Federal Funding of Chimpanzees at New Iberia Ends
110 NIH chimpanzees removed from facility; 10 to retire to Chimp Haven
On September 21, 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that they are removing 110 federally-owned chimpanzees currently housed at the New Iberia Research Center and declaring them “permanently ineligible” for biomedical research. The National Anti-Vivisection Society applauds the NIH’s decision to remove chimpanzees from active research ahead of recommendations from the Council of Councils on how many chimpanzees they should eliminate from ongoing research.
According to reports, 10 chimpanzees will be retired to Chimp Haven, but the remaining 100 chimpanzees will be transferred to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute where they may be used for behavior research. New Iberia’s contract with the NIH to house its chimpanzees expires in August 2013, and New Iberia chose not to renew the contract. That leaves the NIH with little choice but to move these animals to another facility.
There have been many reports of impropriety at New Iberia, including charges—dismissed by the NIH in August—that the Center was improperly breeding chimpanzees in violation of a long-standing moratorium on breeding. According to the University of Louisiana, 240 chimpanzees who are not owned by the NIH will remain at New Iberia and will continue to be available to pharmaceutical companies for research.
The fate of the remaining chimpanzees housed at New Iberia remains grim, while the NIH’s decision to move 100 chimpanzees to another research laboratory instead of retiring all of the animals to Chimp Haven, the federally-funded sanctuary, is troubling. It definitely calls into question the response of the NIH to recommendations by the Council of Councils regarding the “retirement” of additional chimpanzees.
The Council’s review of on-going research protocols on chimpanzees owned or supported by the NIH has been conducted in response to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which found that most research on chimpanzees was not necessary. The Council’s recommendations regarding what research complies with the criteria set out in the IOM report and how many chimpanzees should be maintained by NIH is expected to be released early in 2013. Current information on the Council’s activities, including a summary of public’s comments it has received can be found on the NIH website.
There are several different challenges to the ongoing research on chimpanzees, each independent of the other, but all working towards the same goal of removing chimpanzees from invasive research.
- Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, S 810 and HR 1513, would ban invasive research on all great apes, including chimpanzees. In the Senate, this bill has passed out of committee with approval, and both bills are gaining more sponsors even as the end of legislative session grows near.
- The petition filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) by animal and environmental advocacy groups, including the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums and The Jane Goodall Institute, is requesting FWS to change the status of chimpanzees born in captivity in the United States from “threatened” to “endangered.” The current listing of chimpanzees has different standards for chimpanzees in the wild and chimpanzees born in captivity in the U.S. The petition requests that all chimpanzees be classified as endangered, which would end the commercial exploitation of chimpanzees, including their use as subjects for invasive experimentation.
- A Petition for Rulemaking has been filed with the Secretary of Health and Human Services requesting an amendment of existing regulations governing implementation of the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act. The petition, submitted by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society and other organizations, and endorsed by NAVS, seeks to establish guidelines under which research institutions MUST retire chimpanzees no longer used or needed for research. The petition argues that the CHIMP Act requires these chimpanzees to be retired to a sanctuary, and does not leave this decision to the discretion of individual research institutions.
Each of these initiatives would work towards an end to invasive research on chimpanzees. The most immediate action advocates can take is to enlist your federal legislators as additional sponsors of the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act. Check back often regarding other timely action!