Nationally acclaimed actor James Cromwell was arrested on campus Thursday after loudly voicing support for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s ongoing animal cruelty case against the University of Wisconsin at a UW System meeting.
Cromwell, an Academy Award nominated actor, interrupted UW System’s Board of Regents meeting demanding the university end the alleged mutilating and killing of cats in laboratory experiments.
According UW Police Department Lt. Mark Silbernagel, Cromwell and fellow activist Jeremy Beckham entered the meeting in the morning, displaying pictures of the alleged animal cruelty and began shouting at the Regents.
Beckham said the protest exhibited photographs that UW “never wanted or expected to ever see.”
“They’re very powerful pictures,” Beckham said. “I think they clearly reflect that these animals are suffering an extreme pain in this laboratory.”
He and Cromwell were removed from the room by UWPD at approximately 9:30 a.m. and transported to the Dane County Jail, Beckham said. Both were charged with disorderly conduct and are scheduled to appear in court next week with no bail necessary, Beckham added.
Despite the arrest, however, Cromwell and Beckham agreed that the police officers were very kind and “reasonable.”
Beckham, who added he was dragged out of the room after sitting down in effort to “force the regents to confront the issue,” said the whole experience was “totally fine”.
Cromwell agreed, and said he appreciated the police officer’s professionalism. He added he would not have wanted to participate in such a protest had it been in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles.
PETA accused UW of violations against the Animal Welfare Act for inadequate procedure in a study with a cat named Double Trouble in late 2012, campaigning for the university to end all animal research.
However, according to a PETA statement, Cromwell’s protest, which included yelling the phrase, “Shame on UW for mutilating and killing cats!” was in response to a Jan. 22 letter sent to the Board of Regents depicting abuse of an additional nine cats.
Despite not responding to the letter, the university said in a statement the U.S. Department of Agriculture found the research conducted at UW did not violate any rules.
“Today’s events are just another attempt by outside activists to draw attention to a cause,” Eric Sandgren, director of the UW Research Animal Resource Center, said. “They have attacked and distorted this research — which has very real benefits for people who are deaf — from every angle imaginable. Exhaustive independent investigation by the USDA, which regulates the use of animals in research, concluded that PETA’s allegations are baseless.”
Cromwell, who is an avid PETA supporter, said he does anything he can to support PETA’s issues in an interview with The Badger Herald, adding that he finds human’s poor treatment of animals to be “destroying the planet.”
The United States Department of Agriculture reviewed the case with UW and showed “no noncompliant items” during inspection. However, Beckham said such a result is only a testament to the “paltry requirements of our inadequate federal animal welfare laws.”
According to Cromwell, the public is “misinformed and kept in the dark” about animal research like UW’s cat experiment, adding that most people associate such studies with laboratory mice.
“It strikes home that these are creatures that do not deserve this sort of treatment for any reason,” Cromwell said. “Most assuredly for any reason that has been given for this experiment which is basically to churn money for the university.”
Cromwell said he hopes his actions and celebrity status will bring light to the issue. He added his actions showed anyone can join an organization doing something about the issues that concern them.