One day after activists staged a third protest at the home of its Chairman of the Board on August 4th, the New York Blood Center (NYBC) posted a stunning public statement (Q&A) defending its decision to cut off funding to its former lab chimps (see below).
In the Q&A, which it has since removed from its website, NYBC argues that it neither owns nor has responsibility for the chimps; that the blame for their plight lies with animal welfare organizations who refused to take them; and that their priority is helping humans, not chimpanzees.
“We have no obligation to these chimpanzees.” In an effort to distance itself from its chimps, NYBC asserts that the government of Liberia owns them and is responsible for their care. Nowhere in its statement does NYBC acknowledge that they captured the chimps from the wild; bred them in captivity; conducted experiments on them for 30 years; and dropped them off on islands with no natural food and water, rendering them totally dependent on humans for survival.
Language about ownership in contracts between NYBC and the government of Liberia doesn’t change the fact that NYBC has a moral obligation to pay for their care. In fact, previous executives at NYBC publicly acknowledged this obligation.
“The animal welfare groups did nothing to help us.” NYBC claims that it attempted to work with animal welfare organizations to find a long term solution for the chimps, but, according to individuals involved in those discussions, NYBC merely attempted to shift the responsibility to these groups without offering to pay for the expenses, such as expanding the sanctuaries to accommodate the chimps and providing them with food and medical care for the remainder of their lives. During these discussions, NYBC was well aware of the fact that great ape sanctuaries in Africa, which are chronically short on space and financial resources, could not assume the millions of dollars in costs associated with caring for its chimps.
“Our obligation is to humans. Other organizations better suited to funding and supporting the chimps.” NYBC also justifies its decision to eliminate funding for the chimps on the grounds that humans are a greater priority: “Our mission is to save lives here in the United States. NYBC’s responsibility is to blood donors, hospitals and patients.”
Even if one subscribes to the point of view that humans are more worthy of life than other animals, NYBC doesn’t have to make that choice. The organization, which pays its President over $1.2 million and has $450 million in assets, has earned $500 million in royalties from their chimp research. Even if NYBC was not a wealthy organization backed by some of the biggest corporations in the United States, it would still have a moral obligation to pay for the care of their chimps.
In a demonstration of its lack of ethics, NYBC describes the islands to which they relocated the chimps as “sanctuaries,” even though they have no caretakers, facilities or infrastructure. Given that the chimps had no survival skills and were traumatized by decades of experiments, they should have been relocated to accredited sanctuaries where they would have received much needed care as soon as they were released. Instead, they have been struggling to survive on isolated islands, at times going several days without food and water. Over the years, many of the chimps have needlessly died from starvation.
In a statement entitled “Left To Die In Liberia,” the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) paints a picture of just how difficult the animals’ lives on the islands: “One chimp bargained for food by offering his leg to the caregivers, as he would have done in the lab when being darted.”
Please join the Facebook page New York Blood Center: Do the Right Thing in order to participate in the online actions and keep apprised of the campaign to compel NYBC to reinstate funding for the chimps.