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March 20, 2009

Priest Petitions Feds for Reform After Seeing Chimpanzees Abused in Video

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — In response to The Humane Society of the United States' undercover investigation at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, a Hartford, Conn. priest was moved to write U.S. Secretary-Designate of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, to ask for her support of the retirement of all chimpanzees from research and to "return to them some semblance of what God originally intended for them."

The nine-month undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United States has pulled back the curtain on the secretive, federally-funded New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, revealing unethical and unlawful mistreatment of hundreds of chimpanzees and other primates. The investigation of New Iberia Research Center is the most comprehensive ever at any major primate research facility and has resulted in a 108-page complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging a minimum of 338 possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act at the center. The law sets minimal standards for the treatment of animals in labs.

The HSUS' videotape evidence shows severe distress of primates in isolation: They engage in self-mutilation by tearing gaping wounds into their arms and legs, a behavior that could be the result of New Iberia Research Center's continuous failure to provide adequate environmental enhancement as required by federal law. Routine procedures, such as the use of powerful and painful dart guns and frightening squeeze cages for sedation, are shown causing acute psychological distress to chimpanzees and monkeys. Infant monkeys are shown screaming as they are forcibly removed from their mothers so that tubes can be forced down their throats.

Father Charles Jacobs of Holy Trinity Church contacted The HSUS after learning about the investigation.

In his March 12 letter, Fr. Jacobs states, "I have watched videotape of these chimpanzees and what I see is a sorrow so deep that it radiates from their eyes during quiet times and bursts forth in anger and frustration when they are being harmed or harassed with dart guns or needles."

Read the letter to Secretary-Designate Sebelius.

Fr. Jacobs quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states, "According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 'Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals….It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.'"

"Father Jacob's response to the investigation at the New Iberia Research Center demonstrates religious support for animal protection issues," says Christine Gutleben, director of the Animals & Religion program at The HSUS. "Religious values call upon us all to act in kind and merciful ways towards animals." 

For more about The HSUS' Animals & Religion program, go to hsus.org/religion.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org

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