SAN ANTONIO -- An animal rights group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven chimpanzees and two monkeys, claiming the primates are not properly cared for at a Leon Springs sanctuary.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants a state district judge in Bexar County to appoint a guardian to oversee more than $235,000 provided for the animals' care at Primarily Primates.
The animals were transferred from their former home at Ohio State University in March to the 75-acre sanctuary about 15 miles north of San Antonio. The lawsuit filed last week follows the deaths of two other chimpanzees and the disappearance of a monkey that escaped its enclosure. [emphasis added]
But wait, I thought guardians were for dependent children. Oh, yeah -- this is PETA.
Wallace Swett, founder and president of the 28-year-old sanctuary in Leon Springs, said the nonprofit facility has done nothing wrong.
He said the lawsuit is part of a campaign by some animal rights groups to secure legal rights equivalent to humans for animals, particularly primates.
"It's not about the animals. The animals will be fine," Swett said. "They are definitely after the money."
He said PETA and some other animal rights groups are opposed to sanctuaries, which keep animals confined in enclosures while allowing them to live out their lives. [emphases added]
So, are we supposed to let them live their lives out in the wild, where they can be the victims of predation or starvation, or take them in like the guardians we are supposed to be? If so, where should we put them, if not in a primate sanctuary?
PETA doesn't seem to specify in this article. They just want "enrichment to improve their quality of life", whatever that may be.
UPDATE: Walter Olson at Overlawyered.com touches on this subject, with more on "litigious animal rightsers", here.
UPDATE II: The San Antonio Current also covers this subject, and they get the point of view of the woman who worked with the chimps for many years, Cognitive Primatologist Sally Boysen. An advocate for the apes, she originally did not want them to move to Texas.
In the end, Boysen tried to halt the move with a temporary restraining order, which held that OSU had not fulfilled its original MOU with Chimp Haven, and that the chimps were her intellectual property, but the judge did not uphold the TRO.
On the day the chimps were removed, Boysen chained herself to the university’s gate, surrounded by supporters. Many were weeping. She now equates losing Bobby and Kermit with losing two sons. “It’s not ‘as if’ I’ve lost two children,” she says, “I have lost two children.” [emphases added]
But what's interesting is that (in addition to the irony of her anthropomorphizing the chimps after claiming them to be her property) Boysen thinks the efforts of PETA on behalf of the apes will ultimately be disastrous.
Boysen has declined to contribute to PETA’s lawsuit. “That’s not how you get things done,” she said. “If the plaintiffs are the chimps, the judge is just going to throw it out. In the end, they are undermining our efforts to do the right thing. They want Primarily Primates to build a shelter for the chimps, but we don’t want them there. How does that help?”
Strange that a person who actually cares about the animals enough to refer to them as her children does not want the help of the most prominent of animal rights organizations. But, then again, we are odd primates.