According to the Chinese zodiac, 2013 will be "The Year of the Snake." I'm hopeful that in the United States it will become "The Year of the Chimpanzee."
On Tuesday came the fabulous news that 113 federally owned chimpanzees, many subjected for years to invasive lab procedures that shattered their bodies and minds, will be moving to Chimp Haven Sanctuary.
As you're reading this post, the U.S. Senate is considering the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (GAPCSA), which would move about 500 more chimpanzees to sanctuary. The actress and director Anjelica Huston has written a powerful op-ed on why GAPCSA is crucially important.
A board member at the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Florida, Huston says:
[some of the chimpanzees] are just babies and others ... have been locked in laboratories for as long as 50 years. [Via GAPSCA they would] be retired to sanctuaries where they would be able to live out their days in peace, with companions, space to move about, grass to walk on, blankets and other essentials for their mental and physical comfort.
Read Huston's full piece for details on the chimpanzees' treatment in research labs. The awful facts must be aired; we must face them.
They also lead us to ask ourselves, how did it come to this? How is it that we're a nation of people who buy cute, stuffed chimpanzees for our kids, enjoy chimpanzee documentaries on the big and little screen and admire Jane Goodall's conservation efforts, while at the same time being the only industrialized nation with no legislation to protect chimpanzees from invasive research?
But it's the season of hope right now, and I do have genuine hope that we are moving in the right direction.
We need to believe that fighting for lab chimpanzees, including about 300 who are not federally owned, can really turn their lives around in beautiful ways.
We need to believe that working to help vulnerable animals is one place where we can become our own best selves.
To grasp the good we can do, watch this 2-minute video of Rufus's family at Save The Chimps. As this little band of rescued apes explores a new foraging board, a "puzzle problem" offered to stimulate their senses and their smarts, we see their close social ties and their excitable body language. These animals are using their recovering bodies and their recovering minds, enjoying a life free from needles, surgical tables and fear.
As we move toward a New Year, it's in our country's power to ensure that hundreds more chimpanzees will soon live in this same safe and dignified way.
Barbara's next regular Thursday post will be January 10. In the meantime, you can keep up with more of what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape