The University of Utah has a nasty history of abusing lab animals. It also has a nasty history of trying to hide these abuses. This desire to deny the public’s the right to know has lead PETA to file a lawsuit against the university. According to Salt Lake City Weekly, PETA claims “the school has refused for more than a year to turn over public documents related to research in which about 166,000 animals are laboratory test subjects.”

The university did eventually give PETA over 1,300 pages of records related to the animals locked inside the university’s laboratories. This wasn’t an act of generosity; the school is required to release records under Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). They just dithered about doing what they were legally obligated to do.

When the university finally did hand over the papers, they were heavily redacted, with much of the key information deleted. Some documentation appeared to be missing entirely. To top it off, University of Utah officials charged PETA a fee of $2,420 for the documents. PETA’s lawsuit seeks to obtain the complete set of documents and force the university to repay some of the fee it charged for the redacted records.

Knowing what goes on in their labs, it becomes clear why the University of Utah prefers that the public remain in the dark. Last year, a five day inspection conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found nine violations of federally regulated animal testing requirements.

The violations, according to Deseret News, related to situations such as a kitten who died from dehydration after being given too much medication, individual primates who were neglected for days at a time, mice and Guinea pigs crammed into overcrowded cages, and calves kept in pain for too long.

PETA investigators exposed other horrors, such as a rabbit left in a hallway without food or water for four days, dead animals left in cages for days, forcing their cagemates to walk around their bodies to get to food and water, a monkey kept in solitary confinement, caged alone in a room with no chance to interact with or see  others of his own kind, and monkeys kept constantly thirsty so that they would cooperate during experiments just to get a few drops of water.

Most infamous was the case of a cat named Robert. A beautiful and friendly tabby, university lab workers paid $15 to adopt Robert from Davis County animal shelter. Rechristened F09-017, he would now be subjected to invasive brain experiments. Experimenters cut into Robert’s skull and implanted electrodes in his brain. Electrical currents were then fired through the electrodes, stimulating nerves that caused Robert’s legs to move involuntarily.

After each experiment, according to PETA’s investigation, “Robert showed signs of trauma: He was tired and groggy, his pupils dilated and his eyes became glassy, and he vomited repeatedly. Over time, this affectionate cat became skittish and withdrawn.” Gee, why would the university want to hide this sort of thing? Afraid of people doing inconvenient things like exercising their right to protest or file charges with the USDA?

The University of Utah is wasting time in its petty attempts to hide the truth of what goes on in its torture chambers. Perhaps instead of playing games with the law, it’s time the university stopped conducting horrific experiments on animals. Here’s a formulation so simple even a animal researcher can understand: If you feel the need to conceal what you do, then maybe you should stop doing it.

Photo Credit: PETA