Major Media Orgs Side With PETA to Hold UW Accountable for Lack of Transparency

Published by Elena Waldman.

Update (July 28, 2022): The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press—and 16 other media organizations that advocate for First Amendment rights, including the university’s hometown newspaper, The Seattle Times—has sided with PETA in our effort to obtain the names of the University of Washington’s (UW) Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) members. The IACUC is supposed to be the last line of protection for animals imprisoned in the school’s laboratories.

This move follows PETA’s public records request to UW that would reveal the full names of its IACUC members. The committee members then sued in federal court, preventing us from determining whether they’re qualified to oversee the use of animals in experiments. (See details below.) The IACUC members—seemingly desperate to conceal their identities at all costs—were then granted a preliminary injunction by the federal district court, temporarily barring the disclosure of their names.

PETA has appealed the decision, and the Reporters Committee filed a brief in support of our case, urging the Ninth Circuit to reverse the preliminary injunction, arguing that transparency is vital for holding committees advising public institutions accountable and making sure these governing bodies aren’t influenced by private industries.

Organizations that have joined the Reporters Committee in support of our appeal include The Center for Investigative Reporting, The E.W. Scripps Company, the Student Press Law Center, and the First Amendment Coalition.

Another PETA lawsuit challenging IACUC members’ secrecy, under Washington state open meetings law, remains pending.

Originally posted on October 1, 2021:

PETA is filing a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the University of Washington (UW) over its refusal to disclose exactly who is on its ironically named Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)—the group that is supposed to ensure that all animal protection laws are enforced in the school’s laboratories but has failed miserably to prevent animals’ deaths from starvation, dehydration, strangulation, scalding, blood loss, and other causes.Dorothy at UW near Board of Regents pictures

The state of Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) requires that all meetings of governing bodies of publicly funded agencies be open to the public. The IACUC—which meets the description of a governing body under the OPMA—is currently conducting much of its actions outside of public view.

When the members do show their faces, it’s in brief monthly meetings via Zoom web calls with their names hidden. Instead, participants use anonymous labels such as “IACUC1” or “IACUC2,” and even these placeholder names are subject to change from one meeting to the next.

Our groundbreaking lawsuit asks the court to order the disclosure of these IACUC members’ names and to set aside any actions taken by the committee that violate OPMA. If PETA is successful, actions taken by the IACUC—including the approval of experiments—in violation of the law may be deemed null and void and any such experiments may need to be reviewed again properly.

UW Has Some Explaining to Do

The IACUC is meant to be the last line of defense for animals suffering in laboratories, responsible for ensuring that animal protection laws and regulations are adhered to—yet we don’t even know whether its members are qualified to hold their positions so long as UW suspiciously conceals their identities.

Under the provisions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, IACUCs are required to have a certain makeup of members, including a nonscientist and a community member representing the general community’s interests in the treatment of animals. But the UW IACUC’s “nonscientific” member is Ken Gordon, the executive director of the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, which promotes experiments on animals.Washington National Primate Research Center at the University of Washington

The membership of its IACUC isn’t the only thing that UW is trying to hide.

In December 2020, PETA filed a lawsuit against the school for its failure to release documents detailing the decision to purchase a rundown, contaminated facility in the Arizona desert where UW’s primate center has been breeding macaques for use in experiments. The school has also failed to turn over documents detailing the primate center’s financial and leadership crises.

UW’s IACUC Members Have Repeatedly Let Animals Down

UW’s IACUC has a shameful track record. In 2015, inspectors found that it was acting as a rubber stamp committee—recklessly approving even proposals that hadn’t been filled out properly. Documents revealed that multiple procedures had been approved by the IACUC without adequately detailing what would be done to the animals. This led to the suffering of three monkeys who were used in surgeries, later suffered from “significant health issues” following experiments, and were killed.

After PETA released the first-ever footage shot inside UW’s Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC), which revealed isolated monkeys pacing inside cramped, barren cages, we reviewed public records that further exposed the cruelty in the school’s laboratories.

Between November 2017 and March 2021, 77 incidents were documented in which animals at UW sustained serious injuries or died—nearly two per month. As we said, shameful. Oh, and did we mention that the chair of the IACUC is a liar?

Help PETA Hold UW Accountable—Call For an End to Archaic Experiments on Monkeys!

UW’s experiments are largely funded by taxpayer dollars, so at the very least, the school owes the public full transparency. But that won’t be enough to stop animals from suffering in its laboratories. Join PETA in calling for UW’s president to pull the plug on the WaNPRC:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind