U Police arrest animal rights

Jake Kapsner

Sparks flew in the sixth-floor hallway of Diehl Hall just after noon Tuesday when police cut through the U-locks binding six animal rights protesters together by their necks.
University Police arrested six people — four University students and one alumna — on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct after they locked themselves together in the entrance of office 625, the research study room, for almost two hours.
The group, which calls itself Direct Action for Animals, lay bound in the hallway and on the office floor of University animal research scientist Marilyn Carroll, who the group has targeted in the past.
Spreading fake dollars around themselves that the group said represented taxpayer supported “blood money,” the protesters chanted slogans like, “Stop the torture, stop the pain, vivisections are insane!”
Members of local media stood waiting at the ends of the sixth-floor hallway, where six police officers stood guard until the locks could be broken and protesters arrested. Besides the officers and media, only a handful of neurology and psychiatry department employees passed the scene in the hallway.
One researcher, who wished not to be named, stepped over the protesters with a child in his arms to get into the office.
“I think it’s sad,” he said, “because there will be no advances with biomedical research without animal experimentation.”
The animal rights groups vehemently disagree.
“The importance of animal testing is grossly overestimated,” said sociology senior Brandon Noard.
Noard and others believe experimental methods like using tissue cultures and computer modeling offer scientifically valid and humane alternatives.
The students threatened to remain locked up until University officials heeded the group’s demands that University experiments on primates end immediately.
And when the locks came off, the activists’ demands remained.
“I think their demands are idealistic and unrealistic,” said Dr. Cynthia Gillett, “because primate research is not going to stop.”
Gillett, director of research animal resources at the University, said she respects the right to express opinions, but would prefer the group seek dialogue instead of sit-ins.
Julie Geldner, an alumna who was arrested along with four other University students, said the year-old group chose civil disobedience because they’d already gone through all the “appropriate” channels — letter writing, protests and petitioning — and wanted to “bring the pain of these animals into the public eye.”
As the Direct Action for Animals group stormed Diehl Hall, the Student Organization for Animal Rights, known as SOAR, kicked off an Anti-Vivisection Week outside of Malcolm Moos Health Sciences Tower, said Noard. He was one of a dozen protesters who carried signs along Washington Avenue.
The two animal rights groups have pressed Gillett and an animal research committee for a debate on the issue since last fall, Geldner and Noard said in separate interviews.
One demand the group made Tuesday was for a debate between a University medical researcher in favor of animal experimentation and Ray Greek, an anti-animal research physician.
While their request was not granted, Greek is scheduled to speak in the Coffman Union theater on Thursday.
“It was going to be a debate,” said Noard. “Now it will be a lecture.”