Nature, an American PBS series, just carried a show called
"Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History." Allison Argo, its writer,
director, producer, and narrator, did a fairly competent job of
showing how chimps have been exploited and mutilated by biomedical
research. Overall, the show is moving, and, for the general public,
should have an impact on anyone with a heart.
I have a few objections to attitudes expressed here and there, like
the idea that the "Air Force" Chimps 'gave their all' and now deserve
to be 'retired.' 'Gave' implies voluntary activity and these captive
chimps were just that, captives, prisoners. A chimp in captivity has
had her life taken from her. She didn't just hop in there and say,
"Yes, torture me for medical research!"
Argo implies that medical research on animals has been beneficial for
humans, a highly debatable viewpoint. In reality, our sick species has
not become any healthier by torturing animals: setting dogs on fire,
sewing the eyes of kittens shut, forcing rats to run until they die of
exhaustion, engineering mice who are born with cancer—all of this
brings in big grants and funds for scientists, but it is not 'curing'
us of our illnesses. (Please remember that every time you donate to
all these breast cancer organizations and all these AIDS research
groups, and to charities like the March of Dimes, you are funding
animal torture and not necessarily helping humans.)
One concern of the chimps' sanctuary caretakers has been to give them
some peace before they die, since they have endured so much. It is not
always easy since the chimps are not just in terrible mental shape,
but also plagued by physical problems after years of being tortured in
labs. Some only briefly enjoy the freedom of grass and air and sky
before they die. It is something, at least, for them to have a few
days or months of gentleness and freedom.
There are many alternatives to experimenting on animals. Three
American groups with tons of information about this are: the
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org); the
American Anti-Vivisection Society (www.aavs.org); and The New England
Anti-Vivisection Society (www.neavs.org). There are also numerous
groups in the UK. All of the above groups also list charities that do
not experiment on animals. Easter Seals, for example, does only
non-animal based research.