The animal rights battle surrounding the new underground animal research facility being built at the University of Washington is hotter than ever, and city councils are having to step in to ensure the safety of their citizens.
After over 80 protests outside the homes of Skanska employees and University of Washington administrators, the Sherwood City Council has responded to the public outcry against the demonstrations.
Their actions included an ordinance to prohibit the picketing of a specific individual and residence, with violators facing a fine of up to $1,000. They also approved changes to their noise ordinances, “to address some unclear language and make it easier to manage and enforce,” according to The Oregonian.
Both measures were passed as emergency actions, meaning “they were approved after only one reading – not the usual two – and took effect immediately.”
It’s expected that the City Council of Beaverton will consider similar changes to their noise ordinances at its meeting on February 16th.
This comes after the animal rights group No New Animal Lab asked a Washington County judge to block any attempts by citizens to end their protests. It would prevent both the individuals being protested and their neighbors from getting an injunction to stop the demonstrations.
They claim that any action to prevent their protests at people’s homes would violate Oregon statutes meant to protect free speech. Their case is scheduled to be heard on a later date.
The federal courts have already said there is a huge difference between protests and harassment, though, ruling against the protesters.
According to a report by Al Jazeera America, four Skanska employees were successful in a harassment lawsuit against the protest organizer, Amanda Schemkes. They were being screamed at by anonymous phone callers, had individuals come onto their private property, and create an atmosphere of fear surrounding their residence.
When asked by an Al Jazeera reporter about the suit, Schemkes said, “It’s clearly first amendment protected… umm… and the judge got it wrong here.”
In the court documents the employees said the protests lead them to “…feel intimidated and fear for our safety.” The wife of one employee saying she felt “…scared and trapped in my own home, and worried about the safety of my sons.”
When someone fears for the safety of themselves and their family, you have crossed a line.
Watch the full report below:
Do you think the judge ‘got it wrong’?
One University of Washington administrator, David Anderson, believes that the protests will not slow or hinder the construction of the lab. In the Al Jazeera report he said,
“What we will be able to do with that building is really provide the very best care for the animals, and the very best support for cutting edge research that leads to the medical advances of tomorrow.”
This is a great point, especially since animal research has “played a vital part in nearly every medical breakthrough over the last decade,” according to Understanding Animal Research.
Some animals share up to 95% of our genes, have similar organ structures, and suffer from similar diseases as humans. They even have shorter lifespans so results are seen quicker and medication can be tested over several generations in just a few short years. Is that something we really want to forfeit?
Albert Sabin, the developer of the Polio vaccine, wrote to Sharon M. Russell on the 13th of September in 1991,
“My own experience of over 60 years in biomedical research amply demonstrated that without the use of animals and of human beings, it would have been impossible to acquire the important knowledge needed to prevent much suffering and premature death not only among humans but also among animals.”
To those who argue against testing as a whole, European Animal Research Association reports that household cats kill more animals in a week than the total number of animals used in medical research every year, and that’s without the amazing medical advancements that research brings to the table.
To those who are worried about welfare, better and more high-tech facilities will only increase the welfare of the animals.
This is a perfect example of radical animal rights activists letting their hypocrisy show.
Research is vital to medical breakthroughs, and this facility is vital to the well-being of the animals undergoing that research. It should be considered a win for both sides, yet animal rights activists still protest the lab.
The utilization of animals and animal welfare are not mutually exclusive. The concept that we have to stop using animals for their well-being is misguided. Whether it is for research, food, or fur, we CAN acquire animal products in a humane way.
We stand with the University of Washington and Skanska employees who recognize this, and encourage the protesters to look at the bigger picture. If you want to promote welfare, pursuing animal rights is NOT the way to go.