Update: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has written to National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins urging him to scrap plans to transfer more than 200 “retired” chimpanzees from the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico to the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research laboratory in Texas. He has also requested the return of 15 chimpanzees who have already been transferred.
“New Mexico wants to save these chimpanzees, who have already given so much of their lives to the American public as part of medical research studies,” says the governor. “There is a compassionate and prudent alternative to the National Center for Research Resources’ plan, and I feel strongly that we must save the chimpanzees.”
Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico is also working hard to ensure that the chimpanzees are spared from further experiments. Stay tuned for more updates.
The folks at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) must have had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they “retired” 288 chimpanzees—who had previously been used in Air Force gravity experiments—to the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) in New Mexico. I say this because NIH has now decided to “unretire” the surviving chimpanzees (more than 21 have died in the decade they’ve spent warehoused in cages at APF, including three who died by electrocution because of unsafe conditions). The animals will be sent to the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR) laboratory in Texas, where they will likely be subjected to cruel experiments.
SFBR might sound familiar to readers of this blog because it is the same laboratory where two baboons escaped from cages in May and attacked two employees. PETA filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which then cited SFBR for failure to handle animals in a manner that does not cause trauma or physical harm as well as failure to provide animals with adequate and safe housing. SFBR had previously been cited twice—in 2009 and in February of this year—for failure to house animals in structurally sound enclosures in order to prevent them from escaping and injuring themselves and others. In one incident, a monkey escaped from a cage, got outside into the freezing cold, suffered from hypothermia, and later was euthanized as a result.
SFBR’s “punishment” for these offenses? It gets more than 200 chimpanzees to confine, scare, poke, and prod.
Half of the chimpanzees at APF have been living in cages for at least a quarter of a century. As PETA Vice President Kathy Guillermo wrote today in a letter to NIH, it’s time to truly retire these primates to a sanctuary, rather than sending them back to a laboratory where they are sure to endure tremendous physical and psychological trauma, possibly for the rest of their lives—which could last another quarter century or more.
Please take a minute to send your own letter to APF and let it know that “retirement” means living the rest of your life free from stress (and not confined to a cage).
Written by Alisa Mullins