News & Alerts

Summer 2011 newsletter

Summer 2011 newsletter

President's Message:

Chimpanzees undergo biomedical and behavioral research, an area dominated by my fellow psychologists. When behavioral research is invasive, manipulative, or interferes with natural behaviors and needs, NEAVS opposes it. When it is not, chimpanzee lives can actually improve while in the study—it can be fun to manipulate computer boards or have other challenges. Chimpanzees are intelligent and like to do things…boredom is their enemy and when prolonged, they suffer. Certain kinds of noninvasive behavioral research are no different than well thought out enrichment programs in sanctuaries—for the chimpanzees, they can be enjoyable. Non-invasive behavioral studies in which participation is voluntary, fun, and happens in their sanctuary home can serve them.

However, it must have strict ethical parameters that are the same as those governing human participation in research—most importantly, willing volunteers, not recruited victims, who can leave the non-harmful study whenever they choose. Without such parameters and when carried out in a lab, there is a serious challenge to behavioral research’s need and ethical justification. For example, after a behavioral lab study ends, then what? Off to another lab for invasive biomedical research? Or back to the same endless boredom of life in a cage—since small or spacious, a cage is a cage is a cage. There is no quality sanctuary that doesn’t view even its richest enrichment program as anything other than a Band-Aid: a small antidote to the damage we have done to them. We give the chimpanzees of Fauna things to help “enrich” their days, like a puzzle board I made for Pepper who loves to organize, clean, twist, bang or put in place anything that comes her way. When I finished making it I was overcome with sadness, not just for Pepper, but for the thousands of animals we keep locked in cages. I was reminded that working on behalf of animals is not just about how wrong our use of them is—it is about the right every animal has to express the nature-given trajectory of their lives.

I am writing about this for our Summer UPDATE because the doors and windows of my home are open, allowing me views of the woods and the smell of fresh air while the animals we care about are in windowless, temperature-controlled cages, not even aware the season has changed. I’ll sit on my screened porch, take longer walks with Kibou, and take in renewed energy to fortify my determination, work and leadership. I’ll get to emerge from the long winter. But too many animals now in laboratory cages cannot. Which is exactly why they need us.

Thank you for your trust in and commitment to NEAVS and for helping us do our work until every cage is empty. Have a wonderful summer.

Respectfully yours,

Theodora Capaldo, EdD

To read the full newsletter, you can download Summer 2011 UPDATE here.