July 22, 2009 • Posted in Project R&R News
Following the reintroduction of the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326), NEAVS/Project R&R joined Fauna, Chimp Haven, and HSUS for a Congressional briefing (June 25th), which brought the plight of chimpanzees in U.S. labs front and center to Capitol Hill. The panel included two of the bill’s lead sponsors, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Ashley Wilson on behalf of Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). The presentations made their mark, resulting in an increase in cosponsors.
Attendees in the full-to-capacity room learned about the history, current use (Katie Conlee, HSUS), and economic arguments surrounding chimpanzee research; saw footage of an undercover investigation of the New Iberia Research Center (Wayne Pacelle, HSUS); learned about the scientific “Case to End Chimpanzee Research”; and ”met” Tom, Fauna resident and Project R&R Ambassador.
Rep. Bartlett and Ms. Wilson gave substantive and compelling summaries as to why they are taking leadership on the bill. Rep. Bartlett, a former head of a primate lab, paused after viewing the footage of New Iberia, obviously moved by the tragic images. He expressed his regret and bewilderment that so little has changed since he worked in an animal research lab decades ago. He went on to comment on how modern alternatives could and should replace the use of chimpanzees. Ms. Wilson gave a complete and informative summary of the issue and reasons as to why Mr. Towns introduced the legislation.
Dr. Capaldo, NEAVS/Project R&R president, reported on our recent progress in her presentation entitled “The Case to End Chimpanzee Research: Scientific, Ethical, and Economic Arguments.” In it she noted, “NEAVS/Project R&R is scientifically examining the facts surrounding the use of chimpanzees in research. We have brought together a team of international scientists and have already produced five published scientific papers.” She added, “We know that when we work to pass the laws of our land, our decisions and actions must be based on reason and reality, not rhetoric – be that of animal rights or science. Project R&R’s work is adding this voice of reason and credibility to the arguments – indisputable arguments whose time have come.”
Other panelists included Chimp Haven President Dr. Linda Brent, who spoke on the costs and conditions needed to provide chimpanzees rescued from research with the sanctuary care and homes they so deserve. She noted that Chimp Haven would welcome new residents and is currently working to secure the funding needed.
The Congressional briefing ended on a poignant note, through stories about Tom as told by Gloria Grow, Fauna founder and Project R&R co-chair. An elder chimpanzee, Tom spent three decades in a lab where he was infected with HIV and endured over 369 knockdowns as well as punch liver and bone marrow biopsies.
Ms. Grow ended her presentation with a clip from the award-winning PBS documentary Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History, which captured Tom’s first moments after being released onto the sanctuary islands. The footage, one of the documentary’s enduring legacies, shows Tom climbing to the top of one of the tallest trees at the sanctuary (cover photo) and overlooking the landscape of his home for the first time. We watched as Tom did “what comes naturally” even after decades of captivity. The promise and hope this footage portrayed, along with the presentations that preceded it, left decision-makers in the audience with both an indelible image as well as new facts to ponder. An increase in the number of cosponsors on the bill was seen in the days following the briefing.