James Cromwell, a 73-year-old actor who was nominated for an Oscar for "Babe: Pig in the City," was recently arrested at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for protesting about a school study that the animal rights group PETA says involves "abusive experiments" of cats.
The director of the college's Research Animal Resource Center says the allegations are "baseless."
The actor, who PETA described as a longtime supporter, and Jeremy Beckham, a 27-year-old employee of the group, were booked at a county jail and then released hours after the incident, which took place on Thursday morning.
Carrying signs with a photo of an orange tabby named Double Trouble, one of the cats reportedly used in a UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center study about deafness, the two men had interrupted a Board of Regents meeting. Participants stared quietly, as seen in a video released by the animal rights group (WATCH below). Both men face misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct.
PETA says university researchers drilled into Double Trouble's skull, implanted electrical devices inside her ears, deafened and starved her and then killed and decapitated her.
"This is not science -- this is torture and it is criminal!" Cromwell shouted at the meeting.
Eric Sandgren, director of the UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center, said in a statement posted on the university's website that the protest marked "just another attempt by outside activists to draw attention to a cause."
"They have attacked and distorted this research -- which has very real benefits for people who are deaf -- from every angle imaginable," he said. "Exhaustive independent investigation by the USDA, which regulates the use of animals in research, concluded that PETA's allegations are baseless."
Sandgren also told Madison-based TV station WISC-TV that he believes the study is "very valuable," adding: "I believe the cats are well cared for, so I think the benefits outweigh the harms."
Regent President Brent Smith told the station that the PETA demonstration "made an impression" and that other members have received about 100 emails from protestors about the research on cats.
"PETA has repeatedly asked UW-Madison to end its abusive experiments on cats but has received no response," the group said in a statement on its website (Warning: contains graphic, disturbing photos). "Please e-mail UW's Board of Regents and urge the members to listen to James and the hundreds of thousands of other compassionate people who want the school to end these cruel cat laboratories and switch to modern, superior, non-animal research methods."
In addition to the 1995 film "Babe," which earned him an Oscar nomination, Cromwell is known for his roles in movies such as "The Green Mile," "Star Trek: First Contact" and the Oscar-winning film "The Artist." He most recently appears as a Nazi doctor on the FX show "American Horror Story."