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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  August 2006, Week 3

ARCHIVES August 2006, Week 3

Subject:

Nohuman primates vivisection videotapes secretly trashed by U-WI to avoid public release

From:

AR Hogan <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

AR Hogan <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 16 Aug 2006 18:02:26 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (113 lines)

PRIMATE TAPES GET TRASHED

Primate tapes get trashed
Accident Cited in Decision to Destroy Coveted Research
Records

The Isthmus (UW-Madison, Bill Lueders, August 11,
2006, page 8.

[Scanned from paper edition]

The UW-Madison has destroyed videotapes of primate
experiments long sought by animal rights activists,
saying the tapes were damaged in an accident early
last year. But these records were destroyed more than
a year after that accident, and just two months after
the university rejected a request for them on
unrelated policy grounds.

A record provided by the UW shows that 60 boxes of
videotapes were shredded on Feb. 13, 2006. Among them
were tapes produced by UW researchers including Ruth
Benca and Ned Kalin and described in a paper published
in the journal Brain Research in 2000. The paper says
rhesus monkeys were videotaped 
while restrained in an experiment regarding the
effects of brain lesions on sleep patterns.

Activists have made several attempts to obtain these
tapes, dating back to 2002. In April 2005, Madison
resident Jeremy Beckham requested them under
the state's open records law. When the UW did not
release the tapes or provide a definitive response,
attorney Leslie Hamilton of Animal Law
Associates of Wisconsin asked the state Justice
Department to prosecute; the office declined, saying
it represented the UW on other legal matters.
Shortly thereafter, in a letter dated Dec. 13, 2005,
senior UW legal counsel John Dowling formally denied
Beckham's request.

Dowling said the videotapes did not constitute a
record but were rather "primary data from the ongoing
investigations of university researchers." He
also said "the public interest in nondisclosure
outweighs the interest in disclosure" because of the
tapes' value as primary data.

"It is extremely important to that research that the
data remain under the control of the researchers, or
otherwise it would be susceptible to misappropriation
and/or misinterpretation," Dowling wrote. No mention 
is made of any damage to these tapes.

On May 15, 2006, Isthmus made a fresh request for
these tapes, with an eye to perhaps testing the law
regarding their (non)availability. In mid-June,
Dowling told the paper that, besides the public-policy
concerns, there was some question as to whether the
tapes still existed: "They may have 
been damaged in a plumbing accident."

This was confirmed in a letter from Dowling dated July
6, 2006: "The videotapes and photographs in question
were damaged, along with other data,
when a steam valve broke on 1/18/05 releasing water
and steam into the storage area. After the required
time to keep these data had elapsed, they
were destroyed."

Isthmus followed up with a request for records
regarding the steam-valve accident. The UW, in
response, has released several documents, including a
statement from an unnamed primate lab building manager
dated July 13,2005, six months after the purported
accident. It says large amounts of
high-pressure steam were released into a storage area,
causing "considerable damage." (For referenced
records, see Document Feed at TheDailyPage.com.)

But the UW provided no information as to what was
damaged, or how badly. "I don't know," says Dowling,
when asked if the damage made it impossible to
view the tapes. He also doesn't know what his own
letter means in saying the tapes were destroyed "after
the required time." He assumes this language, provided
by others, refers to some records-retention schedule.

Beckham, in his April 2005 request, noted that the
open records law prohibits the destruction of a
requested record until at least 60 days 
after access is denied. The tapes were shredded 62
days after Dowling's denial.



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