PETA Calls on Richmond, VA, to Reject Philip Morris Facility

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.

Sources:

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.

Virginia House Approves Bill that Would Further Regulate Abortion Clinics

As I’ve said before the best hope for success that those opposed to abortion might have is to regulate abortion clinics to death. Numerous superfluous regulations of businesses have been upheld by courts, and pro-lifers could turn the tables on abortion rights advocates by hiding their anti-abortion views behind a patina of ridiculous regulation. Virginia’s legislature is in the process of doing just that.

In February, the Virginia House of Delegates passed House Bill 2784 which would impose a number of new regulations on abortion clinics. Essentially the bill would require abortion clinics that do more than a very small number of abortions to be licensed under the same rules as hospitals, which would likely force clinics to do expensive remodeling and renovation that few could likely afford.

Supporters of the bill, such as state Rep. John Reid know how to talk the safety regulation talk. Reid told the Richmond Times-Dispatch,

If we are going to have legal abortion in the state of Virginia, we have the responsibility to see that they are performed in as sterile and as safe an environment as possible.

Is this guy a Republican representative or a Public Citizen representative? You can almost see the book coming . . .”Abortion: Unsafe At Any Speed.”

Previous such bills passed by the Virginia House have gone nowhere in the Virginia Senate, however, so abortion clinics are unlikely to face such regulations this year.

The full text of HB 2784 can be read here.

Sources:

VA House Advances Bill that Aims to Close Abortion Clinics. Feminist Daily News Wire, February 1, 2005.

Man Convicted of Selling Dogfighting Tapes

In what is believed to be the first test of the law, a Virginia man was convicted in Pennsylvania in January for selling dogfighting videos.

A jury took just 45 minutes to convict Robert Stevens, 64, of three counts of selling videos that depict animal cruelty. This is believed to be the first prosecution under a 1999 law banning such videos.

Stevens did not attempt to dispute the facts in the case, but instead his lawyer argued that the videos are protected under the First Amendment. The law makes exceptions for videos that have “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value,” and Stevens’ attorney argued that the dogfighting videos had historical value, though the jury disagreed with him.

Another interesting twist is that some of the videos were filmed in Japan, where dogfighting is apparently not illegal.

There was no indication as to whether or not Stevens plans to appeal his conviction. He’d probably have a number of avenues for such an appeal, including that when the law was originally passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, it was clearly intended to outlaw “crush” videos in which animals are trampled to death for the sexual gratification of the viewer. Here, however, even the prosecution conceded there was no sexual intent to the videos distributed by Stevens.

Sources:

Ban on videos of animal cruelty tested. Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 12, 2005.

Virginia man guilty of selling depictions of animal cruelty. Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 14, 2005.

Virginia Schools Required to Provide Alternatives to Dissection

Virginia students go back to school this year with a new legal mandate to provide alternatives to animal dissection to students who request them.

Earlier this year, the Virginia legislature approved and the governor signed a bill requiring local school boards to create guidelines for providing alternatives to dissection. All students who might be asked to dissect an animal must be notified that they have the option to opt for a non-animal alternative such as a computer program or plastic model.

According to the Associated Press, Virginia is the eighth state to require the offering of such alternatives.

The full text of the new law requiring alternatives to dissection can be read here.

Source:

Virginia requires dissection alternatives.Associated Press, September 6, 2004.

Virginia HB 1018 – Alternatives to Dissection


CHAPTER 918


An Act to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 22.1-200.01,
relating to alternatives to animal dissection in public school courses and
curriculum.

[H 1018]

Approved April 15, 2004

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered
22.1-200.01 as follows:

§ 22.1-200.01. Alternatives to animal dissection.

Local school divisions shall provide students with alternatives to animal
dissection techniques within the relevant public school curriculum or course. The
Board of Education shall establish guidelines to be implemented by local school
divisions regarding such alternative dissection techniques. Such guidelines
shall address, but shall not be limited to, (i) the use of detailed models of
animal anatomy and computer simulations as alternatives to dissection; (ii)
notification of students and parents of the option to decline to participate in
animal dissection; and (iii) such other issues as the Board deems appropriate.

ELF Damages Equipment at Virginia Building Site

Earth Liberation Front extremists did about $30,000 in damage to a Charlottesville, Virginia building site in early February.

Activists set fire to a bulldozer and damaged other construction equipment at the site, which is being developed into a mix retail, commercial and residential units.

The ELF extremists let behind a banner reading “YOUR CONSTRUCTION = LONG TERM DESTRUCTION – ELF.”

The FBI is investigating the crime.

Source:

ELF Damages Construction Equipment at Charlottesville Site. Frontline Information Service, February 9, 2004.

Radical group claims damage. Carlos Santos, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia), February 11, 2004.