What responsibilities come with being a human? We have great power as humans, and therefore we have a responsibility to protect those beings who cannot speak for themselves. PETA is the embodiment of this philosophy.
I became aware of captive chimpanzees decades ago when I learned that they were being used in the U.S. space program. Chimpanzee mothers were killed in Africa in order to capture babies for the program. Eventually, these government-sponsored hunting trips became less common as a captive-breeding program was established. But the use of chimpanzees in laboratories continued to grow throughout the 1980s.
In response to pressure from activists-and because chimpanzees aren’t good models for human disease research-the breeding program ended in the 1990s. The retired chimpanzees were “rewarded” for their service to our country by being shipped to one of the worst biomedical laboratories in the nation-the now-defunct Coulston Labs in Alamogordo, New Mexico. For years, this laboratory was cited for violations of the minimal legal protections that were designed to protect its test subjects-the apes. Your tax dollars (and mine) funded the cruel experiments that were going on behind closed doors at this laboratory. Unfortunately, today our tax dollars continue to fund other laboratories where animals are subjected to some of the most painful and invasive experiments ever invented.
Laboratories are not the only places where apes are abused. PETA has effectively fought the use of great apes (mainly chimpanzees and orangutans) in the entertainment industry. Baby apes are torn away from their mothers and abused until their will is broken and they behave as their trainers wish. Chimpanzees are subjected to electric shocks and constant beatings with hammers, pipes, clubs, or broom handles in order to make the animals submissive and keep them in line. Many people who see a chimpanzee doing tricks at the circus would never suspect that the animal is abused because the abuse is hidden from the public.
My quest to make a difference for abused great apes led me to write a children’s book called A Chimpanzee Tale. The book, which is narrated by Hoot the Chimpanzee, can be found in the PETA Catalog here. Written in rhyme, the story features factual information about chimpanzees. Part of the story takes place in Africa and shows children how chimpanzees in the wild live. The story then addresses captivity and advocacy and teaches children how to do what is right. Readers are introduced to sanctuary life, and Hoot thanks the children of the world for their help. The book includes an afterward, vocabulary words, and Web sites where children can learn about real chimpanzees.
As I write this, the Great Ape Protection Act is sitting before Congress. If this important bill is passed and signed into law, it will allow for approximately 500 chimpanzees who are being held in federal laboratories to be relocated to sanctuaries. But turning this act into a law depends on caring individuals like you. Please contact your representatives and senators and make sure that they sponsor this act. You can also add your name to PETA’s online petition here. If enough of us take this step, real pressure may build to make this bill a reality.
I am forever grateful to PETA for all that it does for our animal friends. It is the most amazing organization on the planet, and it is an honor to be a member.
Karen grew up with many kinds of animals, and as a result, she is a passionate advocate for all animals. She began her writing career in retirement with A Chimpanzee Tale. She plans to write more children’s books about chimpanzees.