Student activist removed forcefully from ISHAR lecture
Concerns about how the situation was handled linger
Published: Friday, September 16, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 16, 2011 02:09
Controversy hit the dome last Friday, Sept. 9 when a student was removed from a Canisius College sponsored lecture by Public Safety officers.
Morgan Dunbar ‘12 was protesting speaker James Ha, Ph.D.'s lecture on primate research. The symposium, entitled "The Use of Primates in Biomedical Research: A Personal Perspective," was organized by Michael Noonan, Ph.D., who heads the Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation (ABEC) program at Canisius College. He is also the director of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations, more commonly known as ISHAR.
ISHAR was inaugurated by Jane Goodall, Ph.D., D.B.E., two years ago. The organization aims to invite a number guest speakers, the next of which will be Wayne Percelle, president of the Humane Society of the US.
The controversy Friday night surrounded the use of animals in research.
Dunbar said the she had issued a request that Noonan host a speaker with an opposing position to that of Ha to participate in the symposium. The request was not fulfilled.
"We were protesting outside Montante because Noonan refused to include all sides of a very controversial topic, primate researching, during his so-called symposium event."
The protest was organized by Animal Allies of Western New York, of which Dunbar is a founding member, and included individuals from throughout Western New York and Ontario.
Outside of Montante Cultural Center before the event, caged individuals dressed in ape suits were being poked and prodded by others in bloodied medical clothing. The street theater protest was accompanied by brochures handed out by participants.
"We would like to see all use of animals in bio-medical research phased out," said Noonan of the controversial topic and ISHAR's stance. He added, "I think Dr. Ha was courageous and generous in representing the bio-medical community to speak to us in public."
Ms. Dunbar is not so far removed from the ABEC program. After her graduation from Amherst High School, she attended Erie Community College, State University of New York, where she obtained an associates degree in social science. Following graduation, she moved to Swansea, South Wales, a part of Great Britain.
"I founded and operated the Swansea Small Animal Rescue," she explained. "Although I've always considered myself an animal lover, I first encountered animal advocacy while living in the U.K., where I became involved in campaigns against fox hunting and the illegal use of snares."
When she returned to the United States, Dunbar began pursuit of a bachelors degree in biology and an associates in veterinary technology at Medaille College. Upon learning that she would have to participate in animal labs, she began looking beyond Medaille.
"I became aware of the ABEC program, which, on paper, sounded like a dream come true," she said. But her excitement about the transfer was short-lived.
In one of her first courses with Noonan, Social Organization of Mammals, she found herself once again facing laboratory research. As part of the course, students were required to collect data on the behaviors of a captive rat community.
"I witnessed severed digits, infected appendages, cannibalism and blood smeared cage walls on a daily basis," Dunbar said. "I observed students becoming hardened and desensitized to the suffering of the animals as the project progressed."
At that point she dropped the ABEC program and began to pursue a degree in philosophy, with minors in ethics and justice.
According to Noonan, a symposium works as follows: an invited speaker presents their speech, followed by a moderated question and answer session. The moderator is charged with deciding whether a question is acceptable, and if so, the speaker offers his or her answer. But the questioner is limited in what they can say as they are not an invited speaker and can be prompted by the moderator to relieve the microphone and return to the back of the line.
In an e-mail addressed to the news editor, Dunbar commented on the proceedings that led to her removal from Montante.
She asked Ha a two part question about University of Washington's "Federal Animal Welfare Act violations for performing over 40 illegal and unapproved primate surgeries and the starvation of a stump tailed macaque found dead in the UW lab."