Is Animal Research on Chimpanzees Coming to an End?Published March 23, 2012
Invasive animal testing conducted on chimpanzees may be coming to an end.
Using captive chimpanzees for animal testing began in the United States in the 1920s.
In the 1950s, the Air Force started breeding them for the space program. In the mid-1970s, the importation of chimpanzees caught in the wild was banned due to concern for the preservation of threatened species. But in the 1980s, chimpanzees were used in AIDS research, which turned out to be unsuccessful. Despite being popular for so long, however, animal testing on chimpanzees may finally be coming to an end.
Ending the research only seems to make sense; today, the United States and the central African nation of Gabon are the only two countries in the world which continue to conduct invasive animal testing on chimpanzees. Since chimpanzees are so similar to our species, research scientists consider them to be valuable subjects. This said, however, many folks view the use of these highly intelligent and social animals as inhumane.
Even though many medical scientists insist that research conducted on chimpanzees has contributed to saving thousands of lives (including the discovery and production of a vaccine against Hepatitis B and a vaccine against Hepatitis C in the works), animal advocacy groups consider animal testing to be both cruel and unnecessary.
But there is good news on the horizon.
Due to the tireless work advocacy groups have been doing, biomedical research performed on our very close cousins may come to a halt within a year. Wayne Pacelle, the President and Chief Executive of the Humane Society of the United States said, “This is a very different moment than ever before. Now is the time to get these chimps out of invasive research and out of the labs.”
In strong contrast to Pacelle's statement, Dr. John VandeBerg, the Director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas, expressed his concern about the possibility of ending biomedical research conducted on chimpanzees.
“Any reduction in the rate of the development of drugs for these diseases will mean hundreds of people, really millions of people, dying because it would be years of delay,” he said. According to VandeBerg, putting an end to chimpanzee research is grossly unethical.
Due this year is a report by the National Institutes of Health on the overall usefulness of animal testing conducted on chimpanzees, which should shed light on whether this research is actually necessary. The report was commissioned by the Humane Society and other advocacy groups.
Additionally, HSUS is working with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Jane Goodall Institute and other groups to petition the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service to proclaim captive chimpanzees endangered like their counterparts in the wild.
The move will offer them new protections. The decision is due in September 2012.
This writer fervently hopes invasive biomedical research on chimpanzees will come to an end, with medical researchers using the alternative methods now readily available for their experiments to be performed. What do you think? Share your opinions with a comment.