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Posts Tagged ‘chimpanzees’

Earlier this week  a Connecticut woman was attacked by a 200 pound chimpanzee named Travis who had been kept as a pet for 14 years.  The woman was friends with the chimp’s “owner”, and was called to help coax him back indoors after he escaped using a key to unlock the front door.  Sandra Herold, the woman who kept Travis, seemed surprised by this attack on her friend because “He could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet, and dress and bathe himself.  He brushed his teeth with a Water Pik, logged on to a computer to look at photos and channel-surfed television with the remote control.”  The thing is, those abilities make him very intelligent, but they still do not make him a domesticated pet.  Travis, like all other chimps, no matter how many amazing “human-like” behaviors they exhibit, are still wild animals who do not belong to anybody else, and who will undoubtedly revert back to their instincts eventually.  In addition, chimpanzees have about 5 times the strength of a human male, so if and when they attack, it is going to be brutal – as it was for Herold’s friend, Charla Nash, who is still in critical condition in the hospital.

During the attack, Herold called police, and pleaded with them to help her friend.  In the end, police shot Travis, killing him instantly.  Now, of course I feel awful that Ms. Nash was   attacked so brutally….but it also makes me extremely angry that this poor chimpanzee was killed simply for being a chimpanzee.  Sandra Herold’s ignorance about what Travis needed – i.e. to not be kept as a prisoner, basically – led to this attack, and I blame her, not Travis, for her friend’s injuries.  What’s more is that the state of Connecticut (and the US as a whole) needs to take some of the responsibility for this.  Herold was legally issued a permit to keep Travis as a pet.   I am hopeful that animal advocates will rise to the call and try to make some legislative changes, as one has already begun to do:

A chimpanzee is not a domestic pet,” said Pricilla Feral, president of the international animal advocacy group Friends of Animals, based in Darien. “Keeping an animal like that as a pet and force-training it goes against all of its natural instincts. For an attack like this to happen should be expected.”

Feral said she was appalled to hear the state issues permits to homeowners for primates such as chimpanzees. In the wake of Monday’s incident, Feral is calling on the state to adopt new legislation that would make primate pet ownership illegal. She is also requesting that existing permits for primates be exposed and revoked.

“The state has no business issuing permits to people to keep these animals as pets,” said Feral. “The fact that Stamford allowed this to occur in its own backyard is astonishing.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: “Because the animals are like us.” Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: “Because the animals are not like us.” Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.
~Charles R. Magel

Did you know that the United States is the largest user of chimpanzees in biomedical research in the entire world? New Zealand, England, Sweden, Austria, and a number of others have either banned or limited such use, and yet we continue to subject our closest living relatives to painful and unnecessary medical testing. And guess what? It’s our tax dollars funding this research. “The cost to U.S. taxpayers for chimpanzee research and maintenance is estimated at $20 – 25 million per year, money that many in the scientific community believe could be allocated to more effective research.”* Based on how little information scientists have obtained by subjecting so many innocent animals to unnecessary tests, the bar for “more effective research” isn’t very high. So if chimps are such good substitutes for humans, why is it that we’ve gotten so little information? The reason is that there are substantial differences between chimpanzees and humans when it comes to diseases like HIV/AIDS:Chimp in research

  • Humans become immunodeficient and do not maintain normal levels of critical immune factors, CD4 and Tlymphocytes. Chronically infected chimpanzees maintain normal levels and do not become immunodeficient.
  • In contrast to humans, HIV does not reproduce well in chimpanzees.
  • HIV infected humans contain the virus in their blood cells and plasma. Chimpanzees contain the virus only in their blood cells.
  • Virus particles are found in human saliva and spinal fluid. In chimpanzees they are not.
  • Humans develop opportunistic infections and cancers associated with HIV. Chimpanzees do not.
  • Humans drop their antibody count prior to systemic illness; chimpanzees do not.**

So, what a great use of our tax dollars! I mean, remember when the scientists found the cure for AIDS from all this research? No? Oh, that’s right BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T.

But, there’s potentially good news. The Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 5852) could end all the suffering for chimpanzees currently in labs. It would put an end to invasive research and testing on an estimated 1,200 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories. “The bill would also retire approximately 600 federally owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories — many for more than 40 years already — to permanent sanctuary.”*** Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? I know I’d rather have my tax dollars go toward almost anything else than the pointless use of these poor animals.

So, what can you do? Go to the HSUS website here and find out who your local representatives are. Then, make a quick phone call (or send an email), tell them you strongly support H.R. 5852 and tell all your friends to do the same! These chimps deserve better – help them live out the rest of their lives in sanctuaries.

Also, if you’d like to know more about alternatives to animal testing, check out this website. It has some great information and frequently asked questions and answers.
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*Humane Society of the United States.
**Johnston MI. The role of nonhuman primate models in AIDS vaccine development. Mol Med Today. 2000 Jul;6(7):267-70 (as cited here).
***Humane Society of the United States.

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