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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Exemption for Animal Researchers in Utah

The Utah House of Representatives passed a bill to conceal the names, personal addresses and phone numbers of U animal researchers.

The bill, which passed unanimously Feb. 22 and the Senate president signed on Monday, would modify the Government Records Access and Management Act to classify personal information of researchers who do medical or scientific research on animals at Utah colleges and universities as protected documents. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. must now sign the bill for it to become law.

Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, sponsored the bill in response to animal rights protesters from the group Utah Primate Freedom who, he said, had been harassing U researchers and vandalizing their homes.

"The public has the right to understand what research is going on...but they don't need to know specific information of workers," Bell told The Daily Utah Chronicle earlier this month. "Basic human dignity and decency requires that we have people in good faith pursuing legitimate research, but we shouldn't be harassing people just because we disagree with them. But that hasn't worked, so we have to resort to legal means."

Utah Primate Freedom activist Harold Rose said the legislation won't have any effect on the group's campaign to stop animal research.

"It's more of a symbolic gesture on their part," Rose said. "Unless they completely cease doing research, we're going to hear about it."

Rose said none of the names or addresses of researchers his organization has used to target researchers' homes were found through GRAMA requests or the Freedom of Information Act, because the U denied all of their requests. The group petitioned the U for the identities, positions and salaries of researchers last year, but the U denied the request, a decision the Utah State Records Committee upheld. On one occasion, Utah Primate Freedom submitted a request for the types and number of animals being used for research at the U, which was also denied.

More here.

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