A grass-roots animal-rights group hopes to stop construction on an animal lab at the UW, and to discourage the construction industry from bidding on those types of projects here and elsewhere.
On Friday, an animal-rights group plans to march through the University of Washington, the latest in a series of protests against the UW’s new animal research lab which is under construction on the southwest side of campus.
One goal is to get the contractor, Skanska USA, to pull out of the project. But the group’s ultimate objective is to make a national impact, getting others to think twice about building such labs.
“If we stop this lab from being built, the whole industry’s going to pay a lot of attention,” said Amanda Schemkes, co-organizer of No New Animal Lab.
The group expects hundreds of protesters to show up at the march on Red Square at 2 p.m. Friday. The event is planned to coincide with, and disrupt, Dawg Daze — an annual celebration of the start of the academic year and a welcoming event for freshmen.
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And it’s just the first of what No New Animal Lab has planned for this school year.
“We’re going to have mobilizations like this, and other tactics, as frequently as we possibly can,” said Justin Kay, co-organizer of the group. “From the beginning, we have set a course to fight this, tooth and nail, every step of the way.”
The UW is building a new animal research laboratory below ground next to Foege Hall and just west of the UW Medical Center hospital complex. It’s needed, UW officials say, because research animals are being kept in aging, outdated labs at a number of different locations across campus. The university has been cited in the past for deficiencies by regulatory agencies that inspect such facilities.
The new building will also allow the UW to increase the number of animals it uses in experiments. UW officials say there’s no substitute for using live animals in research, and that the experiments have helped researchers uncover cures and develop new drugs.
Ground was broken on the project earlier this year, and it’s scheduled to be completed on time, in April 2017, said UW spokesman Norm Arkans.
Kay said he and Schemkes took a 20-city tour throughout the U.S. this summer and fall, making presentations, networking with smaller animal-rights groups, and showing them how to do campaigns in their own area.
The protests in Seattle have been “a great vehicle” for mobilizing the animal-rights campaign, Kay said.
He said the No New Animal Lab march on the UW campus in April, which drew about 500 people, was “arguably the biggest animal rights demonstration in the U.S. in the last 10 years.”
Skanska officials released a brief statement Thursday in response to the planned march. “Construction is on schedule,” the statement read. “Many construction projects face opposition and Skanska supports the right of any group to speak its views in a lawful manner.”
The company, which is based in Sweden and has its national headquarters in New York City, is one of the largest construction companies in the world and has done numerous projects in the Seattle area, including construction of the Highway 99 northbound blacktop and bridge in Sodo.
Skanska officials went to King County Superior Court in April and won protection orders that stopped some members of the animal-rights group from protesting on the sidewalks in front of Skanska executives’ homes in Seattle.
Schemkes, one of the protesters barred from demonstrating, said she is appealing the order and believes it violates her rights to free speech.
Although UW officials have also been targeted for protests at their homes, none have filed for protection orders.
Last year, No New Animal Lab went to court over the UW’s practice of holding Board of Regents dinners at the university president’s home, and a judge agreed that the UW had violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act on 24 separate occasions. Since that time, the UW Regents have shifted their dinner meetings to an on-campus location or canceled them.
In June, No New Animal Lab members shut down construction on the animal lab for a day when two protesters chained themselves to an excavator working on the site. Several people were arrested for criminal sabotage.
The animal-rights group has also made a series of public-records requests to try to get a more complete picture of the work being done at the UW. They’ve focused on the breeding colonies of macaque monkeys the UW uses in its primate research. The documents have reinforced their view that “labs just inherently involve animal torture,” Schemkes said.
“We expect this to be a long campaign,” she said.