Last week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it will permanently retire 110 chimpanzees from the controversial New Iberia Research Center in Lafayette, La., bringing the U.S. a step closer to ending invasive research on primates.
“This is a significant step in winding down NIH’s investment in chimpanzee research based on the way science has evolved and our great sensitivity to the special nature of these remarkable animals, our closest relatives,” Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, told the Washington Post.
Ten of the chimps will be moved to Chimp Haven, a federally funded sanctuary in Keithville, La., while the remaining 100 will be moved to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio where they will be ineligible for invasive research, but may still be used for behavioral studies, or where information from veterinary care may be collected.
However, Chimp Haven announced that it will continue to work with the government to come up with a solution that is best for the chimpanzees, which it believes would be moving them to their sanctuary …not another lab. The facility can take at least 20 now and hopes to complete construction that would accommodate all of the retirees.
The NIH’s announcement follows a report released last December by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that called medical research on chimpanzees unethical and scientifically unnecessary and the Center for Disease Control’s announcement this month that it has stopped using chimpanzees in research altogether.
This move leaves more than 300 NIH-owned chimpanzees available for invasive research and still leaves more than 200 privately owned chimpanzees and thousands of other monkeys at New Iberia, which is currently being investigated by the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. However, beginning next August, New Iberia will not be receiving any NIH funds.
“With this indication that the NIH is going to get out of chimp research, that’s going to drop the bottom out of the whole chimpanzee research enterprise,” John Pippin of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine told Wired. “How are you going to justify your research in light of what the IOM and NIH have said? Even those not directly affected by this prohibition are going to give up. They do not have scientific or ethical justification to continue.”
An NIH group will now decide how many research chimps it will keep, evaluate 38 research projects the NIH currently funds and develop strict rules for when they should be used.
“It’s appropriate to really move in the direction of getting many of those animals out of the research arena, and today that’s what we’re starting to do,” said Collins.
Please sign the petition urging Congress to pass the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, which will phase out federally funded research on chimpanzees and retire the remaining chimpanzees to sanctuaries.
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