Madison – James Cromwell, the Oscar-nominated actor who starred in “L.A. Confidential” and “Babe,” was arrested Thursday morning with protester Jeremy Beckham of PETA for shouting during a University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents meeting, calling campus research on cats torture, not science.
The two burst into the meeting room as a UW System official was beginning a report to the regents about student success predictors of whether the system is on target to reach its goal of producing 80,000 more degree holders by 2025.
Regents appeared taken aback, but no one responded to Cromwell and Beckham. They held two large signs showing a cat named Double Trouble with metal implanted in its head at a UW-Madison lab, while shouting about the treatment of cats.
“This is not science, this is cruel,” Cromwell said.
“This is the reality of what happens to cats in labs,” Beckham said. “Take a look at the photograph. This is the pride of the university here.”
Beckham, a PETA spokesman who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, went limp and dropped to the floor in front of the regents.
Two campus police campus officers dragged him from the room, and the meeting resumed. They were taken to the Dane County Jail and will be charged with disorderly conduct, according to UW spokesman David Giroux. Cromwell, 73, said that police were very courteous, and that he was led out in handcuffs, “which is always fun.”
Cromwell said in a telephone interview the meeting was being streamed, a plus he and Beckham hadn’t known about.
“People saw us and heard us, and if we’d known, we would’ve gone up to the cameras, but I think a lot of people got out their phones and took photographs,” he said. “I’m sure it’ll go viral, and that’s why I’m here.”
Beckham said the two have a date to appear in court next Thursday.
PETA said in a release that 30 cats a year at UW-Madison are starved, deafened and decapitated for brain research that hasn’t done accomplished its goals of improving human hearing.
Eric Sandgren, director of the Research Animal Resources Center on campus, said in an email that PETA’s claims are false, and that the USDA has conducted independent examinations that came to the same conclusions.
“Today’s events are just another attempt by these outside activists to get attention,” Sandgren said. “They have attacked and distorted this line of research, which has very real benefits for people who are deaf, from every angle, and they are getting no traction with the public.”
Cromwell said in a telephone interview that he was shooting a television series in Philadelphia a few weeks ago when PETA asked him to do the protest. He has been working with PETA ever since he made the movie Babe, and PETA contacted him about helping to save 4H pigs from slaughter.
“These photographs were very powerful,” Cromwell said. “It is something that can be seen that does affect people outside the scientific community and raise their ire, as it should.”