Chimps rescued from inhumane research facility now in danger of going back to the lab

On the day a research chimp named Jaybee was rescued from his stark laboratory cell, he was sitting on the ground inside a makeshift ring he’d assembled from leftover food biscuits. His rescuers instantly realized Jaybee had been trying to make a nest, a security ritual that chimpanzees in the wild perform daily. Alone in his enclosure, the frightened male had been attempting to provide himself some sense of comfort.

For years, Jaybee and hundreds of other captive chimps endured invasive surgeries, toxicology experimentation, sustained temperatures of 150 degrees, disease injection, and sensory deprivation at New Mexico’s Coulston Foundation. Confined against their will, the extreme physical and emotional pain, unrelenting boredom, and heartbreaking loneliness these animals suffered is almost incomprehensible.

In 2002, the Coulston Foundation went bankrupt, and many of the surviving chimps were sent to another laboratory (which has subsequently been charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty). Others, like Jaybee, were granted reprieve and have been living in a Save the Chimps facility in Alamogordo, NM. Here, they’ve finally received the proper environmental stimulation, emotional care, and medical treatment they were so long denied. 

But some of the chimps, currently “retired” in the Alamogordo Primate Facility, are still “property” of the government. For them, the National Institute of Health has other plans. Already, NIH has sent 14 of the 216 chimpanzees to a Texas laboratory to be used for further research. They intend to move the remaining APF animals there by early 2011.

For some, testing on animals is acceptable if it benefits the human species. That’s not the case here: “While chimps and humans have genetic similarities, they are sufficiently different on a cellular level that using them for research into a long list of infectious diseases has proven fruitless after decades of trying.” In fact, most European countries have outlawed this research, not only because it’s unethical, but because the results have not proven relevant or useful.

Though I personally never support animal testing, this is not an animal advocacy issue. This is a mainstream, moral, and even financial issue in which New Mexico resident and actor Gene Hackman and Governor Bill Richardson have lent their support. There is no gray area when cruelty continues without the explicit gain of knowledge or insight.

Some have argued the chimps deserve to continue this peaceful retirement because they’ve already given so much of their lives. In truth, their lives were not given, but stolen; for that, we can never repay them. And now, after some reprieve, to send these sentient, feeling beings back into the laboratory to experience more terror and pain is not only inexcusable, it is evil.  

This is a national issue, so no matter where in the U.S. you live, expressing your opinion can make a difference. You can easily find out how to contact your senators and representatives using this link:

Feel free to use this text in your email:

Please stop the federal government’s plans to relocate 200 chimpanzees at New Mexico’s Alamogordo Primate Facility to a Texas laboratory. In 2002 these chimps were rescued from inhumane conditions, after decades of use as research animals, and have been allowed to live these last years in peace. But now the government plans to send them back to the lab to endure more terror and pain in invasive experiments that bear no significant impact on human health advancement.

Scientists world wide no longer experiment on chimpanzees for not only ethical reasons, but because chimps have not proven adequate models for human health research. We’re the only developed country on Earth still doing so.

I urge you to fulfill the National Institutes of Health’s goal “to exemplify and promote the highest level of scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science” by allowing these chimpanzees to live out their lives in the safety of a sanctuary.