Thursday, August 24, 2006

Group Seeks to Build One-of-a-Kind Museum Protesting Research on Primates at University of Wisconsin - Madison and In General

This property sits in between the National Primate Research Center and the Harry Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory and so would be an amazing statement and educational tool. Yet, of course, there are now attempts to block the purchase, even to the point of breech of contract.

Essentially, this is the idea of Rick Bogle, founder of the Primate Freedom Project. He originally agreed to a contract with the owner last year to purchase the property for $675,000. It would be used to build a museum protesting research on monkeys featuring graphic depiction of the horrors of the work. This would be the first museum of its kind in the country.

The property contains sheds and warehouses and is between the National Primate Research Center and the Harry Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory.

We’ll see if the courts agree that there was indeed a breech of contract. Too bad the land owner is now on the side of unnecessary cruelty.


Animal rights activists fight to build museum next to UW labs

By Ryan J. Foley
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Plans to build a museum protesting primate research on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus were blocked when a business owner backed out of a contract to sell a key piece of property, an activist testified Wednesday.

But an attorney for the business owner countered that allowing the Primate Freedom Project to build the exhibit between two UW-Madison primate labs would stand in the way of a planned UW expansion and threaten the security of researchers.

"It is not in the public interest that this group acquire ownership of the property," attorney Allen Arntsen said.

The arguments came Wednesday in a lawsuit involving the animal rights' group, the university and Roger Charly, who owns property containing sheds and warehouses sandwiched between the National Primate Research Center and the Harry Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory.

Rick Bogle, founder of the Primate Freedom Project, testified his group reached a contract with Charly last year to purchase the property for $675,000 to build a museum protesting what he considers immoral research on monkeys. The space, featuring graphic depiction of the alleged horrors of the work, would be the first of its kind in the country.

Bogle alleges Charly backed out of the contract under pressure after a nonprofit connected to the university, concerned about the museum plans, offered to buy the property for $1 million.

Charly has said the deal was not binding and he reconsidered after hearing concerns that activists would use the space to intimidate and possibly attack researchers, a claim they dispute.

Ownership of the property is in limbo until the outcome of Bogle's lawsuit, which seeks to force Charly to follow through with the sale rather than selling the property to UW-Madison. Dane County Judge Sarah O'Brien was not expected to issue a ruling for at least one month.

"We stand ready with the money and we'd like to buy the property ... to display what's going on at primate labs in the United States," Bogle testified.

The dispute is one of many between animal rights activists and UW-Madison, a top research university that houses one of eight federally supported primate labs. Scientists defend the use of monkeys to search for cures to human ailments such as AIDS and Parkinson's disease. Activists contend that monkeys are too similar to human beings for experimentation.

Bogle, a teacher-turned-activist, said he got the idea for the museum when he was sitting in front of the labs protesting in summer 2004. He said he moved to Madison months later to follow through with the purchase after Charly seemed agreeable to the deal.

Charly later signed an agreement selling the land to animal rights activist Richard McClellan, who had agreed to fund the purchase and be paid back later out of private donations, Bogle testified.

The property is remarkable because it is so close to two primate labs - which are usually shielded from the public - and has historical significance because former UW researcher Harry Harlow was a pioneer in the field.

"This is like George Washington's house if you're interested in American history," he said. "There's no piece of property like it in the United States."

Charly's lawyer, Arntsen, said the agreement with McClellan was not binding and the public would be better served with the sale to the university's real estate development arm.

Under cross-examination from Arntsen, Bogle acknowledged he sent threatening e-mails to researchers, had demonstrated at their homes and once said he dreamed of attacking a UW lab with a sledgehammer.

Alan Fish, UW-Madison's associate vice chancellor, testified the university made the $1 million offer for the property as part of a future plan to expand the research labs. He said expanding without the property would add $3 million to $5 million in construction costs to build around the space.

"We would literally be building a doughnut and not owning the hole," Fish said.

Having activists next door would also increase the cost of securing the labs by requiring additional surveillance cameras and more secure doors, windows and walls, Fish said.

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