Julia Butterfly Hill Joins PETA Campaign Against Columbia University

Julia Butterfly Hill, who became famous by spending several years in a tree to protest and logging, recently joined People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ campaign against Columbia University. Hill sent a letter on behalf of PETA urging other activists to support PETA’s ongoing campaign against Columbia.

PETA did not release a copy of Hill’s letter, but did include the following quote regarding Columbia’s use of primates to better understand irregular menstrual cycles,

As a woman, I am outraged that other beings are undergoing such outrageous and inhumane torture under the guise of ‘helping women.’

For its part, PETA seems to fundamentally misunderstand the point of the research, as it says in its press release about hill,

Millions of dollars designated for womenÂ’s health issues have been commandeered by Columbia experimenter Michel Ferin and squandered on cruel, irrelevant animal experiments while women who suffer extreme stress during their menstrual cycles are left without the resources to obtain the medical care that they need.

Ferin’s research is aimed not at trying to understand stress during menstrual cycles, but rather the role that stress might play in causing irregular menstrual cycles which is a common cause of female infertility.

PETA’s Bill Maher also mischaracterized the nature of the Columbia research when he spammed Columbia University staff earlier this year.


Julia Butterfly Hill Asks Friends and Colleagues to Help Stop Columbia University’s Mutilation of Primates in Menstrual Experiments. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, September 8, 2004.

Bill Maher Calls/E-Mails Columbia Researchers Urging Them to Abandon Animal Research

In early May, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Bill Maher made phone calls and spammed Columbia University researchers urging them to stop animal research there. PETA has been harassing Columbia president Lee Bollinger for several months and has filed a complaint with the New York County District Attorney’s Office seeking to have criminal charges brought against animal researchers at Columbia.

Maher’s e-mail read,

Dear Columbia Employee,

I recently heard from my friends at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that baboons and other primates are being subjected to some very strange experiments in laboratories at Columbia University. In one experiment, pregnant baboons are pumped full of nicotine and morphine and their babies are operated on in utero. Now, I might have thought that the point was to figure out the effects of cigarettes and morphine on pregnant women and their babies, but fetuses don’t normally smoke and shoot up, even if their parents do play self-esteem tapes before they’re born. Haven’t these experimenters heard that cigarettes are called “cancer sticks”? That’s right—they’re bad for you! Who knew? As for morphine, Edgar Allen Poe knew 100 years ago that it was addictive and just about—but not quite—as dangerous as animal experimenters with too much money and too little accountability. Even Poe in a morphine-induced nightmare couldn’t have dreamed up anything as scary as this.

Although we might all know that certain drugs and compounds are addictive, exactly how they tend to result in addiction is, in many cases, still a mystery and animal research has offered a number of surprises. For example, it is known that cocaine stimulates certain receptors in the brain leading to the obvious hypothesis that the brain becomes addicted to having those receptors stimulated. But research on mice performed at Columbia demonstrated that the animals became addicted to cocaine even when genetically modified to be missing the specific receptor that cocaine acts on. The actions of addictive, dangerous drugs are far more complex and more poorly understand than Bill Maher’s non-sequiters let on.

Forget drugs—maybe they should study infections at Columbia, because apparently, this kind of thing is catching. Another experimenter is trying to study the effects of stress on women’s menstrual cycles by implanting metal pipes into the skulls of rhesus monkeys. One hundred million women in America with PMS, and this guy’s Frankensteining monkeys? It’s just a wild guess on my part, but wouldn’t he learn more from talking to actual women under stress than from plumbing monkey heads? Anyway, most women have the old-fashioned kind of stress, like money troubles and tough jobs, rather than having pipes fall out of the sky and lodge in their skulls.   

Here Maher is both lying and extremely cruel to women and their partners who struggle with infertility caused by irregular menstrual cycles. Columbia University researchers study rhesus monkeys in order to better understand the various roles played by hormones in causing regular menstrual cycles and the effects that environmental conditions, such as stress, can have on those hormones.

It’s a little disturbing to me to know that this Brian De Palma film is playing not in some dugout in Iraq, but at Columbia—not exactly your local city college. The guys playing the monkeys like cards in a poker game aren’t Osama. One’s a neuroscientist, one’s a physiologist, and—get this—one’s a pediatrician. Wouldn’t you want to take little Johnny to this doc for a sore throat? At least there was one decent human being in these labs: the veterinarian who called PETA to report her colleagues’ work habits. When she saw one of the experimenters take out a monkey’s eyeball to cause a stroke, she had a Network moment—she got mad as hell and decided that she wasn’t going to take it anymore.

