Actor Alan Cumming asks Missouri facility to give up chimp

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 05, 2017 3:32 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Actor Alan Cumming is worried about an old co-star — a chimpanzee named Tonka — and he's asking a Missouri facility housing the animal to move Tonka and other chimps to an accredited sanctuary.

Cumming, 52, is a British-born actor who won a Tony Award for "Cabaret" in 1998 and earned three Emmy nominations for his role in the CBS television drama, "The Good Wife." In 1997, he starred in the movie "Buddy" alongside Tonka.

In a letter to the Missouri Primate Foundation, Cumming said he believed Tonka was sent to a California sanctuary after filming but recently learned the chimp was at the nonprofit's facility in Festus, south of St. Louis. Cumming alleged Tonka is housed in a cage without "meaningful outdoor access" or the ability to form relationships with other chimps.

The foundation said Monday it hadn't received the letter, which was dated Thursday and publicly released Monday by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Kurtis Reeg, the attorney for the foundation, said PETA's allegations "about housing and social interaction at the Foundation are outdated and wrong, and repeating them via an uninformed third person does not make them come true." The foundation is a breeding facility, but not an accredited sanctuary.

PETA and the foundation have been in a legal fight since last year. PETA sent a letter threatening to sue in November, claiming among other things that animals were "confined in cramped, virtually barren enclosures."

The foundation filed a lawsuit a month later, seeking an injunction to stop any PETA lawsuit. It called PETA a "militant, activist, animal rights group using its cloak as a non-profit organization to threaten and bring litigation" against the foundation as part of a fundraising effort.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited the foundation over the past 20 years for violations related to uncleanliness, animal hair-loss, poor ventilation and other problems, including seven citations since 2014. In 2001, a teenager living near the facility fatally shot a 28-year-old chimp that escaped from an unlocked cage.