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Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
26 July 2000 Issue

Dogma, Dogs, and Death
by Marc Bekoff - bekoffm@spot.Colorado.EDU

Congratulations to Terje Langeland for writing an excellent and well-researched essay about the dog labs at CU's medical school and the person who defends them relentlessly - and religiously - Dr. Ron Banks, the veterinarian for the Health Sciences Center (HSC) (Colorado Daily, 14-16, 2000). In this essay, I was quoted as saying that Dr. Banks had a passion for fighting rights advocates and for defending his job. Who wouldn't, for $137,000 a year? A rather sizable sum for condemning numerous animals to death and refusing to talk about it, don't you think!. Ah, we should all have it so easy. This article makes a number of very important points, but one that simply needs more public airing and a great deal more public interest concerns accountability - an individual's responsibility to engage in public discourse about their jobs at state supported institutions. Dr. Banks, like other of his colleagues at the HSC, refuses to talk to the Daily, for example, because he thinks he doesn't have to. Their spokeswoman, Sarah Ellis, defends this position, and also takes a jab at the animal rights movement in a single breath, when the question to her had absolutely nothing at all to do with animal rights. Wow, that's great - the person responsible for communicating the goings-on at the HSC supports their refusal to speak because they claim they were misquoted. Life's pretty easy isn't it - do what you want to do, get paid royally for it, and blow off your critics. Perhaps that's why many people are critical of academics. This self-serving arrogance makes me ill. I, too, teach at CU, and I have an obligation to respond not only to my supporters but also to my critics. Indeed, one might easily argue that I and others have more of an obligation to engage critics rather than to thank people for their support - sort of like preaching to the converted and getting nowhere - Al Gore thanking democrats for supporting him or Ron Banks telling his allies at the HSC that he appreciates their support.

I'd like to ask you all to get involved in this or other issues. Public servants, and that's what we are, just can't bow out of public discourse because it's inconvenient or because they don't like what their critics say. I'd like to see some solid examples of where Dr. Banks and others have been misquoted. Indifference is costly and where animals' lives are involved apathy is deadly. Write letters, make calls, and let administrators and legislators know how you feel about the veil of silence that is allowed to occur because in many ways we allow to happen. Let me end on a more positive note - the number of medical students opting out of the dog labs at CU has increased from 5 - 31 in the past two years, and many medical schools don't even have dog labs. No wonder Dr. Banks and others don't want to talk about CU's dog labs - would you if you got paid a healthy salary to be part of a questionable chain of events the result of which animals are condemned to death and your critics were making clear and steady progress, critics who supposedly are ignorant of the real facts?

Marc Bekoff
EPO Biology
CU, Boulder

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