PCRM: Help End the Use of Chimpanzees for Medical Research

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Ten months ago Petside featured a story sharing some promising news about the Chimpanzees used in invasive medical research and testing. At the time the article was published, it appeared likely that these types of programs might soon be coming to an end.

In the 1980s these magnificent, highly social animals were primarily being used in AIDS research. However, these studies proved ultimately to be unsuccessful. And while scientists in the medical field still contend that research on chimpanzees has been responsible for the saving of thousands of lives, (including the discovery and manufacture of a Hepatitis B vaccine, and a vaccine against Hepatitis on the horizon) advocacy groups consider this research unnecessary and cruel.

In September, the National Institute of Health, (NIH) announced its plan to make its Iberia chimpanzees ineligible for research and many animal lovers breathed a sigh of relief. A report made by the Council of Council's Working Group, "The Use of Chimpanzees in the NIH-Supported Research", states that the NIH should "permanently retire all but 50 of the 360 government-owned chimpanzees to a federal sanctuary program. It also recommends no revitalization of breeding chimpanzees for any research; including emerging, re-emerging or new disease research and these plans should be put in place immediately.

But while PCRM lauded the NIH report and for its recommendations, at the same time PCRM strongly disagreed with the suggestion made by NIH that 50 chimpanzees should be retained to be used for future research. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has already ended experiments using chimpanzees.

Should the NIH accept the report's recommendations, approximately 170 chimpanzees would be sent to sanctuaries being held at the New Mexico Alamogordo Primate Facility. However, medical records obtained by PCRM through the Freedom of Information act, included in this group are 14 chimpanzees who are in poor health but are subject to laboratory testing at Texas Biomed located in San Antonio. PCRM recommends that these animals, along with others, should immediately be removed from that facility and be reunited with the other permanently retired Alamogordo chimpanzees.

Dr. John Pippin, the Director of Academic Affairs said, "Making the chimpanzees ineligible for experimentation is a start, but it makes no sense to send them to a controversial research lab." The reason for PCRM's suggestion that an immediate total phase-out of these research programs should be initiated is due to the fact that chimpanzees are far more aware their surroundings and what is happening to them. Accordingly, chimpanzees suffer more in laboratories than had previously been appreciated. 

Additionally, in a watershed report released in 2011 by the Institute of Medicine, (IOM) no justification was given for using invasive medical experiments on chimpanzees. To the contrary, the IOM argued that chimpanzees could even impede the advancement of the discovery of vaccines and other therapeutic endeavors, in some cases.

Although there is progress being made to end the use of chimpanzees in medical experiments and research, the momentum is far too slow. To help expedite the process, PCRM is calling for animal lovers to help end these invasive procedures, and retire and relocate all laboratory chimpanzees to permanent protected sanctuaries.  

Those wishing to get involved are invited to sign the PCRM Petition asking the NIH to "Get out of the chimpanzee experimentation business once and for all." PCRM is deeply grateful to those taking this crucial action.

What are your thoughts about using chimpanzees and other primates in invasive medical research? Share your opinions in a comment.


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