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The Assault on Primarily Primates Continues. So Does the Struggle to Save It.

November 08, 2006 | Chimpanzees / Press Releases

The president of Friends of Animals returned to the East Coast today from the Texas proceedings that will determine the future of the country's most long-lived private sanctuary for nonhuman primates.

Said Priscilla Feral, "There's an ominous trend affecting the sanctuary movement, especially with nonhuman apes: By a law signed in 2000, with the help of private donations, government and research interests are keeping lifetime control over chimpanzees."
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The future of Primarily Primates will say much about whether the animal-advocacy community will fight to keep true sanctuaries," added Feral. "We're committed to that."

On Friday, 3 November 2006, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin ordered an indefinite stay to halt the appointed receiver's plans to continue moving primates and other animals out of Primarily Primates, the sanctuary they call home. After an interstate move earlier this year into the sanctuary, two chimpanzees died, overcome by the effects of pre-existing heart conditions.

The emergency stay in support of the sanctuary is connected with an appeal that challenges the receiver's authority over finances and activities at the refuge.

The appeal notes that the receiver, Lee Theisen-Watt, is not a disinterested party but instead is fronting for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and is unqualified to perform the duties of a receiver and to live up to the position's ethical standards. Last month, for example, the Court heard how Theisen-Watt had, when claiming competency for the post, falsely sworn to hold a Bachelor's degree.

Although the post requires attention to the best interest of the refuge and its residents, Theisen-Watt admitted in court to holding at least 10 press interviews during the first two weeks of being appointed. One of Theisen-Watt's first official acts was to petition the trial court for authority to begin killing the refuge animals -- a desire consistent with PETA's animal-control methods. Although Theisen-Watt's request was initially granted, Primarily Primates contested that authority, and it was suspended by the trial judge.

Immediately after being appointed as receiver, Theisen-Watt opened the refuge doors to dozens of people affiliated with PETA who in turn took numerous photographs, many of which were deliberately misleading.

"For some time, representations of this refuge have been distributed by people whose first priority seems to be disrupting these animals' lives, breaking up their home, and even killing them," Priscilla Feral stated. "The sanctuary has been portrayed in the most negative light, but having toured it myself, I can say that the pictures and criticisms say more about the people circulating them than about Primarily Primates."

Circulated yesterday (7 November 2006) with the subject line "In My Cell at PPI" were photos described as "taken last week" (thus identified as taken on Theisen-Watt's watch) and "particularly heart wrenching" according to an accompanying message from an anonymous person purporting to be the photographer. One image is that of an unidentified chimpanzee sitting in a barren room with cockroaches on the wall.

Also under Theisen-Watt's watch, a chimpanzee named Uriah has sustained serious facial injuries (photos available from Friends of Animals). Uriah was hit by another chimpanzee because PETA's affiliates ignored a Primarily Primates staffer's warnings and tossed produce over the top of the enclosures without first taking the sanctuary's regular safety precaution of distracting the most aggressive ape, Josh, with attractive fruits such as melons and apples.

Regular Primarily Primates staff members have not only had their advice on caretaking ignored, but have been subjected to open hostility.

Uriah is forced, with other chimpanzees, to live in increasingly dirty areas. PETA's affiliates have been unable to properly maintain an area, a ground-level depression to which the chimpanzees have access, which as of Monday, the 6th of November was filled with water, excrement, urine, and T-shirts that PETA affiliates tossed into the enclosures. The chimpanzees are at risk of illness and infection from slinging these wet and filthy garments around and from fruit particles that fall into the polluted mix.

Primarily Primates is now pressing its case for a trial by jury as soon as possible to clear itself of PETA's accusations. The representatives of the Attorney General's office -- who nominally filed the suit at PETA's urgings -- have now stated they will not be ready for trial by the assigned date of 8 January 2007.

Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral states: "Primarily Primates has had a great deal of public support. Some of the refuge supporters have been dedicated to Primarily Primates for two decades or more. People who have visited the refuge and many other advocates, too, believe it's wrong to destroy the refuge, and have asked us to continue working to save it."

Friends of Animals, headquartered in Darien, Connecticut, has been a global leader in animal- rights advocacy since 1957.

Comments

Many thanks to Friends of Animals for fighting on behalf of the Primarily Primates Refuge. Thank goodness for good people like you who truly care about the welfare of the animals. Shame on PETA for going against everything they are suppossed to stand for by compromising the welfare of those defenseless animals by their interference.

