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BUAV welcomes recommendation in the U.S. to permanently ‘retire’ chimps

08/02/2013

The BUAV has welcomed a recent recommendation that 310 of the remaining chimpanzees supported by the U.S. government should be permanently ‘retired’ within three to five years. However, we are disappointed that a further 50 of these will not be retired but will instead remain available for future research requests. Furthermore, the U.S. National Institutes of Heath (NIH) supports an additional 181 chimpanzees, but does not have the authority to ‘retire’ them.

The recommendations were announced in an (NIH) Council of Councils (CoC) report, prepared as part of a two year intensive rethink about America’s reliance on chimpanzees as ‘models’ for human medicine. 

Preparation for the transfer of the chimps to Chimp Haven, a large sanctuary in Louisiana, should begin immediately, a series of reports and investigations directed by the American government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) concludes. The NIH funds most of the chimpanzee research in the U.S. and the institutions in which chimps are kept. 

In 2012, a specialist panel advised the NIH that, “research involving chimpanzees has rarely accelerated new discoveries or the advancement of human health for infectious diseases,” and “there is no compelling scientific reason to maintain a sufficiently large reserve population of chimpanzees suitable and/or available for infectious disease research.” 

This followed NIH. Director, Francis Collins’, statement in 2011 that the great apes' similarity to people demanded “special consideration and respect." Last year Collins suspended new grants for medical research on chimpanzees and in a few months he will confirm whether the recommendations to retire most chimpanzeess to permanent sanctuary are to be put into effect. 

The CoC proposal advises that 10 per cent of chimpanzees should remain in laboratories, but that this number should be reconsidered every five years. Any future submissions for their use should be subject to stringent scrutiny and assessed by a committee to include members of the public. The proposal also states that these animals should be housed in “an ethologically appropriate environment” within a “culture of care”, to “engender respect and mutuality of positive human-animal relationships.” 

The BUAV’s Science Advisor, Dr Jarrod Bailey, was one of the experts whose evidence contributed to the NIH’s finding last year that “there is burgeoning evidence of major, important and widespread genetic differences showing why chimpanzees are poor models for human research… and why they can never be good “models.”

He said, “It is extremely gratifying to me both as a scientist and as someone deeply committed to a humane ethic that the overwhelming majority of federally owned or supported chimpanzees will be retired to sanctuaries, and that most invasive research involving them will end.

The BUAV works closely with the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) and Dr Bailey has worked with the NEAVS during its 8-year campaign, Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories, which has been hugely influential on the recent U.S. decision. 

Theodora Capaldo, Ed D, President of NEAVS, said, "NEAVS'  Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in US Laboratories, our focused campaign on chimpanzees, led to national efforts on their behalf. The work has led to precedent setting decisions by our government. We focused on chimpanzees because we knew that they carry our ethical and humane concerns on proof that they are scientifically unsuitable, unnecessary, and failures as an "animal model" to study human. It is through the chimpanzee that the erroneous logic used for years to allow their use could be and was shattered: They are so like us that they are an essential to study human health. But, they are not enough like us to warrant ethical and legal protections against their use in science. The success of efforts on behalf of chimpanzees in US research has put an end to this erroneous thinking and flawed ethic once and for all."

NEAVS has said its priority is now to ensure that the 50 chimpanzees earmarked for future experimentation will never be used. The BUAV will continue to work with NEAVS towards the same end.

For more information please visit releasechimps.org