In early 2020, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) asked the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) to investigate detailed allegations of animal mistreatment at Project Chimps, a Humane Society (HSUS) sanctuary in Georgia that is home to 77 chimpanzees. Whistleblowers working at the sanctuary had contacted PETA after Project Chimps leadership dismissed their animal welfare and safety concerns, including the absence of skilled veterinary care, poor safety protocols, substandard facilities and infrequent access to the outdoor yards. They alleged that these and other conditions do not meet GFAS’s standards for accreditation.
Click image to see GFAS standards for great ape sanctuaries
In response to PETA’s complaint, GFAS conducted an inspection at Project Chimps in February 2020. Instead of showing up unannounced, the inspectors scheduled their visit in advance and spent just one day at the sanctuary. While on site, they did not review the medical records of the chimpanzees, many of whom had serious underlying conditions that were not being monitored or treated.
Despite requests from advocates and other stakeholders, GFAS refused to release the highly-anticipated inspection report. The only information made available to the public was a list of seven recommendations and a commitment by Project Chimps to fulfill them by August 1, 2020.
GFAS’ perfunctory inspection (reminiscent of the USDA inspections that HSUS has criticized for years), the decision to uphold Project Chimps’s accreditation and the lack of transparency around the report beg many questions:
If Project Chimps does not meet several of the standards set by GFAS for great ape sanctuaries, then why does GFAS accredit it?
If sanctuaries are going to leverage their GFAS accreditation for fundraising and promotional purposes, then shouldn’t donors, advocates, scientists and other stakeholders have access to GFAS’s inspection reports?
Why should the public give credence to the “GFAS-accredited” claim made by any sanctuary when at least one of the accredited sanctuaries falls far short of meeting GFAS’s standards?
If GFAS’s recommendations were implemented by August 2020 (which would suggest that Project Chimps was in compliance with GFAS standards), then how does GFAS explain the D grade that primatologist Steve Ross gave Project Chimps on its welfare management programs three months later?
In March 2021, GFAS conducted another inspection at Project Chimps after two chimpanzees died. Again, it has not released the report.
GFAS Standards for Accreditation
GFAS sets specific standards that great ape sanctuaries must meet in order to receive its coveted accreditation. Project Chimps doesn’t meet many of these standards. Two whistleblowers who worked at the sanctuary documented 21 examples on HelpTheChimps.org, a website they created after Project Chimps and HSUS repeatedly dismissed their pleas for reform.
Whistleblowers documented 21 examples of how Project Chimps failed to meet GFAS standards for great ape sanctuaries. Click the illustration to see the examples and the specific GFAS standards they violate.
Following are two examples:
Veterinary Care: According to GFAS, a great ape sanctuary must have “a written veterinary medical program, including long term preventative medical protocols and disease surveillance and containment procedures, that is developed and carried out under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian who has training or experience in providing medical care for the ape and other species housed at the sanctuary, and who is aware of any specific issues with the health of the apes at the sanctuary.”
Project Chimps doesn’t meet any of these criteria. From early 2017 to mid-2020, the sanctuary employed a veterinarian who had no primate experience and who put no protocols in place to monitor underlying conditions. In addition, he routinely disregarded serious and, in some cases, life-threatening symptoms. Project Chimps replaced this veterinarian in August 2020, but he is back at the helm because the new veterinarian left the organization in March 2021.
Project Chimps does not meet GFAS standards for veterinary care at a great ape sanctuary
Access to the Outdoors: At GFAS-accredited sanctuaries, “great apes are provided sufficient opportunity and space to move about freely and rapidly, and to exercise choice in location so as to reduce stress and maintain good physical condition. Great apes are able to enjoy lives that are as close as possible to that of their wild counterparts.”
Project Chimps does not meet these criteria. The chimpanzees have access to an outdoor yard once every three days for a few hours, weather permitting. For the rest of the time, they are held in concrete rooms. In a letter to GFAS, the director of another primate sanctuary wrote, “Clearly there are too many chimpanzees at Project Chimps if their time outdoors is limited and has to be shared. No chimpanzee should be expected to live without a choice of habitat.”
