The latest chapter started some months ago when the hip-ish liberal comedian Bill Maher, he of the weekly HBO current events/humor panel show, was about to make one of his occasional live appearances in Madison. A few days before, on Oct. 8, the animal advocacy group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sponsored a robo-call by the performer to over 100,000 numbers in the Madison area. In it Maher decried the experimentation on cats by the University of Wisconsin.
The charges have flown back and forth over the veracity of PETA's charges and, conversely, the veracity of UW's statements denying cruelty and abuse. The website PolitiFact, which pronounces on the truth of specific political statements, has deemed PETA's accusations "Half True."
Isthmus decided to check this out on your behalf. Writer Jenny Peek was charged with the assignment. You can read what her inquiries produced in our cover story this week. And then you can make up your mind which side of the debate you fall on. The facts do give one pause.
This confrontation goes back a long way. The UW has responded to many Freedom of Information requests from PETA over a period of years. The Maher incident was only the latest skirmish in a long-running battle.
Peek is a 2011 graduate of the UW with majors in journalism and environmental studies. She is a former Daily Cardinal staff writer and graphics editor and was part of a Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism team that won a 2012 Milwaukee Press Club award. She currently works as a freelance writer.
There are lots of horror stories about the insensitivity of science, and there are lots of misinterpreted -- intentionally or otherwise -- accounts of science propagated by people for their own purposes. What is it that we have here?