Posted by: fireweaver | November 5, 2006

channel surfing

now, you guys know i don’t really watch tv. but i came across this news flash last week, and after putting out a big heads-up to several of my work colleagues, i felt the need to watch the show myself tonight. it was a documentary about a group of chimpanzees post-research life, now in various retirement facilities of varying quality. i figured it wasn’t going to be so very objective when the news copy included statements like:

“…abused animals, including chimps used in biological research. Even chimps that were once people’s pets, or performed to audience laughter in circuses and commercials, can end up in research facilities. Once they get to about five or six years old and can no longer be handled safely they are often dumped in medical laboratories or imprisoned in isolation. “

now, perhaps back in the day (the 60s) mentioned as a start point for some of these guys coming out of the air force space-monkey program, research did acquire chimps from private owners. back then, they weren’t at all common in captivity, there was no national breeding program, i’m sure you’d take whatever you could get that was reasonably healthy. the doc tonight blithely implied that this was still common practice, that the chimps in the careerbuilder.com commercials today would be dropped off at my lab tomorrow. wow. let me state with utter clarity that this is total horseshit. the chimps at our facility (and yes, we have a population of young chimps, but no, it’s extremely rare to have them in the lab…anyone with questions or objections can email me whenever you want to discuss) were acquired from a national primate center, all have carefully documented medical records from the day they were born, all are federally required to be endowed for life…which means that this scramble to find a place to “dump” them after their research career is over is not an issue, their retirement is financially planned for from the moment a researcher gets the green light.

but, sadly as usual, the research community ourselves is partially to blame for the bad publicity. we’re so stuck in this “i won’t dignify that with a response” crap, or the paranoia of allowing potential animal rightists into our sanctum, that we continually forgo excellent p.r. opportunities. most of the way through the doc tonight, the narrator dropped a statement to the effect of ‘there are x number of other chimp colonies/retirement facilities in the US, and though they are funded with taxpayer dollars, none would allow us to visit.’ so all the doc was left showing was a crappy outdated place in NM and a couple of privately-funded sanctuaries. which leaves the lay public with the perception that the big evil research industry doesn’t give a damn, and only these regular joes dumping their life savings into little back yard facilities are doing anything. good god, we need to be more vocal about this stuff.

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Responses

  1. 1) I saw that on Yahoo and thought of sending it to you, but then I figured “why bother” you’ve probably heard it all before

    2) I got launched into at a recent IACUC meeting (interesting NOW that I’m allowed to participate as I’m the only person taking care of the animules) because I volunteered to go to a career day thing at the district, talking about careers in animal science. The same guy who screamed that I had to post my personal contact information on the *front* of the vivarium door (for anyone to grab) now won’t let me talk to kiddos about taking care of animals. Fun, eh? I think I’m in an excellent position down here to start off making a decent difference, and I’m blocked. f’ing sucks. I’m willing to take on the liability (I also own guns, but whatever), so I don’t see the issue. But I’m with you on the perception. Even those of us who are willing to take the risk to talk openly are getting shut down by those afraid of animal rights groups. Asshole terrorists… I mean animal rights wackos.


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