Motto: “We’re About Life…”
Or more appropriately “we’re about no life…” The Frederick Coulston Foundation – in the deserts of New Mexico, currently houses 650 chimpanzees. It touts itself as the largest animal research center in the world. Their self-description at the Coulston website vaguely assures us of “more striking breakthroughs into the unknown” (though it fails to mention any major breakthroughs it’s made in the 30 years of its existence). According to their track record, it’s likely these “breakthroughs” will be in the cruelty department.
The conditions for the chimpanzees at Coulston have been so atrocious that they’ve actually made headlines several times over the past decade. In November of 1999, a 36 year-old chimp, Donna, died of an infection in her bowels, uterus, and peritoneal cavity. The infection resulted from carrying a dead fetus in her womb for over two weeks (though some accounts claim it was more like 2 months). The veterinarians made many attempts to remove the fetus- both manually and chemically, without success. A substantial amount of time passed and Coulston vets remembered that Donna was still carrying a dead fetus. When they finally began a C-section, the vets could actually see the fetus’ decomposing skull through the ruptured wall of the chimp’s uterus. Donna was literally rotting from the inside out. She did not live through the surgery.
Aside from the negligence of this ordeal, it was the scientists who had complicated her pregnancy in the first place, causing the fetus to die.
Coulston spokesman, Don McKinney, assures us however that Donna’s death was unavoidable, that they waited because “she had to build up her strength before having surgery.”* (Source: IDA Press Release 1/13/00)
Earlier in the year, 3 lab chimps died when the heat in their room accidentally rose to 140 degrees.
Around the same time, a water pipe supplying 14 chimps broke. After an unknown amount of time, all 14 chimps became severely dehydrated. When caretakers finally noticed, they were only able to revive 10 of the primates, while the other 4 died.
At Coulston, the cages are covered in feces, their food is exposed to vermin, and the ventilation is poor. Veterinarians regularly neglect to fast the animals before sedation and they are not treated for shock after experimental surgeries. Previous employee Ron Henderson, says that conditions at the facility were the bare minimum for the survival of animals- if that. Apparently, many Coulston employees were actually playing the videogame “Mine Sweeper”, while the animals were dying of neglect.
On September 1, 1999, the US Department of Agriculture and The Coulston Foundation came to an agreement regarding the lab’s violations of the Animal Welfare Act. On January 1, 2000, Coulston transferred 30 chimps. By January 2001, they will place 120 more. By January 1, 2002, Coulston will place another 150- thereby completing the liberation process with a total of 300 free chimps.
The USDA has approved a review team to examine the foundation’s entire animal program. Coulston must then comply with all recommendations.
So now the lucky chimps get to go to a retirement home, that is- if the government will help to finance such facilities through the CHIMP Act.
There are however, some that oppose the notion of creating sanctuaries for these animals. National Institute of Health scientist, John Strandberg says, “Animal-based research continues to be a highly productive and valuable approach to solving human health problems.” Which causes us to ask, is this really so?