All posts by Jeremy Beckham

UARC CELEBRATES DECISION STRIKING DOWN UTAH’S ‘AG-GAG’ LAW AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) is celebrating today after the United States Federal Court for the District of Utah declared Utah’s “ag-gag” law unconstitutional. Utah’s ag-gag law made it a crime punishable by imprisonment to photograph or record abuse of animals on factory farms. In his decision, Judge Robert J. Shelby stated that this law was a clear violation of our First Amendment right to gather information and speak out on matters of significant public interest.

“Four years ago, I stood outside a slaughterhouse in Draper and filmed a sick cow as she was being pushed with a front-end loader, as though she were nothing but a piece of garbage,” said UARC Director and plaintiff in the case, Amy Meyer. “I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal’s abusers. It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it’s for food. Today’s court ruling is a vindication for anyone who stands up for what’s right and tells the truth.”

Judge Shelby noted in his decision that Utah and other states only started passing these laws after animal advocacy organizations filmed horrific abuse at some of the nation’s largest factory farms. One investigation showed sick cows being abused and slaughtered, which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, including thousands of pounds of beef that was being served in Utah public schools.

UARC encourages Utah state legislators to start working to stop the unconscionable abuses and public health crises, rather than crafting unconstitutional laws in a pathetic attempt to shield one particular industry from legitimate public criticism.

UARC and the animals are indebted to the wonderful attorneys who litigated this case on behalf of the plaintiffs, including UARC Director Amy Meyer. These attorneys include Matthew Strugar, Justin Marceau & Alan Chen of the University of Denver, Stewart Gollan of the Pioneer Justice Center, and Matthew Liebman of Animal Legal Defense Fund.

FOR FURTHER COMMENT, CONTACT AMY MEYER: 385-275-8341

2017 Utah Legislative Session – UARC Official Position Statements

S.B. 56 – Animal Shelter Amendments – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Knudson, would require animal shelters in the state of Utah to euthanize animals only by means of an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital. S.B. 56 also would institute common sense standards requiring shelters to have a euthanasia training program in place.

UARC stands in agreement with virtually every other animal protection organization and veterinary association that euthanasia by injection is the most humane and cost-effective method of euthanasia. Seven shelters in Utah still kill at least some animals via the use of a carbon monoxide gas chambers. At two shelters, this cruel method is the exclusive means of killing animals. That is unacceptable.

Animals placed in a gas chamber can take as long as 45 minutes to die as they bark, meow, or howl in fear as the chamber fills with gas and they slowly suffocate. There have even been instances when animals have survived this terrifying process and must be gassed again. For these reasons, UARC even rejects the use of the term “euthanasia” in association with this barbaric practice. We urge Utah legislators to support S.B 56.

S.B. 136 – Animal Shelter Revisions – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 136, sponsored by Senator Davis, would strengthen Utah’s cruelty to animals statute by ensuring that animals who are left at the end of a chain have access to minimal shelter during times of inclement weather. The bill also establishes common sense standards as to what constitutes “shelter,” making clear that a crawl space under a porch or the area under a motor vehicle are insufficient.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund releases regular rankings of each state’s animal protection laws. In its most recent assessment, Utah is ranked 47th. This abysmal ranking would be greatly improved if we strengthened our state cruelty-to-animals law, and passing S.B. 136 would go a long way towards meeting that laudable goal.

S.B. 179 – Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 179 would designate a week in April as “Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week.” While this bill is largely symbolic, it is important to acknowledge that animal control officers have an incredibly difficult job and must juggle a number of responsibilities, including protecting the public from aggressive animals and enforcing humane laws. Many animal control agencies also are tasked with operating an animal shelter, a difficult and often thankless task. UARC regularly reaches out to animal control agencies when we are notified of a report of animal cruelty, and these officers are on the front lines responding to these public complaints. UARC thanks them for their assistance, and agrees that animal control officers deserve a great deal of respect and commendation.

H.B. 298 – Free Expression Regulation by Local Government – SUPPORT

House Bill 298, sponsored by Rep. Thurston, would require local municipalities to ensure any ordinances are consistent with established First Amendment case law, which protects the right to peaceably assemble and demonstrate.  UARC is taking a position on this bill because our organization frequently exercises our First Amendment rights to protest and demonstrate. In fact, over the years, UARC has filed a number of lawsuits in federal court against political subdivisions in Utah to ensure our organization’s rights are respected.

