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Story published: 04-05-2003 • Print StoryE-mail Story to a Friend

ETSU event canceled due to confrontation

By John Thompson

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What was expected to be an emotional lecture at East Tennessee State University on Friday afternoon never happened. The event was canceled after an emotional outburst that broke out before it got started.

Gary Yourofsky, the founder of ADAPTT (Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow), was scheduled to speak in Brown Hall. Yourofsky is a nationally known activist opposed to the use of animals in scientific and medical research

Because of his views, the scheduling of the event in Brown Hall, the location of the science department, raised the eyebrows of some faculty members, who sought a way to present their side of the story to those attending the lecture.

Dr. Brunhilde Toper-Meyer, a veterinarian who is director of the university’s Division of Laboratory Animal Resources, placed a stack of pamphlets in support of animal research on a cart in the hallway outside the classroom where the lecture would take place. She placed an 8-inch-by-11-inch placard on the cart that said “Opposing Arguments.” No attempt was made to hand the pamphlets to those attending.

“I did not want to interfere, I was planning to sit quietly in the back and listen to the lecture,” Toper-Meyer said.

Witnesses said Yourofsky became angry when he saw the pamphlets, which included “Animals and Science” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Research,” by the Foundation for Biomedical Research, and “21 Things You May Not Know about the Animal Rights Movement,” by the Americans For Medical Progress Education Foundation.

Shannon Miller, a biology instructor and the organizer of the lecture, said Yourofsky became abusive toward her, even using an analogy comparing her to the Ku Klux Klan.

Miller said she was particularly annoyed by the analogy, since she had been part of a group that protested a KKK rally in Greeneville just a week ago.

She said as the argument became more heated, Yourofsky grabbed the cart and slung it, causing the pamphlets to scatter across the floor of the hall.

ETSU public safety officers attempted to keep things from getting out of hand, but the lecture was soon canceled and Yourofsky left the building. He was not available for comment.

Miller said she was sorry that Yourofsky did not speak, saying he is a powerful orator and the subject of the afternoon’s lecture — vegetarianism — was not supposed to be controversial.

She said the Martha Street Culp Auditorium in the university center had been the planned site of the lecture, but it was unavailable. As a second choice, she decided to use her large classroom in the science building.

Miller said she was not upset with Tober-Meyer, whose literature display ignited the outburst. “She is an excellent animal control director,” Miller said.

Despite her opposition, Tober-Meyer complimented Yourofsky and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, his sponsor for the lecture, for making a significant improvement in the way lab animals are treated.

(Contact John Thompson at

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