Conditions at Project Chimps fall short of the standards set by GFAS for great ape sanctuaries
The whistleblowers assert that the absence of expert veterinary care and the lack of daily access to the outdoors should, in and of themselves, compel GFAS to rescind Project Chimps’s accreditation. Instead, GFAS ignores its own standards. Why?
GFAS’s Conflict of Interest
GFAS has a conflict of interest that compromises its ability to objectively assess Project Chimps, much less rescind its accreditation for failing to meet GFAS standards. This conflict of interest spans the 14 years since GFAS was founded. In fact, it was HSUS that registered the GFAS website in 2007.
HSUS owns the domain name for GFAS, which suggests an administrative relationship between the organizations.
Since 2007, many people who have worked at GFAS or served on its board have been affiliated with HSUS. One of the GFAS founders was the Chief Operating Officer of HSUS, and another served as treasurer of a political action committee founded by HSUS. Today, these individuals serve on GFAS’s Board of Directors. A Senior Vice President at HSUS also serves on the board, and an HSUS employee works at GFAS. In addition, one of the GFAS employees who inspected Project Chimps in 2020 is a former HSUS employee.
HSUS also provides financial support to GFAS, according to its 2018 and 2019 annual reports.
How can GFAS objectively assess a sanctuary that is operated by an organization that funds it?
If GFAS is comprised of people affiliated with HSUS; is partially funded by HSUS; and has administrative ties to HSUS, then how can it make unbiased assessments of an HSUS sanctuary?
This conflict of interest explains why GFAS continues to accredit Project Chimps despite the fact that it fails to meet many of its standards for great ape sanctuaries.
Roxy, Linsdsey and the 75 other chimpanzees at Project Chimps have access to the outdoor yards for a few hours every third day. For the rest of the time, they are held in concrete enclosures
On a final note, the whistleblowers, grass roots activists and national organizations advocating on behalf of the chimpanzees at Project Chimps know that running a great ape sanctuary is expensive, laborious and uniquely challenging. No one is asking for perfection, but HSUS does have the resources to bring Project Chimps up to GFAS standards. It is choosing not to.
Neighbors lashed out as animal rights activists in NYC staged a third protest 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 poor welfare conditions at Project Chimps, an HSUS chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia. The protest comes after Dr. Steve Ross, a renowned primatologist, gave Project Chimps a D grade (67%) on its welfare management programs as part of a highly anticipated assessment of the sanctuary that he conducted in October and November.
In June, Project Chimps was thrust into the national spotlight when it sued two whistleblowers who came forward with extensive evidence of animal mistreatment. The lawsuit triggered animal rights activists, who rely on whistleblowing as a tool to expose animal abuse, to protest several members of HSUS’s Board of Directors, including Sharon Lee Patrick in New York; Brad Jakeman in Sag Harbor; Steven White in Los Angeles; and Susan Atherton in San Francisco.
In May, 2020, 22 Project Chimps employees and volunteers sent a letter to the board to voice their concerns about animal welfare conditions at the sanctuary, including poor veterinary care, overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions and a lack of sufficient enrichment. 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 have access to the outdoor habitat for an average of just 10 hours a week. They spend the rest of the time in concrete enclosures. This deficiency triggered the legal advocacy group Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) to issue a public statement calling on HSUS and Project Chimps to provide the chimpanzees with daily access to an outdoor habitat. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has also spoken out publicly on behalf of the chimpanzees.
Animal rights activists are demanding that the Humane Society of the United States transform Project Chimps from a “warehouse” into the sanctuary that they claim it is
In October, 2020, the animal rights groups Progress For Science, Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) and TheirTurn sent letters to three celebrities who serve as members of the board of Project Chimps asking them to intervene on behalf of the chimpanzees. Actresses Amber Nash and Judy Greer and musician Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day neither responded to nor acknowledged the letters.
In July, Project Chimps dismissed the lawsuit against the whistleblowers, but activists have vowed to continue protesting HSUS until the organization installs leaders at Project Chimps who have chimpanzee experience; who command the respect of their staff and peers in the primate sanctuary community; and who instinctively prioritize the welfare of the animals. Activists are also demanding that Project Chimps add two board members with captive chimpanzee experience.
