Chimp Haven or NIH holding facility?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002:
SAN ANTONIO–A year after a heavily amended version of the
Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act was
rushed to passage in the final days of the 106th Congress and signed
into law by former U.S. President Bill Clinton almost as he walked
out the White House door, sanctuarians and antivivisectionists
remain deeply divided over just what it means and how to respond.
Almost all concerned are agreed that the CHIMP Act was
critically flawed by amendments allowing the National Institutes of
Health to retain ownership of chimps who are to be “retired” from lab
use, and to permit the NIH to yank them back into research use at
any time, along with any offspring born to them.
In dispute is whether or not that allows independent
nonprofit sanctuaries to accept chimps from the NIH without
compromising the sanctuary goal of giving animals a permanent refuge
from exploitation and abuse, and without becoming quasi-suppliers of
chimps to biomedical research.
Despite the NIH ownership and recall amendments, the Humane
Society of the U.S. and Doris Day Animal League hailed the CHIMP Act
as a victory. The Association of Sanctuaries and the rival American
Sanctuary Associ-ation mourned it as a defeat.
Independent primate advocate Linda Howard continued to warn,
as she had for months, that the CHIMP Act could become a Trojan
Horse either way. In her view, reinforced by later events, the NIH
intended all along to use the CHIMP Act to set up its own chimp
“retirement” colonies, empty laboratory cages of chimps who were too
old or sick to still be useful, and start breeding colonies–now
funded–to replace them in the labs with healthy young chimps.
The Association of Sanc-tuaries and American Sanctuary
Association opted to shun participation in implementing the CHIMP
Act, until and unless it is amended to end NIH ownership of retired
chimps and the right to recall them.
That left the process to the NIH and non-TAOS and non-ASA
sanctuaries–notably Chimp Haven, founded in 1995 by longtime
primate advocate Linda Koebner.
Instead of starting small and building up, like most other
sanctuaries, Koebner anticipated the need for chimp retirement
colonies able to handle many times more chimps than all the
sanctuaries in the U.S. had ever accommodated among them. Planning a
$5 million facility with a $12 million endowment, to house about 200
chimps, Koebner still has no chimps, at present. But she has for
seven years developed alliances and credibility within the research,
zoo, and animal welfare communities, reinforced in early 2000 when
Caddo Parish, Louisiana, gave Chimp Haven a 200-acre site inside
the 1,300-acre Eddie D. Jones Nature Park, near Shreveport.
With the land secured, Koebner won pledges, donations, and
grants totalling more than $110,000 in seed money during the first
six months after the CHIMP Act took effect. Impressed by a Koebner
presentation to a National Academy of Science panel on chimp
retirement, Massachusetts SPCA hospital chief Peter Theran, M.D.,
arranged an MSPCA contribution of $25,000.
In the Winter 2001 Chimp Haven newsletter, Koebner wrote,
“On October 1, 2001, the NIH issued a request for proposals from
organizations wishing to operate the system of sanctuaries called for
by the CHIMP Act. Chimp Haven is currently working through the 99
pages of instructions,” applying for funding “for the initial
housing of 200 chimpanzees and the potential to increase that number
to 900. This would mean that once Chimp Haven has established the
first sanctuary in Shreveport, there could potentially be more Chimp
Haven sanctuaries throughout the U.S. and the potential to work with
other organizations as subcontractors for the benefit of the
Koebner explained to ANIMAL PEOPLE that while the NIH prefers
to deal with only one sanctuary contractor, she envisions
arrangement with other sanctuaries of varying size and location,
which would enable chimps to live in different-sized groups and
surroundings, as best suits their personalities.
Koebner acknowledged the difficulties of working within the
CHIMP Act in a manner she and other sanctuarians deem ethical, but
expressed hope that it can be done.
What she is trying to do, she said, is create a facility
that will give as many chimpanzees as possible a much better life
than they have suffered during years and even decades of often
solitary confinement in labs. Koebner agreed that the amendments
sought by TAOS and ASA would be preferable, but noted that Congress
has never revisited a major piece of animal welfare legislation to
make improvements within the life expectancy of many of the chimps
she hopes to help.
As she sees it, Koebner said, she can either help some
chimps now, or lose the opportunity to help those chimps forever.
Meanwhile, she has the option of declining pregnant chimps and
chimps who have been exposed to diseases with long latency intervals,
like AIDS, who are therefore still likely candidates for recall.
While Koebner was fund-raising and negotiating, Friends of
Animals president Priscilla Feral on January 23, 2002 faxed to
Congress a request for repeal of the CHIMP Act, apparently drafted
by attorney Lee Hall of Great Ape Standing & Personhood Inc.,
cosigned by TAOS, ASA, Primarily Primates, and five other primate
advocacy groups. “We understand,” the third sentence asserted,
“that a new enterprise, Chimp Haven, intends to create a system
that will return chimpanzees to research when the NIH deems it
“What we intend,” Koebner told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “is to do the
very best we can for these animals, as soon as we can, within the
terms we have to work with. If the terms can be improved, we
welcome improvement. Meanwhile, we want to give these chimps a
life. Even if it isn’t permanent, a little bit of fresh air,
freedom, and companionship is better than none.”
ASA president Carol Asvestas vigorously disagreed, pointing
toward the despair that might afflict chimpanzees who are
recalled–although Koebner anticipated that recalled chimpanzees
would already be too gravely ill to further enjoy Chimp Haven.
Sanctuarians, primate advocates, and antivivisectionists
have never trusted the NIH much, especially on the subject of
retiring primates from research. The mistrust goes all the way back
to the 1981 Silver Springs monkey case, in which macaques removed
from the laboratory of researcher Edward Taub were retained by NIH
after Taub was twice convicted of cruelty and lost his funding,
although the convictions were later reversed on jurisdictional
technicalities. The NIH promised that the macaques would not be
subjected to further experiments, but refused to release them to
sanctuaries and eventually killed them in procedures combining
purportedly justifiable euthanasia with terminal experiments.
