Filed under: Chimpanzee Welfare | Tags: chimpanzee, chimpanzee research, IOM report, NIH
by Lorraine Docherty
Primate welfare organizations are anxiously waiting for Dr. Frances Collin’s (the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)) decision regarding the fate of some 451 federally owned chimpanzees currently house in laboratories across the US and a suggested reserve of 50 chimpanzees that could be called upon to be used in invasive research should the need arise.
In January this year, the working Group on the use of chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research, released proposals for how the NIH should implement the IOM report, they also said that the agency should end six of the nine invasive studies that it funds. And the other three would be allowed to continue only if the animals’ environments are substantially improved, probably at great expense. Public comments have now been received in response to the working group recommendations and we expect to hear an announcement from Dr. Collins in the next few weeks.
Should Dr. Collins accept the working group recommendations, this will be a huge milestone overcome in animal-research practice and policy, and confirmation of something that chimpanzee welfare experts have known, for some time, that chimpanzees are not necessary for medical research and their use in research is therefore unjustified and unethical.
Although huge steps have been taken to end chimpanzee experimentation and I commend the NIH for moving forward on this issue. There are still major questions about what will happen to these ex-laboratory chimpanzees? Major issues that need to be addressed are: (1) Who will fund the retirement of these chimpanzees? It costs around $20,000 per year per chimpanzee to house them at a sanctuary which means that it could cost an estimated 9 million dollars per year to house these federally owned chimpanzees and (2) Are there enough accredited sanctuaries in the US with the necessary facilities to house infected individuals because it would be inappropriate to keep these chimpanzees in laboratory facilites and (3) What is going to happen to the 100 or so privately owned chimpanzees currently held in other laboratories and still being subjected to invasive research?