This one’s for you PEPPER!
As you may recall, several blogs ago I wrote about Cruelty-Free Beauty
and how we should all be aware that animal testing exists, and that it all comes down to consumer choices – there are many products today that don’t test on animals, and it’s up to all of us to make better and more ethical choices if we want the future of research to change and not involve animal testing!
After I wrote this blog, I had the chance to go with MDB creator Nat Lauzon to visit the Fauna Foundation
. Our mission was to meet the Fauna Team, get to know the chimps and what they have been through, learn what it takes to keep the Fauna thriving, and of course..to deliver lots and lots of toys to the chimps who call Fauna
home. I know that neither one of us will forget that day and all we learned from the experience.
Our road trip started early. First stop-to pick up all the goodies. Luckily, Natalie Gore, Owner and Founder of Bailey Blu in NDG, allowed us to advertise her store as the drop-off spot for all the toys. Thanks to Natalie and to everyone who donated toys and other needed items. We had 6 bags, overflowing with rattles, videos, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, little tyke toys and so much more – even a couple of hula hoops and 48 bananas I picked up along the way…:)
Traffic was surprising light and the GPS was pretty much on target (ok..except for a shopping centre parking lot tour). Derek was there to greet us and soon the goodies were unloaded. Never did we think we would have the opportunity to get a visit, educational tour, and hands-on account of the mission of Fauna with Gloria Grow. Gloria and her husband, Richard Allan founded the sanctuary; primarily focusing on providing a safe haven for chimpanzees rescued from research.
There is definitely a sense of peace just walking past the gates at Fauna. However, reality quickly sets in.
I do not think either one of us will forget this image. This is what the chimps at Fauna once called home. According to Gloria, himpanzees thrive and live in home areas ranging from 10 to 24 square kilometers. They can travel up to 10 kilometers per day and their nests up to 10 meters above the ground. I think we stared at this cage for what seemed like forever. Our hearts breaking considering the intelligence of these animals and the fact that they can live anywhere between 40-60 years of age. In addition, there is the reality that chimpanzees, along with other animals are still being used in research – subjected to a life of confined quarters and unimaginable pain away from their natural habitat.
Gloria pointed out that while living in these confined quarters, the Chimps were subjected to vaccine studies and experimental procedures, multiple biopsies of the liver, lymph nodes, cervix, bone marrow, drug testing for numerous companies, hepatitis A, B and C studies, HIV research and infection. Even after several years of being safe and cared for, by an incredible staff at the Fauna, the chimps have irreparable physical damage, emotional damage, and the inability to live in social groups. Gloria mentioned that when the delivery truck arrives at the Fauna, the chimps still react negatively to the sound of the vehicle’s back-up beeping. They huddle together, screaming and stomping in anguish – thinking that the sound represents a trip to the lab! Decades later, they will never forget.
Meeting the chimps was enlightening. They all have their personalities and all are so wonderful. Sue Ellen, who spent 15 years used by the entertainment industry, is older but sweet and so sensitive. She had her teeth knocked out with a crow bar and endured 40 liver biopsies, three rectal biopsies and four lymph node biopsies. She is lovely with the sweetest face and disposition you could ever
Binky is recognized as the trouble-maker but the one who will come to the rescue of other chimps in a heartbeat. He put on quite a show when we were there and seemed to love the attention. In Binky’s earlier days, he was “knocked down” many times by darts and used in several research
studies over a 7 year period.
Visiting Fauna was a bittersweet experience. A happy one because it is wonderful to see the chimps finally living their lives in a safe place – yet heartbreaking to think of the reasons why they came to Fauna in the first place.
I asked Gloria about Biomedical research and if she sees a future where research will be conducted using alternative methods as opposed to testing on animals. Her answer was simple but direct, “It is totally possible but could change a lot quicker. There needs to be a huge push and the consumer can make that happen. The only way we can end animal research is to demand it. There are alternatives and they must be used. The public must demand more humane science, and better science, which means not using animals. If it was up to the science or the ethical concern, it would be over now. It is the economics that keeps it alive. It is the industry keeping the research alive, the people breeding and selling the animals, the cages, the food, the devices used in research and so on. For example if Charles River Laboratories could get equally rich with alternatives, then they would stop selling and breeding the animals,There has been a 70% decrease in Chimpanzee research for Hepatitis C, and there has been an 80 fold increase in invetro methods in Hepatis C research. So, proving once again, the use of the greatest model “the chimp”, is no longer useful for Hep C research. Shocking. They stopped using chimps for AIDS research years ago.”
I also asked Gloria about what we as consumers can do. She quickly pointed out It is extremely easy for the consumer to find lists of safe and cruelty free shopping guides. “Today you can go into just about any store and find total cruelty free items. From Walmart to Macy’s. It is so easy these days to make the right choice. Look for the Leaping Bunny. We never have to buy anything that has hurt an animal or a human. Always read the labels, ask questions and simply do not buy products that are tested on animals. Be sure to truly understand what all the symbols mean, be informed about the companies and who owns who. There is a lot of trickery, and deception
Spending the day with Gloria was so inspiring. When asked, “What was your biggest motivator in creating this sanctuary?” She replied, “the need“. I know that it changed my life and the way I will shop and purchase items in the future. I have become even more diligent in terms of what I buy – whether that be cosmetics or cleaning supplies. I thought the process would be time-consuming, costly, and frustrating but not at all. It is easy to find just about anything that does not test on animals, they are cost-surprisingly comparable and the good feeling that you get? Priceless!
And then there is PEPPER…who I dedicate this blog to. Pepper is one of the resident chimps who pretty much followed us around all day from inside her enclosure. She ate and enjoyed most of the bananas. Pepper has a lot of fear inside her and went through a lot of trauma in her previous life: 307 knockdowns, 36 punch liver biopsies, 1 open wedge liver biopsy, 6 cervical biopsies, 10 lymph node biopsies and 4 bone marrow biopsies. Pepper has such a kind soul and she touched my soul! She loved touching Gloria’s fingers and hair almost as if she wanted to extend comfort to those around her.
I am positive that Nat and I will be forever changed by this experience. The Fauna Sanctuary
is more than just a permanent home for used, neglected, abused or rejected animals, it is a place that is needed to foster awareness and education; taking the rights of animals into account and fighting for an end to animal research.
Right now, they are going through a succession plan for the future of Fauna. Donations are always needed and appreciated. It is surprising what a small group of committed individuals can do, so never doubt that there is always a way that you can help
make a difference too.
I often think of Pepper extending her hand and Gloria’s answer to, “What is the best part of your day?” “4:00pm when the staff check out, and I know everyone is happy and safe and been well taken care of for another day!”