When businesses around the country began shutting down in the Spring, Mercy for Animals (MFA), a national animal rights group, launched Plants to the People, an initiative to help vegan restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic. As part of the initiative, MFA paid 10 vegan restaurants and chefs in the Newark, New Jersey area to prepare their plant-based specialties for Bridges Outreach, an organization that delivers 65,000 meals a week to people in need. When MFA volunteer Peter Ortiz contacted Bridges Outreach to propose a vegan Thanksgiving for its clients, the organization jumped at the chance – and Ortiz jumped into action.
Mercy For Animals partners with Bridges Outreach, a Newark-based non-profit that serves the homeless, to serve a vegan ThanksLiving feast (photo: Rachel Alban)
Ortiz asked five of the restaurants that participated in Plants to the People to prepare food for the ThanksLiving event, which was held outdoors due to the pandemic. Not only did the restaurants donate the food, but they also served it up in person — with the help of volunteers from Mercy for Animals, Hip Hop is Green New Jersey, Newark Animal Save and Jersey Shore Food Not Bombs.
With the help of five local restaurants and four animal rights groups, Bridges Outreach in Newark hosts its first vegan ThanksLiving (photos: Rachel Alban)
“We are excited and honored to be working with Bridges Outreach to produce its first vegan ThanksLiving celebration,” said Peter Ortiz, on behalf of the volunteer organizations. “We are also thankful to the restaurants that generously donated food at a time when they too are struggling due to the pandemic.”
Animal rights activists and vegan chefs volunteer at Bridges Outreach ThanksLiving celebration. From left to right: Dhruva LaTorre, Peter Ortiz, Andy Hertz, Annabel Lainchbury, Oscar Malave (photo: Rachel Alban)
The ThanksLiving event went off without a hitch on Tuesday, November 24th, outside of the Bridge Outreach’s headquarters in Newark. Approximately 200 people were fed throughout the day. One of the guests was so grateful to the volunteers that he broke out into dance.
Richard Uniacke, the Executive Director of Bridges Outreach, expressed his gratitude to the organizations and restaurants that made ThanksLiving possible.
The participating restaurants were Blueberry Cafe’ Juice Bar & Vegan Grille in Newark; How Delish HDin West Orange;More Life Cafe “A Vegan Spot” in Jersey City; Plant Base in Jersey City; and Vegans of Seitan in Linden. Among the many menu items were curry jackfruit, lentil & squash soup, Mac n’ Cheese, collard greens, apple cobbler, chili and rice (donated by Food Not Bombs), and cupcakes (donated by Jam Cakery).
Vegan desserts at Bridges Outreach vegan ThanksLiving (photo: Rachel Alban)
In early November, 2020, a female chimpanzee was born in Sapo National Park, a Liberian rainforest that is home to between 500 – 1,600 wild chimpanzees. One week later, poachers shot her mother. The newborn, who fell out of the tree with her mother, watched helplessly as a poacher ran off with her mother’s body.
A park ranger with Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA) heard the gunshots, ran to the scene of the crime and confiscated the infant from one of the poachers. Because he was alone, the FDA ranger could not simultaneously detain the poacher and save the injured infant. After calling for reinforcements, the ranger wrapped the newborn in a blanket and transported her by moped to the Greenville office of Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a global conservation group. Upon her arrival, the newly orphaned chimp was barely clinging to life.
A ranger with Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA) confiscates a newborn chimp from poachers and transports her to Flora & Fauna International
FFI contacted Jenny Desmond and Dr. Jim Desmond, who run Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection, a sanctuary and conservation organization near Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. The Desmonds, who have 63 orphaned chimps in their care, were well equipped to rescue the chimpanzee, now named Mary, but they couldn’t get to her. During rainy season, the road between Greenville and Monrovia is often unnavigable. As LCRP looked for a solution, the Desmonds coached FFI staffers on how to care for the fragile orphan.
The staff at the Greenville, LIberia, office of Flora & Fauna International cared for Mary for a week before Jenny Desmond from LCRP could rescue her
Upon learning about the plight of Mary, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), another NGO with a presence in Liberia, contacted Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a Christian charity that provides air travel to local NGOs, to ask if they would fly Jenny to Greenville to retrieve Mary and then fly the two of them back to Monrovia. MAF agreed.
