6 min read

Getting Research Chimpanzees Into Sanctuary Is Easy

Last year the federal government made the important announcement that it would release 300 research chimpanzees who had spent their whole lives in laboratories, to Chimp Haven, a nonprofit sanctuary, so they could retire in peace in a setting akin to their natural habitat. Yet only 110 have so far been released. Why are nearly 200 chimpanzees still in federal laboratories when they have been granted their freedom? The answer is simple: Chimp Haven does not have the necessary resources to accommodate so many new chimpanzees so quickly.

For many years I've been keenly interested in the field of study called anthrozoology (the study of human-animal relationships), including how it relates to the interactions between us and the nonhuman animals (animals) with whom we share 98 percent of our DNA, chimpanzees. Because they are our closest nonhuman relatives, chimpanzees have for many years been used in medical research. The 300 chimpanzees in question have been infected with, among other things, HIV and Hepatitis. Whatever your belief about the need to test medicine on animals-- and the debate is certainly a complex one and often heated -- we can all agree on one thing: if we have the opportunity to help 300 chimpanzees who have given up so much for our benefit, then we should take the opportunity with great enthusiasm.

Alison Eastwood, daughter of Clint Eastwood, is doing just that. She holds the belief that the small things people do for other animals can make a huge difference. So, Ms. Eastwood is running a crowdfunding campaign for the organization LoveAnimals.org to help Chimp Haven raise the funds they need to care for the 110 chimps the government has already released and to expand to take in the remaining 200.

Her campaign is interesting because it caters to the "slactivists", those people who want to make a difference but don't because they don't have the time or money to do something big. But, that's no problem, as her campaign encourages anyone who's interested to donate as little as $2. A tiny action for the greater good which, when combined with everyone else's contribution of any amount, can make a huge difference.

Alison's campaign is an important one in that she's providing us with an opportunity to repay in small ways the debt we owe these chimpanzees who sacrificed so much on our behalf. By showing people that they need only take one small action, Alison is ensuring something else, namely, that people will act quickly. This is crucial because some of the chimpanzees still in captivity are expected to die before they can breathe the fresh air of the outdoors. When it comes to getting them out of laboratories and into sanctuary, there is no time to waste. And, it is exciting and heartening that it is working. Several people, myself included, are choosing to take a small action to support Alison's efforts. We can help her spread the word about her campaign and so we will. And, I'm sure, the chimpanzees will thank us for our efforts on their behalf.

I look forward to following Alison's success and helping to ensure that people understand the debt we owe these animals, who, in spite of what has been inflicted on them, still exhibit the capacity for forgiveness.

For more information on this most important campaign please click here.