Anti-arctic drilling protesters aren't the only ones locking themselves to large pieces of equipment in Washington these days.
As Heidi mentioned in the Morning News, two activists are on top of a large excavator at the University of Washington, protesting the construction of a new animal research lab.
Amanda Schemekes, a law student at Seattle University and member of the No New Animal Lab campaign, says activist Oliver McCaughran has been on lockdown at the construction site (on the corner of NE Pacific St and 15th Ave) for over six hours, and has effectively stopped work for the day. Another activist, who has declined to be identified, is up there with McCaughran in a support role.
The new animal lab represents a lot of potential money. According to the Seattle Times, the UW already brings in $500 million a year—one-third of its research budget—for studies involving primates, pigs, dogs, and other animals. The budget for the new and expanded research facility has been reported at $123 million.
"It won't be easy to try and stop the university from building the lab," said Schemekes, who first got involved in animal-lab protests when she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington. "There's a lot of money at stake."
There are eight National Primate Research Centers in the US, including the University of Washington's—but Harvard is in the process of closing its New England National Primate Research Center for "strategic reasons." (When the decision was first announced in 2013, Harvard said a "tough economic climate" in research funding was the reason for the shutdown, but it had also been fined and warned by the USDA over a handful of monkey deaths.)
As of 2014, the University of Washington had 795 non-human primates in its facilities, 252 pigs, 279 rabbits, 18 dogs, 12 cats, and hundreds of other animals. The USDA maintains a searchable database with annual reports that include the animal research facilities it inspects—in 2014, the agency rebuked the UW over the deaths of three infants after they were attacked by older primates.
In April, a King County Superior Court judge found that the UW's board of regents violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act 24 times over the past few years with private "dinner meetings" where university business was discussed—including the regents' decision to approve the new animal research facility. (Regents meetings have traditionally been a target for students protesting everything from tuition costs to the university's investments in problematic interests, from oil companies to industries in apartheid-era South Africa.)
That lawsuit was initiated by Schemekes and the affiliated group Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing. "We never expected the lawsuit to stop the lab itself," she said. "Lawsuits themselves don't normally have that power, but it’s a part of the campaign. There's a lot of secrecy around it. They're literally building the lab underground."
No matter how today's protest ends, members of NNAL say there will be more in the future.