Animal rights groups, including The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have called on HSUS to improve animal welfare at Project Chimps
A highly anticipated “Chimp Welfare Assessment” conducted by renowned primatologist Dr. Steve Ross documented inadequate veterinary care, insufficient access to the outdoors and an inexperienced staff at Project Chimps, a Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sanctuary in Georgia with 78 chimpanzees. The assessment, which examines welfare management programs, spaces and socialization, was conducted in November 2020 in response to public outcry generated by evidence of animal cruelty posted on HelpTheChimps.org by two whistleblowers who worked with the chimps, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt.
Chimp Welfare Management Programs
In the programs category, Dr. Ross gave Project Chimps a D (67%). This category assesses veterinary services, enrichment, training, safety, staffing and diet. According to Dr. Ross, “There is relatively little veterinary experience” and “veterinary resources are moderate.”
For years, Project Chimps employees and volunteers have privately – and ultimately publicly – raised concerns about substandard, dangerous and inhumane veterinary care. Even with well-documented, specific examples, HSUS and Project Chimps routinely dismissed staff and volunteer complaints about veterinary care.
Whistleblowers posted evidence of poor veterinary care at HelpTheChimps.org
Dr. Ross also addresses the “low experience level” of the staff, which Project Chimps attributes to a small pool of potential applicants. According to the whistleblowers, however, the experience level is low because Project Chimps has fired several highly experienced veterinarians and caregivers who voiced concerns about welfare issues and replaced them with junior, inexperienced and malleable staff members. Project Chimps claims that inexperienced staffers can learn on the job, but former staff members note that the organization no longer employs experienced managers who can adequately train junior staff.
In the “spaces” category, Dr. Ross gave Project Chimps a B- (81%). This category encompasses the “physical housing of the chimpanzees, including environmental complexity and opportunities for choice.” Dr. Ross noted that “a substantial drawback of the space was the relatively limited access to the outdoor yards.”
At Project Chimps, the 78 chimpanzees are held in concrete enclosures for all but 10 hours a week, according to whistleblowers
According to the whistleblowers, the 78 chimpanzees have access to the habitat for approximately 10 hours per week. They spend the remainder of the time in concrete enclosures.
Even before Project Chimps creates additional yards on its 200 acre property, it could, according to former staffers, increase outdoor time for all of the chimps in the current habitat if management made it a priority.
On occasion, the chimps are denied their scheduled time in the outdoor habitat when a paid tour group is on site. That is because management will put out a chimp group that is more likely to entertain visitors. This was a source of frustration for Crystal Alba, the whistleblower: “Sanctuaries are supposed to prioritize the welfare of the animals, not the amusement of the tour groups.”
The 78 chimpanzees at Project Chimps have access to an outdoor habitat for approximately 10 hours per week. They spend the remainder of their days in concrete porches that HSUS and Project Chimps describe as “outdoors”
Chimp Social Life
A third section of the report grades the sanctuary on the “social life of the chimpanzees living in their groups.” In this category, Dr. Ross gives Project Chimps an A (94%). This score reflects the fact that the chimps live in robust social groups. However, Dr. Ross explicitly stated that he did not observe every chimp at the facility or assess the social condition of individual chimps.
The Release of the Report
On October 24th, Dr. Ross publicly stated that he was finalizing his assessment and would post it on his ChimpCare website in November. That never happened. On November 30th, he posted just a brief synopsis of his assessment and wrote that Project Chimps “has been provided a detailed report.”
Instead of posting the stand alone report, Project Chimps created a new document that featured its own responses to the report alongside a blurry, illegible version of the report itself. Due to public pressure, Project Chimps eventually posted a somewhat more legible version of Dr. Ross’s report, but it is still difficult to read and is “covered up” by Project Chimps’ responses (see image below).
Instead of posting Dr. Steve’s Ross’s assessment of the sanctuary, Project Chimps created a response document that blurred Dr. Ross’s report.
