Peggy Cunniff: Secrecy in UW animal research would be a mistake

Peggy Cunniff: Secrecy in UW animal research would be a mistake

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Dear Editor: News of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed gift of secrecy to University of Wisconsin animal researchers comes as a great disappointment. Those who make their living off the exploitation of animals continue to defend the indefensible. Faced with growing calls for transparency and accountability, UW animal researchers have instead asked for government-sanctioned cover — cover which Walker appears all too willing to provide.

A provision in Walker’s proposed budget would restructure the UW System to be a public authority, with state control and oversight over open records. However, this provision exempts records of “ongoing faculty research” at UW, allowing its researchers to hide from public scrutiny. Hiding public records is never a good thing, especially when these records concern the treatment and use of thousands of animals and millions of taxpayer dollars. As evidence, we need look no further than the recent revival of maternal deprivation experiments on baby rhesus macaque monkeys at UW-Madison. Challenges to these largely discredited experiments were made possible through access to public records. Denying access to these records would be a tremendous disservice to the public and to the animals used for research.

The welfare of these animals — and of the thousands of animals in laboratories across Wisconsin — rests, in part, on rigorous public scrutiny and the ability of concerned citizens to gain access to information from the state’s universities on how they are using taxpayer funds to conduct research on these animals.

Peggy Cunniff

National Anti-Vivisection Society

Chicago, Ill.

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