In one sense, H.B. 298 is duplicative, because neither state law nor local ordinance can supersede federal constitutional law, which already protects this right. However, UARC supports H.B. 298 because it may help put local governments on notice, thereby preventing an unneeded legal dispute from arising in the first place. Additionally, H.B. 298 may also help protect the First Amendment rights of individuals who may not have access to legal representation and the courts.

H.B. 54 – Campus Free Speech Amendments – SUPPORT

House Bill 54, sponsored by Rep. Coleman, clearly defines all outdoor gathering areas on college campuses to be “traditional public forums” for First Amendment purposes. UARC frequently protests animal research and circuses on college campuses, and we support this bill to ensure our right to continue these demonstrations is protected.

UARC has no official position on any other pending bill in the 2017 session.

A Monkey Tale

News story highlighting animal testing mysteriously disappears


Frik, a monkey that underwent lab testing at U of U in 2009. This is not the monkey that was euthanized.
Frik, a monkey that underwent lab testing at U of U in 2009. This is not the monkey that was euthanized.

The story was made for television: A University of Utah research laboratory is performing tests on monkeys. A dose of anesthesia is given to a monkey so it can undergo a CT scan. The monkey’s body gets dangerously cold, and someone in the laboratory uses a special heater to warm the animal up. But instead, the animal is burned and, to halt its suffering, euthanized.

These are the nuts and bolts of a news story that aired Wednesday, June 1 on Fox 13, but was later scrubbed from its website and social media pages.

Animal rights activists began drawing attention to the monkey, which died in August 2015, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report in May 2016 that documented “failure of appropriate communication and oversight” by the university’s veterinary staff.

The Salt Lake Tribune wrote a story, and Fox 13 reporter Kiersten Nuñez put her piece together. But university officials felt the television story contained inaccuracies and also failed to give them the chance to respond to animal rights activists, who characterized the incident as “extreme negligence.”

With stories about the controversial practice of animal testing disappearing from the internet, Jeremy Beckham, the vivisection issues coordinator at the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, says the scenario strikes him as “borderline Orwellian.”

“It’s like you want the public to forget it even happened,” Beckham says. “Just deleting the whole thing is wildly irresponsible.”

Before the story could be removed, Beckham says it had been shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook and had garnered hundreds of comments.

Kathy Wilets, the University of Utah’s director of media relations, says that while she asked Fox 13 news executives to meet with her to discuss the school’s concerns with the story, she never asked for it to be removed. “I’m not trying to block any sort of reporting,” Wilets says. “We’re a university and there are groups out there who are watching what we’re doing, as they should. I just want to make sure that if others speak out on it that we at least have an opportunity to respond to what they’re saying.”

Wilets says Fox reporter Nuñez reached out to her and asked for an on-camera interview. But Wilets couldn’t make the interview that day, and a written statement was given to the news station.

Beckham, on the other hand, did make the interview, and the story, he says, understandably focused in on his points of view.

“This reporter, from my understanding, gave the University of Utah ample opportunity to provide someone for comment,” Beckham says. “If they don’t do that, then I really don’t think they can complain that their viewpoint wasn’t in the story.”

Fox 13 assistant news director Marc Sternfield directed City Weekly to the public relations wing of the station’s owner, Tribune Company.

In an email, Tribune spokesperson Jessica Bellucci wrote: “The story didn’t meet the station’s journalistic standards (and didn’t present both sides of the story) thus it was decided the piece would be pulled from the site.”

Nuñez declined to comment, also referring any questions to the Tribune Company.

While the saga of the disappearing story itself has intrigue, the University of Utah’s long history with animal testing laboratories remains controversial, and, in the eyes of activists like Beckham, is downright cruel.

But for scientists and doctors at the school, animal testing, they say, has provided a key bridge between a good chunk of modern scientific and medicinal breakthroughs.

The university’s attending veterinarian, who helps ensure that animals undergoing testing are being treated humanely, says that while all research projects are not “Disneyesque,” they are a far cry from torture.

