From In Defense of Animals (IDA), October 2011
The Scientific American call for a ban follows a remarkable June 16 editorial in Nature, perhaps the most prestigious scientific journal in the world. In that editorial, Nature pointedly criticized the NIH because the agency had deliberately removed ethics from consideration by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel that is currently reviewing whether chimpanzees are “necessary” for experimentation.
Scientific American, perhaps the most prestigious general interest science magazine in the world, has called for a ban on chimpanzee experimentation.
The editorial from the magazine – which last July won a National Magazine Award for “General Excellence” and is published by Nature Publishing Group – began with the heartbreaking story of Bobby, who was prominently featured in the McClatchy Special Report published in April-May 2011. Indeed, the editorial went on to cite the Special Report to buttress the call for a ban, noting that the McClatchy series had “painted a grim picture of life in the lab, noting disturbing psychological responses in the chimps.”
The McClatchy Special Report – the most in-depth coverage ever published on the issue of chimpanzee experimentation – was based on thousands of pages of chimpanzee medical records obtained by In Defense of Animals (IDA) after our watershed legal victory over the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. After winning this five-year legal battle, IDA unconditionally provided McClatchy the records for its independent review, resulting in the newspaper chain’s groundbreaking Special Report.
The Scientific American call for a ban follows a remarkable June 16 editorial in Nature, perhaps the most prestigious scientific journal in the world. In that editorial, Nature pointedly criticized the NIH because the agency had deliberately removed ethics from consideration by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel that is currently reviewing whether chimpanzees are “necessary” for experimentation. As Nature wrote, “The agency may wish to divorce the science from the ethics, but society at large will not accept such a distinction. Nor is it intellectually defensible….” Scientific American also pointed out the NIH’s deliberate omission of ethics from the IOM panel’s charge.
IDA has been actively involved with the IOM Committee process. For example, on August 11, IDA testified before the Committee that we had uncovered what we consider scientific misconduct committed by chimpanzee experimenters after we found glaring discrepancies between the same chimpanzee medical records reviewed by McClatchy for its Special Report and multiple peer-reviewed scientific papers. With the NIH’s chief of hepatitis research sitting in the first row, IDA revealed that he – and his counterpart at the FDA – failed to disclose the painful near-death of a chimpanzee after re-infection with hepatitis C as well as dozens of liver biopsies conducted on two chimpanzees by the FDA in a published study of a drug that failed in a clinical trial.
IDA informed the Committee that we will be submitting more detailed documentation, and concluded our testimony by stating that “The multiple failures by researchers to disclose key information about chimpanzee experiments in peer-reviewed papers are not opinion; they are documented fact that must be taken into account if this panel’s review of the science of chimpanzee research is to have any legitimacy.”
IDA applauds Scientific American for its cogent and principled stand against chimpanzee experimentation, and urges the magazine to delve further into this critical and timely issue – including the multiple instances of discrepancies between the chimpanzee medical records and peer-reviewed scientific papers uncovered by IDA.