The duplicitous way in which this report has been released reinforces the mistrust that exists among the growing number of whistleblowers, advocates and donors who have been speaking out about the lack of proper leadership and egregious welfare issues at Project Chimps. It also leaves advocates asking several questions:
Why didn’t Dr. Ross publish the full report on his ChimpCare website in the first place?
Once he saw that Project Chimps posted a marked up, blurry version of his report, why didn’t Dr. Ross post the report on his own website?
Given that Dr. Ross is a published, well regarded scientist, wouldn’t he want his peers in the science and primate sanctuary communities to have the opportunity to review the complete report, which is the first one produced using his ChimpCare tool?
In response to some of these questions, Dr. Ross tweeted on December 10th that “it was never communicated that the full report would be public,” but that contradicts the October 24th tweet in which he stated that his report will be posted on ChimpCare.org in November. It also flies in the face of transparency, standard scientific principles and research practices. To assess the validity of research findings, the complete methodology and analyses should be made available for review. Dr. Ross published the equivalent of an abstract.
Based on Dr. Steve Ross’s tweets and social media posts by HSUS and Project Chimps, the activist groups advocating on behalf of the chimps assumed that Dr. Ross would post his complete report.
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Inspection
In February 2020, about five months before Dr. Ross began his assessment, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) conducted a one-day inspection at Project Chimps. While HSUS claimed that “Project Chimps invited GFAS to provide an objective outside assessment,” Crystal Alba said that the “inspection was conducted in direct response to whistleblower complaints and under pressure from PETA.”
After the GFAS inspection, HSUS claimed that “the assessment confirmed that claims alleging mistreatment of chimpanzees are unfounded and misleading.” Alba, who was present for the investigation, disputes HSUS’s claim. “The two inspectors did not attempt to hide how unhappy they were about the nesting material, lack of climbing structures, small living areas and more. Project Chimps was required to address these issues as a result of this inspection.”
While GFAS, HSUS and Project Chimps refused to make that report public, Project Chimps did post seven recommendations made by GFAS which corroborated the whistleblower complaints.
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) made some of the same recommendations as the whistleblowers to improve the welfare of the chimps
In a public statement about the GFAS report posted on August 15th, HSUS wrote that Project Chimps “completed” implementing GFAS’s recommendations. In the same statement, HSUS wrote that the GFAS report exonerated them: “That assessment confirmed that claims alleging mistreatment of chimpanzees were unfounded.”
How can HSUS and Project Chimps claim that welfare issues have been fixed in the same statement in which it claims they didn’t exist in the first place?
Furthermore, if the problems raised by GFAS were, in fact, fixed, then how does HSUS explain the D grade for welfare management programs that Dr. Ross gave Project Chimps less than six months later?
The Internal Investigation
In December 2019 (before the GFAS and Ross investigations), multiple chimpanzee caregivers and sanctuary volunteers began to contact outside agencies because Project Chimps executives and board members refused to acknowledge or address the welfare issues at the sanctuary. In response, Project Chimps announced that it would initiate an “internal investigation.”This investigation was conducted by Katie Conlee, an HSUS employee who also serves as Vice President of the Board of Project Chimps.
According to Alba, “Staff eagerly awaited the results of the Conlee investigation, but they were never allowed to see them. They were simply told that the Conlee investigation found no problems with operations at Project Chimps. When the Conlee report was leaked, we realized that the intent of the investigation was to discredit and silence employees, not to address the welfare issues they raised.”
The leaked report showed that Conlee did document management problems. She wrote, “The investigation has revealed that the root causes of various problems appear to be inadequate management, communications and transparency regarding concerns raised by staff and subsequent decision making.” The whistleblowers and other activists advocating on behalf of the chimps argue that, in order for animal welfare issues to be resolved, the management needs to be replaced.
Assessment Report Raises More Questions
The fact that Dr. Ross’s assessment corroborates the whistleblower complaints about poor veterinary care, inadequate access to the outdoors and inexperienced staff begs the following questions.
1. How do HSUS and Project Chimps reconcile the findings of Dr. Ross’s report with their multiple public statements claiming that chimp care is excellent and that welfare concerns are invalid?
