This article appears in the September Issue of VICE
When you're making a mental list of evil corporations, blood banks probably don't get top billing. But the New York Blood Center, a prominent blood bank that usually spends its time saving lives and trying to cure diseases, made a pretty questionable decision this year that might bump it up the list. It abandoned dozens of research chimps on a chain of islands in Liberia.
The chimps were brought to the area by the NYBC back in the 70s, when it ran a research lab there. This research led to lifesaving discoveries, like the development of a hepatitis B vaccine, but the lab was shut down in 2005, in part due to growing public concerns in the US about animal testing. The chimps were "retired" on a nearby string of swampy islands with no access to food or freshwater. Instead, the NYBC paid local workers to deliver supplies to the chimps every other day.
That was until this March, when the NYBC pulled the funding completely.
A collective of animal rights groups, including the Jane Goodall Foundation and the Humane Society, stepped in to keep the chimps alive. They raised more than $150,000 through a crowdfunding campaign, which enabled them to start feeding the chimps daily and fix a broken water system on the islands.
"When they only got fed every other day, they were hungry, so it would create tension," said Jim Desmond, a wildlife veterinarian whom the Humane Society hired to visit the chimps in July. "After a week of doing daily feedings, there was a noticeable change in their behavior. They were more relaxed, so it was a really positive change."
But the animal welfare groups say the money will last only a few months. They are still pressuring the NYBC to reestablish funding and take responsibility for the apes it left behind. Meanwhile, the NYBC has stopped responding to requests for comment, saying the chimps are no longer its legal responsibility.