The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently issued a statement that it will retire 110 federally owned chimpanzees from the controversial New Iberia Research Center in Lafayette, La., and sparked further debate after announcing that only ten of them would go to an actual sanctuary, while the other 100 would be moved to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, where they could still technically be used in non-invasive research.
100 “retired” chimps will be doomed to life at another lab after enduring years of torment at the same New Iberia that was the focus of an undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States in 2009, showing some of the horrific abuse primates face behind closed doors. Investigators for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service also found that it hadn’t complied with the Animal Welfare Act on multiple occasions.
Now, there is a list of who should not go. “Mindy who is in ‘renal failure,’ Jet who is an epileptic, and Sharon and Paco because ‘they will not make it,’” according to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), who obtained documents from New Iberia via the Freedom of Information Act.
Their conditions are sad, but not uncommon. A Review of Autopsy Reports on Chimpanzees in or from U.S. Laboratories, which will be printed this October in the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (ATLA), reviewed data from 110 autopsies that were done from 2000-2010 on chimpanzees who had died in labs, or at sanctuaries after being used in research, concluded that their conditions should have made them ineligible for use in research for both scientific and ethical reasons.
“The data show a full 64% of those chimpanzees suffered significant chronic illnesses and 69% had multi-organ diseases that should have rendered them too sick for research use. Yet, despite this knowledge on the part of the laboratories, many of these chimpanzees were held in labs for research despite their poor health and unsuitability for use,” according to NEAVS.
In theory, they should have been eligible for retirement at sanctuaries under the 2000 Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act (CHIMP Act), which created a national sanctuary system in 2000, except labs are the ones who decide who gets to leave. The same labs that receive millions in federal funding to keep breeding, warehousing and using primates in experiments. Labs that would also potentially benefit from being able to hold on to chimps and put them back into service, even if they’re retired.
“While there is no reason to keep any chimpanzees in U.S. labs, many like those on NIRC’s ‘who should not go’ list should have been sent to sanctuary years, if not decades ago,” said study co-author and NEAVS President Theodora Capaldo, EdD. “All chimpanzees suffering chronic or incurable physical or psychological illness should be immediately released to sanctuary. While NEAVS wants all chimpanzees out of labs and safe in sanctuary, there is a triaged urgency to get those out who should be there right now because of failing health. They deserve to spend every minute of their remaining years in the comfort and safety of a healing environment.”
NEAVS, the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance and others have submitted a petition to the Department of Health and Human Services asking that it set clear criteria under the CHIMP Act for the immediate retirement of hundreds of chimpanzees.
Please sign the petition urging the director of the NIH to send retired chimps to a sanctuary where they can live out their days in peace, not to another lab where they can technically still be used in research.
You can also sign the petition supporting the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, which will phase out invasive research for about 1,000 chimpanzees currently in U.S. labs, along with retiring 500 federally owned chimpanzees.
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