PETA protests at Yale dur­ing meet­ing of trustees

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Este­ban L. Her­nan­dez

NEW HAVEN — Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals sup­port­ers on Satur­day protested ex­per­i­ments on house spar­rows by a Yale Uni­ver­sity post­doc­toral stu­dent, hold­ing signs out­side Wood­bridge Hall while the uni­ver­sity’s board of trustees met in­side.

The demon­stra­tors de­cried ex­per­i­ments by Chris­tine Lat­tin, whose stud­ies on the stress re­sponse of spar­rows in­clude adding crude oil to bird feed and cre­at­ing small wounds on the birds.

PETA has known of Lat­tin’s re­search since she first started ex­per­i­ment­ing at Tufts Uni­ver­sity. The or­ga­ni­za­tion in May called for a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Mas­sachusetts.

Ash­ley Byrne is an as­so­ciate di­rec­tor for cam­paigns at PETA and one of the pri­mary or­ga­niz­ers of Satur­day morn­ing’s protest, which in­cluded at least 13 par­tic­i­pants. PETA also held a rally against Lat­tin’s re­search in Au­gust, the same month it re­leased a re­port say­ing Yale had the fourth­worst record of mis­treat­ment of rats and mice used in re­search.

“She’s tor­ment­ing th­ese birds in her lab and do­ing so for no rea­son,” Byrne said. “The re­sults don’t ben­e­fit hu­man be­ings. They don’t ben­e­fit other birds. They’re not ap­pli­ca­ble to hu­man be­ings or other an­i­mals.”

Yale Vice Pres­i­dent for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Eileen O’Con­nor briefly met with protesters Satur­day af­ter step­ping out of Wood­bridge Hall. She no­ti­fied them the trustees’ meet­ing had no set end time, since demon­stra­tors sought to protest while trustees ex­ited the build­ing. O’Con­nor said the uni­ver­sity stands by its pre­vi­ous state­ment on the mat­ter, which in­di­cates the uni­ver­sity’s lab­o­ra­to­ries com­ply with fed­eral reg­u­la­tions and in­de­pen­dent ac­cred­i­ta­tion stan­dards.

In an email Satur­day, the uni­ver­sity said Yale “takes se­ri­ously its re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ap­pro­pri­ate care of an­i­mals; our lab­o­ra­to­ries com­ply with or ex­ceed all fed­eral reg­u­la­tions and in­de­pen­dent ac­cred­i­ta­tion stan­dards. As we con­tinue to ad­vance sci­en­tific knowl­edge and mod­ern medicine, pro­vid­ing hope for mil­lions of pa­tients and their fam­i­lies, Yale sci­en­tists will sus­tain their com­mit­ment to the ap­pro­pri­ate use of an­i­mals in re­search. Our fac­ulty mem­bers em­ploy an­i­mals only when there are no al­ter­na­tive mod­els for ad­vanc­ing their re­search.”

“Dr. Lat­tin’s re­search rep­re­sents a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to a grow­ing body of knowl­edge that will help ad­vance, among other things, vet­eri­nary medicine, an­i­mal con­ser­va­tion and an­i­mal model de­vel­op­ment,” the uni­ver­sity said. “Those in­di­vid­u­als who have re­spon­si­bil­ity for the over­sight of an­i­mal care at the Uni­ver­sity have found that all of her re­search ac­tiv­i­ties were ap­proved and there was no ev­i­dence of non-com­pli­ance or in­ap­pro­pri­ate care.”

As to the med­i­cal value of the re­search, the state­ment said “Vir­tu­ally all med­i­cal ad­vances of the last cen­tury would have been im­pos­si­ble with­out an­i­mal re­search.”

Ac­cord­ing to her web­site, Lat­tin’s re­search fo­cuses on “un­der­stand­ing how dif­fer­ent neu­ro­trans­mit­ters and hor­mones help an­i­mals suc­cess­fully choose mates, raise young, es­cape from preda­tors, and sur­vive harsh win­ters and other chal­leng­ing con­di­tions.”

In an emailed re­sponse to the Reg­is­ter, Lat­tin said the sit­u­a­tion with PETA has been a “source of a lot of frus­tra­tion.”

“I care deeply about an­i­mal wel­fare — I ac­tu­ally worked at a wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter for sev­eral months be­fore start­ing grad­u­ate school,” Lat­tin said in the email. “Un­der­stand­ing more about how stress af­fects wild an­i­mals may al­low us to save some species that might oth­er­wise go ex­tinct.”

Lat­tin said PETA “con­sis­tently mis­rep­re­sents” her work, adding the or­ga­ni­za­tion has made “mis­state­ments” about her re­search. She dis­cred­ited claims from PETA sug­gest­ing her re­search is not rel­e­vant for hu­mans or other an­i­mals.

“That claim shows a real mis­un­der­stand­ing of how bi­ol­ogy works — the hor­monal and brain sys­tems that un­der­lie stress are very sim­i­lar across dif­fer­ent groups of an­i­mals,” Lat­tin said. “I don’t know why PETA has de­cided to tar­get me in par­tic­u­lar, ex­cept that Yale is a high-pro­file in­sti­tu­tion, and per­haps the fact that I’m an early ca­reer re­searcher (a post­doc) has made me a more ap­pe­tiz­ing tar­get for ac­tivists.”

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