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A Monkey Wrench

Animal-rights activists say CU researchers are worming out of a debate.

Banks says there's no point in going up against Cerniglia's champion. "I've been in this business for fifteen years," he says, "and my experience is that folks like Ms. Cerniglia have a mindset and an agenda that you can't change. We'll never get through to her. End of discussion. And as far as her proposed debate is concerned, in my experience, I've found debates to be non-productive. They turn into a 'he said, she said' type of thing. Frankly, I don't see any sense in arguing facts. Ms. Cerniglia can say that the sun doesn't come up in the east all she wants, but the fact is that it does. In this case, the facts are that animal research is a valuable scientific tool which helps people. The bottom line is that I don't have the time to debate this."

Regardless of Banks's unwillingness to debate, Cerniglia says she'll continue to try to expose what she feels is unnecessary experimentation. Adding to her sense of urgency is a proposed bill in the Colorado House of Representatives that would make it difficult to get information regarding Laudenslager's experiments. HB-1228 aims to limit access to an animal's veterinary records--specifically the records of animals owned by state institutions--unless authorized by the animal's owner.

According to one of the bill's sponsors, Representative Bob Bacon (D-Fort Collins), the legislation was prompted by requests from the Colorado State University veterinarian's hospital and is meant to protect the medical records of clients who are dealing with bloodlines and breeding--specifically horse breeders. Bacon says it's a confidentiality agreement "not between a doctor and a patient but, in this case, between the doctor and the horse." When asked whether the legislation would restrict animal-rights activists from getting information about, for example, the monkey lab at CU, Bacon said that hadn't crossed his mind. The House gave preliminary approval to the bill last week, despite the arguments of animal-rights activists and efforts by other legislators to narrow its scope.

Banks says CU had no part in lobbying for the bill and that he'd never heard of the proposed legislation prior to last week. But Cerniglia insists it will help protect CU's animal experiments, because groups like hers won't be able to keep track of what researchers are doing. "It's a crafty little bill," she says. "It looks innocent enough, but there's another agenda going on here."

Cerniglia's agenda remains empty when it comes to scheduling a public debate. Greek doesn't expect that to change anytime soon. "I've got a standing challenge to Laudenslager and Banks, and I can be on the next plane out to Denver if they want to debate. Needless to say, I'm not packing my bags. I'm sitting here in Kansas in my socks."

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