NIH Moves Chimps from Chumps to Champs

Posted on 15 December 2011 by Jerry

The National Institute of Health, responding to pressure from animal rights groups, asked the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council to formulate a recommendation on continued use of chimpanzees in NIH funded invasive medical research in the U.S. Today their report was issued.  While not calling for an outright ban of the practice, the committee report signals to all involved in this type of research that they should wrap up present projects and plan to use other research methodologies in the future.

To send this signal, the committee recommended Guiding Principles that included “The animals used in the proposed research must be maintained either in ethologically appropriate physical and social environments or in natural habitats.”  Webster’s defines ethology as the scientific and objective study of animal behavior especially under natural conditions.  This principle precludes the common research facility today which keeps the chimpanzees in cages.

Another guiding principal was that “There must be no other research model by which the knowledge could be obtained, and the research cannot be ethically performed on human subjects.”  On this last point the committee looked at a number of case studies.  Other than research that is already underway where benefits would be significantly delayed, they could not find research projects that could not be performed in other acceptable ways.

Our article in August 2011, Too Sentient for Their Own Good, raised the issue of use of chimpanzees in invasive medical research in the U.S.  That article pointed out that only two countries in the world still permit this kind of research on chimpanzees, the United States of America and Gabon in Africa. The rest of the world has banned invasive experimentation with many countries not allowing chimpanzees to be used in any research i.e. the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.  The article also identified that great apes (other than gorillas) are one of only three mammals, other than humans, who have sufficient intelligence to demonstrate self recognition.

We congratulate those animal rights groups that have intervened on behalf of chimpanzees and their humane treatment.  Kudos to the National Anti-Vivisection Society, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and the Humane Society of the United States. This is clearly their victory. Kudos also deserved by GlaxoSmithKline, a drug company that has an official policy ending its use of great apes, including chimpanzees, in its research.

Use the following link for more information:

http://iom.edu/Reports/2011/Chimpanzees-in-Biomedical-and-Behavioral-Research-Assessing-the-Necessity.aspx

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