Has anyone at PETA ever worked with non-human primates? It certainly does not sound like it. How do they kill a primate and why? Lethal injection? Thats like killing a human. Non-humane primates live in strong social and family groups. Caretakers have to recognise that there is an Alpha Male and an alpha female. This is equitable to a human family where the father and mother are "head of household" I am a former primate zookeeper. We would never give a monkey or ape a tee shirt. In winter when it was cold we put hay and straw in the cages for additional heat. I cleaned my primate cages 3 times a day. Once before feeding in the morning, again after feeding and again before feeding in the evening. I have visited Primarily Primates a number of years ago. It was spotlessly clean, the animals were well cared for. I observed normal primate behavior throughout the sanctuary. Animals were grooming each other, and playing. PETA needs to get out and let the professional primate caretakers, ( Stephen and others ) in to do the job that they have dedicated their lives to. I don't care who is taking care of animals, whether in a zoo,or sanctuary, you are going to find dirty cages. You clean one cage and go on to the next and guess what? The first cage is already dirty again, because the animal voided his or her breakfast. I work at a humane society now. We try our best to keep the place spotlessly clean, If only the dogs and cats and horses would cooperate!!! Aileene Maldonado Programs Manager Mississippi Animal Rescue League www.msarl.org

I watched [a] program on unnatural history of primates and was very upset that it took so many years to shut down laboratories and have the animals under their supposed care given safe havens in which they could have some sense of normalcy and the ability to live in groups as they do in their natural habitat. when will we 'man' stop thinking we are entitled to exact cruel treatment on animals just because we can. I am very disappointed with PETA and their stand on killing ... where has that thinking come from? I hope Primarily Primates is able to continue its loving care of these creatures who are so similiar to us.

Why are people who supposedly love and care about animals now doing whatever it takes to destroy them? This is absurd, beyond any logic whatsoever! What can I do to help Primarily Primates? My heart just breaks for these poor, innocent animals who once more are suffering at the hands of self-serving people. What can we do to help this organization?

I think we should be working to save the sanctuary and make it work, not trying soooo hard to close it down. PETA should be the first in line to help, if they are really interested in the well being of the animals. Only the innocent should be casting stones, and I don't think any of us are truly innocent

this is not the first time i heard of PETA scewing things up, i doubt it will be the last. they need to work with the activists and stop acting like extremists. the animal enterprise terrorism act ( h.r. 4239) was probaly introduced to the house do to previos actions of PETA, and now, every one else has to deal with it. democrats sweep both the house and senate so i doubt this bill will ever get passed. it should go out in the trash with the people who created it. PETA says there for protecting animals, but there actions say differnt. i still remember when 2 of there members were arrested for taking dogs from a shelter and throughing them in the trash. they get zero support or respect from me and alot of others i have talked to.it amazes me that there actually using the law to protect there cause with these primates. its not there style.i cant believe nobody has seen through this.

Anyone else caught doing this and PETA would be all over them in an uproar. What hypocrites!

How odd that with all these animals supposedly in crisis and with her desperate pleas for volunteers to care for them, Ms. Watt has the time to hijack PPI's old website and replace it with the same old PETA tactics of mistruths and deception to get donations. Another high priority task which speaks volumes about where her loyalties lie. Do you have any sense of doing right by these animals or is exploiting them for PETA your only mission? It is disgusting that she turned these animals into a sideshow.

I support the Friends of Animals stance TOTALLY!

Somebody, here, is distorting the truth. I've ... twice visited the PPI premises - once with no notice. Each time, I was allowed to tour at my leisure. I saw none of the problems now under discussion. But it IS possible they were out of my sightline. Meanwhile, I just recently spoke to the receiver for more than one hour. She is articulate and obviously intelligent, and has considerable background in this over-all business. She told me of specific examples - such as one chimp having spent seven months in an isolated cinder-block room because he "was a killer." She says he is not a killer, at all. Bottom line - after a lot of reading and talking, I tend to not believe PETA. I suspect they have some kind of an agenda. I've always believed their crusades in the past, but something smells fishy here. I really just don't know, but I'm tending to go with the TX AG's office. I'm told it is highly unusual for them to take-on any animal affairs case, such that they must see something here besides blowing smoke. I suppose time will tell. [Blog editors' note: Actually, it's not the first time the AG has been persuaded to get into this refuge. In 1992, an activist gathered and circulated accusations against the sanctuary and its founder. The accusations would later be repeated by a founding member of the activist group Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), who was actually hired by the sanctuary's founder to refute those very charges.This lawyer got involved in prompting the Texas Attorney General to place the refuge into receivership, and in attempting to have its assets frozen. Sound familiar? In 2000, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts imposed a six-month suspension on this Boston lawyer, whom it bluntly described as having been “embroiled in an internal power struggle at PPI, which he tried to use to punish [Primarily Primates officers] for refusing to pay his bill, and to collect his fee.” And to this day, attempts to control the sanctuary continue. When the receivership was imposed in October, an ALDF director was on the scene. Yet supporters care deeply about Primarily Primates. Some of them have been caring about the animals who live there for 28 years. They deserve to have their support matched by the advocacy community. What Primarily Primates has needed over the years is active help and support. Instead, people claiming to act "for the animals" have done the opposite for over a decade in order to prove their points. In short, to say that the Attorney General's office acted on its own initiative misses years of context and influences. So many institutions use animals in so many ways. A sanctuary should be the beneficiary of help. This circus-like conduct that has unfolded instead is terribly ill-placed, and is an embarrassment to a movement, and a tragedy for nonhuman animals. Friends of Animals will not sit on the sidelines and tolerate this destruction.]

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