November 28, 2006

"A 'quintessential Madison case' of animal rights vs. the university."

A local contracts case with a nice free speech dimension:
Dane County judge said Monday that the law is on the side of animal-rights activists who want to buy buildings next to the UW-Madison's primate labs and open a museum highlighting the cruelty they say happens at the labs.

Budget Bicycle owner Roger Charly, who owns the property, cannot back out of an agreement he made to sell it to Dr. Richard McLellan, a retired California physician who is bankrolling the $675,000 purchase for the National Primate Research Center Exhibition Hall, Dane County Circuit Judge Sarah O'Brien ruled.

The buildings are directly between the Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, a location coveted by animal-rights activists for its proximity to the labs.

In July 2005, Charly tried to back out of an agreement he made with McLellan and animal- rights activist Rick Bogle about eight months earlier and instead sell the property to UW-Madison for $1 million. Charly previously turned down offers from UW-Madison as inadequate.
Charly argued -- unsuccessfully -- that it was not a contract because there was no consideration.
...O'Brien pointed out, the university has condemnation powers and could seek to take the property for the public good. Bogle said he is worried about that possibility.

"If they do that now, it will be clear that they are trying to stifle debate," Bogle said.

But primate center director Joe Kemnitz said he is concerned about the effect the museum would have on his staff.

"If, in fact, they were able to do what they plan to do, to open the museum to attract other activists, that could be disruptive to our operation," Kemnitz said. "It would have a negative impact on the well-being of our staff."
Don't you think it would violate Bogle's free speech rights to use eminent domain to take the property now? (There's no sign that the university plans to do this, it should be noted.)


Anonymous said...

The University should open a research facility in China and move all the work and all the jobs (tenured and non-tenured) there. (It's what other animal research entities are doing.)

Might even save money and keep tuition costs down.

Announce the plans. Also announce how many layoffs there'll be. Animals are far more important than people, and it's no problem if 50 or 100 Americans lose their jobs and scientific leadership in the field
goes to China.

KCFleming said...

George is right.

Since four legs good, two legs bad, it's best to call the battle lost and move to India and China, where animal testing can go on unimpeded by the rigorous animal care standards of the US. So in chasing animal research away, the activists will have worsened the daily lives of research animals.


MDIJim said...

This is a no-brainer even for a non-lawyer like me. Freedom of speech should prevail even for whackos. Wisconsinites (is that how you call yourselves?) should be worried that their state university has the power to take private property for the "public good". Do state universities elsewhere have such power? Once the academic crazies discover that they have such power, it is time to be afraid.

KCFleming said...

(1) Will the activists similarly build a museum,say, next to a local mosque, in memory of 9/11?

Probably not. Free speech is one thing. Crazy is another.

(2) Will the National Primate Research Center Exhibition Hall have just a small kiosk maybe in memory of the the 1970 bombing of the University of Wisconsin's Army Math Research Center in which four young men, known as the New Years Gang exploded a device that caused six million dollars in damages and took the life of Robert Fassnacht, a physics post doc student. You know, to serve as a warning against excesses by activists.

Probably not. That might get in the way of promoting excesses by activists.

drew said...

Having been involved in a situation as a "target" of SHAC (Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty), I can attest to a few of my own personal observations:

1. the animal-rights people are obsessively one-dimensional; there is nothing that they value at all other than their own goals;

2. they don't seem to care one iota about any "collateral damage" done to other non-participants in their "disputes", or to their own cause as a result of their actions;

3. their funding would appear (at times) to be limitless -- they don't seem to care that things cost money, or that they might be held liable for the damages they do; and

4. they flat-out don't care what you or anyone else thinks about their position -- from their perspective, they're right, and there's no other position to hold. If anyone tries to stop their abuses of the rights of otherwise third parties, they disclaim any responsibility, and insist that their actions (however coordinated they might seem) are the actions of various independent individuals, all of whom merely coalesce around a course of action. Thus, they wish to "appear" to be acting as a group/movement, but to be treated as a group of perhaps over-passionate individuals.

As far as the UW matter is concerned, one might consider this -- they're presumably spending a chunk of change to become either an eyesore or a "statement". If people unaffiliated with their "movement" don't actually GO to their museum, they will have accomplished little. Perhaps the University should create a counter-museum, extolling the activities that have been accomplished, and the value (if any exists) in the actions of the labs and their employees.

Every once in a while, the harsh light of publicity and common sense can highlight the fallacy of those who rely on passion as their sword.

Hey said...

They are a credible threat of violence to the Primate lab and should be prevented from buying the building. Ideally they should also be shipped to Gitmo, but at the very least they should be under permanent police surveillance. Leftist traitors must be dealt with NOW, before they kill more people. Deal with the Animal Rights and Environmentalists like the violent extremists that they are.

Steven said...

There's a free speech case for letting a facility run by Palestinian activists to go up between a synagogue and a Jewish cultural center, too.

Given the historically-documented violence and terrorism by animal-rights "protestors", I have absolutely no problem with an intervention on the order of forcing relocation to a not-directly-between place, as a public safety measure.

Anonymous said...

I think people, including some in this thread, intentionally mischaracterize the position of animal rights activists. I've seen many activists who are frustrated at their fellow humans, but even the most "militant" animal rights activist wouldn't advocate animal interests above human interests.

Have your, for example, heard anyone seriously argue that we should test on humans without their consent to cure animal diseases? That we should raise people to kill and feed to hungry animals?

It's like saying that pro life activists think fetuses are more important than humans. No they don't, they just felt fetuses are important too. The arguments they make might frustrate you, but debate their arguments, not the farcical ideas of imaginary straw men.

Anon Y. Mous said...

Whether the owners plan on putting up a museum that promotes or condemns animal research should be irrelevant to the ability of UWM to get the property under eminent domain. The content of their speech shouldn't be at issue, and if it is, then UWM is abusing its power.

Unknown said...

Funny how the "conservatives" on this thread don't give a damn about property rights when it comes to stifling speech coming from the left.


Revenant said...

I've seen many activists who are frustrated at their fellow humans, but even the most "militant" animal rights activist wouldn't advocate animal interests above human interests

That's obviously a lie, since many animal rights activists oppose medical testing on animals. That undeniably amounts to "placing animal interests above human interests".

Revenant said...

Funny how the "conservatives" on this thread don't give a damn about property rights when it comes to stifling speech coming from the left

Um, exactly one conservative -- Steven -- did that. "Hey" was pretty obviously just some leftie trying, unsuccessfully, to be funny (the key phrase to watch for is "shipped to Gitmo" -- something leftists are convinced right-wingers are obsessed with but none actually are).

And Steven's stated motivation was concerned over terrorism, not desire to suppress speech. Given the long history of ties between animal rights groups and terrorist groups that's not entirely unreasonable, though in my opinion the threat posed is minimal -- the standard M.O. for such groups doesn't involve buying property near their intended victims.