Fighting back
University of Nevada, Reno officials have issued some internal statements defending the performance of the campus farm program in the wake of the Reno Gazette-Journal’s investigative series on the program.

The series, by reporter Frank X. Mullen Jr., scrutinized campus treatment of animals, the possibility the university cooperated in luring coyotes to a research farm where they were shot, and accusations that the university struck back at a whistleblower in the case.

UNR President John Lilley sent out an internal message to the campus: “I believe these articles do not accurately reflect our current farm and ranch operations. … I anticipate a favorable report from the recently concluded USDA investigation that is referenced in the stories, much as we have from that agency’s routine and unscheduled inspections in the past. Nonetheless, I have made it clear that I expect continued diligence in all animal welfare matters and that all state and federal regulations will continue to be scrupulously observed.”

Agriculture College Dean David Thawley sent out an e-mail message to the college’s advisory board and others identified as friends of the college. He contended that Mullen had access to vast information but used only a small part of it.

Thawley also blames Mullen for a rise in livestock deaths caused by coyotes: “Also, as a direct result of the [newspaper] series, federal officials have suspended the coyote trapping program from Main Station property. As a result in the past week, 21 sheep have been killed by coyotes.”

The Ag dean, like Lilley, predicted that the college would emerge from the federal investigation with “a favorable report…” Both Lilley and Thawley argue that Mullen used stale information to describe a current state of affairs, with Thawley describing Mullen’s series as historical: “Mullen has taken history—and circumstances with historical elements—and cast them in a ‘today’ mode, regardless of corrective actions and regardless of representing accurate information.”

However, what Lilley and Thawley described as historical happened pretty recently, within the last two or three years. Thawley at one point describes “an incident that occurred two-and-a-half years ago.” Lilley wrote, “Many of the photos and information presented are at least two years old.”

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...