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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
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Media Coverage


From the Michigan Daily, the Student Newspaper of the University of Michigan


Protesters take aim at primate research

By Rob Goodspeed, Daily Staff Reporter

September 03, 2002

Three years following the last notable animal rights protest on campus, a group of 15 gathered Thursday on the Medical Campus to protest the use of thousands of animals across campus in research labs, including primates.

Though primates make up less than 1 percent of research subjects in labs on campus, the University receives over $4 million in grants each year for research using primates.

The protesters stood at the corner of Glen and Catherine streets, across from Angelo's Restaurant, holding signs with graphic photos of primates in laboratories.

"These photos do not show U-M primates and none of them were taken in U-M research laboratories," University Health System said in a written statement.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now Director Michael Budkie said the photos were taken in laboratories at the University of Wisconsin.

"They accurately represent what happens here," Budkie said.

The group has obtained documents from the University showing that animals have died from abuse in University laboratories, Budkie said, adding he has assisted in research using animals and that their condition might negate the studies' scientific value. "Because of what happens to primates they develop bacterial ... infections," he said, adding that the results might be affected.

The protest also drew attention from the Department of Public Safety. At least three DPS patrol cars were seen in the area, as well as two police officers on bicycles.

"We have no reason to expect anything but peaceful demonstrations, but DPS is planning extra security, just in case," the statement said.

Students and community members waiting at Angelo's Restaurant were surprised by the protest and the response from DPS.

"It is kind of in your face," said LSA junior Katie Moore, who likened the graphic photos of animal test subjects to the photographs of aborted fetuses brought to campus in 2000 by the Genocide Awareness Project.

"Their protest was successful," Moore added, as the University administration's attention helped draw attention to the protest.

LSA Junior Kristina Burg was surprised at the police presence. "I wonder if it's kind of admitting guilt," Burg said. "This isn't the L.A. riots."

But protesters said they were not surprised by the University's response.

"I think that since we are challenging a deeply embedded institution whose members are held in high esteem they feel threatened," said Laura Rowlson, a Metro Detroit animal-rights activist who organized the protest. She added the animal research position papers issued by the University are "outright propaganda."

"There's a misconception that animal rights activists ... are a fringe element. We're not. We have been informed about the issues," Rowlson said, adding that protest organizers had been in contact with members of the Michigan Animal Rights Society, an animal rights student group on campus.

University researchers conduct studies on a large number of animals - mostly rats and mice, but also a smaller number of primates.

Medical Prof. James Woods, who researches drug addiction in rhesus monkeys, has received the brunt of criticism from animal rights groups.

"He's our target here," Rowlson said, adding she feels the studies Woods conducts are unnecessary.

"There are duplicative studies ... several hundred very similar studies in the last several years," Rowlson said. "The only people who will cite animal research are other animal researchers."

Budkie said drug addiction experimentation on primates brings more than $2.5 million annually to the University.

"The overwhelming amount of (University research) is mice and rats," said Howard Rush, director of the University's Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine. He added that National Primate Liberation Week had received press attention so the University decided to prepare material for reporters.

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