In the early years, Gloria invited some of the lab technicians who used to work with the chimpanzees to visit Fauna. Although these visits were ostensibly for the good of the chimpanzees — some of them had built genuine friendships with the techs — Gloria had an ulterior motive for them. She wanted to know the truth about life inside biomedical laboratories, the truth the researchers and companies don’t want the public to hear. And she quickly discovered that when lab workers are off the clock and experiencing extreme emotions, they often feel like sharing.
“When people come here, they tell me stuff,” she says. “Horrible stuff. Chimps with no fingers left because they’ve chewed them all off. Chimps with concussions from hitting the ground after being darted. Chimps who have such horrible wake-ups from anesthesia that they nearly kill themselves as they thrash around their room. Did you know the only time the chimps were allowed pain medication was after they’d had their vasectomies? They weren’t even allowed a Tylenol, because it would interfere with the science.”
Gloria collects these stories obsessively. They are crucial pieces of ammunition when it comes to swaying public opinion and getting the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act passed into law. But she also collects these gruesome tales because she is terrified that no one else will.
“Over the last twelve years, I’ve realized you can’t force people who worked in the lab to speak out publicly,” she says. “You can’t. Because they live in purgatory, in their own little hell. Most of them will never be able to deal with what they saw, what they did, what they were a part of – the crimes they committed against the chimps.” (more…)
Early in the evolution of Fauna, Gloria Grow received some sage advice from Dr. Jane Goodall when the famed primatologist and activist arrived at the sanctuary for the first of her many visits.
“I was so embarrassed,” Gloria says now. “I had to show Dr. Goodall where the chimps were living. What would she think of all the caging, all the padlocks? She’d seen them at [NYU’s Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates] already. In many ways, this place is still a prison.”
But Dr. Goodall was delighted. She spent the day interacting with the chimpanzees and speaking to Gloria and her staff. Her visit was a priceless source of inspiration during a very difficult time. “She told me we were doing the right thing,” says Gloria, tearing up as she remembers the relief that came with this statement. “She also reminded us not to expect too much too soon.”
One other piece of advice proved instrumental. “Jane told me there are certain things the chimps might need from their past,” says Gloria. At first, this seemed like odd counsel. How could there possibly be anything in their horrible past they might yearn for? But then it occurred to Gloria that many of her charges had lived very different lives before being sold into research. “Jane suggested I try to find things that will bring back good memories. So that’s what I did.” (more…)