Can't We Keep These Lab Chimps in Retirement?Published July 29, 2010
Johns Hopkins, one of the world's leading educational institutions, runs both Altweb, an online resource for alternative news and information, and The Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing. Through this center, resources such as synthetic skin and computer modeling are available to researchers where live animal use can be avoided. And yet we have stories like this one: After nine years retirement from decades of medical research, 185 government lab chimpanzees that are living at the federally-owned Alamogordo primate facility in New Mexico, are about to go back to work - as test subjects. Although their current home is government-owned, the for-profit biomedical research company, Charles River Laboratories, has held a ten-year, $42.8 million dollar contract to manage the chimps. This contract is set to expire May 2011. While the organization Animal Protection of New Mexico has been seeking permanent retirement for the APF chimpanzees, beginning this summer, the National Institutes of Health intends to transfer them from APF to Texas, to once again be subjected to invasive research. Laura Bonar, with Animal Protection of New Mexico, told KOAT, "There is a battle under way to keep these chimpanzees in New Mexico. There is no scientific, ethical or financial reason to send them back into research. Research with chimpanzees has not yielded great benefits for human health. And now the government wants to move them back into invasive research? Even though they've served out country for decades? In fact, the oldest one is 53 and they usually live until 50, so it would be like sending your 100-year-old auntie into research." What's more, local citizens are not happy. Dozens of jobs will be lost caring for the chimpanzees in Alamogordo and millions of federal dollars coming into the state for care of the chimpanzees will be lost. Senator Tom Udall,(D) New Mexico demanded the National Institutes of Health justify the move. NIH's written response included the motives of cost cutting and resource allocation. According to APNM, the primate transfer can be stopped by Arizona Senators and representatives. I can only hope that I live to see the day when more research scientists are able to follow the pioneering lead set by Johns Hopkins and stop all animal testing, in light of the many newly developed alternatives. How do you feel about animal testing? Leave a comment with your thoughts.