By Karin Bennett
It's not often that we use the word "great" to describe anything involving vivisectors, but a recent development involving a petition filed by PETA and Madison-based Alliance for Animals against sheep experimenters at University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison is just that: Circuit Court Judge Amy Smith has determined that nine individuals may face criminal penalties for conducting excruciating and deadly decompression experiments on sheep.
You might remember that PETA and Alliance for Animals joined forces to petition for prosecution after a district attorney shrugged off his own findings that UW-Madison had indeed violated state law using decompression to kill sheep. The D.A. apparently decided that it wasn't worth his time and effort to pursue charges.
After reviewing our petition, Judge Smith decided that animal experimenters are not above the law, determining "that probable cause exists to conclude that certain named individuals … violated [a state law prohibiting the use of decompression to kill animals], either directly or as party to a crime." That means that both the vivisectors and those who assisted them with their experiments may face criminal or civil prosecution. In her 24-page decision, Judge Smith also wrote, "[T]he University has apparently engaged in behavior resulting in the above-described animal deaths for years," and noted that "it may well continue to decompress animals to death contrary to law, unless I take action." She has appointed a special prosecutor to determine whether to bring charges against the nine UW-Madison employees.
Considering that this is possibly the second time that a judge has found probable cause for criminal charges—the first was PETA's landmark Silver Spring Monkeys case—it's no wonder that news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and others are buzzing about this important development.
We'll keep you in the loop on future developments as they happen, but we—and animals—are depending your efforts to help stop animal experimentation.