A judge has granted representatives at the University of Washington the right to keep their names confidential while participating in animal research.
The injunction was granted after a filing by the committee members. They say that they have been targeted by animal rights activists, who are protesting the university’s use of animal subjects in research.
The activists have spent more than a year attempting to access the name of committee members, saying that the research is illegal. The protests have spread beyond the university campus, with picketers showing up at members’ homes.
The participants, who filed the lawsuit anonymously, are part of the University of Washington Animal Care and Use Committee. While they are permitted to use animal testing, they are legally bound to operate under the Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Care and Use Committee or IACUC exists to monitor the use of animals in the university’s research. This includes ensuring that the use is warranted and that all protocols are observed.
The IACUC includes 70 members, including veterinarians, research scientists, medical professionals, and others. By law, non-scientists such as ethicists or members of the clergy must be included.
Activists from PETA say that the IACUC has brought its actions under suspicion because it does not have an ethicist among its members. They also say that there is no member on staff that fits the requirements of being unaffiliated with the university or animal research entities.
These claims were first brought up by Lisa Jones-Engel. Jones-Engel served on the IACUC between 2017 and 2019 and now works as a senior science advisor at PETA.
Jones-Engel says that the lack of such persons on the IACUC staff causes a conflict of interest, leading to unjustified animal research that could violate the Animal Welfare Act.
She petitioned for the publication of the names, which the university originally agreed to. But the members of the IACUC anonymously filed a restraining order, citing harassment and intimidation both on campus and at their homes.
The intimidation incidents, they say, include leaving threatening voicemails and drawing comparisons to Nazi experimentation during the Second World War.
The judge’s decision has halted the publication of names, though this may be rescinded in a higher court as time goes on.