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Animal Rights Activists Protest HSUS Board Members in NYC and LA Over Animal Cruelty at Project Chimps

November 13, 2020 by Leave a Comment


The News

Several dozen animal rights activists in New York protested 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 inhumane living conditions at Project Chimps, an HSUS sanctuary in Georgia. The protest came just one week after Los Angeles-based activists with Progress for Science staged a similar protest at the Santa Monica home of another HSUS board member, Steven White, who is a managing director of the international investment firm Angelo Gordon.

Activists began protesting HSUS board members in July, 2020, after less confrontational approaches failed to compel HSUS to acknowledge a litany of animal welfare issues raised in a letter to the board sent by 22 people who either worked for or volunteered at Project Chimps. The welfare issues cited in the letter include poor veterinary care, overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment and infrequent access to the outdoor habitat.

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 can access the outdoor habitat for just 10 hours a week. They spend the rest of their waking hours in enclosed concrete rooms that HSUS and Project Chimps describe as “porches” that are “outdoors.” This deficiency triggered the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a renowned legal advocacy group, to issue a public statement calling on HSUS and Project Chimps to provide the chimpanzees with daily access to an outdoor habitat.

Excerpt of Project Chimps statement addressing animal mistreatment allegations

During the summer of 2020, National Geographic, which learned about the whistleblower allegations, conducted its own investigation of Project Chimps and published their findings in an in depth story on July 9th. In a letter to the editor, Project Chimps argued that the article was biased and excluded their side of the story.

In addition to protests, animal rights activists are using social media to expose the inhumane living conditions at HSUS’s Project Chimps facility in Georgia

In late October and early November, activists with several grass roots animal rights groups, including Progress For Science and Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), sent letters to the corporations sponsoring HSUS’s annual fundraising gala asking that they confront HSUS about the cruel conditions at Project Chimps. Among the major corporations that have not yet responded are the insurance behemoth Liberty Mutual and PVH Corp, which owns Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and several other luxury fashion brands.

Liberty Mutual, a sponsor of HSUS’s annual “To The Rescue” fundraising gala, ignored letters sent by advocates soliciting their assistance with HSUS

On November 7th, Project Chimps posted a statement on its website defending against specific allegations made by the activists. In the statement, Project Chimps does not validate any of the welfare concerns cited in the letter to the board sent by 22 former employees and volunteers.


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

October 29, 2020 by Leave a Comment


The News

Animal rights activists in San Francisco staged a second protest at the Nob Hill home of Susan Atherton, the co-chair of the Board of Directors of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), over her refusal to acknowledge and address the animal welfare infractions at Project Chimps, an HSUS sanctuary in Georgia. During the protest, the activists announced that they plan to return “again and again” until Atherton and her colleagues on the board of HSUS improve the living conditions and veterinary care of the 78 chimpanzees at Project Chimps.

On May 4th, 2020, 22 people who worked for or volunteered at Project Chimps sent a letter to board president Bruce Wagman to voice their concerns about poor veterinary care, overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment and infrequent access to the outdoor habitat. At Project Chimps, the residents are held in concrete enclosures for all but 10 hours a week.

Click letter to Project Chimps Board of Directors to read it in its entirety

When Project Chimps and HSUS refused to acknowledge the welfare violations outlined in the letter, two whistleblowers, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt, posted extensive evidence of the mistreatment at HelpTheChimps.org. On July 9th, National Geographic validated their allegations in an in-depth, investigative story.

At HSUS’s Project Chimps, the chimpanzee are held in concrete enclosures for all but 10 hours a week

“HSUS is the largest animal protection organization in the country with over $200 million in assets,” said Bob Ingersoll, a primatologist who organized the protest. “This organization must use the vast resources at its disposal to transform Project Chimps from a chimpanzee warehouse into a real sanctuary.”

Advocates for the chimps argue that HSUS has the resources to improve the living conditions of the chimpanzees in its care at Project Chimps

In recent months, two prominent national animal rights organizations have spoken out publicly about the welfare issues at Project Chimps. On July 31st, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) posted a statement in support of the whistleblowers, and, on October 14th, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), issued a public statement demanding that HSUS and Project Chimps provide the chimpanzees in their care with daily access to the outdoors.

After successfully liberating chimpanzees Hercules and Leo from a laboratory in NYC, attorneys with the Nonhuman Rights Project are now demanding that HSUS and Project Chimps provide them with access to the outdoors every day

In its public statement defending Project Chimps, HSUS states, “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.” HSUS failed to disclose conflicts of interest. It paid the primate expert a $20,000 consulting fee, and it is a founder of the “sanctuary-accrediting organization” that conducted an inspection.

Animal rights activists protest Susan Atherton, the co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at her home in San Francisco

On August 28th, Donny Moss of TheirTurn.net contacted the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) to express concern about the welfare of the animals at Project Chimps. In response, NAPSA’s Programs Director Erika Fleury stated that Project Chimps “meets NAPSA’s membership standards” and that “It’s clear that you and I are of different opinions about the things you mentioned. I, and NAPSA, trust that the outcomes of the inspections by numerous accrediting/licensing/independent bodies can speak for themselves. Based on what I know of the former employees’ [whistleblowers] activities, I’m going to decline to engage anymore on this topic.”

Dr. Steve Ross, the Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo and an expert on chimpanzee behavior and wellbeing, is conducting an animal welfare assessment at Project Chimps. He anticipates releasing the findings of this assessment in November. 

Animal rights activists have scheduled protests at the Los Angeles home of HSUS board member Steven White on October 31st and at the Manhattan home of board member Sharon Lee Patrick on November 7th. The activists are demanding that HSUS replace the Executive Director of Project Chimps with someone with extensive chimpanzee experience; hire a veterinarian with proven expertise in primate care; build new outdoor enclosures so that the chimps have daily access to the forest; and abstain from bringing in new chimps until these outdoor enclosures are built.

Arielle on the Cedar Tree porch at HSUS’s Project Chimps, an HSUS sanctuary in Georgia


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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

In June, TheirTurn sent a letter to Project Chimps board member Amber Nash asking that the sanctuary drop the lawsuit against two whistleblowers who came forward publicly with evidence of animal mistreatment

 


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