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March 4, 2009

Jane Goodall Responds to Undercover Chimpanzee Investigation

The Humane Society of the United States


Renowned chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall has issued a statement regarding the undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United states into primate abuse at Louisisana-based laboratory New Iberia Research Center.

Goodall's statement reads:

For almost 50 years I have been observing the behavior of chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. During these years I and my team have spent thousands of hours recording chimpanzee behavior. We have built up case studies of individual chimpanzees and of families—there are close, supportive and affectionate bonds that persist between family members, often throughout life.

The nonverbal communication patterns of posture and touch are similar to ours: They kiss, embrace, pat one another, swagger, wave their fists, tickle and laugh. They have a sense of humor and a sense of self. Youngsters who lose their mothers may show signs of depression comparable to those of a socially deprived human child. Almost everyone who has worked with chimpanzees living in a friendly environment will agree that they (and many other animals) have emotions similar to those we call happiness, sadness, fear, despair, anger and so on. They can anticipate pleasant or unpleasant events and know mental as well as physical suffering.

"... in no lab I have visited have I seen so many chimpanzees exhibit such intense fear." 

In captivity they can be taught 400 or more of the signs of American Sign Language (ASL), and they can also perform complex tasks using touch pads on computers. Some of them love to paint, and those that have learnt ASL may spontaneously label their paintings.

It is clear that chimpanzees in the wild (and in many captive groups) lead rich and complex social lives, have a high degree of intelligence and experience emotions that are sometimes much like ours. It is against this background of knowledge that I viewed a series of video clips of chimpanzees in a medical research laboratory. It is my understanding that this is a large facility in Louisiana.

I received the video clips from the Humane Society of the United States on 23 February 2009. I have watched and listened to the material twice. The conditions in which the chimpanzees are confined are grim. There are metal cages with no bedding and no enrichment activities for the chimpanzees visible. Particularly shocking, to me, was a clip showing infant chimpanzees in diapers, clinging to each other, in utterly bleak, sterile conditions. This is likely to lead to behavioral abnormalities. The cages of the adults were small and absolutely bare.

There was, so far as I could see, only one shelf on which a chimpanzee could sit—possibly this was metal also. I could not see. The chimpanzees exhibited a variety of stereotypic stress behaviors, such as rocking, swaying, moving from side to side, and repetitiously banging on the mesh of the cage, the walls or the ceiling. I watched as white-coated staff, with gloves and masks, showed adult chimpanzees syringes and demanded that they approach for an injection. When this did not happen, a capture gun was used. The sight of the gun caused an outburst of loud screaming and frenzied movement around the cage. When the gun was used, and contact made, the screaming reached frenzy point.

Many clips showed chimpanzees being gradually confined in a smaller and smaller space, as a squeeze partition was moved, forcing the subjects to approach the white-coated figure with a syringe. This procedure caused extreme panic. I have visited a number of medical research laboratories since 1986: SEMA (now Bioqual) in Rockville, Maryland, and South West in Texas, USA. And LEMSIP US, Immuno in Austria, and the E.U. lab in the Netherlands (all of which are now closed).

The cages in SEMA, LEMSIP and Immuno were smaller than those I saw in the video clips. But in no lab I have visited have I seen so many chimpanzees exhibit such intense fear. The screaming I heard when chimpanzees were being forced to move toward the dreaded needle in their squeeze cages was, for me, absolutely horrifying. There were many clips of sedated chimpanzees falling from their perches. Some effort was made to break their fall; in one clip a white-coated man reached in with one arm. It is hard to see that this could be very effective, considering the weight of an adult chimp and the fact that the white-coated man only had his arm through an almost-closed door. So far as I could tell, the chimpanzees very definitely fell heavily in most instances. There was no bedding provided to break the fall.

Finally, the attitude of the white-coated men was so very far from caring. I did not see any chimpanzee being given a reward–not even a kind or encouraging word. One man put an orange outside the cage where, of course, it could not be reached by the chimpanzee who, in a depressed rather than angry state, rocked from side to side. The loud voices when a chimpanzee was waking from anesthesia were clearly very distressing to the ape, who screamed each time he heard the voice. No attempt to comfort him was made. Instead, in this instance as in all others I saw in the clips, I noticed a lack of concern for the psychological welfare of the chimpanzees. Indeed, it did not appear, from what I saw on the video clips, that there was any attempt to establish rapport with the chimpanzees, except when one man was moving his fingers against the wire looking in at the chimpanzee silently.

Thus, from a psychological as well as a social perspective, the conditions of the chimpanzees in the video clips were not appropriate. Congress passed a bill that called on those responsible for the care of captive chimpanzees to address their psychological welfare. There was no evidence that I saw that this requirement is addressed in this lab.

The above is my considered, professional opinion.

Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE
Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

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