Protesters demonstrated outside of the UW System's Board of Regents meeting Thursday against using baby monkeys in research experiments.
On a cold, windy, and wet Thursday morning, 20 animal activists stood on the corner of West Johnson and Lake streets as members of the UW System's main governing body, the Board of Regents, filed into Gordon Dining and Event Center for its all-day meeting.
Leslie Hamilton, a UW alumna and lawyer, was there ready to speak to anyone who looked like they might be attending the meeting as they walked into the building.
"I have to buttonhole anyone with a tie," says Hamilton, sidling up to an approaching man and launching into her spiel.
"I'm here because I would like you to be aware of the fact that these experiments with baby monkeys are going on," Hamilton tells him, keeping pace with his stride. "I'm being told that the UW is telling everyone that we don't have our facts straight. In fact, we do."
Hamilton and her fellow activists are protesting ongoing controversial research by Dr. Ned Kalin, which will remove 20 newborn baby rhesus monkeys from their mothers in order to study the resulting anxiety. Recent coverage on the experiments has stirred a national discussion on the ethics of animal research.
Once inside the double doors, the suited man stops and turns to her.
"I'm actually sympathetic with what what you're saying, all right" he says before walking upstairs.
"I would say I am being heard," Hamilton says after the encounter. "At least three, including that one, have said that they're sympathetic to what we're saying."
One of those three was Jose Delgado, a regent appointed by Gov. Scott Walker in March. Although Delgado knows about the controversy, he remains unconvinced that the UW Board of Regents ought to intervene.
"I don't think that we'd be justified, at this point, given the little bit that I know, to not trust the protocol of the people who are working on it," Delgado says. "As far as I know these are highly honorable, ethical people."
Delgado added: "This might be an issue that you might want us to micromanage, but there are a million other issues where you would be sorry you asked this bunch of people, 18 people from all over the state, to come and tell you what to do."
Delgado says it is unlikely the board will make this issue a priority, despite the public outcry. He notes that 350,000 people have signed a petition asking UW to stop the research, but adds: "300,000 people can have a very strong opinion and be wrong."
The university, he says, "serves not only Wisconsin, but all 300 million people in this country. The research that we do here serves the billions of people who are in this world... this is not matter a numbers, this is a matter of logic. One person that can make a case that cannot be trumped is enough to reverse a policy. You don't need 300,000 people."
Still, Delgado respects the activists. "I think they're making quite a sacrifice for their ideas today, I admire them," he says. "They're not trying to threaten anybody, those people didn't threaten me at all. They were very courteous. You've got to respect them, man!"