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March 5, 2009

Bill to End Invasive Chimp Research Introduced in Congress

The HSUS Calls on Gov. Jindal to Retire Elderly Chimps to Louisiana Sanctuary; Congress Urged to Protect Our Closest Living Relatives on Heels of Investigation

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON and BATON ROUGE, La. — Today, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers plan to introduce The Great Ape Protection Act to phase out invasive research and testing on approximately 1,000 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories.

The bill would also retire about 500 federally owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories to permanent sanctuary.

HSUS officials appeared today in Baton Rouge to urge Gov. Bobby Jindal to retire 26 elderly chimpanzees from the New Iberia Research Center to a permanent sanctuary. Some of them have been in research laboratories for more than 40 years.

U.S. Reps. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., David Reichert, R-Wash., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., introduced the legislation, along with a large bipartisan group of original cosponsors.

According to Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, "The terrible conditions we discovered in the laboratory, and the complex cognitive abilities of chimpanzees provide two very compelling reasons for rapid action in Congress."

Wednesday, The HSUS released the results of a nine-month undercover investigation into the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, revealing routine and unlawful mistreatment of hundreds of chimpanzees and other primates. The investigation is the most comprehensive ever at any major primate research facility and has resulted in a 108-page complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging a minimum of 338 possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act at the center.

The HSUS' videotape evidence shows severe distress of primates in isolation: They engage in self-mutilation by tearing gaping wounds into their arms and legs, a behavior that could be the result of New Iberia Research Center's failure to provide adequate environmental enhancement. Routine procedures, such as the use of powerful and painful dart guns and frightening squeeze cages for sedation, are shown causing acute psychological distress to chimpanzees and monkeys. Infant monkeys scream as they are forcibly removed from their mothers so that tubes can be forced down their throats. Altogether, the investigation reveals animals forced to endure anxiety and misery behind the razor wire of the research facility.

"I have always been a strong supporter of animal protection," said Rep. Towns. "This legislation is an important step towards protecting chimpanzees from inhumane treatment."

"As a scientist who worked with chimpanzees on research projects, I believe the time has come to limit invasive research on these animals and rigorously apply existing alternatives," stated Rep. Bartlett.

"As the awareness grows across the country, this bill also brings awareness to Congress that we need to phase out the inhumane practice of invasive research on great apes," said Rep. Reichert. "It's my hope that we can move this legislation quickly."

The bill is supported by The Humane Society of the United States and NEAVS' Project R&R along with other organizations and world-renowned chimpanzee experts and leaders. The HSUS Chimps Deserve Better Campaign and NEAVS' Project R&R have spearheaded efforts to educate the public about the use of chimpanzees in research and testing, drawing unprecedented support for this bill not only from the public but also from more than 300 scientists, physicians and educators.

The United States is the largest remaining user of chimpanzees in biomedical research in the world. Austria, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and The United Kingdom have banned or limited their use. The cost to U.S. taxpayers for chimpanzee research and maintenance is estimated at $20 – 25 million per year, money that many in the scientific community believe could be allocated to more effective research.

Time is running out for chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories. An estimated 90 percent of them are considered elderly. A survey conducted in 2005 by an independent polling company found that 71 percent of the American public agrees that chimpanzees held in a laboratory for 10 years or more should be retired and that Americans are twice as likely to support a ban as to oppose it.

"I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation," said Rep. Langevin. "It is time that we stop spending taxpayer money on cruel and ineffective research methods and do all we can to protect the welfare of these emotionally sophisticated animals."

In a letter sent today to Gov. Bobby Jindal, Pacelle wrote, "Some of the saddest stories to come out of our investigation were those of the 26, wild-caught elderly chimpanzees housed at NIRC. All of them have been in laboratories for their entire lives after having been taken from their mothers in the wild. While we would like to see the United States follow the lead of its peer nations and phase out all invasive research on chimpanzees, and secure the retirement of chimpanzees to suitable sanctuaries, we believe it is an urgent priority to retire these 26 individuals. They have very little time left and should be afforded the opportunity to pass the remainder of their lives in a setting other than a barren laboratory."

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization – backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. 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.

Project R&R is a national campaign of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), one of the country's oldest animal protection organizations, founded in 1895. NEAVS focuses on replacing animal experiments in laboratories and classrooms with ethically and scientifically better and more humane alternatives. – On the web at releasechimps.org. 

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