A New Era – US Stops Using Chimps for Medical Research

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Last year I had a chance to visit the Fauna Foundation, a sanctuary in Montreal for chimpanzees “retired” from research laboratories and entertainment.  The Fauna Foundation received a lot of press after writer Andrew Westoll wrote The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, which is an account of his time as a volunteer at the sanctuary (I recommend reading it!).  This sanctuary serves an important function because they offer peace and relative freedom to chimpanzees that have only known a caged existence as test subjects in biomedical facilities.  As an outspoken critic of this research, I am enormously grateful for these sanctuaries.  In biomedical facilities chimpanzees often live in unsanitary conditions, without areas for foraging, or an ability to interact with other members of their own species.  Many chimpanzees that are eventually transferred to sanctuaries suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

That is why I was very happy to hear yesterday that the United States would be largely phasing out biomedical research on chimpanzees.  The U.S. is the only country that still keeps chimpanzees for this type of research.  Austria, New Zealand, the Netherlands the United Kingdom introduced bans on using chimpanzees for biomedical research in 2006.  This is not just because using chimpanzees as guinea pigs is morally abhorrent.  It is also because chimpanzees as models offer us nothing that can’t be gained from using other animals as models (e.g., rats, hamsters, guinea pigs).  Considering that it is cheaper, more efficient, and useful to use rodents in biomedical research, there is really no reason to continue large-scale research on our closest relatives. 

The United States new proposed federal rules wouldn’t limit all research, but it does place a stranglehold on new research.  Here is the statement from Working Group on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website:

“NIH will not fund any new or other competing projects (renewal and revisions) for research involving chimpanzees and will not allow any new projects to go forward with NIH-owned or supported chimpanzees.”

Written By: Cadell Last
continue to source article at theadvancedapes.com

7 COMMENTS

  1. The US always seems to be behind in developments of this nature. Kudos to those whose efforts helped push this along. And, also, thanks for the book recommendation, i think i will be reading it soon.
    Crooked

  2. Chimps should be free to “monkey around and go ape s***”, just like the rest of us. Seriously.

    If the U.S. government wanted to, they could easily find the funds. Transporting to Africa sounds good, presuming they wouldn’t incur trauma from the journey. Releasing future generations into the wild – if any are left in the wild after habitat destruction and bushmeat hunting.

    “Foolish Earthlings” >(

  3. I am in 2 minds about medical research on animals. It’s cruel but it has benefits for human kind. I’m a look the other way kind of guy.

    One thing is for sure I certainly wouldn’t have the stomach for this kind of research. Research like lets expose this animal to copious amounts of radiation and chemicals until it’s DNA and organs explode is disgusting. Yet it may help me and my family live longer and have a better quality of life.

  4. I don’t see the moral victory here. As the article says:

    It is also because chimpanzees as models offer us nothing that can’t be gained from using other animals as models (e.g., rats, hamsters, guinea pigs). Considering that it is cheaper, more efficient, and useful to use rodents in biomedical research, there is really no reason to continue large-scale research on our closest relatives.

    The NIH is simply finding that other animal models are less expensive. Predictably, everyone declares a post hoc “moral victory”, the government “finally” bands the practice, “justice” is served and “moral progress” continues to be made.

    Now, the torture of biomedical experiments will be suffered by less expensive animals, whom we have no reason to believe experience pain to a lesser degree than chimps do. But they don’t resemble humans as much as chimps do so some how that makes it better (even though the reason for using rodents over chimps is because rodents are more like us).

  5. i feel that with technology driven in-vitro testing procedures using sophisticated computer models, we no longer have to subject bigger mammals to toxicological studies for determining lethal doses.. they can be used to understand the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics, but not lethal dose testing.

  6. I think this is generally good news. As well as suffering physical pain and discomfort, chimps are sophisticated enough that they can suffer mentally as well from being caged and isolated, much more so than rodents.

    I do disagree with one statement. Because vulnerability to any disease has its ultimate basis in the DNA code of the organism, and chimps are closer to us than other animals, DNA-wise, the statement that “chimpanzees as models offer us nothing that can’t be gained from using other animals as models” is simply not true. There will be some diseases (thankfully relatively few) where only a model that is closer to humans will be good enough to tell us what we want to know. This doesn’t necessarily justify using chimps any more than it justifies using down’s syndrome people for experiments, but I wanted to point out the hole.

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