Between 2016 and 2019, approximately 15 employees, volunteers and donors submitted complaints about animal welfare to the management and board of Project Chimps. According to Vanderhoogt, several of the people who raised concerns, including veterinarians, vet techs and caregivers, were fired. Alba, who served as both a chimp caregiver and the staff photographer, was one of them. Many other employees who came forward were “bullied” into silence.
Throughout 2020, HSUS repeatedly claimed that outside inspectors have indicated that animal care is excellent at Project Chimps when they have, in fact, corroborated many of serious animal welfare problems exposed by whistleblowers.
In January 2020, the Board’s President, Bruce Wagman sent an email to employees and volunteers dismissing the complaints. “We found zero actual problems in the chimpanzee welfare area, and zero valid concerns with our veterinary efforts.” Alba notes that, prior to becoming the Chairman of the Board of Project Chimps, Wagman had no chimpanzee experience.
In May 2020, 22 whistleblowers who worked or volunteered at Project Chimps sent a letter to Wagman requesting a meeting with the Board to discuss their concerns. Wagman again dismissed their concerns as “unfounded” and “untrue” and stated that, “we will not engage on this matter with you moving forward.”
Letter to Project Chimps Board of Directors signed by 22 staffers and volunteers who worked at the sanctuary
Throughout 2020, other former employees of Project Chimps posted testimonials about animal welfare issues, despite their concerns about retribution by HSUS and Project Chimps. The following testimonial was posted on July 14th by Michael Cullen-Bedoya, who worked as a chimpanzee caregiver.
In spite of concerns about retribution by HSUS and Project Chimps, former employees of Project Chimps have posted testimonials about animal welfare issues. This one was posted on July 14, 2020
2. Now that the whistleblower allegations have been corroborated by Dr. Ross’s assessment, will Project Chimps and HSUS apologize for suing them?
While employed by Project Chimps as an animal caregiver, Alba documented many of the animal welfare infractions that she observed, including untreated wounds, insufficient enrichment, infrequent access to the outdoors, the elimination of substrate and rushed introductions. When her three year effort to effect change from within the organization failed, Alba, in collaboration with Vanderhoogt, posted this documentation online.Taking a page out of the playbook of the animal agriculture industry, Project Chimps filed a lawsuit to intimidate and silence them.
On June 1st, 2020, Project Chimps filed a lawsuit against whistleblowers Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt in an attempt to intimidate and silence them.
Even though HSUS held 6 of the 11 seats on Project Chimps’ board and paid the salary of the organization’s Executive Director, HSUS tried to distance itself from the lawsuit, claiming it had no decision-making power. HSUS also refused to condemn the lawsuit, even though whistleblowing is a vital tool employed by animal advocacy organizations, including HSUS.
Angered by the lawsuit and chimp mistreatment, animal rights activists began targeting HSUS board members with protests. Soon after a protest at the San Francisco home of HSUS Board Chair Susan Atherton, Project Chimps dropped the lawsuit.
The Project Chimps lawsuit sent a chilling message to advocates at other institutions who might have come forward to blow the whistle about animal abuse. If a self-proclaimed animal protection organization like HSUS supports the use of litigation to silence people reporting animal abuse, then companies that earn profits off of abuse would assuredly do the same.
Criticism from National Animal Rights Groups
In October, 2020, the Nonhuman Rights Project (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.
In its statement, NhRP wrote, “We demand that Project Chimps and HSUS take whatever steps and devote whatever resources are necessary to immediately provide them with daily access to an outdoor habitat, either at Project Chimps or any other suitable place. We also strongly urge Project Chimps and HSUS to immediately take concrete action to enable the other chimpanzees at Project Chimps to have daily access to the outdoors, not two or more years from now, but today.”
After successfully liberating chimpanzees Hercules and Leo from a laboratory in Stonybrook, New York, attorneys with the Nonhuman Rights Project are having to once again fight to free them. They are demanding that HSUS and Project Chimps provide them with access to the outdoors every day
In July, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) posted a statement in support of the whistleblowers.
