Many of you were by our side as we worked successfully to outlaw the use of chimpanzees in invasive research in the United States, a tremendous achievement and one that enjoyed the support of millions of Americans, including members of the scientific community. Now, we need your help again to ensure that these animals get a chance to enjoy the retirement they deserve.
In the wake of the federal government’s decision to end its financial support for invasive research with chimpanzees, the Humane Society of the United States has focused on getting all of the animals, some of whom are owned or financially supported by the government, into sanctuary. A number of the chimpanzees have already been transferred to Chimp Haven, the national sanctuary for government-owned and -supported chimpanzees, located in Louisiana. But approximately 225 of the chimpanzees remain in three laboratories.
Now, these laboratories and some in the animal research community are trying to prevent the chimpanzees from being transferred to Chimp Haven. The laboratories, which have a financial interest in holding on to the chimpanzees because they receive funding through government grants and contracts to care for them, claim that many of the chimps shouldn’t be transported due to health issues (of the labs’ own making) and, instead, should remain in their facilities.
But the fact is that hundreds of chimpanzees of all ages and health conditions have been transported from laboratories to the sanctuary without a single death during transport. And these animals will do better, and receive better care, in sanctuary environments. That’s the goal we should all be striving for.
In 2015, we reached a decisive point when the National Institutes of Health, under the leadership of Dr. Francis Collins, announced that the agency would no longer fund invasive chimpanzee research and would retire all federally owned and supported chimpanzees to sanctuary -- a decision we applauded. That same year, in response to a legal petition we filed, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, making it unlawful to conduct harmful experiments on any chimpanzees in the United States.
Earlier this year, The NIH, through its advisory body, the Council of Councils, created a working group to examine the specific issue of chimpanzee transport. The group provided its recommendations to the Council of Councils last month, emphasizing that as many chimpanzees as possible should be relocated to sanctuary.
However, the report also suggested that transport may pose some risk to chimpanzees who are in poor health, but the report narrowly focused on transport and didn’t consider the quality of life once the animals have settled into sanctuary life.
It is our belief – widely shared by many experts in chimpanzee care -- that every chimpanzee should be given the opportunity to make this journey to sanctuary. In the sanctuary setting, we can guarantee each and every one of these animals an opportunity to flourish and to receive the finest possible care, for the remainder of their lives.
Please tell the NIH that the laboratories shouldn’t be able to control the fate of the chimpanzees that the government owns -- our nation is at a different and better stage in its thinking and conduct concerning these chimpanzees, who are remarkable and highly developed animals to whom we have the highest responsibility and whose care must now become our highest priority. Let the federal agency that made the decision to release the animals know you want to see every government-owned and -supported chimpanzee moved to Chimp Haven as quickly as possible, to ensure that they can enjoy what they’ve earned and what we owe them -- a peaceful retirement in a sanctuary.