One of the mythic key elements in the medical profession is its attention to the holistic care of patients, the overriding concern is distilled into the phrase, “First Do No Harm”—though this wording is not precisely found in the Hippocratic Oath.
But in the quest for scientific discoveries and innovation, animal testing has often come under fire for its damaging physical and psychological treatment of animals in their studies, per the International Humane Society. Some of these include but are not limited to (there were more listed if you follow the link, but these two give you an idea of what research testing animals have to endure):
* Forced chemical exposure in toxicity testing, which can include oral force-feeding,
forced inhalation, skin or injection into the abdomen, muscle, etc.
*Exposure to drugs, chemicals or infectious disease at levels that cause illness, pain
and distress, or death”
With my transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle in the last month for personal health and animal humane reasons, I have become more resolved in trying to lessen my environmental impact. And the heartbreaking recent tragedies involving human violence does not inure me to the ongoing need for the humane treatment of animals as well.
My compassion is omni directional with regard to living species. Perhaps even more so, because our beloved now almost four year old beagle doggie was an abandoned one month old puppy who was fortuitously found by a kind stranger and taken to our local Humane Society–where we later adopted her when she turned four months old. She is such a joy to our lives, that I shudder at the thought of her being hurt or killed if she had not been found when she was a puppy. Her birthday is next month.
And then this came across my newsfeed Tuesday via Laura D (Thanks for sharing!)—three individuals with a ready made platform due to their celebrity status taking a stand about Ponso (EPIX produced “Berlin Station” costars, left to right: Michelle Forbes, Richard Armitage, and Rhys Ifans):
Unfortunately, the 140 character limit of Twitter communication doesn’t allow for much explanation, especially with hashtag topic phraseology. So I was stumped, but my curiosity was piqued and I did a bit of Google searching to find out more.
So who or what is Ponso? He’s a chimp—an elderly abandoned chimp, the last of his community of 66 former research apes released to the wild. But with no food or water sources, most of the chimps soon died off—until now there is only one of the former research testing chimp left, Ponso.
“Ponso, Chimp Abandoned by NY Blood Center”, video shared by Danny Moss
So I have redubbed today WLW—Wild Life Wednesday. And in searching for more information about Ponso’s situation, I found that the Huffington Post shared an essay by Wayne Pacelle, President of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published May 29, 2015. In part, Mr. Pacelle stated:
“The [New York] Blood Center previously committed itself to the lifetime care of these chimpanzees, its officials publicly announcing their ethical responsibility to do so and indicating the start of an endowment for this purpose a decade ago. Officials there are now repudiating this commitment, stating heartlessly that the organization “never had any obligation for care for the chimps, contractual or otherwise.”
Though a little further down in my essay here, you will see that I found a source with a slightly different perspective proposing a mitigating circumstance regarding the New York Blood Center (NYBC).
In that May 29, 2015 New York Times article by James Gorman mentioned above by HSUS President Wayne Pacelle, it represents some second hand responses from the NYBC regarding the abandoned chimps and their lack of care—though the article states that NYBC declined to comment directly for the article. However, the article does put the chimps’ plight into a harrowing perspective:
“The New York Blood Center has abandoned a colony of 66 chimps in Liberia that its research teams used in experiments for three decades, reports James Gorman of the New York Times in a story today.”
“Brian Hare, an anthropologist and primatologist at Duke University who is also known for his studies of dog intelligence, started a petition on Change.org to urge people to contact the New York Blood Center. It is a story of past exploitation and present-day heartlessness by a well-funded charity with ample resources to handle a responsibility it created and cannot now abandon.”
So who is Brian Hare, the animal research scientist mentioned in the New York Times article? A 2012 Duke University online article about Dr. Brian Hare’s animal research highlights the contrasting nature of his method of scientific inquiry, involving less invasive in situ observation and his work in wildlife sanctuaries:
“Hare’s comparative research with animals also involves him in species conservation. He is part of a growing number of researchers who study animals in the natural environment or as visitors to a home-like conservation center. Read more about his Hominoid Psychology Research Group.
“The old model of primate research was that we worked with animals in cages. I work with 300 great apes, 300 lemurs and 1,000 dogs,” said Hare. “And I have no animals in a cage. Not a single one.”
Hare does his field work on chimpanzees and bonobos at primate sanctuaries in the African Congo and Uganda.”
As with other articles that had also referenced about Ponso’s abandonment and isolation from others, a February 18, 2016 MetroUK online article specifically mentions the loneliness of Ponso as the last surviving chimp—whose mate and son and daughter died a few years ago. The isolation Ponso feels is only broken up by the rare visitor, such as a local man providing limited food and water seen in the video above, and a few others who visit. This article also stresses more than other articles—even more so than the NY Times where it cited some of its information–that the New York Blood Center had been providing for the chimps food and care until:
“The firm [NYBC] were financially supporting his [Ponso’s] care until there was a breakdown in communication with the Liberian Government, according to the NY Times.
On the surface, the tale of Ponso and his lost community of chimps is deeply disturbing. And my learning more about the issue did not displace that assessment in my mind. The general situation of animal welfare certainly needs greater attention. I always think about the differently attributed phrase saying something like a society is judged by how it treats the least or most vulnerable of its members. In this case, the least members, are animals—Ponso–without a voice or vote in how they are treated by humanity.
However, my brief inquiries listed above in my learning more about this issue regarding Ponso and the other chimps are not my attempt to sway you one way or the other. Just as with myself or any of us becoming aware of an issue, through a a news story, or celebrity or public figure we admire or follow, does not automatically have us agreeing or disagreeing with the news outlet or them. But it is a starting point for awareness and discussion—at least, it is for me. You have to decide for yourself what your viewpoint is. And I welcome hearing from you.
Nota Bene : If for some reason you have trouble clicking on the hyperlinked resources above, here are those direct links for you mostly in the order that they appear above: