News Index > Sortable Oct-Nov 2006 > November 2006
Imagine -- Two PPI Updates

November 6, 2006

An open letter to Priscilla Feral and Stephen Tello regarding Primarily Primates:

Everyone deserves an answer to these questions which I direct at both of you:

Both of you have had access to Wally Swett and the physical site of Primarily Primates for many years – why did you never act to stop the suffering of animals there?

Why, Stephen Tello, as a PPI board member, and Wally’s former partner, did you never take action to remove him from power given the fact that he was debilitated by alcohol? Why did it take a lawsuit to get you to act? The same question to you Priscilla – your support of Wally – what does it mean? It seems either diabolical (you wish to manipulate a man rendered incompetent by his addiction) or you are simply an enabler – both theories have been put forward by people who know you. Either way, it is shameful that you failed to act in behalf of the animals at PPI.

You have both been to PPI innumerable times over the years. Stephen – you lived there for many years. Why did you not notice that the night boxes – the only areas where animals have to go for shelter and warmth – had trees growing in front of their doors, or several feet of hard-packed earth in front of them indicating that they couldn’t have been cleaned in years? Did you ever look inside the night boxes? I did – I actually cleaned those night boxes over the last two weeks, shoveling out inches of feces, urine, and the decomposed bodies of animals. How could you both ignore the fact that animals were forced to go into these fetid, putrid, rotten wooden boxes while you drove in your nice warm cars and slept soundly under as many blankets as you needed?

How could the two of you look at monkeys with fingers and tails missing because of frostbite and fail to act to give them warmth?

Stephen Tello, you had two months from the time Wally purportedly "resigned" during our last court hearing on the OSU case, until the Attorney General’s office took over on October 13. During those two months, how is it that you failed to clean those night boxes? In those two months, how is it that you failed to hire qualified staff to care for the hundreds of animals at PPI?

How is it that you both failed to see that the lion’s backbone and ribs were stabbing out of his skin? He looks like a lion now thanks to the fact that the receiver has made sure he gets food. How could you ignore his roars of hunger?

How could the two of you walk by the tiny corn crib enclosures that had absolutely no enrichment in them and think that this barren, deprived environment is acceptable? Over the past two weeks the animals have received towels, blankets, toys, and thick hay to make their lives more enjoyable. Simple things that were denied them for years.

How could the two of you walk by those enclosures with pitted-out cement floors that captured feces and urine and turned into cesspools when it rained and fail to act?

How could you both look at the hundreds of primates at PPI’s mercy and think it was acceptable to feed them nothing but monkey chow? You should see the joy and excitement in those animals now as the receiver’s staff makes the rounds with fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

How could the two of you look at the dungeons inside the chimpanzee enclosures and think that was an acceptable environment for those poor animals who had already been so mistreated during their miserable lives?

How could you walk by the dog kennels, see them spinning in circles, and not do something to relieve their insanity?

How could you turn a blind eye to Wally’s purchasing animals from exotic animal dealers?

How could you stand by and allow breeding to take place? PPI was supposed to be a sanctuary for heaven’s sake!

Why are there photographs of baby chimpanzees running around Wally’s house playing with packs of cigarettes? Do neither of you realize this is wrong?

How is it that after fundraising off the Buckshire chimpanzees for so many years, we find now that there are still eight chimpanzees in Buckshire’s basement who have been waiting for Wally to build enclosures? There were ten of them but two have died waiting.

What have the two of you done to improve the lives of animals at PPI over the many, many years you have known Wally and the many years you have seen the decline in the animals’ circumstances and care?

Why are you acting now? People who know you and have worked with you in the past believe your action is driven by greed. They say you are panicked now that the AG has acted. Shame on both of you. Those who care deeply about what the animals at PPI have endured for years hope the receiver is successful in installing a new board of trustees and a new director to run the facility until the animals can be placed into real sanctuaries. Why don’t you help make this a reality?


Mary Beth Sweetland

Senior Vice President

Director, Research & Investigations Department

Imagine that Primarily Primates Inc. in San Antonio, Texas, was a geriatric home or an orphanage. The mismanagement and, worse, mistreatment that allegedly took place there would likely have caused a national outcry, especially after the state attorney general's seizure of the place Oct. 13.

Instead, Primary Primates is an animal sanctuary. Outside of some local and special interest media, news of the seizure was largely ignored. When John Mulcahy of Trumansburg got word of the problems there, he decided to take time off from his work as an education coordinator at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and take a plane to San Antonio.

Mulcahy describes the lack of interest that people and the mainstream media tend to display over animal welfare as "mind-boggling." Working for various non-profit organizations since 1998, Mulcahy has made alleviating the suffering of animals his primary concern. "I have always been fascinated by animals, and I wanted to spend my life studying them," Mulcahy said. "I set out to become a primatologist, but after getting to know chimpanzees personally and learning more about their tragic plight in captivity, I decided to become an animal advocate."
"A group of chimpanzees were retired to PPI from Ohio State University, where they had been used for behavioral research," Mulcahy said. "Two of the chimpanzees died shortly after being transferred to PPI. PETA sued to have the surviving chimpanzees moved to a proper sanctuary."

Due to a technicality, the lawsuit was dismissed, but the situation continued to have the attention of the attorney general, who, after witnessing the conditions during a surprise visit and investigation of alleged misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars, eventually seized the property. Although the sanctuary's owner, Wallace Swett, and several of his staff members maintain that the seizure was an unnecessary measure, Mulcahy said he and other volunteers found the animals in a dire situation.
Most people involved in the case do acknowledge that Primarily Primates has problems, but not all agree with the attorney general and PETA's handling of the situation. The organization Friends of Animals, for instance, supports PPI's interim director, Stephen Tello, in his claim that the seizure has caused stress among the sanctuary's animals, many of which have now been moved to other locations. Although PETA's reputation is not necessarily solid even among some other animal rights groups who criticize, for instance, the organization's euthanizing of animals rather than taking a no-killing stand, Mulcahy said he does not take issue with PETA's involvement in the matter. "I agree with any agenda that attempts to eliminate or reduce the unnecessary suffering of animals," he said.

The extent of Mulcahy's devotion to animal welfare becomes clear when asked how far he would take that agenda.

"There is a question that is often posed to animal rights activists," he said. "If a building containing a child and a dog was on fire and you could only save one, would you save the child or the dog? Most people would choose the child, and to some that signifies that humans are more important. But the question could easily be rearranged. What if the two occupants were your child and a stranger's child? Most people would save their own child. Does that mean that we are free to experiment or mistreat the children of strangers? Of course not. In the end the whole scenario is meaningless."

Mulcahy returned to Trumansburg on Friday. Goodrich will be traveling to the sanctuary on Friday, Nov. 10, to put in a week of volunteering as well. For more information about the situation at Primary Primates, visit

full story:

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,