After being targeted by animal rights activists for two years over its decision to abandon 66 chimpanzees on islands in Liberia, the New York Blood Center (NYBC) caved in to pressure, making a $6 million contribution toward their lifelong care. The decision represents a major victory not only for the chimps but also for animal protection advocates in NYC and around the world who participated in online actions, staged protests and signed Care2 petitions. Here’s a short video from what turned out to be the final protest:
“When I realized that NYBC was prepared to let their chimps die of starvation and thirst on deserted islands after holding them captive in cages for 30 years and conducting hundreds of painful experiments on them, I decided to rally caring people around the world to demand accountability and take action,” said Wally Baldwin, who serves of the Board of the Center for Great Apes and runs the Facebook page, NYBC: Do The Right Thing. “I am gratified that our efforts paid off.”
When the New York Times reported in May, 2015, that NYBC cut off all funding for the 66 remaining survivors of its research experiments and for the Liberians who took care of them, grass roots activists in NYC launched a protest campaign that targeted not only NYBC but also its top three corporate partners, IBM, MetLife, and Citigroup. After meeting with the activists and/or being subjected to protests, all three companies issued public statements severing ties with NYBC, and Citigroup made an unsolicited contribution of $50,000 toward the care of the chimps.
“Our ability to compel multinational corporations to take the bold and unusual step of speaking out publicly against an organization with which they had a decades-long relationship demonstrates that grass roots advocacy can effect meaningful change,” said Donny Moss, one of the campaign organizers.
Other significant milestones in the campaign were the resignations of two of the four NYBC board members targeted by the activists, Owen Garrick, who is based in Oakland, California, and Laurie Glimcher, who also quit her job as Dean of Cornell Medicine and moved to Boston after months of being targeted with protests.
The $6 million contributed by NYBC is expected to cover half of the cost of the lifelong care of the chimps. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which stepped in to take care of the chimps when NYBC abandoned them, will pay for the other half using contributions to its GoFundMe Campaign, which has raised $363,000 since 2015. For more details about the agreement between HSUS and NYBC, please see this press release issued by HSUS.
In August, 2015, HSUS hired Jenny and Jim Desmond, an American couple with experience in great ape rescue, to oversee the care of the chimps. With funds donated to HSUS, the Desmonds were able to not only hire back almost all of the Liberians who lost their jobs when NYBC cut the funding but also make dramatic improvements to the care of the chimps, including daily feedings (instead of every other day); an improved diet that takes their nutritional needs into account; and birth control.
In addition to taking care of the chimps, HSUS has worked to raise awareness of their plight by staging a massive protest at NYBC and making public statements in conjunction with Dr. Jane Goodall, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, primatologist Dr. Brian Hare, and actresses Kate and Rooney Mara who traveled to Liberia to visit the islands.
Thank you to all of the activists around the world who have spoken out on behalf of the abandoned chimps. Together, we did this!