Maher forgets to mention that when Columbia was first notified of possible problems in 2002, they initiated an in-house review of animal research as well as notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The university made a number of changes to its procedures. As for the stroke research, this is being conducted by E. Sander Connolly whose animal research has led to a number of intriguing findings, including the fact that antioxidants can cross the bloodstream/brain barrier and possibly reduce damage caused when a blood clot plugs an artery.

Which is pretty much the way I feel right now. Tossing millions of dollars of tax money out the window is one thing—think searching for ice on Mars—but wasting money to cause strokes in, disfigure, and terrorize animals puts Columbia in an ugly and embarrassing position. I’m asking Columbia to stop this now and forever, and I’m asking you to join me. You can find out more and see the pictures at ColumbiaCruelty.com or by calling PETA at 757-622-7382.

Maher, of course, couldn’t care less whether or not any of the research at Columbia could lead to life saving treatments for human beings. As Maher once told Us magazine,

To those people who say, ‘My father is alive because of animal experimentation,’ I say ‘Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live.Â’ Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade off.


E-mail to Columbia University researchers. Bill Maher, May 2004.

Columbia’s Sexual Harassment Policies and Its Status as a Private School

Wendy McElroy makes an interesting observation that I had not heard before about the controversy surrounding Columbia’s sexual harassment policy. If Columbia were a public university or college its policy would be clearly unconstitutional and the courts would take little time at all overturning it. Columbia is a private university, however, and so doesn’t have to abide by the Constitutional protections that a state institution would have to consider — the standard for private colleges is that it has to adhere to “fundamental fairness.”

But as McElroy points out, Columbia is using a federal grant to pay the university official in charge of administering the harassment policy,

Columbia’s Administration also points out that the University is a private institution and the courts have upheld its right to determine which procedures are appropriate to serve its needs. In short, students have no right to expect Constitutional protections from university procedures. Private or not, it is the government, which means the taxpayer, who will foot much of the bill for Columbia’s experiment with gender justice. As part of their Report, the Task Force mentioned that grant funding to finance a full-time officer responsible for disciplining sexual misconduct was available from the Department of Justice. The on-campus gender crusader is estimated to cost $125,000 of taxpayer money in the first year. Yet, according to Patricia Catapano, who chaired the Task Force, “The courts only have said that Columbia…has to have fundamental fairness” because it is a private institution.

If Columbia wants to maintain its Star Chamber-like system of student justice it may have the right to do so as a private university, but it certainly shouldn’t use taxpayer money to enforce a policy that would be unconstitutional at a public institution.


Gender Madness on Columbia’s Campus. Wendy McElroy, IFeminists.Com, March 20, 2001.

Columbia University Refuses to Defend Its Sexual Misconduct Policy

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports that Columbia University is apparently refusing to publicly defend its controversial sexual misconduct policy. The new policy completely strips persons accused of sexual misconduct of any meaningful rights and has garnered a lot of unfavorable publicity for the university.

On February 23, the Columbia University chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union organized an event to discuss the policy. Along with opponents of the policy, such as Columbia Law professor Vivian Berger, the ACLU invited Charlene Allen, the administrator in charge of Columbia’s Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education, as well as representatives from the campus group that pushed for the new policy, Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER). SAFER declined the invitation, but Allen agreed to participate. Shortly before the event, however, Columbia issued a statement that Allen would not participate after all. Fox News recently aired a story about the policy, and again Columbia refused to comment on the policy.

FIRE’s Harvey Silvergate said,

Columbia cannot bear the public scrutiny. They didn’t show up at the ACLU event, nor for the television program, because there is no principled defense for their policy. How can they justify the stripping away of the due process protection deemed necessary for hundreds of years. HOw can they justify the stripping away of the due process protections deemed necessary for hundreds of years in a free and decent society? The policy is worthy of the kangaroo courts of the former Soviet Union, the current People’s Republic of China, or Spain under Franco. It is not worthy of a world-class class university in a free country.

A good insight into the sort of thinking that went into this policy was given last year by SAFER co-chair Sarah Richardson. Asked by a reporter about the rights of individuals accused of a crime, Richardson asked, “Why are we so concerned about the rapist?” Guilty until proven innocent is at the core of SAFER’s claims and the “justice” meted out by the Sexual Misconduct Policy.


Columbia University unable to defend policy in public; activist enemies of due process censor FIRE, then make a U-turn. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Press Release, March 13, 2001.