Update: January 31, 2014
Merck pledges to end the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research. See full story.
While hundreds of chimpanzees are now eligible for retirement under the new criteria established by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and accepted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hundreds of other chimpanzees are still subjected to invasive research at laboratories in the U.S. These laboratories or university research departments use chimpanzees that they own or that are owned by other private entities that are not reliant on grants from the federal government for the research they perform, thus making them exempt from the IOM criteria.
Most privately-owned chimpanzees used for research are owned by only four institutions: Michale E. Keeling Center, New Iberia Research Center, Southwest National Primate Research Center, and Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
Some of these facilities house and use both privately-owned and federally-owned or supported animals, but only those laboratories supported by the federal government are subject to the IOM criteria and have been studied by the NIH Working Group to determine if protocols using chimpanzees should be continued. Once the federal chimpanzees have been removed and retired to a sanctuary, the remaining chimpanzees will continue to be subjected to their current protocols. Even more alarming is the prospect that these chimpanzees will be used for new protocols that will be even more harmful in an effort to make “full use” of animals that are expensive to use and to keep. That may mean that these chimpanzees would now be subjected to whatever research is proposed—however horrific—if the proposal is accompanied by sufficient monies to cover the cost of keeping chimpanzees no longer subsidized by the federal government.
The conclusion of the IOM is that most research conducted on chimpanzees is unnecessary and should be stopped. This should apply equally to research conducted in private facilities, yet those institutions are not obligated to comply with a matter that only applies to the federal government.
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