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January 16, 2009

The HSUS Urges Biotech Firms to Halt Use of Chimps for Invasive Research

New Survey by The HSUS Reveals Many Labs Don't Use Chimps

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States is urging private research entities, such as pharmaceutical and biotech companies and their subsidiaries, to halt research on chimpanzees. The effort is part of The HSUS' Chimps Deserve Better campaign.

"Chimpanzees are highly intelligent animals who suffer immensely from being kept in cages for decades on end and are subjected to painful experiments despite their repeated failure as a model for human disease," said Kathleen Conlee, The HSUS' director of program management for animal research issues.

As part of the effort to change corporate policies regarding the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, The HSUS sent a survey letter to 404 research facilities registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. The survey asked if the companies use, or fund the use of, chimpanzees for invasive research. The survey also asked if they had any existing policy regarding chimpanzee use.

More than 1,000 chimpanzees are housed at nine research labs across the country. The use of chimpanzees has been declining, with most chimpanzees still in laboratories simply being warehoused at significant taxpayer expense. This decline is due to the expense of using them, the poor history of scientific value from using chimpanzees, a National Institutes of Health moratorium on breeding chimps for research and major ethical concerns. The goal of the survey is to determine which of these research facilities are conducting research using this population of animals.

The HSUS applauds companies that have adopted a policy against using chimpanzees in research and strongly urges other companies to join.

After conducting reviews of scientific literature and examining other public sources, HSUS scientists believe that the majority of the research facilities contacted are not conducting or contracting for research using chimpanzees. In those cases, the goal of the survey was to verify that information and obtain a commitment to refrain from future invasive chimp research projects. Yet many of the facilities have not responded to the survey. Even some of those companies that did answer requested that The HSUS keep their information confidential.

Results and conclusions of the 2008 survey:

• Of the 404 companies contacted, 22 percent (for a total of 90) responded, confirming The HSUS' suspicion that companies are not willing to come forward with information about how they conduct research, likely due to concerns about public attention if they do use animals for invasive research purposes. 
• All 90 companies that responded indicated that they do not use or fund the use of chimpanzees for invasive research.
• The survey's results demonstrate the challenge of getting those involved in any animal research to share information on their practices, even when disclosing that they do not conduct invasive research on chimpanzees could benefit them.

Following the initial survey sent in December 2007, The HSUS contacted the companies that responded that they do not use chimps for research purposes and asked that they adopt a policy against their use in order to demonstrate a commitment to this important issue. The survey focused on chimpanzees, and did not inquire about research using other species. As of the end of December 2008, 12 companies registered with the USDA to conduct animal research have adopted The HSUS' proposed policy, and are applauded by the organization for publicly declaring their policy against invasive chimpanzee research:

• Best American Toxicology Testing Service (Grenada Hills, Calif.)
• Excel Bio-Products Inc. (Washburn, Mo.)
• Genesis Laboratories Inc. (Wellington, Colo.)
• GenPhar Inc. (Mount Pleasant, S.C.)
• Panigen Inc. (Blanchardville, Wis.)
• Phoenix Pharmaceuticals (Burlingame, Calif.)
• QED Biosciences Inc. (San Diego)

Five additional companies adopted the policy, but choose to remain anonymous. For a copy of the original letter sent out to companies, click here.

The HSUS seeks to end the use of chimpanzees in invasive research and testing and to retire chimpanzees in laboratories to permanent and appropriate sanctuaries by: gaining support from policymakers, the public and the scientific community; scientifically challenging arguments advocating harmful chimpanzee research; educating about the plight of chimpanzees in laboratories; and preventing breeding of additional chimps into research. The HSUS and its affiliate The Fund for Animals care for three chimpanzees at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas. The chimps there had been housed at a former research laboratory.

Facts:
• The United States is the only remaining country that continues the large-scale use of chimpanzees for invasive research and testing.
• Gabon (West Africa) is the only other country currently conducting invasive chimpanzee research, though on a much smaller scale than in the United States.
• More than 1,000 chimpanzees are currently being held in nine U.S. laboratories; about half are government owned or supported.
• The lifetime care of one chimpanzee costs about $500,000.
• The cost to U.S. taxpayers for the care of chimpanzees in laboratories is about $25 million per year.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org. 

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