October 29, 2015

Weill Cornell Medicine Dean Accused of Chimp Abandonment

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Dr. Laurie Glimcher, dean of Weill Cornell Medicine, has been the target of protests from animal activists who claim she “abandon[ed] 66 chimpanzees in Liberia with no food or water,” according to Donald Moss, founder of TheirTurn, an online animal rights news magazine.

The protests criticize Glimcher, focusing on her work with the New York Blood Center, where she recently completed her term as a member of the board. The NYBC had been funding a Liberian lab performing virus-testing research on chimpanzees since 1974, but ultimately ended its financial aid to the lab last March, according to The New York Times.

Protesters surrounded the medical college, Glimcher’s residence and NYBC’s office denouncing the NYBC’s decision to withdraw its financial support from the lab, which they say left it unable to provide for the 66 chimpanzees in its care.

“We staged two protests at the NYBC itself, six protests at the homes of the chairman of the board of the NYBC — in both New York City and the Hamptons — [and] three protests at the homes and office of Laurie Glimcher,” Moss said.

Moss said he believes Glimcher was targeted because she was a “very prominent member of the board, she’s the dean of a medical college, she has treated patients in clinical practice, and she knows that you don’t abandon anyone, human or chimpanzee.”

Moss also believes that the NYBC’s withdrawal could be in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an agreement which protects the endangered plants and animals.

“I do believe that abandoning animals with no food and water is a violation of international law,” he said.

Both the United States and Liberia are member states of this voluntary treaty, having signed on in 1974 and 1981, respectively.

NYBC’s website claims that the sanctuary was voluntarily funded by NYBC “until the Government of Liberia could take over.” It further notes that the Liberian government and animal rights organizations “knew all along that our support was voluntary and could not continue.”

However, Moss rejected this premise, saying that “the only sustainable solution is for the NYBC to reinstate funding because the blood center couldn’t possibly expect for the government of Liberia, which is a poor country that just went through an Ebola epidemic … to take care of these chimps.”

“The government of Liberia didn’t create this problem,” he said. “[NYBC] created this problem and for them to now walk away and say ‘this is the government of Liberia’s responsibility’ is outrageous.”

Moss added that, because the NYBC’s $400 million in assets make it able to afford to continue its funding, it has a responsibility to do so.

Glimcher denies affiliation with this decision, saying that she “can’t provide any insight about these decisions” as her term on the board did not begin until 2013. She deferred to NYBC on the specifics of the issue.

“As a scientist, I strongly support the ethical and humane treatment of animals used in research,” Glimcher said. “I have a great respect for these animals and recognize the value they bring in our pursuit of new cures for devastating human diseases.”

The activists plan to protest at NYBC’s 50th anniversary fundraising gala, according to Moss.

“People are coming in from Ohio, Texas, San Francisco … to participate in this protest,” he said. “People are furious.”

Sarah Smith, director of media relations for WCM, said Glimcher vacated her position at the NYBC because her two-year commitment had expired.

“She declined the opportunity to pursue a second term due to her responsibilities at Weill Cornell Medicine,” Smith said.