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January 22, 2013

Expert Advisory Panel Confirms Chimpanzee Retirement from Laboratories to Sanctuary is the Way Forward

The HSUS welcomes new recommendations presented to National Institutes of Health

  • The United States is the only developed country in the world to continue the use of chimpanzees for invasive research and testing. iStockPhoto.com

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the majority of the expert recommendations proposed to the National Institutes of Health by its independent advisory body, the Council of Councils, regarding chimpanzee research and retirement. The main recommendations by the working group of council members are; retirement of the majority of the more than 350 government-owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories to sanctuary, a substantial decrease in the number of government funded grants involving chimpanzees in laboratories and no revitalization of chimpanzee breeding for research purposes.

“The Humane Society of the United States is extremely pleased that these experts confirm what the public has been urging: move away from invasive chimpanzee experimentation and release these animals to the most appropriate setting available – sanctuary,” said Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues at The HSUS. “There are top-notch sanctuaries in the U.S., including federal sanctuary Chimp Haven that have the capacity to expand and are ready to work with the government to provide these chimpanzees with the retirement they so greatly deserve.”

Although resources will be needed, retirement of chimpanzees to sanctuary will ultimately save taxpayers millions of dollars over the chimpanzees’ lifetimes. Past opinion polls indicate that 79 percent of Americans support creation of sanctuary space for chimpanzees formerly used in research.

The recommendations did indicate retention of a group of 50 chimpanzees for potential future use, but emphasized that these animals be kept in “ethologically appropriate” settings—which was described as providing large, complex social groups, year round outdoor access, more than 1,000 square feet of living space per chimpanzee, among other recommendations. The working group also recommended that an independent body, including public representatives, be formed to assess future chimpanzee proposals.

The Council unanimously voted to accept the recommendations set forth by the Working Group and NIH will make a final determination on the recommendations following a 60-day public comment period which will start on a date still yet to be determined.

The council established the working group in early 2012 to advise them on NIH support of chimpanzee research after the release of an Institute of Medicine report that concluded chimpanzees are not necessary for most biomedical and behavioral research.

These recommendations come on the heels of a recent announcement by NIH that they will be retiring more than 100 government-owned chimpanzees from the New Iberia Research Center to Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary, within the next year.

Facts:

  • In June 2012, The HSUS delivered more than 30,000 letters from the public to members of the National Institutes of Health’s Council of Councils and its working group requesting the end of funding for contracts involving the invasive use of chimpanzees and the retirement of all federally-owned chimps to suitable sanctuaries.
  • Approximately 950 chimpanzees, the majority of who are owned or supported by the federal government, remain in five laboratories in the United States – the only developed country in the world to continue the use of these animals for invasive research and testing.
  • These recommendations address government-funded research and do not apply to the use of chimpanzees by private industry.
  • Several pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Novo Nordisk and most recently Gilead Sciences have already committed to not using chimpanzees in their research and development. 

Media Contact:  Niki Ianni: 610-999-6932; nianni@humanesociety.org

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