Today, the National Institutes of Health announced it has scuttled plans to
maintain a colony of 50 chimpanzees for research--reversing a
decision the agency made a little over two years ago. At that time, the
research agency said it would end all invasive chimp experiments, but maintain
50 chimps in an "ethologically appropriate" environment in the event they were
needed for research down the line. Now, we really see the agency closing and
locking the door behind the chimps and throwing away the key on their way out of
And there's more good news. According to news reports, the agency has also
determined that the 20 government-owned chimpanzees at
Texas Biomedical Research Institute--the site of an HSUS undercover
investigation where we uncovered dismal conditions for the primates housed
there--are going to be the next group of chimpanzees moved to sanctuary at
Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary.
Moving these chimpanzees to sanctuary is not only the right thing to do, but it
will also save taxpayer dollars due to the lower cost of care. We applaud NIH
director Francis Collins for his foresight in taking this action. The
Institute of Medicine concluded that there are alternatives to using chimps
in invasive experiments.
This latest announcement by NIH comes in the wake of
enhanced federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for captive
chimpanzees. The HSUS and other groups petitioned successfully for this
change, and as a result any private laboratory that wishes to use chimpanzees in
harmful or invasive research must obtain a permit from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and show that the research would benefit wild populations.
Further, any permit would be subject to public comment. Therefore, we know that
as of September 14,
no invasive research has been conducted on chimpanzees. And, with NIH's
announcement, there's reason to believe it will never happen again with
Approximately 700 chimpanzees remain in laboratories with around 300 owned by
the federal government. But we are working on travel plans for every one of
them, starting with the group at Texas Biomedical. The HSUS stands ready to work
with stakeholders, including the government, Chimp Haven and other sanctuaries,
laboratories, the public, and other animal protection groups, to ensure all
chimpanzees are retired to high-quality sanctuaries. It will take our collective
action and resources to push this issue over the finish line but it is the least
these chimpanzees deserve after all they have been through.
It's rare to close out a category of animal use so emphatically. That's exactly
what's happening here, and it's thrilling.