National Geographic Investigation
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
In July, Progress for Science, TheirTurn and primatologist Bob Ingersoll began staging protests at the homes of HSUS board members, including Brad Jakeman (Sag Harbor, NY), Steven White (Santa Monica, CA), Sharon Lee Patrick (NYC); and Susan Atherton (San Francisco).
After Dr. Ross announced a D grade (67%) for animal welfare programs, HSUS was left with no choice but to acknowledges that Project Chimps needs to institute welfare reforms. By stating that it plans to help Project Chimps “prioritize the improvements that are most important,” HSUS unwittingly admits that many reforms are, in fact, needed. Nevertheless, HSUS used its public statement about the report as another opportunity to discredit the whistleblowers that recommended the reforms in the first place: “This independent assessment. .. confirms that allegations of abuse are profoundly off the mark.” Dr. Ross’s report doesn’t address the whistleblowers’ specific allegations of abuse, such as leaving open wounds untreated and depriving a particular chimp group of access to the outdoor habitat for eight months. In fact, Dr. Ross noted on his website that the grades “do not make any attempt to adjudicate past practices.”
Given that Dr. Ross gave Project Chimps a D grade on animal welfare programs, HSUS was forced to acknowledge that welfare reforms are needed. It continued, however, to discredit the whistleblowers who made the same recommendations
In public statements posted after previous inspections revealed animal welfare issues, HSUS similarly spun the results instead of accepting responsibility for the welfare failures. “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.”
Under the current management, Project Chimps has subjected the 78 chimpanzees in its care to gross mistreatment. It has also mistreated its employees by suing whistleblowers; threatening “disciplinary action” against employees who, out of desperation, addressed their concerns with external organizations; firing those with the most experience and bullying others into silence or resigning.
According to former employees and volunteers, the welfare reforms proposed by Dr. Ross in his report can only be implemented under the right leadership — leaders who have chimpanzee experience; who command the respect of their staff and peers in the primate sanctuary community; and who instinctively prioritize the welfare of the animals. In addition to new management, Project Chimps needs to have at least two board members with captive chimpanzee experience.
Until HSUS and Projects Chimps do the right thing, advocates around the country vow to hold them accountable.
From left to right. Animal rights activists protest at Ryland, a clothing store in Sag Harbor, New York, co-owned by HSUS board member Brad Jakeman. Activists in San Francisco protest at the home of Susan Atherton, the co-chair of HSUS’s Board of Directors. Both Jakeman and Atherton have posted photos online in which they are wearing real fur.
Over 20 activists with Progress For Science, a Los Angeles-based animal rights group, staged a protest at the Santa Monica home of Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) board member Steven White over the mistreatment of animals at Project Chimps, HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia.
White and his colleagues on the boards of HSUS and Project Chimps have refused to acknowledge and rectify animal welfare issues raised by 22 former sanctuary employees and volunteers who sent a letter to Project Chimps board to voice their concerns about poor veterinary care, infrequent access to the outdoors (10 hours/week), overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment in their concrete enclosures and other forms of neglect and deprivation. Two of these individuals, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt, posted photos, videos and reports documenting the abuse on HelpTheChimps.org after they attempted to effect change from within Project Chimps.
Animal rights activists are demanding that HSUS’s Project Chimps provide the animals in their care with daily access to the outdoors
“The chimps are living in woefully substandard conditions at Project Chimps after being subjected to a lifetime of laboratory experiments,” said Cory Mac, an organizer with Progress For Science. “Instead of attempting to silence credible whistleblowers, Steven White and his colleagues at HSUS should be focused on improving animal care and providing the chimps with a humane retirement.” In August, Project Chimps dropped a federal lawsuit it filed against Alba and Vanderhoogt, who continue to speak out on behalf of the chimps.