“Many of the animals that are kept as pets have much tougher lives than the animals we care for here,” says the veterinarian, who, citing security concerns, asked that his name be withheld. “The image of research animals that are undergoing significant torture and distress is false and we make sure that that’s not the case.”

The monkey was injured while undergoing tests on a genetic disorder present in some children that impacts certain regions of the brain.

The University of Utah receives millions of dollars each year for projects that involve animal testing. This particular study, the school’s veterinarian says, involved funding from the National Institutes of Health. Beckham says more than $5 million has been spent on the study involving the monkey.

The National Science Foundation also contributes large sums of money to the university for a wide range of studies, including some on animals. One study, which commenced on Sept. 1, 2015, was for $925,000. By using something called computational cannula microscopy, the study aims to take brain scans of “awake, freely moving animals in unprecedented spatial resolution.”

While university officials say animal research is important, Beckham disagrees. And he says that, specifically with monkeys, there is no humane way to keep them stored away in confinement.

“What you see in laboratories all over the world when you put monkeys in this type of environment, they start to exhibit several signs of mental distress, mental illness,” Beckham says.

Monkeys, he says, have been known to bite themselves as they go “mad from this type of environment.”

“This is all, I think, hideously unethical,” Beckham says. “I don’t think it’s giving us scientifically valuable information.”

One of Wilets’ problems with the Fox 13 story was the use of a picture that shows a monkey in a cage with some sort of device screwed onto its head.

Wilets says she doesn’t know if the photograph was taken at the University of Utah. The school’s veterinarian says that he, too, doesn’t know where the photo was taken. If it was taken at the school, the veterinarian says that the type of headgear installed on the monkey is no longer used at the school.

Beckham, though, says the picture, of a monkey named Frik, provided by the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), was taken in 2009 at the University of Utah by a PETA field observer.

A PETA official in Washington D.C. confirmed that the photo was taken inside a U of U laboratory.

What Wilets and the veterinarian want the public to understand is that the school does what it can to ensure the safety and welfare of the myriad animals it uses for testing.

“I think, obviously, animal research is a controversial subject, but the reality is just about every medical advance we’ve enjoyed as a society and as veterinarians to treat patients has come, one way or another, from animal research,” the veterinarian says.

But on the other side of the testing debate, Beckham says he’d like Utahns to know that a monkey was put to sleep, its temperature wasn’t properly monitored and then it was burned severely enough that university officials thought it best to kill the animal.

And as for the Fox 13 news story, which seems to have succeeded in evaporating from the internet, Beckham says that as he sees it, the story was “pretty much entirely accurate.”

The Heartbreaking True Story of a Dog Left to Die in a Hot Car

On June 4, 2016, a dog died of heat exhaustion after being left in a parked car in Salt Lake City, Utah. UARC has obtained the investigative report of the incident. Below is this dog’s story, along with excerpts from the official report. 


1. A 15-month old yellow lab was left in a parked car. The temperature outside was 88 °F. A responding officer said she was “crumpled up on the floorboard,” barely breathing, and nonresponsive.

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2. The officer broke into the car. The dog was unconscious but breathing. First aid was applied and she was taken to an emergency vet.

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3. The car had all an all-black interior. The temperature was recorded in the vehicle at over 122.5 °F, even after the door had been open for a few minutes.

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4. The driver told the officer he left the dog inside the car, with no water, for more than four hours while he engaged in “recreational painting.” Not once did he check on her. 

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5. Despite being rushed to the veterinarian, she died. Vet staff said the dog’s internal temperature was “too high to register on their thermometer.”Dog-in-Hot-Car-6

6. The owner defended his actions saying he “did not think it was that hot outside.”

Dog-in-Hot-Car-8


Thank you to Salt Lake County Animal Services officers for heroically trying to save this dog’s life, and saving the lives of countless others.

If you see an animal trapped in a parked car, it is vital that you call your local animal control agency immediately. Take photographs of the vehicle and its license plates. Go into local businesses and have the owner of the vehicle paged. And don’t leave the dog’s side until emergency responders arrive.

Some states are providing civil and criminal immunity for those who forcibly enter a vehicle to rescue an animal in peril. Unlike a dog’s life, broken car windows can be replaced. 

