People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently sent a letter to Richmond, Virginia, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder urging Wilder to stop the planned construction of a Philip Morris research facility in that city.
Philip Morris plans to finish construction on a $300 million research and technology center in 2007. Richmond has donated land worth $3.2 million for the project and agreed to a 10-year tax abatement to convince Philip Morris to build in Richmond, where Philip Morris is based.
According to PETA, architectural plans for the new center include rooms labeled “Primate Room 1” and “Primate Room 2,” which PETA claims are rooms destined to house non-human primates for research. However, PETA itself is not in possession of any plans that show these primate rooms. Instead, Mary Beth Sweetland told The Richmond Times Dispatch, PETA is relying on information it received from someone who PETA believes does have access to those plans.
Philip Morris spokesman Michael Neese told the Times-Dispatch that there were no plans to house primates at the facilities and that any animal research there would be conducted with rodents.
The animal research is likely directed at finding safer cigarettes, which Philip Morris and other cigarette companies have long investigated (Philip Morris has, in fact, test marketed different versions of a safer cigarette over the years).
Regardless of the type of research or animals used, the project is unlikely to be derailed by PETA. A spokesman for Richmond told the Times-Dispatch,
The mayor does intend to stand by the commitment he made to Philip Morris, and they are a valued corporate citizen in Richmond.
PETA urges city to pull Philip Morris support. John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 12, 2005.
PETA Calls On Mayor Wilder To Pull Public Financing Of Philip Morris Center. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, August 10, 2005.