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Animal Rights Activists Protest Humane Society Board Member Sharon Lee Patrick over Animal Cruelty at Project Chimps

October 23, 2020 by Leave a Comment


The News

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


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Animal Rights Activists Protest HSUS Board Chair Susan Atherton Over Cruelty at Project Chimps Sanctuary

August 11, 2020 by Leave a Comment


The News

Animal rights activists in San Francisco staged a protest at the San Francisco home of Susan Atherton, the co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of United States (HSUS), to demand that she and her colleagues drop a lawsuit against two whistleblowers who came forward with evidence of animal abuse at HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia, Project Chimps.

“We don’t understand why Ms. Atherton is suing the whistleblowers instead of addressing the welfare issues raised by them and 20 other current and former Project Chimps’s employees,” said Bob Ingersoll, a primatologist and chimp advocate who organized the protest. “Perhaps she just has poor judgment, as evidenced by the fact that she proudly wears real fur and animal skin, which flies in the face of the mission of the Humane Society of the United States.”

While pedestrians expressed their support of the protesters, Atherton’s agitated neighbors were less sympathetic, claiming that the activists were targeting the “wrong person” and arguing that the activists were “going about this the wrong way.”

The Humans Society of the Untied States claims to oppose fur, but Susan Atherton, the co-chair of its Board of Directors, wears real fur.

In July 2020, HSUS’s Project Chimps filed the defamation lawsuit against the whistleblowers, Lindsay Vanderhoogt, a founding staff member who resigned in 2018, and Crystal Alba, a veterinary assistant, who was fired in March, 2020, over her ongoing demands for reform. Knowing that the welfare standards would decline further without Alba, she and Vanderhoogt continued to advocate for the chimps by calling for outside investigations and sounding the alarm about the abuses, which, at the time of Crystal’s departure, included appalling veterinary care (suspected untreated broken limbs, untreated deep wounds and parasitic infection); barren, concrete enclosures and porches devoid of enrichment where they spend the vast majority of their time; and infrequent access to the outdoor habitat. According to Crystal, one group of 14 chimps had no habitat access for eight months.

The Project Chimps whistleblowers meticulously documented the decline in care and their efforts to help the chimps

When Crystal’s efforts to effect change from within the organization failed, she and the second whistleblower, Lindsay Vanderhoogt, posted documentation of these abuses on HelpTheChimps.org.

At HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary, Project Chimps, the chimpanzees spend all but 10 hours a week in concrete enclosures

In February, 2020, Alba and Vanderhoogt contacted the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) to ask for an inspection. In spite of the financial ties between GFAS and HSUS, GFAS made multiple animal care recommendations that echoed those of the whistleblowers and validated their allegations of animal mistreatment. Nevertheless, HSUS continues to assert that Crystal and Lindsay are simply “disgruntled employees” who fabricated the allegations, and it continues to attempt to silence them through a federal lawsuit.

The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) made some of the same recommendations as the whistleblowers to to improve the welfare of the chimps

In an Animals 24/7 article about the controversy, reporter Merritt Clifton noted the absurdity of HSUS’s litigation against the whistleblowers even after GFAS validated their complaints. “That’s a bit like getting convicted by a kangaroo court, if you’ll pardon the expression, controlled by one’s own mob; accepting the sentence; and then trying to kill all the witnesses.”

Alba and Vanderhoogt are not the only former HSUS/Project Chimps’s employees who have come forward. In three page letter sent to Project Chimps’s board, a total of 22 “former and current Project Chimps employees, volunteers, interns, and donors” articulated their concerns about “serious welfare issues at Project Chimps.”

Click image to read letter to Project Chimps signed by 22 whistleblowers, who are former and current employees

In an apparent effort to distance herself from the controversy, Atherton removed herself from the board of Project Chimps in July. However, because Project Chimps is an HSUS sanctuary, she continues to be accountable as co-chair of its Board of Directors.

In spite of her senior roles at the Humane Society and San Francisco SPCA, Susan Atherton wears animal skins

Protest organizer Bob Ingersoll says that the group plans to continue protesting until Atherton “does the right thing” by dropping the lawsuit and improving the care of the chimpanzees at Project Chimps.

Animal rights activists demand that Susan Atherton, the co-chair of the Board of Directors of HSUS, drop the lawsuit against two whistleblowers who came forward with evidence of animal abuse at HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary, Project Chimps


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Animal Rights Activists Protest HSUS Board Member Brad Jakeman Over Animal Cruelty at Project Chimps and Lawsuit Against Whistleblowers

July 28, 2020 by Leave a Comment


The News

On July 25th, animal rights activists staged a protest in front of a clothing store in Sag Harbor, New York that is co-owned by a member of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The protesters demanded that the board member, Brad Jakeman, and his colleagues drop the lawsuit filed against two chimpanzee caregivers who blew the whistle about animal abuse at Project Chimps, HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia.

While still employed by Project Chimps as an animal caregiver, Crystal Alba, one of the whistleblowers who HSUS is suing, meticulously documented inexcusably poor veterinary care, infrequent access to the outdoors, overcrowding, rushed introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment when the chimps are confined to their concrete enclosures and other forms of neglect and deprivation. When Crystal’s efforts to effect change from within the organization failed, she and the second whistleblower, Lindsay Vanderhoogt, posted documentation of these abuses on HelpTheChimps.org.

At HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary, Project Chimps, the chimpanzees spend all but 10 hours a week in concrete enclosures

In February, 2020, Crystal contacted the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) to ask for an inspection. In spite of the financial ties between GFAS and HSUS, GFAS made multiple animal care recommendations that echoed those of the whistleblowers and validated their allegations of animal mistreatment. Nevertheless, HSUS continues to assert that Crystal and Lindsay are simply “disgruntled employees” who fabricated the allegations, and it continues to attempt to intimidate and silence them through a defamation lawsuit.

Project Chimps, an HSUS chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia, is suing former chimpanzee caregivers Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt after they came forward publicly with evidence of animal cruelty

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.

On July 9th, National Geographic published an in depth investigation that corroborated the whistleblowers’ allegations of animal abuse at Project Chimps, an HSUS chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia

Activists staged the protest against Brad Jakeman only after he ignored their efforts to talk to him. In addition to sending Mr. Jakeman emails, activists hand delivered a letter to his store several weeks before the protest. Organizers will continue protesting Mr. Jakeman’s store, Ryland Life Equipment (which, as an aside, sells leather, wool, cashmere and suede), until the Humane Society of the United States drops the lawsuit against the whistleblowers and demonstrates that it is improving the welfare of the chimps.

Animal rights activist protest HSUS board member Brad Jakeman at Ryland Life Equipment, the clothing store that he co-owns in Sag Harbor, New York.

The Southampton Press published a lengthy story about the protest

The Southampton Press published a lengthy story about the the protest targeting Brad Jakeman


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Elected Officials Demand That NY Blood Center Reinstate Funding for Abandoned Chimps (VIDEO)

May 23, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

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

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

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)

Daily food delivery (photo: Jeff Topham)

Your Turn

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.

Follow TheirTurn on Twitter, and follow “Save NYBC Chimps” on Instagram and Twitter.


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VIDEO: Over 125 Activists Protest New York Blood Center Over Abandoned Chimps 

October 17, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

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

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.

New York Blood Center executives promised to provide its chimpanzees with lifelong care.

Your Turn

Please be a voice for the abandoned chimps by taking action at NYBC: Do the Right Thing and Save the Abandoned Chimps


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