October 23, 2000

Students Cage Themselves on Ho Plaza in Protest

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Four members of the Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense spent their weekend camped in cages on Ho Plaza to protest experiments on primates they believe are cruel and unnecessary. CCAD hoped their demonstration would raise awareness among students about animal rights and scientific research at Cornell.

Not only did the protesters fear for the safety of animals involved in scientific research, they also worried that students do not know enough about research projects conducted at Cornell that use animals as test subjects.

“I’m doing this because it’s upsetting how little most Cornell students know about what happens right here,” Clair Whittet ’04 said from her cage.

The four students began their stint in the cages on Friday afternoon, and planned to emerge from the cages early this morning.

They also committed themselves to a three-day juice fast to bring further attention to their cause.

CCAD, formerly known as Cornell Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, staged a similar demonstration last year.

For that demonstration, two members sat in cages on Ho Plaza for a weekend. “Last year accomplished a lot just by showing people what’s going on,” said CCAD President Timothy Slate ’01.

At that demonstration, CCAD members also asked passers-by to sign a petition, as they did this past weekend, to show their support for CCAD and the animal rights cause.

Demonstrators particularly objected to the research of Prof. Peter W. Nathanielsz, animal physiology.

According to CCAD treasurer Angela Ohrstrom ’03, the group based many of its objections to Nathanielsz’s research on an abstract of one of his projects, “TRH [thyrotopin releasing hormone] and Glucocorticoid Actions on the Fetal Lung,” which, according to the abstract, uses “nonhuman primates.”

“The students protest regularly,” Nathanielsz said.

Nathanielsz defended his research, citing honors he has received from the Royal College of Obstetricians and — this past year — from the American Maternal-Fetal Medicine Society.

“They know the work is heavily funded by the NIH [National Institute of Health],” Nathanielsz said, adding that the NIH has funded his research for over 25 years.

“Despite the fact that the students say our work is of no value, the people who count in the medical world seem to think it is,” Nathanielsz concluded.

CCAD based many of its objections to the professor’s research on anecdotal evidence, since no members of the CCAD have been inside Nathanielsz’s lab.

“We’ve tried to go and talk to him, but the police have escorted us away,” Slate said. According to Slate, the incident, in which CCAD members went to the Veterinary Research Tower to present a petition, took place last year.

“I’ve never been able to speak with him [Nathanielsz] personally,” Slate said. “Via e-mail, he’s told us … he’s not in charge of [who is allowed into] his lab.”

“The very fact they won’t let us in makes these experiments very suspicious,” Ohrstrom said.

“I would like to see how these animals are treated. Are they kept in darkness or light, together or apart? … These procedures seem like they would be very painful,” Ohrstrom said.

CCAD members on Ho Plaza this weekend, whether in cages or not, agreed that they hoped their demonstration would raise student awareness about animal experiments conducted at the University. “I hope this will encourage people to question more what happens [in research labs],” Whittet said.

“You picked a nice weekend for it,” a passer-by on Ho Plaza said.

Archived article by Maggie Frank