USA: Success! NIH Will Retire Its Last 50 Research Chimps.


Success! NIH Will Retire Its Last 50 Research Chimps

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This week animal advocates are celebrating a historic victory with an announcement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that it will be retiring the last 50 research chimpanzees it owns to sanctuaries.

We have marveled over their complexity and similarities to us, but have still exploited chimpanzees for decades in unthinkable and indefensible ways in the name of science. Despite being unable to undo the past, we’re now making some big changes that will drastically impact their future for the better.

Care2 member, Brittany E.G. started a petition asking the NIH director to retire research chimps, which received more than 21 thousand signatures.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report that concluded most research on chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research was unnecessary and unethical, and made recommendations about their future use.

Following the release of the report, the NIH announced it would be retiring most of the research chimps it owned or funded in 2013. The news meant hundreds of chimpanzees would finally be free from harm, after what had been decades in labs for some.

While the news was well received by those who have been campaigning for years to see this day come, it was also tempered by the fact that while 310 chimps would be retired, 50 would be left behind for possible use in future research.

That changed this week, with another announcement from the NIH that the remaining 50 will also be permanently retired to sanctuaries.

“I think this is the natural next step of what has been a very thoughtful five-year process of trying to come to terms with the benefits and risks of trying to perform research with these very special animals,” NIH director Francis Collins told Nature. “We reached a point where in that five years the need for research has essentially shrunk to zero.”

The news is a little surprising, but it follows a growing number of obstacles to using them as test subjects. Earlier this year, the status of captive chimps was officially changed to endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The listing set the bar even higher for anyone who wanted to use them by requiring any experiments be for the benefit of chimpanzees.

As of this fall, there have been no permit requests to use them in experiments, and while there are still many more privately owned chimps waiting to be liberated from labs, it doesn’t look like any more will be subjected to invasive research – at least not with funding from our taxpayer dollars.

Collins added in a letter that relocation will be “conducted as space is available and on a timescale that will allow for optimal transition of each individual chimpanzee with careful consideration of their welfare, including their health and social grouping.”

So far, reports indicate the next to go will be 20 from the Southwest National Primate Research Center, otherwise known as Texas Biomedical Research Institute, which was the subject of a scathing investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) last year.

Now it’s a matter of finding room for them in the national sanctuary system. Chimp Haven has said it is now ready to take 25 and will start working on making space for more next year. While the organization does receive funding from the government, it is required to partially match it through donation, so public support is hugely important in the effort to get these chimps into the long overdue retirement they deserve.

For more info on how to help, visit Chimp Haven.


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