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Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Great Tragedy for Great Apes

The HSUS released the results of its latest undercover investigation yesterday, and ABC’s Nightline broke the story of what it’s like behind closed doors at one of the nation’s largest primate labs. A brave HSUS investigator spent nine months at the New Iberia Research Center outside of Lafayette, La., which confines more than 300 chimpanzees and about 6,000 monkeys for research. 

Chimp_investigation The hidden-camera investigation showed primates engaging in self-mutilation by tearing gaping wounds into their arms and legs, infant monkeys screaming as they are forcibly removed from their mothers, and a researcher hitting a monkey three times in the teeth with a pipe. Some of the elderly chimpanzees at NIRC have been warehoused in laboratories for decades—including Karen, who was caught in the wild as a baby in 1958 and has been confined in a barren lab since the Eisenhower Administration.

Response from the new Administration was swift and decisive. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement saying, “In light of the video evidence presented today, I am ordering a thorough investigation of animal welfare practices at New Iberia Research Center. If the allegations prove to be true, the American public can expect the perpetrators to be held fully accountable. I take the protection of animals very seriously, and will do my utmost to fully enforce the Animal Welfare Act.”

Congress is also responding, and today lawmakers are introducing the Great Ape Protection Act, which would phase out invasive research on chimps and retire government-owned chimps to federal sanctuaries. Led by U.S. Reps. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), this is a common-sense policy reform to protect our closest living relatives from physical and psychological harm, and stop the fleecing of American taxpayers who pay millions of dollars for chimp research and maintenance.

Watch the video of the HSUS investigation, and ask your representative to support the Great Ape Protection Act. There are more than 1,000 chimps still in U.S. labs and the time cannot come soon enough to give these highly intelligent and social creatures the refuge they deserve.

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