In March 2009, The HSUS released scenes from its undercover investigation into the world’s largest chimpanzee laboratory, the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Louisiana. What we found was deeply disturbing—chimpanzees falling onto cement and steel floors after being sedated with dart guns, animals mutilating themselves, infant chimpanzees who were prematurely removed from their mothers, and infant monkeys having tubes forced down their throats for research.
Now, we have obtained information showing that NIRC’s misuse of taxpayer dollars may have been more sweeping than we originally realized. As a consequence, we filed legal petitions last week urging the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate and to take appropriate action.
Take action to help chimps at NIRC.
The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) has a long-standing moratorium on breeding of chimpanzees owned or financially supported by the government. When we presented the results of our investigation to NCRR in 2009, the center claimed that the New Iberia facility wasn’t violating the breeding policy. The evidence we presented last week to the federal government casts doubt on that conclusion.
Since 2000, NCRR has given the New Iberia Research Center about $1 million per year to maintain a colony of chimpanzees there. This agreement, signed by NIRC, specifically incorporates the moratorium on breeding activities within the colony, including federally owned chimpanzees. However, according to public records, NIRC has repeatedly bred federally owned chimpanzees to produce 123 infants between 2000 and 2009—despite grant reports from the laboratory claiming that it takes measures to prevent pregnancies.
NIRC also has a contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—another NIH institute—specifically to breed as many as 12 infant chimpanzees per year. This federal entity has paid NIRC more than $6 million since 2002 under this contract, and 50 of the 123 infants were used to fulfill this contract.
One of our most disturbing findings is that an additional 14 infants born at NIRC were killed by adult chimpanzees, likely due to negligent management practices and overcrowding at the laboratory. The documents describing these injuries are very graphic.
Our petition to the Secretary of Health and Human Services requests that, if evidence of wrongdoing is confirmed, these two NIH divisions immediately stop funding NIRC’S chimpanzee research and terminate their contracts with the facility. We also urge the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately remove about 130 government-owned chimpanzees from NIRC and retire them to reputable sanctuaries, with appropriate funding for this retirement, as it is clear that the facility cannot properly care for these animals.
Our separate petition to the Department of Justice urges the agency to investigate and commence enforcement proceedings for violations of the False Claims Act, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment, which could allow the federal government to recoup more than $30 million for public funds obtained and spent by New Iberia.
The chimpanzees at New Iberia have suffered for too long—this facility should be retiring chimpanzees to sanctuary, not bringing more animals into a dismal life there. It’s time for the federal government to get to the bottom of the abuses occurring at NIRC, to protect chimpanzees, and to stop the misuse of taxpayer dollars.