Category Archives: Media

RELEASE: Thousands of Attendees Expected at Inaugural SLC VegFest this Saturday at SLC Library Square

September 6, 2016 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Amy Meyer, amy@slcveg.com

This Saturday, thousands of vegans and veg-curious people will descend on the Salt Lake City Main Library Plaza for the inaugural “SLC VegFest,” a free festival presented by the Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC). VegFest will feature food, a beer garden, live music, and informational sessions about how going vegan can improve your health, fight climate change, and save the lives of more than 100 animals every year. More than 20 exhibitors will be present.

“There is growing awareness about how the meat and dairy industries are cruel to animals and a disaster for the environment,” said Amy Meyer, Executive Director of VegFest. “VegFest will be a fun event for people of all ages, as well as a great resource for anyone interested in going vegan but needing help learning how to do so.”

SLC VegFest is a 100% vegan event. Several restaurant vendors will be on hand preparing and serving delicious vegan meals, including Piper Down Pub, Ice Haus, Sage’s Cafe, and Soul Traveler Foods. These vendors will be selling a diversity of options, including vegan “fish” and chips, shepherd’s pie, brats, tacos, mac and “cheese,” Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and tofu-eggs benedict. Additionally, attendees can buy vegan pastries from Passion Flour Patisserie and Big O Doughnuts, cold-pressed juice from Vive Juicery, and gourmet cashew “cheeses” from Zest Kitchen.

Attendees will have the opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers inside the library auditorium. Speakers will present information about why and how to go vegan, including a keynote address from Matt Ruscigno, MPH RD, who will be giving a talk on how going vegan doesn’t mean you have to prepare expensive or exotic foods.

With a designated kid’s area featuring an inflatable slide, VegFest is an event for families and people of all ages. VegFest also features an Athlete Expo exhibition area, where athletes demonstrate their physical prowess and answer questions about how vegan athletes can best satisfy nutritional needs. The athlete expo will also offer free fitness and yoga classes to attendees.

SLC VegFest will take place Saturday, September 10 from 11 am – 6 pm.
For more information, visit www.slcveg.com

 

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.”

Official Report: Dog Found Dying in Parked Car had Internal Temperature “Too High to Register”

UARC Calls for Changes to Local Laws to Prevent Future Tragedies

JUNE 8, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Dixon

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) has obtained disturbing investigative reports from Salt Lake County Animal Services regarding the tragic incident last weekend where a  a yellow Labrador retriever was left to die in a parked car in Salt Lake City. 

Officers responding to the incident Saturday took temperature readings inside the car–which had an all-black interior–of more than 122 degrees. The outside temperature at the time of the response was in the high 80s. Veterinary staff reported to police that the dog’s internal temperature was “too high to register on their thermometer.” The dog’s owner admitted to not checking on her for more than four hours while he was engaged in “recreational painting.”

“The negligence shown in this case is heartbreaking,” said Jeff Dixon, public policy coordinator for UARC. “Sadly, it’s not an isolated incident, and it is clear that stronger action is needed to help the public understand that leaving a pet in a car can easily lead to a health emergency and even death.”

UARC recommends that local officials consider enacting the following policy changes:

  • A new legal requirement that signs be publicly posted in commercial parking lots where there has been a consistent pattern of dogs beings left in hot cars. See attached for suggested artwork for such a sign.
  • Every minute matters in these situations. Local officials should review and strengthen response protocols to ensure that reports of life-threatening negligence and abuse receive an urgent response, including the use of police emergency vehicle lights.
  • The law should provide individuals with criminal and civil immunity for damage to a motor vehicle when it can be established that the damage was necessary to secure the rescue of an endangered person or animal. Such a law recently went into effect in Florida.

UARC urges anyone who sees a dog left in a car this summer to immediately call authorities, even if the windows are cracked.  After placing the call, take a picture of the vehicle’s license plate, and walk into nearby businesses so the owner can be paged to return to their vehicle at once.  Stay with the dog until responders arrive. People should not assume that the dog’s owner will return soon or that someone else has already called.

To review the animal control reports, click here. 

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SLCoAS-hot-dog-sign
Policymakers should consider a legal requirement that retail parking lots that have had recurring problems post visible signs like the one above.

Saving water? Stop eating animals

Proclaiming that water conservation should be “one of Utah’s core ethics,” the Utah Division of Water Resources recently kicked off a nine-step pledge called “H2Oath.”

However, even if all nine suggestions were widely adopted, it will barely make a dent in the state’s water use because they fail to address the state’s biggest waster: agriculture. In fact, because agriculture consumes 82 percent of Utah’s water, the goal of a 25 percent reduction in water use is actually a statistical impossibility.

The vast majority of the water used for agriculture in Utah is used to produce hay and corn to feed farm animals. The “water footprint” of a beef hamburger is 15 times that of a veggie burger, and peer-reviewed studies have shown that a shift towards a plant-based diet would reduce society’s water use by an astonishing 36 percent.

This is a much bigger bang for your buck than reducing our “average shower time by one minute.” If you care about preserving our precious water resources, you can make the largest impact by going vegan, and the Division of Water Resources should start explicitly stating so.

Amy Meyer

Utah Animal Rights Coalition

Salt Lake Tribune: Letter: Saving water? Stop eating animals (May 14, 2016)

 

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.