Fearing Clashes, WJH Ups Security

April is the cruelest month—at least for researchers who run experiments with animals.

The warmer weather of spring has these Harvard researchers sweating over the tactics of animal rights activists who believe their experimental practices are unethical.

“The animal protests occur each year, but there has been rumor that they may be more violent this year,” Harvard College Professor Marc D. Hauser, director of the Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Lab in William James Hall, writes in an e-mail. “Some groups have broken into [other] labs and released animals. This doesn’t give them freedom, as they soon die.”

But Building Manager William J. Santoro says that there have not been any attacks, or even threats, made against William James Hall—and he wants to keep it that way.

“This is the time of the year that they traditionally come around, so we take extra precautions,” he says. “It’s just that they come around and they tend to attract groups that may be intent on doing something besides peaceful.”

This month, in an effort to curb the threat of activist groups, a guard now patrols the premises 24 hours a day, entrance is restricted to key card access on Saturdays, and research assistants are urging lab workers to back up records and store data in new locations.

How exactly a threat to the building could present itself, Hauser isn’t sure.

“We have no idea what to expect,” he writes.

THE FIGHT FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS

Baking in the hot sun, Helen M. Rayshick, along with about 50 others, stood opposite Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square on April 16—less than a mile from the towering William James Hall—to protest animal experimentation in Harvard labs.

Members of the non-profit Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition (MARC) took to the streets, challenging Square pedestrians to join the crusade against alleged animal cruelty. Pictures showing primates strapped to a bevy of machinery and bleeding from the head adorned protestors’ signs, which read, “You pay for this” and “Her pain, their gain.”

Rayshick, who is a co-founder of MARC, says the group targeted Harvard in order to distribute literature and recruit budding activists.

“Harvard is second in the nation in receiving federal funding for animal experiments,” Rayshick writes in an e-mail. “Our goal was to make public the horrific treatment of lab animals. If people did to their pets what researchers do to lab animals, they would be prosecuted for animal cruelty.”

Rayschick claims animal cruelty is prevalent at Harvard-based labs, alleging that the College received over $294 million of federal funding in 2003 to engage in animal research.

She says her information on lab practices comes from “researchers’ own published articles and public documents.”

“The results are that animals are restrained by clamping their heads for up to 23 hours a day,” she writes. “They are denied food and water. They have implants surgically implanted in their brains and eyes. They are forcibly addicted to drugs and alcohol and given fatal diseases. Animals have had their eyes sewn shut, their heads smashed in, and been burned, blinded, maimed, and starved.”