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Hundreds of Sick Chimpanzees Held in Labs Until They Die

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Hundreds of Sick Chimpanzees Held in Labs Until They Die

From Nonhuman Rights Project
November 2012

chimp chimpanzee laboratory labsTwo thirds of the chimpanzees who died at vivisection laboratories over the past ten years were so sick from chronic illness or multi-organ diseases that they should, by law, have been retired from experimentation. Instead, they were simply held for further research.

That’s the conclusion of a new study from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) to be published in October 2012 edition of the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals.

Researchers studied the data from 110 autopsies performed in the last 10 years on chimpanzees who died in or were from laboratories. The data show 64 percent of those chimpanzees suffered significant chronic illnesses and 69 percent had multi-organ diseases that should have rendered them too sick for research use. Yet, despite this knowledge on the part of the laboratories, many of these chimpanzees were held in for research despite their poor health and unsuitability for use.

Approximately 1,000 chimpanzees are currently held in five federally owned or supported U.S. laboratories. The study raises concerns that labs cheat on their ethical and scientific responsibilities by not retiring chimpanzees who would be eligible for sanctuary under the 2000 Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act.

Instead, the labs are simply left to decide for themselves who is sent to a sanctuary. And if there’s an ounce of research that can still be done on a sick animal, it’s profitable to keep that animal in a cage until she dies.

“Recommendations by the Institute of Medicine concluding they see no necessity for chimpanzee use in most areas of current research implicitly demand an end to warehousing chimpanzees in labs,” said study co-author Marge Peppercorn, MD. “The practice is scientifically and ethically indefensible. Our review of chimpanzee deaths adds urgency to this demand.”

Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) determined that 110 chimpanzees who are “owned” by the U.S. government should be released from the New Iberia Research Center and sent into retirement. But some of the NIH communications obtained by NEAVS note that some of those chimpanzees are so sick that they could die while being transported to new homes, and that it would be better simply to euthanize them. Among those deemed too sick to travel are Mindy who is in “renal failure,” Jet who is an epileptic, and Sharon and Paco because “they will not make it.”

Mindy, Sharon, Jet, Paco and others on the list to be put down “should have been sent to sanctuary years, if not decades ago,” said study co-author and NEAVS President Theodora Capaldo. “All chimpanzees suffering chronic or incurable physical or psychological illness should be immediately released to sanctuary. While NEAVS wants all chimpanzees out of labs and safe in sanctuary, there is a triaged urgency to get those out who should be there right now because of failing health. They deserve to spend every minute of their remaining years in the comfort and safety of a healing environment.”

As we reported three weeks ago, the whole existing retirement plan is retirement in name only. Most of the 110 who are scheduled for retirement are, in fact, expected to be sent to another laboratory and not to a sanctuary at all.

For more information about releasing chimpanzees, visit the website Release Chimps. NEAVS is working to replace animal research with alternatives that are ethically, humanely, and scientifically superior.