The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) staged a massive protest at the headquarters of the New York Blood Center, the organization that abandoned 66 ex-lab chimpanzees on islands in Liberia with no food or water after earning $500 million in royalties off of the research.
The protest featured several prominent speakers, including Claudine André, the founder of the world famous bonobo sanctuary, Lola Ya Bonobo. Ms. André traveled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to participate.
Claudine André speaks at New York Blood Center protest
The theme of the protest was “Keep Your Promise” because New York Blood Center officials made a commitment to provide the chimpanzees with lifelong care.
New York Blood Center executives promised to provide its chimpanzees with lifelong care.
As Chairman of the New York Blood Center, real estate magnate Howard Milstein bears responsibility for the organization’s decision to cut funding for its former lab chimps who are living on six islands in Liberia. In an effort to convince him to fulfill his promise to provide lifelong care for the 67 surviving apes, New Yorkers have begun staging dramatic protests in front of the billionaire’s Park Avenue apartment building.
In spite of global pressure to reinstate the funding for the chimps, the NY Blood Center is digging in its heels, stating that it doesn’t own the them and that the government of Liberia is responsible for their care. They do not acknowledge that NYBC captured the chimps in the wild; bred them in captivity: held them prisoner in cages; experimented on them for 30 years; earned $500 million off the research; moved them to islands with no natural source of food and water; and made multiple promises to provide them with lifelong care.
Real estate tycoon Howard Milstein is Chairma of the Board of the NY Blood Center
TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell of Jane UnChained attended the first protest at Mr. Milstein’s home and filed this report:
The Real Deal, a real estate publication read by Howard Milstein’s peers, also has also reported on the grass roots campaign against him and the NYBC.
As New Yorkers prepare to expand the protests to the homes other NYBC board members, hundreds, if not thousands, of advocates in other parts of the world are taking action against the the Blood Center by participating in a grass roots campaign organized by the Facebook group, New York Blood Center: Do the Right Thing.
New Yorkers protest outside the home of Howard Milstein
In the streets, online and in the media, the NY Blood Center is being pressured to resume funding for the chimps’ care. On July 24th, the Daily Mail – one of the most widely circulated news publications in the world – posted a story that went viral: “Battle to Save the Hugging Chimps: Heartbreaking Story of 66 Apes and a Baby ‘Abandoned’ on Island by Medical Firm after They Finished Experimenting on Them.”
NYBC Chairman Howard Milstein cut funding to provide food and water to the organization’s lab chimps after earning $500 million in royalties off of the research.
Security was tight at the NY Blood Center, with a guard stationed at the door to prevent another protest inside the building. But that didn’t stop 15 activists from charging past him; occupying the lobby for 30 minutes; and using a bullhorn to ensure that employees throughout the building could hear about the crimes committed by their employer and the demand to reinstate funding for the chimps who they left to die with no food or water.
Jane Velez-Mitchell and Donna Dennison from JaneUnchained were there to document the disruption and the reaction from the NY Blood Center:
In May, the NY Blood Center told the NY Times it has no “contractual obligation” to care for their former lab chimps. That’s not good enough for leaders in the great ape community, including Dr. Jane Goodall, who say that NYBC has an ethical obligation. Like the grass roots activists who have staged two protests in their lobby, they are demanding that the NYBC reinstate the funding.
Activists occupy NY Blood Center to demand that its executives reinstate funding for the lab chimps they abandoned
Will NYBC executives continue to dig in their heels with the hope that activists will abandon their efforts to hold the them accountable? Or will they reinstate the funding for the chimps in order to prevent similar protests at the homes and offices of their executives, board members and donors?
Activists unroll police tape to convey the message that the NYBC is a crime scene
Six days after the NY Times reported that the New York Blood Center abandoned 66 of its lab chimps, leaving them to die on islands in Liberia with no food or water, activists in New York City staged a disruption at its headquarters, demanding that the organization reinstates the funding.
Activists protest NYBC’s decision to abandon chimps after experimenting on them for 30 years
Activists did not alert the media, but Fox News heard about the protest and sent a cameraman
Hundreds of pedestrians stopped to take leaflets, ask questions and convey their support
Activists plan to protest until the NY Blood Center reinstates funding for the chimps who they left to die.
Call Christopher Hillyer, the President & CEO of the NY Blood Center, and demand that his organization fulfills its obligation and promise to provide lifelong care to the chimpanzees used in their medical experiments: (212) 570-3000.
Sign the Change.org petition “to urge NYBC to reinstate funding for this chimpanzee colony before it’s too late!”
An institution that conducted experiments on approximately 500 hundred chimpanzees and made a commitment to provide the survivors with lifelong care has abandoned the ones who are still alive, leaving them to die of starvation. The New York Blood Center (NYBC), which tested treatments and vaccines on the great apes at a medical research center in Liberia from 1974 to 2005, has terminated its $30,000/month funding to feed and care for the chimps, who are living on secluded islands near the country’s capital, Monrovia.
The chimpanzees raised at the NY Blood Center’s research facility are dependent on human caregivers for sustenance (all photos: screenshots The Real Planet of the Apes)
NYBC, which has reportedly earned over $500 million in royalties for discoveries made at the chimp research center, has neither denied the allegations nor responded to repeated inquiries from advocacy groups around the world.
The NY Blood Center experimented on chimpanzees at the Liberia Biomedical Research Institute from 1974 – 2006.
According to Dr. Fatorma Borlay, the current head of the facility where the experiments were conducted, the New York Blood Center “left [the chimps] to die of starvation.” Another advocate with local contacts says that the situation is “totally desperate,” as chimps could very well perish if the Blood Center doesn’t resume funding. As a stop gap measure, some of the chimps’ caretakers have, as volunteers, continued to travel to the islands to provide the chimps with limited amounts of food purchased with money donated by the Humane Society of the United States and other groups and individuals.
Workers feed former laboratory chimps living on secluded islands near Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.
In 1974, the New York Blood Center launched its chimp research program on the grounds of the then defunct Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research. According to Betsy Brotman, who directed the program, Liberia was chosen because of the availability of the facility; the cooperation of the government; and the large number of chimps who could no longer be kept by locals as pets.
Caretaker and chimps at NY Blood Center’s research facility in Liberia
In 1984, Ms. Brotman acknowledged the obligation of the New York Blood Center to provide the chimps with a humane retirement: ”It’s our responsibility to try to pay them back by letting them live out their lives in their natural environment.” She repeated the assertion in The Real Planet of the Apes, a 2014 documentary film about her research and the islands on which the chimps were retired: “If you’re going to do work in chimpanzees, you should set up a system so that at the end of the research they have a place where they can . . . live a nice chimp life to the best of whatever is available.”
A caretaker at the NY Blood Center’s research facility in Liberia
Under Ms. Brotman’s leadership, the New York Blood Center released the chimps onto six islands near Monrovia where they would be safe from human predators and where employees from the research facility who knew them could provide them with lifelong care. “That’s what we agreed upon doing, and we did it,” said Brotman in The Real Planet of the Apes.
The NY Blood Center broke its promise to provide lifelong care to the research chimps
Advocates, who speculate that the Blood Center used the distraction of the Ebola epidemic as an opportunity to discreetly extricate itself from its commitment, have staged two disruptions inside of the lobby of the organization’s headquarters.
UPDATE: The NY Times and Motherboard have picked up the story and provided more detailed information about the plight of the chimps and the decision by the NY Blood Center to abandon them. In addition, Jane Goodall sent an open letter to the NY Blood Center demanding that it reinstates the funding.
A former NY Blood Center lab chimp in Monrovia, Liberia