For Immediate Release:
July 7, 2022
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Portland, Ore. – In a win for PETA, free speech, and transparency, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) was found to have caused “undue delay” and unreasonably withheld videos and photos requested by PETA—including by taking steps to delete videos of deadly experiments in which prairie voles were given the equivalent of 15 bottles of wine a day—under Oregon’s public records law, according to a ruling late yesterday by Judge Andrew M. Lavin in the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Lavin also found that OHSU police illegally surveilled PETA by subscribing to regular reports on PETA’s protected First Amendment activity. As a sanction, OHSU will have to pay for costs and fees incurred by PETA.
“This is a significant victory not just for PETA but for the public’s right to keep the institutions they fund accountable,” says PETA Foundation Director of Litigation Asher Smith. “In addition to being found to have illegally surveilled PETA, OHSU has been deservedly sanctioned for attempting to destroy evidence showing the harm it inflicted on animals in cruel experiments.”
PETA’s lawsuit, filed in April 2020, sought videos of an experiment, supposedly to investigate human infidelity, in which prairie voles were arbitrarily paired, given alcohol, tested for their partner preference, and then killed. After PETA filed a public records request, OHSU misled the organization for years, first claiming that the videos were not in its possession and that it did not own them, and eventually claiming they had been destroyed—a falsehood exposed by PETA. The court has now recognized that this conduct violated Oregon public records law.
While litigating the case, PETA also found that OHSU police officers were receiving near-daily updates on PETA’s protected free speech activities from third-party surveillance firms. The court agreed with PETA that Oregon law prohibits law-enforcement agencies from collecting such information unless it relates directly to a criminal investigation and that OHSU’s police department violated that law.