At long last, cruel medical research on chimps will end

Wayne Pacelle

As of yesterday, Sept. 14, all chimps are listed as endangered under U.S. law — both wild and captive chimps. This day marks the official end of unrestricted invasive experiments on chimpanzees in this country — a milestone in our long-running Chimps Deserve Better campaign.

Our campaign has been multifaceted, pushing for the enactment of legislation in Congress, urging the National Institutes of Health to empanel an expert group to examine the usefulness of chimp research to the human condition, and pressuring pharmaceutical companies to significantly restrict chimpanzee research. The Human Society of the United States also led the effort to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list all chimps as endangered, including the ones living in laboratories.

There exists the possibility that a laboratory might seek to secure a permit from FWS in the future to conduct invasive research, but it is highly unlikely that labs would meet the legal requirements for such permits. Such experiments would have to demonstrate that they are benefitting chimpanzees in the wild, and we don’t see the labs motivated to reorient their work, given that they’ve been focused on human health and not chimpanzee conservation.

As a community and a nation we can now turn to the retirement of these animals who have endured so much over decades. Some of the chimpanzees were captured from the wild and are now in their late ’50s. During our Chimps Deserve Better campaign, we’ve already inspired a major transfer of chimpanzees to Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary. All 110 government-owned chimpanzees from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana were moved to sanctuary, which essentially doubled Chimp Haven’s population.

But it’s no time to shutter our Chimps Deserve Better campaign. More work remains.

Today there are approximately 745 chimpanzees living in five laboratories (Alamogordo Primate Facility, MD Anderson Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine, New Iberia Research Center, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, and Yerkes National Primate Research Center). Of those 745, approximately 330 are owned by the federal government and the remaining 415 are owned by the laboratories themselves.

Chimp Haven is hoping to expand but will be relying on donors to help with this effort, including the fundraising necessary to guarantee lifetime care of the animals. At The HSUS, our eyes in the very short run are set on the 20 government-owned chimpanzees at Texas Biomedical Research Institute, a facility where we conducted an undercover investigation and that has been the site of unexpected animal deaths and various violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Every one of those 20 chimpanzees has been infected with disease and is unsuitable for any research the labs may be interested in trying to conduct.

Meanwhile, The HSUS continues to highlight the plight of more than 60 chimpanzees living in Liberia who were abandoned by the New York Blood Center. We have led a coalition of organizations and stepped in to fund continuing care for these animals, but this is a responsibility of the Blood Center, a wealthy non-profit organization, which used them in experiments for decades and then pledged to provide lifetime care after retiring them. Now it has reneged on that promise.

We hope to continue to share more news in the coming months as we roll up our sleeves and focus on achieving additional positive outcomes for chimps. If you’d like to contribute to this ongoing effort, consider donating to our Chimps Deserve Better Fund.

I look forward to the day when we can formally lay our Chimps Deserve Better campaign to rest. We’re not there yet, and we have more work ahead. But I’m confident we’ll get there if we stay focused on our goals of giving a good life to every one of these creatures.

The post Chimps Deserve Better — and Things Are Getting Better for Them appeared first on A Humane Nation.

Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.