Utah Passes New Records Bill Despite Opposition from Animal Rights Activists

In March, Jeremy Beckham and other animal rights activists in Utah tried to rally support against Utah Senate Bill 179 which would allow universities to restrict release of certain records related to research grants.

Beckham wrote a letter to the sponsor of the bill, Utah State Sen. Gregory Bell that read, in part,

Since August of 2003, I have been actively involved in a dispute with the University of Utah under GRAMA to acquire protocols relating to primate experimentation on campus. I suspect you are aware of the lawsuit, as it has grabbed the local media’s attention and appears to be relevant to your proposed amendment to GRAMA. Certain portions of the lawsuit, including the basic right to public access to these records, have already been won by my organization after following an appeal to the Utah State Records Committee. Other parts of the lawsuit, regarding fees for these records, are still pending further appeal in District Court.

SB179 seems to aim to reverse all progress that has been made during the course of this lawsuit. The bill allows any “person” who sponsors any type of research at public universities to acquire a “Business Confidentiality Claim” exempting all records related to their research from public disclosure. The bill defines “person” in this section to mean any individual or entity, including federal and state governments.

On February 16th, in committee, some senators claimed this bill aimed only to protect private corporations who are not investing in research at universities in Utah because they fear GRAMA requests. But GRAMA 63-2-304(1) already protects such corporations. Indeed, if your intent is only to protect private commerce, why do you include government branches in your definition of “person”? It seems clear that SB179 will affect all research at the University of Utah, including nonproprietary research funded by the taxpayers.

During the course of the dispute, the Utah State Records Committee voted unanimously to release the protocols, the University of Utah campus paper wrote two staff editorials in support of releasing the records, and my organization has received a large volume of emails expressing public support for release of the records.

Our questions are simple. What is the purpose of this bill? How do the citizens and taxpayers of Utah benefit from your proposed legislation? Whose interests does this bill have in mind?

Bell, for his part, maintains the goal of the bill was simply to simplify the research grant process at Utah universities and attract more private research grants. According to Bell, private grant sponsors are wary of funding research in Utah because that state’s Government Records Access and Management Act might force disclosure of trade and business secrets.

Coralie Adler, spokeswoman for the University of Utah, told The Daily Utah Chronicle,

[The University of Utah] instigated the bill because of problems with provisions of GRAMA which have proven unwieldy and cumbersome for large research contracts and grants. The bill seeks to make the process more workable while still providing access to information as appropriate.

Beckham told The Daily Utah Chronicle,

. . .the system is simply corrupt. Even when you play their game and don’t break any laws, they change the rules as soon as you start to win.

Whether the proposed change will affect Beckham’s work or not, the law was approved by both Utah House and Senate and is before the governor to sign or veto. The full text of the bill can be read here.


Letter to Senator Gregory Bell – SB179. Jeremy Beckham, Letter, February 20, 2005.

Beckham continues his pursuit to end animal research and squelch SB 179. Susie Winlow, The Daily Utah Chronicle, March 2, 2005.

Jeremy Beckham Leads Protest Against University of Utah Researcher

The Salt Lake Tribune reported in January on a protest involving about 25 animal rights activists against University of Utah researcher Allesandra Angelucci.

The protest was organized by University of Utah student and Utah Primate Freedom Project’s Jeremy Beckham, who has crossed path with the University on a number of occasions.

The protesters used typical animal rights distortions. According to the Salt Lake Tribune (emphasis added),

On the street below [Angelucci’s residence], about 25 protesters held candles and signs proclaiming the immorality of primate research. Flashing images of caged monkeys lit the street from the four 100-inch screens of the “Tiger Truck” — essentially a moving van mounted with giant TVs. The truck was on loan to Beckham from the Showing Animals Respect and Kindness organization. The images displayed on its screens were captioned with brief insults like: “Angelucci gets rich abusing animals” and “Be advised: Ms. Angelucci has a violent nature. Keep pets away from her.” None of the images, however, were from the University of Utah, Beckham said.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Angelucci received a $400,000 primate research grant in August 2004 and this was the second protest against her home.

