I suppose it's no great surprise -- in a state that only last year outlawed cockfighting and has a spotty record in how actual human beings fare -- Louisiana's second-largest university runs a primate-research center where staff is accused of routinely torturing and brutalizing apes.
No surprise at all. It is the great irony of Louisiana that those who inhabit such a richly blessed swath of Creation have such a reputation for squandering the resources, both environmental and human, God has bequeathed them.
When a state sits at the bottom of most of the "good" lists chronicling the American condition and atop most of the "bad" ones -- when a state has so much difficulty keeping its own educated, healthy, out of poverty and out of jail -- why, then, ought we expect one of its research universities to treat God's lesser creatures humanely.
WHEN THIS is where Louisianians are content to send the best and brightest of their own children . . .
. . . WHAT CHANCE has a mere monkey or chimpanzee?
Not much, as the Humane Society of the United States found out in an undercover investigation of a research facility run by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, reported on and independently verified by ABC's Nightline:
"Nightline" obtained the results of a nine-month undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. A Humane Society investigator took a hidden camera inside the New Iberia Research Center for most of 2008. The video shows what the Society says is the way monkeys and great apes are treated behind closed doors.LOUISIANA HAS a great many laws and policies proscribing a great many things. Always has. The catch, however, has been twofold -- obeying the law, and then enforcing the law.
The New Iberia Research Center is a public facility, and its research includes contract work for pharmaceutical companies and hepatitis studies. The lab receives millions in public funding but limited public scrutiny.
"Facilities are very secretive in general," said the investigator, who asked to remain anonymous because of the investigation. "It's hard to get a lot of good information out of what really goes on. You rarely see images other than what is kind of posted on the Web sites. Going undercover in a place is the only way you'll see what's the truth."
The Humane Society investigator told ABC News that chimpanzees, often perched several feet off the ground, are shot with sedation guns, with little regard for their safety. The video shows chimps crashing to the floor.
"The sedated chimp would be sort of rocking slowly on the perch, then, out of nowhere, they just smack to the floor," the investigator said. "It was horrific to watch and to hear."
The Humane Society investigator who gained access as an employee shot video of a lab worker striking a restrained monkey's teeth three times with a pipe. The investigator says the employee wanted the monkey to open its mouth.
"The man is sort of threatening him [the monkey] with this pole and smacking his teeth at the same time," the investigator said, describing the video.
Another piece of video shows a lab employee hitting an infant monkey in the head and swearing when the monkey bites at her finger.
In response to "Nightline's" repeated requests for an interview, the University of Louisiana, which houses the New Iberia Research Center, issued a statement to ABC News, which said in part:
"The university takes very seriously the New Iberia Research Center's responsibility to care for the animals housed at the center. The highly qualified and experienced staff veterinarians responsible for the care of these animals are extremely dedicated and respond aggressively to reports of potential animal abuse," wrote Dr. Joseph Savoie, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. "We have a clearly stated and direct no tolerance policy when the welfare of any animal in our care is threatened, and we will continue to strictly enforce that policy."
The Federal Animal Welfare Act, the law designed to protect these primates, requires labs to ensure that procedures avoid or minimize distress or pain. The law also requires that animals be handled with proper care.
Again, if this is what top high-school students in the state's capital have been expected to endure for years, to think that Louisiana officialdom really gives a baboon's butt about captive apes is just begging them to make a monkey out of you.
And we know how monkeys fare in the Gret Stet.
Bless the beasts and the children, indeed.