An animal rights activist group filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the University of California Board of Regents demanding that UCLA release documents regarding its use of animals in research.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now, the organization that filed the lawsuit, claimed the organization does not know whether UCLA is violating any laws regarding animal use in research. The lawsuit seeks to obtain information that would enable the organization to learn whether any violations have occurred, the organization said.
The group also claimed UCLA is compelled to release records under the California Public Records Act and that UC Regents have “abused their discretion by refusing to provide documents.”
About $205 million, 23 percent of UCLA’s total research funding, was spent in the last school year on studies involving animals at UCLA. Fewer than 20 non-human primates on campus are used for research, according to a UCLA statement released in October.
Primates are used especially for “neurological and addiction experiments,” according to the statement.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now said it is seeking information such as full veterinary treatment records, including daily care logs and autopsy reports, and photographs of primates from UCLA researchers. Those records show how nonhuman primates are treated inside UCLA laboratories, the organization said in court documents.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now said it submitted a request for specific records on the care of nonhuman primates in August of this year. The organization said it was willing to redact and withhold the identities of any researchers as well as the location of UCLA research.
In a statement in response to the lawsuit, UCLA said the release of such information has in the past led to violent and criminal acts against the university’s employees. The university said it constantly tries to balance the public’s right and the critical need to protect its researchers.
In December 2010, UCLA’s animal research laboratory received a warning for animal rights violations, including not providing a daily checkup of animals and not providing enough guidance over those in charge of handling animals, according to the Associated Press. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the violations were not serious enough to warrant a fine. UCLA later said that all issues that had merited the violations were corrected and that no violations have been found in later inspections in 2011.
The Los Angeles Superior Court ruled against Stop Animal Exploitation Now in a similar case in 2010. The court said UCLA is not obligated to produce certain records about animal research, stating such a release “would result in a significant and specific risk of unlawful intimidation and physical harm to the researchers … and to their families.”
Stop Animal Exploitation Now also filed a request for records in December 2006. UCLA initially disclosed records with redacted names and personal information, but refused to disclose additional information after activists claimed responsibility for a firebomb placed under a car owned by a UCLA researcher.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now has organized several protests on campus throughout the year to protest animal testing in UCLA laboratories. The organization most recently held nonviolent protests in April and October of this year, marching on Westwood Boulevard and calling for other techniques, such as computer mapping, to be used in research.
Compiled by Jeong Park, Bruin contributor.