Animal rights activists with Progress for Science protest the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) over the mistreatment of animals at its Project Chimps sanctuary in Georgia
On July 9th, National Geographic published an in depth, investigative story about the animal cruelty allegations and the lawsuit against the whistleblowers. 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 Georgraphic investigative story about animal mistreatment at HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary, Project Chimps
Steven White is the third HSUS board member to be targeted with protests. In San Francisco, primatologist Bob Ingersoll and local activists protested at the Nob Hill home of Susan Atherton, the co-chair of HSUS’s Board of Directors. In New York, animal rights activists with TheirTurn staged two protests at an upscale clothing store owned by HSUS board member Brad Jakeman.
Animal rights activists demand the Steven White and his colleagues on HSUS’s Board of Directors improve animal welfare at Project Chimps
Animal rights activists vow to continue holding HSUS’s board members accountable until they improve the welfare standards at Project Chimps. Among their demands are providing the chimps with daily access to the outdoors; not taking in additional chimps until they can be accommodated humanely and hiring an Executive Director with chimpanzee experience.
Board members of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have been targeted with protests animal rights activists in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York who are demanding improved welfare conditions at its Project Chimps sanctuary in Georgia
In its public statements, HSUS asserts that third party inspections have exonerated Project Chimps of the animal cruelty allegations. However, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), a sanctuary accrediting organization, made several animal welfare recommendations after conducting an investigation, in spite of its close financial ties to HSUS. Another inspection that HSUS references in an effort to discredit the welfare allegations was conducted by a veterinarian who HSUS paid $20,000 in “consulting” fees, in spite of the fact that she lives in a different state.
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) made some of the same animal welfare recommendations as the whistleblowers
Among the protesters at Steven White’s home was Carole Raphaelle Davis, a Hollywood actress who recently starred in Madam Secretary. During her Facebook livestream, Davis encapsulated the feelings of many of the activists who participated ‘The Humane Society is the largest animal welfare organization in the country and is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars; it can easily afford to give these animals the life they deserve, but they don’t and that’s why we won’t back down until they fix this wrong. The mistreatment of these chimps in their care is just not right. It’s not fair.”
Elected officials in New York held a press conference at City Hall to demand that the New York Blood Center fulfill its promise to provide lifelong care for the 66 ex-lab chimpanzees who the group abandoned on islands in Liberia with no food or water. The press conference was organized by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has stepped in on an emergency basis to feed the chimps using money raised through a GoFundMe campaign.
After demanding that NYBC resumes the funding, New York State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal said, “This isn’t a scene out of Lost,” referring to the TV series in which airplane crash survivors are stranded on a desert island. “This is real life for these chimpanzees.”
New York State Senator Tony Avella also condemned NYBC’s decision to abandon the chimpanzees: “They used them for 30 years, and now they just dump them on this island. So we stand here today to tell the New York Blood Center to do the right thing and follow through on your commitment.”
During the press conference, Joyce Friedman, the NYC Coordinator for HSUS, announced that ten New York City Council Members wrote an open letter to the NYBC demanding that the organization resumes funding:
Letter from NYC Council Members to NYBC
For a thirty year period starting in the mid-1970s, NYBC conducted experiments on over 400 hundred chimpanzees in Liberia, where they could capture, breed and experiment on them with little regulatory oversight. After the research was conducted, NYBC moved the survivors onto six islands with no natural food or water and made a public commitment to provide them with lifelong care.
Liberians hired by HSUS feed the chimps abandoned by the New York Blood Center (photo: Jeff Topham)
In May, 2015, the NY Times reported that NYBC had “withdrawn all funding,” leaving the chimps to die of starvation and thirst. In order to keep the chimps alive, Liberians who had been employed by NYBC to deliver food and water, began to care for them on a volunteer basis. With virtually no resources and burdened by the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, these volunteers kept the chimpanzees alive until an HSUS-led coalition of over 30 animal conservation groups raised funds from the public to pay for the chimps’ care on an emergency basis.
Daily food delivery (photo: Jeff Topham)
Sign the Care2 petition to MetLife, NYBC’s largest corporate donor.
Join the Facebook page: New York Blood Center: Do the Right Thing to stay apprised of news and to participate in online actions to pressure NYBC board members to fulfill their promise to provide lifelong care to their laboratory chimps.
Use the tweet sheet to contact MetLife, NYBC and their stakeholders.