By Shannon Wallin
The last 12 years have changed my life. I have always been an animal lover, but I never truly understood what it meant until I met Washoe, Tatu, Moja, Loulis, and Dar. I came to CHCI as a grad student, my exposure and understanding of biomedical research was limited. I thought, like most people do, it was a necessary evil, the means justified the ends. I didn’t like it, but what else could we do? Then I met these guys. One day it hit, I finally understood. I was watching someone put together a video presentation on biomedical research and there was a chimp being tied to a table screaming, then it cut to baby Washoe playing in the Gardner’s yard. It all clicked, Washoe, Tatu, Moja, Loulis, and Dar were all in the system, they were all supposed to be test subjects! These were my friends, I could not even imagine them as the chimp in that video. But they could have been, it could have been the chimpanzee next door to Tatu that came to the Garnder’s or the one next to Dar and so on. Those chimps in those cages at the biomedical facilities, they are individuals, they are all incredible beings just like the chimpanzees at CHCI. No matter the need to use them in biomedical research, we don’t have the right. They suffer, they suffer greatly. To subject a being to suffer such a horrible fate for our gain was wrong, I finally understood. From there it wasn’t hard to extrapolate to other situations. What about the elephant in the circus? The dolphin at the sea park? Or the chimpanzee in those commercials? They all deserve our attention.
CHCI and the chimpanzees have changed my life; after 12 years caring for these guys, I am moving on as a stronger advocate for animals. I can thank Washoe and her family for that and I am not the only one, they have changed many lives.