Feds Cite University of Utah Laboratory for Negligently Burning Monkey

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Planet Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) issued a damning inspection report related to the use of monkeys in experiments at the University of Utah. The report states that the U twice violated the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in connection to an incident when a monkey was severely burned during surgery. The monkey’s burns were so severe that he or she was euthanized. UARC has already submitted a GRAMA request for internal records at the school to learn more details about this incident. We will post the records on our website when we have them.

Most of the monkeys at the U are used in invasive brain experiments conducted by Alessandra Angelucci. Monkeys in this laboratory have a stainless steel “halo” device screwed directly into their skull and electrodes implanted in their brains. The monkeys are then deprived of water before being strapped into a restraint device and forced to stare at a screen. The monkeys, who are awake and conscious, are restrained and have their heads immobilized for hours at a time. Federal data indicates that more than $5.2 million in taxpayer funds have already been wasted on these hideously cruel experiments.

A monkey named Frik imprisoned at the University of Utah.
A monkey named Frik imprisoned at the University of Utah.

When they aren’t being hurt by experimenters, these highly intelligent primates are confined to tiny, barren stainless steel cages. Primates in laboratories offer suffer long-term psychological damage, and exhibit neurotic behavior like endless pacing and self-mutilating.1Novak MA. Self-injurious behavior in rhesus monkeys: New insights into its etiology, physiology, and treatment. Am J Primatol. 2003;59(1):3-19. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/ajp.10063.

Monkeys at the U live for years in tiny, stainless steel cages

The USDA inspection report blasts the U for “a failure of appropriate communication and oversight” in connection with the recent incident. The written protocol for the experiment required that the monkey’s internal body temperature be recorded continuously during the procedure, but lab staff failed to do so. Additionally, an unknown “hot air source” was inappropriately used to warm the animal, which caused a severe and ultimately fatal burn. These abject failures are troubling.

It’s not the first time the University of Utah’s animal research program has been in hot water with federal authorities. Following an undercover PETA investigation, the U was cited in 2010 for several violations of the AWA. Violations included allowing a kitten to die of dehydration, overcrowding animals in filthy cages, and neglecting primates for days at a time. The U’s only defense is that these violations weren’t “intentional,” but that doesn’t excuse acts of gross negligence.

In February 2011, after even more violations, the USDA took the rare step of issuing an “Official Warning” against the school for continuing to violate the AWA. Later that year, the U came under fire for killing a dog named Sunny, who was found as a stray. Sunny was killed despite the fact that she had a microchip with Utah Animal Adoption Center’s contact information. The organization was never contacted.

Robert, a cat at the University of Utah laboratory
Robert, a cat at the University of Utah laboratory

Unfortunately, history demonstrates that being cited with violating the AWA does little to ensure greater compliance going forward. A 2014 audit by the USDA Office of Investigator General (OIG) found that APHIS prematurely closes cases with warnings or very small fines, even when they involve “grave (e.g., animal deaths) or repeat welfare violations.”  An animal experimentation industry spokesperson was quoted in Science Magazine as saying that the audit was “pretty damning.” In reality, its findings revealed little that wasn’t already known before. Similar OIG audits in 1985, 1995, and 2005 all found that USDA enforcement of the AWA is extremely lax and ineffectual. Most research facilities consider the warnings and meager fines for violating the law as a small cost of doing business.

A long history of repeatedly violating the AWA has not resulted in the University of Utah cleaning up its act, and UARC doesn’t expect anything different from the latest citations. Additionally, Utah’s state cruelty laws essentially exempt animals who are being used in research from protection.2Utah Code Ann. § 76-9-301(7)(b). http://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title76/Chapter9/76-9-S301.html. In all likelihood, the U will be let off with another slap on the wrist, and the animals will continue to suffer.

If you’re a University of Utah alum, like most UARC board members, please voice your opposition to the school’s use of animals in experimentation to the alumni association. Additionally, refuse to donate to the school until it enters the 21st century of medical science and phases out the use of animals in research.

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Standard-Examiner Editorial Board Calls on Lagoon to Close Cruel Zoo

It’s time for Lagoon to stop caging wild animals

BY THE STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus found sanctuary for its elephants.

SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program.

