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Demonstrators at Zoo Protest Sale of Animals to Labs

Times Staff Writer

Urging people to boycott the San Diego Zoo and waving poster-sized pictures of gruesome animal experiments, about 100 people marched through Balboa Park Sunday to protest the sale of zoo animals to research laboratories.

The protest was a collaboration of the San Diego chapter of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the International Primate Protection League and the Pasadena-based SUPPRESS (Students United Protesting Painful Research Experiments on Sentient Subjects).

It was organized in response to a conference this week in San Diego that features some renowned animal researchers who will discuss the subject of sustaining primate populations with local zoo officials, said Javier Burgos, director of SUPPRESS.

Holding placards that read, “Animal Research is Invalid,” and “Keep Animals From Research Labs,” the protesters chanted slogans while marching peacefully through a packed Balboa Park en route to the San Diego Zoo.

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“Any affiliation of these two groups (zoos and animal researchers) is wrong,” said Sally Mackler, president of PETA. “We feel the role of a zoo is to protect animals. If zoos are interested in conserving animals they should protect their natural habitat.”

Mackler and Burgos said their groups not only disapprove of the policy many U.S. zoos have of selling their surplus primates to research labs so experiments can be conducted on the animals, but believe the research itself is unnecessary.

“Animal research is a folly of monumental proportions,” Bradley S. Miller, president of San Francisco-based Buddhists Concerned for Animals, told the protesters before the march. “There’s a difference between protecting primates and breeding them simply to supply the zoos and laboratories.”

Zoo officials argue, however, that significant scientific advances that benefit animals come out of labs that experiment with primates. The symposium, “Primates: The Road to Self-Sustaining Populations,” will be conducted at Vacation Village through Friday.

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Once at the zoo, the group marched and chanted outside the entrance for about 15 minutes before police told the protesters to disperse because the group was too large to picket there without disrupting traffic.

Startled zoo goers looked in shock at the posters and placards before walking up to the window to purchase an admission ticket.

“They’re crazy,” mumbled a visitor who wouldn’t identify himself. “People don’t come to the zoo to see this. I don’t think they’d feel that way if they were dying of some incurable disease.”


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