Mission Aviation Fellowship flew Jenny Desmond of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection from Monrovia, Liberia, to Greenville to rescue an infant chimp orphaned by poachers
One week later, Jenny boarded an MAF prop plane to Greenville.
Andrew Mumford, a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship, flew Jenny Desmond of LCRP from Monrovia to Greenville to rescue an infant chimpanzee whose mother was killed by poachers
According to Jenny, Mary is the “youngest, most fragile” chimp she has rescued since arriving in Liberia in 2015. She didn’t know if she and her husband Jim, who is a veterinarian, could save her life, but they were – and still are – determined. In the two weeks since Jenny arrived at FFI’s office in Greenville, Mary has been clinging to her for 24 hours a day, as baby chimps do in the first year of their lives.
Jenny Desmond of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection Rescues Mary, a two-week old chimp who the Liberian Forestry Development Authority confiscated from a poacher
Mary is recovering from the physical injuries she sustained from falling out of the tree, but she is not out of the woods. She could die from the emotional trauma she is experiencing – having watched her mother get killed. She is also fighting a cold, which can be deadly for an infant chimpanzee. Dr. Desmond has put her on a course of antibiotics. If and when Mary recovers, the Desmonds will introduce her to other chimpanzee toddlers at LCRP to begin her socialization, and they will bring her to the 100 acre forest where they are building a new sanctuary from the ground up. The Desmonds will keep the public updated on Mary’s progress on LCRP’s Facebook page.
Mary, an orphaned chimp, clings to her surrogate human mother, Jenny Desmond of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP)
Killing wild chimpanzees is illegal in Liberia, and, with the help of Liberia’s Wildlife Crime Task Force, the Forestry Development Authority is working to apprehend the poacher(s) who killed Mary’s mother. Among FDA’s many avenues of investigation are interviewing villagers around the national forest and searching for chimp meat and/or live chimps in Liberia’s outdoor markets and border crossings.
Dr. Jim Desmond of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection meets Mary, his newest patient
Mary’s rescue was made possible in part by the Born Free Foundation. In October, Born Free awarded LCRP with a McKenna Travers Award, which consists of emergency funding for the rescue of wild animal orphans. Mary is the first beneficiary at LCRP of the McKenna Travers Award.
Six organizations collaborated to rescue an infant chimp orphaned by poachers
After three weeks, the scab that formed from the injury that Mary sustained on her face fell off. Mary will spend 24 hours a day with a surrogate human mother until she is confident enough to be transitioned into a toddler group at LCRP, where she will spend the rest of her life.
After three weeks, the disfiguring scab on Mary’s facial wound came off.
LCRP’s rescue and conservation work will be profiled in a three part TV series called Baby Chimp Rescue that was produced by the BBC. The series airs in the United States on BBC America starting on December 5th.
Several dozen animal rights activists in New York protested at the Upper East Side home of Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) board member Sharon Lee Patrick over her ongoing refusal to address the inhumane living conditions at Project Chimps, an HSUS sanctuary in Georgia. The protest came just one week after Los Angeles-based activists with Progress for Science staged a similar protest at the Santa Monica home of another HSUS board member, Steven White, who is a managing director of the international investment firm Angelo Gordon.
Activists began protesting HSUS board members in July, 2020, after less confrontational approaches failed to compel HSUS to acknowledge a litany of animal welfare issues raised in a letter to the board sent by 22 people who either worked for or volunteered at Project Chimps. The welfare issues cited in the letter include poor veterinary care, overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment and infrequent access to the outdoor habitat.
Among the most contentious issues raised in the letter is infrequent access to the outdoors. According to the whistleblowers, the 78 chimpanzees at Project Chimps can access the outdoor habitat for just 10 hours a week. They spend the rest of their waking hours in enclosed concrete rooms that HSUS and Project Chimps describe as “porches” that are “outdoors.” This deficiency triggered the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a renowned legal advocacy group, to issue a public statement calling on HSUS and Project Chimps to provide the chimpanzees with daily access to an outdoor habitat.
