The Humane Society of the United States just released a disturbing new video about the care and treatment of chimpanzees and monkeys at the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) at the University of Louisiana.
The undercover investigation revealed routine abuses, both physical and emotional, on some of our closest relatives, and the intense suffering and distress that results. In violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), monkeys and apes are living in barren cages, with no environmental enhancement or social contact, and are subject to painful procedures. The animals respond by screaming, crying, rocking, and self-mutilating.
Primatologists Roger Fouts and Jane Goodall viewed the evidence, and both expressed horror at the way the animals are treated. Chimpanzees are not only our closest living relative, but are endangered; yet US law (unlike any other western nation) still allows for the use of these intelligent, social and sensitive animals in medical research, as well as in the pet trade and for entertainment.
HSUS has provided the video and other evidence to the USDA. In response, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that the agency will investigate the treatment, and will enforce the AWA. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Mary Landrieu both also called for an investigation. Predictably, NIRC released a statement defending their practices and saying that the video "distorts" the treatment of the animals.
At the same time, Congressmen Edolphus Towns, David Reichert, Jim Langevin, and Roscoe Bartlett have once again introduced the Great Ape Protect Act into Congress, which would end the use of chimpanzees as laboratory animals and provide for the humane retirement of living research chimps.
Let's hope this year this important piece of legislation passes, freeing over 1,000 chimpanzees from the most wretched form of existence imaginable. Unfortunately, the thousands of other primates who live in similar conditions will get no respite from their suffering.