Protestors march against animal testing on campus

UCLA alumna Stephanie Terronez protests animal testing in front of the MacDonald Medical Research Laboratory, in the UCLA Medical Center, Thursday.

During demonstrations Thursday morning in front of UCLA Medical Center laboratories and buildings, about 15 animal rights protestors asked, "Hey UCLA, what do you say? How many animals did you kill today?"

The demonstration was organized by University Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who argue UCLA is wasting taxpayers' dollars on the inhumane and unethical treatment of animals used in laboratory experiments.

"The university spends millions of dollars a year on redundant health research," said Peter Ryan, a third-year civil and environmental engineering student, and one of the organizers of the event. Ryan said money is being wasted because research on animals has not created any medical advances and in some cases has even delayed progress.

A statement from the UCLA media relations office claimed the contrary, maintaining that medical research on animals at UCLA is effective and important.

"UCLA's world-class medical research program saves lives and improves the quality of life for millions of people, and animal research has played an essential role in many of our most significant medical discoveries," the statement read. "Research involving laboratory animals has laid the groundwork for numerous lifesaving procedures and medicines, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, open-heart surgery and the polio vaccine," the statement continued.

Ryan said he and two other students founded USETA this fall out of a concern for how animals were treated in the laboratories.

"Every year, our tax dollars fund experiments that burn, blind, poison, scald, electrocute, maim, paralyze, traumatize, starve, inject with drugs, infect with disease and otherwise torture animals," read one of the fliers the group was passing out.

Amanda Banks, president of the California Biomedical Research Association, said researchers must pass inspection from a number of institutions such as the National Institute of Health.

In order to facilitate any research on animals, they "must prove that (they've) used all the alternative methods available and that the research is needed and productive," Banks said.

"The UC system is one of the cleanest, and most regulated, with state and local oversight, research facilities," she said.

There were only a handful of protestors at the demonstration, and police, security and university administration easily outnumbered them and followed the group as they chanted in front of different buildings.

Some police officers stopped a truck as they drove into the medical center, and a pizza delivery man was stopped before he entered one of the buildings where the protestors were demonstrating. In front of the MacDonald Medical Research Laboratory, second-year biochemistry student David Nguyen, who was not part of the event, couldn't enter the building where he worked because seven police officers on bicycles had blocked the entrance as protestors chanted outside it.

"They said they were going to go to the labs," said Nancy Greenstein, director of police community services. "You want to err on the side of caution."

Greenstein said no one was arrested during the demonstration and the group eventually disbanded.

Berky Nelson, director of student programming, said the amount of security had to do with the aggressive nature of previous protests with groups like USETA.

Nelson said he was worried about the demonstrators disrupting research, causing vandalism and intimidating faculty, and that he just wanted to "make certain everyone's rights are protected."