A University of Wisconsin-Madison cat research lab that was the focus of protests by animal-rights groups and a Hollywood actor quietly closed more than a month ago, a university spokesman said.
Neuroscience professor Tom Yin had run the lab for nearly 40 years, and said it closed Dec. 1 when his research funding ran out.
Yin said he is on a path to retirement and did not apply to renew his research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Yin researched how auditory and visual stimuli affect the brain.
Four of the five cats that remained in the lab were adopted, animal research department spokesman Chris Barncard said, and the fifth was euthanized.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched an ad campaign in Madison two years ago criticizing the lab, taking out 100 city bus ads with photos of a cat with metal implanted in its head. The ad copy said, “I am not lab equipment.”
That same year, actor James Cromwell was charged with disorderly conduct after he held up large signs and shouted about the cats’ treatment during a Board of Regents meeting. Cromwell, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1995 film “Babe” and starred in “L.A. Confidential” and “The Green Mile,” eventually pleaded no contest and was ordered to pay $263 in forfeitures.
The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare surveyed the lab in 2013 as part of an investigation prompted by PETA members. The office concluded the researchers had not violated any regulations.
“PETA’s campaign and the intense public pressure it brought to bear on UW-Madison have ended this horrendous laboratory’s legacy of cruelty at last,” PETA’s director of laboratory investigations Justin Goodman said in a statement.
The university issued a statement that said the closure had nothing to do with PETA. Yin said he simply decided to retire for personal reasons.
“That was actually a regret I had when I decided to retire, that they would think they had forced me to close down,” Yin said of PETA. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”