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April 29, 2009

Laboratory Life a Prison Sentence for Chimpanzees


Watch the Video: A 2009 undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United States revealed psychological suffering of chimapnzees and monkeys in research laboratories.

"[Keeping chimps in research labs] is equivalent to putting an innocent person in jail for life," says former research scientist and medical professor, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.

Bartlett is a lead co-sponsor of the the Great Ape Protection Act (GAPA), H.R. 1326, which would end harmful biomedical research and testing on our closest cousins and retire approximatly 500 federally owned chimps to sanctuaries like Chimp Haven.

"I think it diminishes a society who does this kind of thing. So I hope this [legislation] can be successful." says Rep. Bartlett. With nearly 50 cosponsors of GAPA, many on Capitol Hill have been touched by an HSUS 9-month undercover investigation into the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC).

No Way to Live

The disturbing results revealed the harsh conditions for many chimpanzees and other primates who live out their lives in the barren surroundings of laboratories. The investigation documented some of the facility's 325 chimps and 6,000 monkeys spinning, rocking, tearing at their own flesh, pulling out their hair, or cowering in the corners of their cages.

In the wake of the exposé, Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack immediately called for a federal investigation of NIRC's animal welfare practices and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has since cited NIRC for violating six provisions of the Animal Welfare Act. More violations are expected to be brought to light as the investigation continues.

No Reason to Use Chimps

Chimpanzees have failed as research models for humans, even though they share more than 98 percent of our DNA. New technologies that employ human tissue culture, rather than whole animals, are preferable, says Bartlett. "You can see in them the same kinds of emotions that you can see in humans…"

Some chimps housed at NIRC have spent decades in research facilities. In our complaint to the USDA—alleging 338 violations of the Animal Welfare Act—we asked for the immediate retirement of 26 elderly chimpanzees, including one who has lived in laboratory settings since the Eisenhower administration.

"These are animals that can communicate with you through sign language," says Bartlett. "… If they could vocalize, they'd talk to you. And if they could talk to you, it would be even more obvious that we should not be doing this."

What You Can Do

More than 1,000 chimpanzees languish in U.S. research facilities, but their lives will change dramatically if Congress passes GAPA. Please contact your legislators today.

This article was adapted from "Chimpanzee Challenge," which was featured in the March/April 2009 edition of Humane Society Legislative Fund's (HSLF's) Humane Activist newsletter.

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