Excerpt of Project Chimps statement addressing animal mistreatment allegations
During the summer of 2020, National Geographic, which learned about the whistleblower allegations, conducted its own investigation of Project Chimps and published their findings in an in depth story on July 9th. In a letter to the editor, Project Chimps argued that the article was biased and excluded their side of the story.
In addition to protests, animal rights activists are using social media to expose the inhumane living conditions at HSUS’s Project Chimps facility in Georgia
In late October and early November, activists with several grass roots animal rights groups, including Progress For Science and Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), sent letters to the corporations sponsoring HSUS’s annual fundraising gala asking that they confront HSUS about the cruel conditions at Project Chimps. Among the major corporations that have not yet responded are the insurance behemoth Liberty Mutual and PVH Corp, which owns Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and several other luxury fashion brands.
Liberty Mutual, a sponsor of HSUS’s annual “To The Rescue” fundraising gala, ignored letters sent by advocates soliciting their assistance with HSUS
On November 7th, Project Chimps posted a statement on its website defending against specific allegations made by the activists. In the statement, Project Chimps does not validate any of the welfare concerns cited in the letter to the board sent by 22 former employees and volunteers.
Animal rights activists in San Francisco staged a second protest at the Nob Hill home of Susan Atherton, the co-chair of the Board of Directors of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), over her refusal to acknowledge and address the animal welfare infractions at Project Chimps, an HSUS sanctuary in Georgia. During the protest, the activists announced that they plan to return “again and again” until Atherton and her colleagues on the board of HSUS improve the living conditions and veterinary care of the 78 chimpanzees at Project Chimps.
On May 4th, 2020, 22 people who worked for or volunteered at Project Chimps sent a letter to board president Bruce Wagman to voice their concerns about poor veterinary care, overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment and infrequent access to the outdoor habitat. At Project Chimps, the residents are held in concrete enclosures for all but 10 hours a week.
Click letter to Project Chimps Board of Directors to read it in its entirety
When Project Chimps and HSUS refused to acknowledge the welfare violations outlined in the letter, two whistleblowers, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt, posted extensive evidence of the mistreatment at HelpTheChimps.org. On July 9th, National Geographic validated their allegations in an in-depth, investigative story.
At HSUS’s Project Chimps, the chimpanzee are held in concrete enclosures for all but 10 hours a week
“HSUS is the largest animal protection organization in the country with over $200 million in assets,” said Bob Ingersoll, a primatologist who organized the protest. “This organization must use the vast resources at its disposal to transform Project Chimps from a chimpanzee warehouse into a real sanctuary.”
Advocates for the chimps argue that HSUS has the resources to improve the living conditions of the chimpanzees in its care at Project Chimps
In recent months, two prominent national animal rights organizations have spoken out publicly about the welfare issues at Project Chimps. On July 31st, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) posted a statement in support of the whistleblowers, and, on October 14th, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), issued a public statement demanding that HSUS and Project Chimps provide the chimpanzees in their care with daily access to the outdoors.
After successfully liberating chimpanzees Hercules and Leo from a laboratory in NYC, attorneys with the Nonhuman Rights Project are now demanding that HSUS and Project Chimps provide them with access to the outdoors every day
In its public statement defending Project Chimps, HSUS states, “Multiple reputable parties—including a primate expert with years of experience, a renowned chimpanzee veterinarian, a sanctuary-accrediting organization and several government inspectors—have visited Project Chimps, assessed the facilities, program and animals there and have concluded that the chimpanzees are well cared for.” HSUS failed to disclose conflicts of interest. It paid the primate expert a $20,000 consulting fee, and it is a founder of the “sanctuary-accrediting organization” that conducted an inspection.
Animal rights activists protest Susan Atherton, the co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at her home in San Francisco
On August 28th, Donny Moss of TheirTurn.net contacted the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) to express concern about the welfare of the animals at Project Chimps. In response, NAPSA’s Programs Director Erika Fleury stated that Project Chimps “meets NAPSA’s membership standards” and that “It’s clear that you and I are of different opinions about the things you mentioned. I, and NAPSA, trust that the outcomes of the inspections by numerous accrediting/licensing/independent bodies can speak for themselves. Based on what I know of the former employees’ [whistleblowers] activities, I’m going to decline to engage anymore on this topic.”