The old wounds have often reopened, including in October
2001 when former Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center staffers
Rachel Weiss and Jessica Ganas, cofounders of the Laboratory Primate
Advocacy Group, charged that “The death of a chimpanzee named
Sellers [under anesthesia, as part of a gout experiment] has
revealed that Yerkes continues to use chimps in invasive research two
years after they announced that they had ended biomedical research
projects involving chimps. Although Yerkes claimed in a 1999 press
release to have stopped using chimps in invasive research as far back
as 1997, there are at least four ongoing invasive research projects
using chimps,” Weiss and Ganas said.
Weiss added that while at Yerkes she worked with Jerom, the
first chimp to die of AIDS. His death was among just a handful of
hints, after more than 20 years of studies, that nonhuman primates
are susceptible enough to the human form of AIDS to be useful in
serious AIDS research. AIDS studies in nonhuman primates continue,
however, and any “retired” research chimp who developed AIDS would
almost certainly be recalled.
On the other hand, Koeb-ner said, her talks with NIH
indicate that chimps exposed to AIDS will not even be offered for
retirement. The only recall scenarios that Koebner said she could
realistically anticipate would involve “some kind of dire emergency”
that her own facilities and veterinarians could not handle, or a
situation in which researchers might feel they needed to draft all
available chimps, regardless of age and health, to help cope with a
national crisis, such as a very large bioterror attack using an
unknown infectious agent.
TAOS and the ASA are more suspicious that “retired” chimps
might be recalled for speculative projects.
For example, a European Commission scientiific advisory
panel recommended in September 2001 that researchers should feed
monkeys the brain matter from cattle with mad cow disease, to try to
trace the evolution of the disease into new variant Creutzfeld-Jakob
Disease, which kills people.
“The committee stopped short of giving the go-ahead for
large-scale experimentation on chimps,” Andrew Osborn of the London
Observer reported, “although they did approve the use of chimps for
‘future vaccine strategy evaluation.'”
Might that involve recalls of “retired” chimps?
Only time will tell.
There is also skepticism that so-called non-invasive research
involving the “retired” chimps, which may continue at NIH will, can
actually be limited to procedures associated with routine health care
and behavioral observation.
Weiss and Ganas cite Yerkes chimp studies of malaria,
claiming these are officially termed “non-invasive” even though the
chimps’ spleens are removed.
Others note a recent macaque study done at Wake Forest
University, in which physiology and pharmacology professor Michael
A. Nader and nine colleagues exposed macaques to the opportunity to
become addicted to cocaine. Nader et al learned that, “Monkeys with
high social status are less likely to become addicted than
lower-ranking members of their group,” as the Raleigh News &
Observer summarized–a finding not exactly news to any investigator
of drug abuse.
Studies often progress from using macaques to testing
theories further on chimps, and studies allowing the chimps
themselves the choice of whether or not to use addictive drugs might
also be described as “noninvasive,” despite their debilitating
FoA vs. AAVS
Beneath a headline stating “Ethics is not an afterthought,”
the second page of the January 23 Friends of Animals letter to
Congress quoted American Anti-Vivisection Society executive director
Tina Nelson in purported endorsement of the CHIMP Act, “on behalf of
AAVS, the American SPCA, the National Anti-Vivisec-tion Society,
the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, and HSUS.”
A footnote mentioned that Nelson’s remarks were from
Congresssional testimony offered to the House Subcommittee on Health
and Education Commerce Commit-tee on May 18, 2000, but omitted, as
Nelson told ANIMAL PEOPLE, that “I was testifying in support of
proposed legislation, not a law, which at that time did include
permanent retirement–it is even mentioned in my statement.”
“The proposed legislation was quite different from the final
Act. AAVS, along with the ASPCA, formally withdrew support of the
proposed legislation when the permanent provision was changed. We
share concerns that the law as passed has many problems,” Nelson
concluded, adding that neither FoA nor any of the cosigners ever
approached her to even ask what the AAVS position on the CHIMP Act as
Said Hall, “I have perused the FoA letter carefully and
found it to contain no false statements, and, indeed, no
Said TAOS executive director Craig Brestrup, “One could
quibble about this or that detail but it wouldn’t gain anything: the
CHIMP act isn’t good for animals and negates core principles of
Said Asvestas, “I believe both Tina Nelson and Chimp Haven
should have been given the opportunity to sign onto our letter, but
if Nelson or Chimp Haven does not support” the NIH ownership of
chimps and right to recall them, “a public statement to that effect
would be most certainly welcome.”
Other recent FoA open letters have accused the North Shore
Animal League of profiting from pet overpopulation, although it
spends more on anti-pet overpopulation projects than any organization
other than Maddie’s Fund; rapped PETA, which has by far the most
active vegetarian advocacy campaign of any U.S. animal rights group,
for allegedly backing away from vegetarian advocacy in halting
protests against Burger King, after Burger King agreed to adopt a
code of animal care ethics for suppliers; and accused In Defense of
Animals of allegedly appearing to condone lab use of nonhuman
primates in recent correspondence with federal officials pertaining
to animal care conditions at the Coulston Foundation, of Alamogordo,
IDA has campaigned against Coulston, the world’s largest
supplier of chimpanzees to research, for more than a decade. The
long effort appeared close to payoff on January 9, when Albuquerque
Journal staff writer Tania Soussan disclosed that the First National
Bank of Alamogordo had filed foreclosure documents against Coulston
for nonrepayment of debts totaling nearly $1.2 million.