There’s a two-day public hearing going on convened by the Institute of Medicine to examine whether invasive chimpanzee research is still necessary. Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) has a wonderful Op-Ed in today’s New York Times explaining why he no longer believe such experiments make sense — scientifically, financially or ethically.
Bartlett has introduced the bipartisan Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act with Steve Israel (D-NY), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Ed Towns (D-NY), along with Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The Act would end invasive research on great apes and retire the 500 federally owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries.
As Bartlett points out, the newest research techniques that do not use great apes are cheaper, faster and more effective. Chimps have also proven inferior in research when compared to these alternative methodologies. And it makes sense economically–Retiring the animals would save taxpayers about $30 million a year. And then there’s the ethical argument:
There is no question that chimpanzees experience pain, stress and social isolation in ways strikingly similar to the way humans do. James Marsh’s recent documentary, “Project Nim,” chronicles the 27-year life of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was the subject of a controversial research project that involved raising him as though he were a human. Nim was taught sign language — and he used those signs to tell his human interlocutors that he was traumatized by his living conditions.
Nim isn’t alone. In his book “Next of Kin,” Dr. Roger S. Fouts recounted his reunion with a chimp named Booee. After 13 years of separation, and after Booee was deliberately infected with hepatitis C, Booee recognized, signed and played with Dr. Fouts, to whom he had given the signed nickname of “Rodg.” Other visitors reported that Booee used the American Sign Language gesture for “keys,” indicating that he wanted to get out of his cage.
Rep. Bartlett ends by writing that we can “no longer justify confining these magnificent and innocent animals to traumatic invasive research and life imprisonment.” I agree completely and my perspective is similar to Jane Goodall’s: Since animal research will continue, I would like to see it limited to the greatest extent possible as we develop and utilize alternatives where appropriate. In the case of great apes, the course of action is clear.
Contact your legislator to support the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act
Photo: Diana Goodrich