Now it’s time for Lagoon to stop caging its exotic animals.

Lagoon, a theme park in Farmington, opened a ride in 1967 called Animaland Train. Its successor is the Wild Kingdom Train, which chugs through a lagoon meant to evoke Africa.

Here’s how Lagoon’s website describes it:

“The steam train travels with guests around the lagoon, treating them to spectacular views and glimpses of exotic animals. With animals like Siberian tigers, a golden eagle, zebras, camels and African lions, the Wild Kingdom Train gives an experience unlike most amusement park train rides.”

That’s the problem — the glimpses of exotic animals. Writing for the Standard-Examiner in August 2015, TX. correspondent Ceneca Solis reported seeing Siberian tigers, bears, Canadian lynx and lions “in lonely enclosures.”

Most animals, including the big cats, live in small wire and concrete cages. Lagoon points out that the enclosures “meet or exceed” U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements, but that’s missing the point, as Solis recognized.

“The enclosures at Lagoon are USDA approved, but what kind of animal wants to live in a space without grass?” she wrote.

“The lions are kept in metal cages at Lagoon. There is no fake grass or even real grass to keep them content. A horrifying thought to think about is has this king of the jungle ever had the chance to explore through the grass? Have the lions and lionesses ever felt anything on the pads of their feet other than cool cement?”

In a letter to Solis, Lagoon Corp. President David Freed said the animals came from “many, many” places. Some were born there, he wrote. Some had been pets; others had been owned illegally.

No matter how they got there, Lagoon isn’t an animal sanctuary; it’s an amusement park. It built the Wild Kingdom Train to entertain paying guests, not to preserve endangered species.

Wildlife deserves to be treated with respect, as Ringling Bros. and SeaWorld learned. Lagoon, however, persists in treating animals as cheap entertainment.

This is not 1967. We know better now — or at least we should.

Find them sanctuary. Commit to building them modern habitats reflecting their natural environments.

But stop keeping wild animals in cages at Lagoon.

UARC: Promoting Vegan Living and Fighting Animal Cruelty in Utah

Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) is excited to launch our website, a continually expanding resource for animal issues in Utah. We are a volunteer-run 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting vegan living and fighting animal cruelty.

Our primary focus is education and advocacy. In our first year, UARC’s goals are to:

  • Increase transparency and provide substantive data surrounding animal issues that affect Utah
  • Show 5,000 Utahns why and how to go vegan at our inaugural SLC VegFest
  • Advocate for animals suffering in Utah laboratories, farms, zoos, shelters, and entertainment venues

UARC is committed to a policy of collaboration with other animal advocacy organizations, but we are not limited to advocating only for the animals people share their homes with. We believe that the thousands of homeless dogs and cats euthanized every year, the 55,000 mice suffering inside the University of Utah laboratory every day, and the 500 turkeys from Utah factory farms killed every hour all need our voice.

Salt Lake City has a long history of passionate and successful animal rights activism. We have motivated more than a dozen restaurants to take foie gras off their menu, exposed fur farm cruelty and put fur stores out of business, promoted eating vegan to tens of thousands of Utahns, strengthened local ordinances regarding  the humane treatment of companion animals, showed the world the cruel practice of pig wrestling, helped pass an ordinance banning horse-drawn carriages in downtown Salt Lake City, and so much more. UARC is building on this foundation at the grassroots level, and we want you to be part of this local movement.

good IMG_4877By becoming a UARC member, you can be part of the growing movement to fight specisism on the local level. We partner with several vegan-friendly businesses in the community to offer our members special discounts and benefits.  With a donation of $20 or more to UARC, you can become a member and start receive benefits at a growing list of your favorite establishments. As a volunteer-run organization, you can be assured that 100% of funds received go toward our campaigns to help animals. SLC VegFest alone will cost UARC more than $15,000, and we rely on our community of concerned Utahns that recognize the importance of vegan living in the fight to end animal cruelty.

Our goals are ambitious, our campaigns are local, and our tactics are diverse.  But we owe it to the animals to never compromise and never forget our vision: animal liberation. Please join us by becoming a member today to support our campaigns and stay informed on actions you can take to help animals in Utah. Also, stay connected with us by following us on Facebook and Twitter.