The Primate Freedom Tour continues
to wind its way across the country. In a stop at the University of Southwestern
Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center, animal rights activist Jennifer
Schneider compared the facility to a concentration camp.
“As a descendant of the Jewish
people, I must speak out against the primate concentration camp at New
Iberia (and) the scientific fraud of primate research,” Schneider said
in a prepared statement.
Although the Tour hoped to
get researchers involved in a debate, the Iberia Research Center refused
to take the bait. “It is not our purpose to debate the issues,” said veterinarian
and New Iberia director Thomas J. Rowell. Not that Rowell didn’t do a
good job of deflating the animal rights claims with brochures and media
interviews that led to highly favorable coverage.
A reporter for the Baton Rouge Advocate highlighted the important work being done at the facility by
noting that, “research at the center has helped to ensure the safety and
efficacy of polio vaccines, led to the development of vaccines for hepatitis
and types of pneumonia and influenza, as well as contributed to knowledge
about Creutzfeldt-Jakob and mad cow diseases, he [Rowell] said.”
After repeating the typical
animal rights cant about alleged animal abuse at primate facilities,
the Advocate noted that,
Similar stories were told by other protesters,
although none knew of any specific examples of mistreatment of animals
at the New Iberia facility. Rowell calls some of the protesters objections
“a complete misconception.” “You have, what, a sixth-grade school teacher
that’s leading the effort?” he asked. “I’m not sure what experience he
has in science and what we do in the line of research support.”
In fact, the New Iberia’s handling
of the tour is almost a textbook case in how to defuse animal rights activists.
Rowell wisely chose to hold a press conference about the Primate Tour
a few days before the protesters arrived so that the media would be well
aware of the type of research and monitoring that goes on in his facility.
In addition, Rowell tried
to kill the activists with kindness. At his press conference he told the
assembled reporters that Primate Freedom Tour members had a right to protest
his facility and said an area near the research center would be made available
for the protesters. During the protest the university offered the protesters
water coolers, portable toilets and awning to block the sun, but the activists
refused the offer. Tour research director Rick Bogle refused the assistance,
saying, “We cannot accept it because the money they used to
purchase it has blood on it … it came from the sale of innocent primates
into torture and death .. it’s blood money.”
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