University of Utah spokeswoman Coralie Alder told the Salt Lake Tribune that Beckham has a First Amendment right to protest, but that, “We support the right of our faculty members to pursue their work from intimidation.”


Protesters gather outside researcher’s home. Michael Westley, The Salt Lake Tribune, January 31, 2005.

Utah Records Committee Refuses to Waive Fee for Research Details

Earlier this year, animal rights activist and University of Utah student Jeremy Beckham won a victory when the Utah State Records Committee unanimously ruled that the university had to provide him information on primate studies that Beckham requested under the freedom of information act. But the university turned around and demanded that Beckham pay $300 for the primate research information.

Beckham appealed that proposed charge to the State Records Committee which in September ruled that the university had acted appropriately and could charge such fees.

The university claims that because the “proprietary nature of the research involved” that it had to employ a lawyer, a research scientist and a lab technician to analyze the information and decide what could and could not be released under the state’s freedom of information act. The university then gave Beckham a bill for $299.08 to cover those expenses.

Utah’s freedom of information act contains a vague statement that state agencies may charge “reasonable” fees to cover their costs in compiling information requested, and the commission decided that in this case the University of Utah’s fees were reasonable. In its decision the committee wrote,

In this unique circumstance, scientists, technicians and lawyers are the lowest paid employees of the University who have the necessary skill and training to perform the review of the requested records necessary to identify the portions that must be redacted to protect the UniversityÂ’s intellectual property and other information protected by GRAMA. After considering the evidence, the Committee is persuaded that the segregation and redaction fees detailed by the University are reasonable. Therefore, we affirm the UniversityÂ’s decision to deny Mr. BeckhamÂ’s request for a fee waiver.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Records Committee member Cherie Willis noted that when the committee was deciding the issue of whether or not the records could be made public at all, testimony from witnesses indicated that specialists would be required to compile the information,

In our previous discussions, we heard testimony from expert witnesses who said these type of individuals would be required and that it would be expensive. There were no objections to it at that time.

Beckham for his part continued to insist that $300 is unreasonable,

All this means is that the taxpayer has no right to information as to how their money is being used to conduct these experiments unless they are wealthy.

The full text of the Records Committee’s decision can be read here.


State panel won’t drop fees for public information. Salt Lake Tribune, September 17, 2004.

Utah Student Wins Lawsuit for Access to Primate Experimentation Records

In January, the Utah State Records Committee ruled unanimously that the University of Utah had to provide student animal rights activist Jeremy Beckham with information about primate research at the university.

In Fall 2003, Beckham filed a request for records pertaining to primate research under the Freedom of Information Act. The University denied the request on the grounds that researchers could become the target of harassment if it released the information and that the research protocols needed to remain secret until the conclusion of the research projects.

But the State Records Committee agreed with Beckham that he has a right to access to the records — although the university will also have the right to redact confidential and/or proprietary information.

Some states, including California, also have regulations that require release of experimental protocols. Mary Hanley, executive vice president of the National Association for Biomedical Research, was absolutely right when she told The Salt Lake Tribune that universities should make such information public. Hanley said,

Most lab researchers are not accustomed to this kind of attention. They don’t want to fight back publicly. They’re scared. Sometimes the institutions have to do it for them. [But] the public is paying for this stuff so they have a right to see it. I’d tell them, ‘Here’s what we do, here’s who we are and we’re damn proud of it.'”

Beckham says that once he obtains the records he plans to post them to the web site of the his Utah Primate Freedom Project organization.


Primate debate: U. won’t detail monkey experiments. Linda Fantin, Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 2004.

Precedent established in primate case. Cara Wieser, Daily Utah Chronicle (University of Utah), January 16, 2004.

Student demands truth about animal testing. Cara Wieser, Daily Utah Chronicle (University of Utah, January, 15, 2004.