Dr. Steve Ross, the Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo and an expert on chimpanzee behavior and wellbeing, is conducting an animal welfare assessment at Project Chimps. He anticipates releasing the findings of this assessment in November.
Animal rights activists have scheduled protests at the Los Angeles home of HSUS board member Steven White on October 31st and at the Manhattan home of board member Sharon Lee Patrick on November 7th. The activists are demanding that HSUS replace the Executive Director of Project Chimps with someone with extensive chimpanzee experience; hire a veterinarian with proven expertise in primate care; build new outdoor enclosures so that the chimps have daily access to the forest; and abstain from bringing in new chimps until these outdoor enclosures are built.
Arielle on the Cedar Tree porch at HSUS’s Project Chimps, an HSUS sanctuary in Georgia
Over 30 animal rights activists staged a protest at the New York City home of Sharon Lee Patrick, a member of the Board of Directors of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), over the organization’s refusal to improve the living conditions of the 78 chimpanzees in their care at Project Chimps, HSUS’s sanctuary in Georgia. At Project Chimps, the animals are held in concrete rooms for all but 10 hours a week.
“Project Chimps is supposed to be a sanctuary, not a warehouse,” said Edita Birnkrant, the Executive Director of the animal rights group NYCLASS and co-organizer of the protest. “The Humane Society needs to build additional outdoor habitats so that the chimps are moving around freely in the fresh air instead of pulling out their hair in concrete prison cells.”
In May, 2020, 22 former Project Chimps employees and volunteers sent a letter to Project Chimps board director Bruce Wagman to voice their concerns about poor veterinary care, infrequent access to the outdoors, overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment and other forms of neglect and deprivation. Project Chimps dismissed their concerns in a three sentence response and described two of the former employees as “disgruntled” in a lawsuit that it filed against them after they posted evidence of the abuse on HelpTheChimps.org.
Left: Eddie, who was injured during a fight due to overcrowding (photo taken in Sept., 2019). Right: Panielle, who is underweight in this photo due to neglected intestinal parasites (Photo taken in late 2019).
The protest comes less than a week after the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) issued a public statement demanding that HSUS and Project Chimps provide the chimpanzees with daily access to the outdoors. NhRP, animal rights organization that seeks to upgrade the legal status of animals, took the unusual step of speaking out publicly about the welfare conditions at Project Chimps after HSUS dismissed its concerns about Hercules and Leo, chimpanzees who ended up at Project Chimps after NhRP liberated them from a laboratory in New York.
The Nonhuman Rights Project issued a public statement demanding that Project Chimps provide its clients, Hercules and Leo, with daily access to the outdoors. Full statement.
After being liberated from a lab in New York, Hercules and Leo were relocated to HSUS’s Project Chimps, which describes itself as a sanctuary
NhRP is not the first animal rights organization to publicly criticize HSUS over the mistreatment of animals at Project Chimps. On July 31st, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued its own statement after reviewing the evidence.
On July 31, 2020, PETA issued a public statement regarding the welfare conditions at Project Chimps
On July 9th, National Geographic published an in depth, investigative story about the animal cruelty allegations. While it includes statements from both sides, the story paints a grim and disturbing picture of animal welfare that corroborates the allegations of the whistleblowers.
National Geographic investigative story about animal mistreatment at HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary, Project Chimps
Sharon Lee Patrick is the fourth HSUS board member targeted with protests. Since July, 2020, animal rights activists have protested at the Santa Monica (CA) home of Steven White; at the Sag Harbor (NY) clothing store owned by Brad Jakeman; and the San Francisco home of Susan Atherton, the co-chair of the board.
During a protest at the NYC home of HSUS board member Sharon Lee Patrick, activists distributed hundreds of flyers to her neighbors
Grass roots animal rights groups around the country, including Stop Animal Exploitation Now and Progress for Science, say they will continue to hold HSUS board members accountable until they acknowledge the welfare violations at Project Chimps and commit to addressing them. They are posting updates on the campaign and calls to action on the Facebook pages Do The Right Thing and Protesting HSUS Over Cruelty at Project Chimps
TheirTurn is documenting the grass roots campaign to hold HSUS board members accountable for mistreating the chimpanzees in their care at Project Chimps