Loving the monkeys, too
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:
BASTROP, Texas––Perhaps it
was just coincidence that just as the 1999
Primate Freedom Tour got the only seriously
bad press of its first three weeks on the road,
the Disney Network began broadcasting frequent
“Vault Disney” intermission clips of
Annette Funicello singing “I love the monkey’s
uncle,” backed by The Beachboys.
Then again, from Dumbo (1941)
and Bambi (1942) on, Walt Disney Studios
has given humane causes many a big surprise
boost in the guise of innocent entertainment.
Whatever the case, the Primate
Freedom Tour had by the end of the July 4
weekend brought the cause of nonhuman primates
in laboratories more media attention
than any other event or series of events since
the 1985 passage of Animal Welfare Act
amendments requiring labs to provide for the
psychological well-being of nonhuman primates
Except for the brief spate of bad
press as the tour paused in San Francisco,
almost all of the attention was at least sympathetic––including
much of the response from
biomedical research spokespersons.
“It is a very difficult issue,” conceded
Northwest AIDS Foundation board
member Tom Stuth, 32. “If there was any
other way of doing HIV drug research, I
would be happy, but we have no choice.”
Stuth told Seattle Times s t a f f
reporter Magdalena Kulig that he opposes
non-pharmaceutical animal testing, and
explained that he is permanently disabled
from having participated himself in a test of a
drug designed to treat HIV. The drug killed
three other human test subjects, Stuth said.
Several others later needed liver transplants.
California Regional Primate
Research Center at U.C. Davis assistant
director and primate veterinarian Jeff Roberts
seemed to welcome the scrutiny occasioned
by the Primate Freedom Tour.
“Any institution is obligated to justify
itself,” Roberts told Diana Griego Erwin
of the Sacramento Bee. “The true test of
good science is whether you can explain what
you do to non-scientists.”
Twenty-three members of the
Primate Freedom Tour occupied the office of
University of Washington president Richard
McCormick overnight on June 3, soon after
the start of the rolling protest, but left peaceably.
There were no arrests. At least four
demonstrators were arrested, however, several
days later during a three-day stop at the
Oregon Regional Primate Research Center in Portland. The Davis visit came next.
“Within an hour after the demonstrators gathered, police guarding the entrance to the California Regional Primate Research Center had swapped helmets for baseball caps,” Sacramento Bee science writer Edie Lau wrote. But six protesters were arrested for blocking a driveway.
In San Francisco the Primate Freedom Tour hit the wake of an April 23 World Day for Laboratory Animals protest during which participants reportedly broke into three University of California research labs, smashed glass, overturned refrigerators, and removed four mice from a neurology lab. Two of the mice were infected with scrapie, a sheep disease associated with both bovine spongiform encepalopathy (“mad cow disease”) and Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, afflicting humans. Three people were arrested.
Five days after the World Day incident, nine unidentified protesters allegedly burned an effigy outside the home of U.C. San Francisco hearing researcher Steven Cheung, 37, and heaved rocks through his windows. Cheung’s noise experiments on squirrel monkeys have occasioned protest led by In Defense of Animals, the Animal Rights Direct Action Coalition, and Act Up! San Francisco since June 1998.
A daytime protest on June 13 partially reprised April 23, as about 50 people entered the UCSF Health Sciences East Building through a rear door and reportedly broke a window.
“It wasn’t done by a member of the tour,” Coalition to End Primate Experimentation spokesperson Linda Howard told ANIMAL PEOPLE. Howard and Oregon activists Rick Bogle and Craig Rosebraugh were the chief tour organizers–– Bogle and Rosebraugh on the bus, Howard handling media.
Another night protest at Cheung’s home followed, but the audience, wrote Charlie Short of the San Francisco Examiner, “was mainly about a dozen police officers.
From San Francisco the tour visited Phoenix, and then Alamogordo, New Mexico, headquarters of the Coulston Foundation, owners of the world’s largest chimpanzee colony.
Last Chance For Animals helped focus the spotlight on Coulston by suing the foundation on June 17 for allegedly “improperly threatening” a web site provider that cancelled a contract to host >>www.CoulstonKillsChimps.com<<, an LCA site attacking Coulston. “LCA is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $4.3 million, punitive damages, and a court order declaring that LCA is free to use the domain name” in question, said LCA executive director Eric Mindel.
Israeli activist Noam Lazarus, 20, spent the June 22- 25 stop in Albuquerque living in a cage to draw further attention to what he called “the Holocaust of our time.”
Nicholas Brown, 18, of Los Angeles, emulated the stunt when the tour reached the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research facilities in San Antonio. There was media competition that day from an unrelated demonstration against animal-based research held at the University of Utah––and the confluence of events may have helped them both to win notice.
On June 25 the Primate Freedom Tour announced a new web address, >>www.primatefreedomtour.org<<, which may attract more hits than the harder-to-find CEPE site.
The tour took to the road as a variety of organizations geared up efforts to retire nonhuman ex-lab primates.
Primarily Primates, of San Antonio, anticipates receiving in August 21 more chimpanzees from the former NASA colony, now managed by Coulston; the first 10 arrived in March, and an eleventh, named Deeter, was born to one of the older chimps in May. As the mother’s breasts were somehow maimed many years ago, Primarily Primates directors Wally Swett and Stephen Tello were bottle-feeding the infant chimp in their on-site home.
Chimp Haven Inc., of Shreveport, Louisiana, received 200 acres from Caddo Parish as donated future home of a proposed 200-chimp retirement colony.
The Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care in Boynton Beach, Florida, announced a drive seeking to raise $14 million for the remaining 111 former NASA chimps––if it succeeds in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the August 1998 U.S. Air Force verdict that all but those awarded to Primarily Primates should remain with Coulston.
The bioscience firm Diagnon Corporation, of Rockville, Maryland, formed the Foundation for Comparative and Conservation Biology, hoping to win contracts to retire about 30 chimpanzees who would then be observed as they age, in connection with ongoing geriatric research.