An animal rights group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven chimpanzees and two monkeys, claiming the primates are not properly cared for at a Leon Springs sanctuary.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants a state district judge in Bexar County to appoint a guardian to oversee more than $235,000 provided for the animals’ care at Primarily Primates.
Meanwhile, Dan McLaughlin at Baseball Crank reports (Apr. 19) on a Ninth Circuit decision (PDF) which “permitted an animal rights activist’s qui tam suit to go forward under the False Claims Act against a cancer researcher, principally on the theory that the researcher misrepresented the efficacy of his research.” McLaughlin does not pass judgment on whether the research project in question was a good use of public funds:
But I do know that allowing animal rights zealots an opening to use private litigation to harass medical researchers is a horrifying development. You will note, if you review the allegations on pages 6-7 of the slip opinion, that there are no allegations of the kind of things the False Claims Act is intended to protect against, i.e., personal enrichment, bill padding, and/or cost overruns by government contractors. Instead, there are a series of charges mainly relating to the medical merits of the research – a subject that will often be difficult for a judge without medical expertise to resolve on a motion to dismiss (where you assume the truth of the plaintiff’s allegations) or even on summary judgment (where the defendant only wins if it can show that there are no material factual disputes). Result: protracted and expensive litigation whenever anti-animal-research fanatics can gin up a factual dispute and hire an expert to bicker over anything said in a research application, with the attendant chilling effect on life-saving research. Indeed, from the docket numbers on the caption it appears that this particular case has already dragged on for five years just on the dispute over the legal merits.
Of course, harassment via legal process may compare favorably with some of the ways animal rights zealots have been known to harass researchers.