Years ago, NEAVS/Project R&R started gathering information that took a strong will to get through—information on the realities of all we have done to chimpanzees. Infections, surgeries, isolation, crashing them into walls, locking them behind concrete and steel for life. Yerkes, who institutionalized their use in research, fathered a dark age for science and chimpanzees that began decades ago.
Today, we sit with the consequences of such ill-informed decisions as some 1000 chimpanzees remain in U.S. labs … many are descendents of the chimpanzees Yerkes purchased off a ship in Boston Harbor. Many have languished in labs their entire lives, 40 even 50 years. Many were betrayed in the worse way: brought up as human children, then abandoned to the world of “knock downs,” fear, loneliness and unimaginable experiments. Many, as infants in Africa, were torn from their murdered mothers’ arms, crammed into small crates and shipped to cold and barren labs.
We are a civilized nation, in spite of our transgressions. We are a compassionate nation, in spite of our moments of unabashed self-interest. When someone takes firm hands, grabs our hearts and minds and makes us look at ourselves … we respond. Then, we can no longer take refuge in prayer once pleaded on our behalf: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” With awareness, we come to full knowledge of what we do.
Because of those of us who care enough to see, the world knows what is going on behind laboratory walls. Today, chimpanzees who have suffered the atrocities and borne witness to horrors perpetrated on others just like them are telling us their stories. We cannot and will not turn away.
2008 culminated in the introduction of a landmark bill, the Great Ape Protection Act, which will end the use of chimpanzees and all great apes in invasive research, and provide them the protection in sanctuary they so deserve.
With all its achievements, 2008 was only the beginning. Our duty at hand now is to pass the bill into law. When we succeed, the history and future of anti-vivisection work will be changed forever. Once law, our government will be acknowledging that species other than our own are worthy of compassion, protection from science and the kind of respect we had reserved only for other humans. The species barrier that prevents our nation from embracing inclusive compassion—the only true compassion—will be broken.
Until that day, no matter how kind to others, no matter how accepting of differences, if the line between us and all living beings is not erased, then our kindness is incomplete and no amount of good deeds will make up for the cruelties we allow. From NEAVS’ work, I have come to know many things to be true—that our path is right, that our compassion is full, and that we—you and I—are in it together and will work hard to arrive at our noble goal.
In closing, let me share a story: In Buddhism, the Bodhisattva Kaun Yin was said to be born from the tear of god who saw the suffering of the world. As a soul who had attained enlightenment, she was about to enter heaven but paused at its threshold as the cries of the world reached her ears. She returned to the world and vowed to forgo Nirvana until “all beings are happy.” Whatever your definition of god, a creator, or the physics of life, one thing is certain: as a NEAVS supporter, you probably agree that Kuan Yin is, as they say, “cool, way cool!”
On behalf of the animals we serve and the humans we love, thank you for joining us in this journey of hope and ever renewed commitment to all beings
Theodora Capaldo, EdD