are trying to find a cure for diseases.”
Following a series of animal rights protests by SOAR, Bianco filed a grievance against them in November 1999, claiming disorderly conduct on campus and disruptive demonstrations.
The most notable protest was in September 1999 when SOAR member Matt Bullard suspended himself from the top of Moos Tower in a small tent for six days near a hanging banner that read, “Stop Animal Torture.”
The University Senate Campus Committee on Student Behavior placed SOAR on probation until the end of fall semester after it found the organization guilty.
Bianco said he plans to see if the $10,000 reward violates SOAR’s probationary status.
Petersen said any attempt to get SOAR kicked off campus for the reward offer is purely a desperate act on the part of Bianco.
“As far as we know this doesn’t violate our status,” Petersen added.
The announcement of the reward offer was made before a presentation by Matt Rossell, a former employee at the Oregon Regional Research Center.
Rossell spent two years working at the research center, first as a animal technician and then as an assistant to the head of the psychological well-being program — a program devised to improve the lives of primates who are research subjects.
Rossell said he witnessed numerous incidents of animal cruelty during that period.
He said he saw primates pull out their hair and commit acts of self mutilation while isolated in two-by-two-foot cages.
While working on the study, Rossell said he was vocal about proper primate care. But when no action was taken after complaining to his colleagues, he left his job.
On Aug. 28, Rossell held a press conference and presented a videotape of the primates’ conditions, alleging animal cruelty.
Rossell said more than 50 local news stories were done using his video. Yet, no evidence of misconduct was found after an investigation.
In addition, Jim Baker, public information officer for the Oregon Regional Research Center, said the allegations were false and that the video was misleading.
Research officials said the primates were properly fed and that their care exceeded standards.
In addition, Rossell falsified information on his application on his application, Baker said.
Rossell failed to reveal that he worked at the Boys Town Hospital in Omaha, Neb. from 1995 to 1996 as a security guard, said Baker.
While at the hospital, Rossell took pictures of animals and held a similar conference alleging animal abuse.
An investigation found no wrong doing at the hospital.

Patrick Hayes welcomes comments at 627-4070, ext. 3293