Protest In Sag Harbor Targets Humane Society Board Member

Protesters from the group Their Turn, led by Organizer Donny Moss, seen second from rightt, confront Ryland Hilbert of the Ryand store on Madison Street in Sag Harbor on Saturday morning, 7/25/20. The group charges that Brad Jakeman, partner to Hilbert, is involved with a business that abuses Chimpanzees.

A handful of protesters gathered in front of Ryland Life Equipment on Madison Street in Sag Harbor on Saturday, July 25, hoisting signs that said, “Brad Jakeman, Animal Cruelty,” “Brad Jakeman Animal Abuser”and “Brad Jakeman This is Unacceptable.” With the captions, the signs featured photos of Mr. Jakeman alongside photos of injured chimpanzees.

New York City based Donny Moss, an activist from the animal rights organization, Their Turn, organized the protest to call out the Humane Society of the United States for its actions related to Project Chimps, a sanctuary for retired lab chimpanzees located in Morganton, Georgia.

Though not on the board of Project Chimps, Mr. Jakeman is on the board of HSUS. His life partner, Ryland Hilbert owns the store and said Saturday he was shocked and confused by the demonstration targeting his life partner through him. “I have no relationship with the Humane Society and the store doesn’t either. . . the store being targeted doesn’t make 100 percent sense.”

Mr. Moss said he’d written Mr. Jakeman repeatedly and even dropped a letter at the store warning of the impending protest. He contends he received no reply.

At issue are alleged mistreatment of the chimps in the sanctuary and the subsequent firing of and litigation against two whistleblowers. Twenty two current and former employees of the sanctuary spoke out against the mistreatment of the primates.

Anna West, HSUS’s senior director of media relations, on Saturday characterized Mr. Moss’s targeting of the society as “misguided.” A fact sheet developed by HSUS, dated June 24, 2020, refutes claims made about Project Chimps, as well as a second chimpanzee sanctuary located in Liberia. It states “Multiple reputable, independent veterinarians, accrediting bodies and government inspectors have visited Project Chimps, inspected and assessed the facilities, program and animals there and have concluded that the chimpanzees are receiving excellent care.”

In an article titled, “Why I’m Blowing the Whistle on HSUS,” Moss counters the claim: “Over the past several years, many employees and contractors, including caregivers, vet techs, veterinarians and construction workers, at HSUS’s two chimpanzee sanctuaries (Project Chimps in Georgia and Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge in Liberia) have been so alarmed by the neglect, deprivation and other forms of abuse that they were willing to risk their jobs, financial security and future employment prospects by speaking out.”

The website lists a timeline of complaints and concerns about the chimps’ welfare, going back to 2016. Concerns include poor vet care and recurrent illnesses, lack of nesting materials, insufficient enrichment, and lack of outdoor access.
PETA was contacted and reported the welfare concerns to GFAS, the Global Federation of Accredited Sanctuaries.

HSUS counters, on its fact sheet, noting, “Early in 2020, Project Chimps invited the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries to provide an objective outside assessment of its sanctuary. That assessment confirmed that claims alleging mistreatment of chimpanzees are unfounded and misleading. As part of the GFAS assessment, one of the most well-respected and experienced chimpanzee veterinarians in the world did an assessment of each chimpanzee in April, and she found that every chimpanzee was healthy and well cared for.”

The HSUS fact sheet notes that to avoid confusion, society members have stepped down from the Project Chimps board. The board includes lead singer from the rock band Green Day, Billie Joe, among its founding members.

Ms. West said Project Chimps is an “autonomous” sanctuary, and the fact sheet states HSUS is not suing the former employees. Project Chimps filed the suit.
“It’s all so freakishly duplicitous,” Mr. Moss said Saturday. HSUS tax filings list its “control” of the sanctuary, he maintained. “Project Chimps was created by the Humane Society,” he said.

The demonstrators, which numbered between six and eight, protested for approximately two hours in front of the Sag Harbor boutique. Mr. Moss plans to be back on August 15 “with more people.”